Since there is a fashion for remembering the two World Wars, I have started borrowing their phrases and idioms as I read the moving words of the troops. I find myself saying: Conditions here awful…mortars incoming…pipers cheered us up and suchlike. (It’s a harmless way of paying tribute and we’re going to get used to it as the WW1 radio project on the BBC runs for FOUR YEARS, replicating the duration of hostilities.) So today my phrase is: A good 24 hours at the front…
After the illuminating Treasury statement taking responsibility for all debt in all circumstances, my first newspaper of the day declared: Brian Wilson backs David Mundell.
Bullseye, Corporal! Dead centre! This is Brian’s Scotsman column taking the risky path for Labour of talking about the bedroom tax and attempting to make it the SNP’s fault. He says they could be paying out £50m to help those made homeless by the tax after their housing benefit is cut. By not doing so, they are condemning people to misery to back up their campaign against the Union.
Now I don’t pretend a political party isn’t cynical about how it goes about its business. I even remember a party that lied to parliament and the United Nations to justify an illegal war in which tens of thousands died. But when I check the government’s reaction to the bedroom tax, I find they first promised no SNP council would evict and then set aside £20m in discretionary housing payment which Swinney claimed was the legal limit available. So not the £50m which might be needed then.
(When it was discussed in committee two Labour MSPs refused to back it, presumably following Brian’s dictum about putting party interest before people. Anti Bedroom tax campaigner Jim Buntin said: “Labour are supposed to be the party of the common people, standing up for the working class and fighting for social justice. Today’s news has left a very bitter taste in the mouth.”)
However you may recall there were a good few weeks in which Labour, north and south, couldn’t decide how to respond to the iniquitous tax – introduced in 2008 in the UK when…was it Labour?…were in power. It became so farcical that when the tireless campaigner for social justice and nuclear missiles Jackie Baillie told the BBC Labour would scrap it, the party in London denied it. But, eventually Jackie was proved right in a unique epiphany in her career. http://derekbateman2.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/can-it-be-true/
Then we found that when Labour called a vote in the Commons – calling for the tax to be scrapped, that is s.c.r.a.p.p.e.d. – 47 of their own MPs didn’t bother to turn up and the motion was lost by only 26. In other words they could have won an important moral victory. Ten Scottish Labour MPs were among the absentees, including the most vocal against the tax, Anas Sarwar.
Labour’s record in this affair is far from unblemished as some of their local authorities have issued eviction notices and social housing and homelessness are local government issues which appears to be why SNP members on the Petitions Committee voted against Mike Dailly’s plan asking Parliament to legislate against evictions.
But supposing the government could find that £50m. There is, first of all, the question Labour never stops asking when anything new is announced: Where is the money coming from? To that they have no answer I’ve seen. But what is the implication of the Scottish government taking money from one source to plug this gap? In a way it’s subsidizing the London government’s iniquitous tax, smoothing its route as it carves a swathe through those reliant on housing benefit. Is that Scotland’s job? How Fluffy Mundell would laugh if he found his pernicious tax was being subsidized by the Nats.
Isn’t the real point of Brian’s piece that no government in an independent Scotland would get away with such a piece of cruel social engineering? It would never be enacted by any government elected here. He eloquently makes the point that all Scotland can do now under devolution is ameliorate the effects of London policy by spreading its resources ever thinner. That’s what we want to escape…
And my suspicion is that the wider public view the bedroom tax as a Tory plan, much like the Poll Tax, which will have bad outcomes no matter how you try to stem the effects. So anyone tying his name to it, as in Brian Wilson supports David Mundell on the Bedroom Tax is the last thing Better Together need. That’s an association much of Scottish Labour is heartily sick of and is now showing signs of straining the No campaign. And it’s a tough ask to get the Scots to think the SNP is responsible for a tax introduced by Labour and ruthlessly enforced by the Tories.
All these articles tying Labour to the Tories -Wilson and Mundell, the Union Twins in Brussels David Martin and Struan Stevenson, Darling substituting for Cameron, BetterTogether itself – feed into the worries of the constituency which will win this referendum for Yes or No – the Labour Don’t Knows. And there’s one thing they DO know – they don’t like the Tories. (For interesting detail on housing benefit and who is responsible for what I point you to DougtheDug on the right)
Direct hit! Adding to frissons of pleasure this morning is the tripping up of the often sanctimonious Professor Jim Gallagher, a man who has now fully emerged into the sunlight after a lifetime as the eminence grise of devolution. He has sidled seamlessly from London government to Scottish, from Holyrood to Westminster, from university to think tank and from private business to the media always acting as what I call an agent of the British state. My favourite title held by him was the sinister Director General for Devolution. It was his job to join the wires under the bonnet to make sure home rule didn’t get too powerful and when Calman started he was at his side as adviser. When Holyrood processed Calman he was adviser to the committee then when the Scottish Affairs Committee inquired into “Separation” who was whispering into Ian Davidson’s ear, but Professor Gallagher. Forget the Secretaries of State, Gallagher has had more direct power over Scotland’s constitution over a longer period than any of them, flitting as he has between the inner cabals in London and Edinburgh. He is now officially and publicly adviser to BetterTogether which is at least an honest coming-out – a bit like myself. So it was a grand piece of research that turned up the bold prof’s previous statements on our EU membership http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/pro-union-campaign-officials-eu-blog-creates-confusion.23170949
giving the game away. Last April he wrote: “It seems pretty likely that Scotland would be an EU member state, probably after an accelerated set of accession negotiations. Precisely what the conditions of membership would be is not quite so clear, though immediate requirements to join the Euro or Schengen agreement can surely be avoided.”
Boom!! Major devastation…That is the professor being the pragmatic thinking academic working through the likelihood of “Scots being snubbed by Europe…Scotland goes to end of EU queue…we’ll be outside…forced to join euro…”
He articulates exactly what every sane observer says when not whipped into line by Blair McDougall and what every Unionist MEP knows but must keep hidden from the voters – that Brussels will be compelled by a democratic Yes vote to organize for Scotland’s speedy accession. Thank you, Jim Gallagher, forever to be quoted as the only sensible commentator on Europe the No side.
(He did try to wriggle out when cornered by saying recent international interventions had changed things but even he knows that’s embarrassing for him. He wrote last April anyway and Barroso was on the BBC with his Scotland Out message the previous December.)
For you, Professor, the war is over! (Sorry, that’s bad taste.)
So as the Unionists falter, what is happening in dreamy, relaxed Britain, the mother’s breast of democracy in which we must all shelter? Well here’s a wee sample of news from the UK so beloved of Brian and Jim.
:Home Office officials are being rewarded with shopping vouchers for helping to ensure failed asylum seekers lose their attempt to stay in the country..
:David Cameron has called for an inquiry into claims the British helped plan the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in which hundreds were massacred…
:Osborne says if the EU does not do as Britian says, the UK will quit…
:Warning that funds for poorer students could be cut by £200m…
Keep the home fire’s burning!
Amended defence orders…I do think the government is in trouble over tuition fees. It runs against EU orthodoxy and Scotland is already pushing the envelope by demanding the UK opt outs which Brussels loathes. There is a case in theory about exceptionalism in this instance but there will be a limit to what Brussels concedes. The most that can be hoped for would be a phasing-out to limit the financial pressure. But it’s one of those areas where there will be no clarification until after a Yes. An issue to return to….
I recommend this to guide you http://www.arcofprosperity.org/how-to-keep-scottish-universities-free-after-independence/by