A guest post by Samuel Miller
There’s another theme running through unionist political releases of recent times which may bear a little closer scrutiny. Basically, that Scottish Government, critical institutions and services are seemingly always on the brink of catastrophic failure/crisis. More crucially, that the Scottish Government has the powers to deal with these crises, but for some unknown reason they choose not to use these pooowwwweeerrs to fix stuff.
“Our parliament is now more powerful than ever, with all the powers it needs to reverse Tory austerity. – But despite this, our services are still facing £327 million of cuts.” Kezia Dugdale (former) Labour in Scotland leader, January 2017
“Despite the Budget falling on international women’s day, 86 per cent of the austerity policies of Theresa May’s government fall on women. And Nicola Sturgeon could act to help stop this, but she refuses to stand in the way,” John McDonnell (Labour shadow chancellor) March 2017
“The SNP government has the powers if it wants to use them to mitigate the effects of austerity, they chose not to.” Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Leader) August 2017
“The Scottish Parliament was delivered by Labour to be a bulwark against Conservative cuts, not a conveyor belt for them.” Richard Leonard (current) Labour in Scotland leader, November 2017 (‘delivered as a bulwark’… Uh Huh! So, not home rule as a point of principle then.)
Plausible? Would the Scottish government refuse/neglect to use their office and powers to alleviate hardship? This goes beyond the usual too wee, too poor, too stoopit meme we’ve seen endlessly regurgitated over the years into a whole new territory of shark jumping surely?
There is also a unicycling pachyderm in the room of course with this argument, but our media never quite seem capable of pointing it out to Scotland’s general public for consideration. (Spooky, I know). We’ll get back to that pachyderm shortly.
So, are the current Scottish government sitting on their hands when it comes to using the powers of Holyrood and devolved government to make life better for Scotland’s electorate?
Well, if you listen to the right wing meeja, then you’re constantly bombarded with accusations that Scotland’s citizenry enjoy a great deal more relief than other parts of the UK. Oh, and all at everyone else’s expense too. Over the past decade: exemption from tuition fees, free care for the elderly, bus passes for pensioners, free prescriptions, freeze on council tax, infrastructure investment in roads, *useless* (sark) second bridges, investment in child care and just for Mr Leonard, retention of Scottish water in public hands (cough). All pretty easily verified either on the SNPs own site HERE or if you felt like generally just catching up on what the Scottish government are up to then visit the Scotgov site HERE.
Still, if we want to keep it simple on the whole ‘not using the poowweeerrrs’ theory. Perhaps Labour’s leadership(s) could explain away mitigation of the Bedroom tax, the creation of the Food Fund, introduction of the Scottish welfare fund or the Banning of fracking. Maybe they could also throw some light on Scottish government intervention in threatened closures including TATA steel, BiFab, INEOS Grangemouth?
Maybe just me, but it appears that the current Scottish government have been fairly busy exercising powers and mitigating problems created by others. In fact it appears the Labour leadership’s sweeping accusations don’t appear to be holding much water at all.
How and ever, we’ll stick with just a couple of points to question. Perhaps Labour heid office are merely confused as to the nature and function of devolved government. Firstly, the Scottish government and devolution. Devolution in general surely isn’t a ‘bulwark’ against the depredations of any damn thing. Devolution is about exercising a degree of autonomy on budgeted administrative competences in specific areas agreed between a central government and a devolved legislature. A devolved legislature is power granted/gifted, not ceded. That’s point one.
Secondly, central government (that would be yer Westminster UK government), kinda get paid to deliver effective primary legislation which surely should NOT require mitigation by anyone and least of all by devolved legislatures who have zero control of their own economies and are allocated budgets which are expected to pay for other things. Why should a population pay taxes to central government for, y’know, governing and then expect their devolved government to mitigate for poor legislation from a budget (handout) that’s become a moveable feast? Basically paying twice just to either get by, or get things right.
Still, just to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, lets be very clear on reserved and devolved powers here, or what our handout is expected to pay for.
Devolved = what we pay for and have some control over
Reserved = what we also pay for, but have no control over
Back to the unicycling pachyderm in the room.
This Labour meme of a Scottish government not using devolved powers to alleviate austerity passed down from nasty Westminster government. Putting aside the points just made and the links to varied sources, there is only one reason Scotland’s government is forced to mitigate or offset any damn thing today. There is only one reason that Scotland’s electorate have to worry about or suffer any ill effects of Westminster legislation at all really.
We are not currently an independent nation state.
Labour and more particularly Labour in Scotland, may recall they were quite insistent that Scotland remain party to the political union of parliaments. I certainly recall that Labour leadership, (past, the then current and future), were only too happy to lead the charge in fronting the case for Betterthigetherness in Scotland during 2014’s indyref. Weel kent Labour faces fell over each other to apply both carrot and stick (mainly stick) to Scotland’s population throughout the entire debate. They also appeared none too worried about working alongside Mr Cameron’s Conservative party, or Mr Clegg’s Libdems along with many another pro union grouping besides. Are they now implying that the system of government they worked so hard to endorse to Scotland’s electorate isn’t quite up to scratch? That they’re passing down *gasp* needlessly punitive or highly inept legislation? Shocker!
Personally speaking though, I’m finding this current narrative of Labour’s hard to take. In my book, you don’t get to dump in someones living room then demand they clean up your mess. You certainly don’t get to endorse a political union, impose a system of government and a practice of politics, then moan about how bad its all turned out to those who didn’t want it in the first place. Or indeed, how badly their representatives are supposedly handling the shit pile you’ve helped dump in their laps.
Just so Labour is aware? You also don’t get to rewrite history.
You know readers, it’s not hard to find evidence that reaffirms your world view in this day and age. If you want to hate a thing, you simply read or watch information streams where you know you’ll find like minded bods telling you stuff you already believe to be reality. Some folk call it living in a bubble. The YES movement are accused of this all the time as most readers of pro indy sites are aware, but we’re not the only ones. The mainstream party political orthodoxy and the media are no less of a bubble and yet should require just the same scrutiny by each and every one of us.
The real test, again as many in the YES movement are aware, comes when you venture out to ask questions of your own belief of a narrative and of the people and institutions you have invested your trust in.
Just sayin’ like, but there’s a lot of YES voters out there today who weren’t always independence minded. These people still check out the mainstream media and its narrative near every day too, they just look at what is being said through new eyes and are prepared to consider the alternative viewpoint. Doesn’t seem such a difficult ask, but in this day and age it’s most certainly a radical and refreshing concept.
Something for the political class to consider. The days of mushroom farming the population may well be numbered. Tick tock.