A Poor Show

We didn’t have to wait long for my warning that Catherine Macleod in the Herald sings from the same hymnbook as Brian Wilson. Within 24 hours they both made exactly the same assertion – that Scotland already has the powers to deal with inequality and you don’t need independence to end poverty. That was quick…

First it was Catherine stating without qualification in the Herald: ‘And as we remember John Smith’s tragically premature death, we should recall that he was driven by a need to deliver social justice. The Scottish Parliament has all the levers it needs to do just that.’


Next day in the Scotsman, Brian Wilson agrees and says the government is only talking about ending poverty and failing to bring in social justice when it has powers to do so. He urges the minister Shona Robison: ‘Please, tell us…can you point to some catalogue of actions …that have redistributed wealth from die-old rich Scots to the die-young poor, using existing powers?

Well, I googled the government site and within seconds had this list…

‘We have created the Fairer Scotland Fund for community planning partnerships. The fund is worth £435 million over three years to target investment at the root causes of poverty in Scotland. Over 2008-11 we are investing £87 million in the network of six Scottish Urban Regeneration Companies to provide the momentum necessary to bring local assets into use and stimulate economic growth. We have allocated £36 million over three years for the Wider Role Fund which supports work by Registered Social Landlords to reduce poverty and financial exclusion in the communities they serve.’


That’s a tiny fraction of government activity which it seems counts for nothing in the world of Unionism which doesn’t think full tax powers and welfare impact on wealth…

Let’s check some inconvenient facts provided by those at the sharp end of social misery – Christine Cooper, Mike Danson and Geoff Whittam at the Poverty Alliance.

The tax system – if you didn’t know and if Catherine is still reading – is a reserved matter, that is, reserved to the British government, not the Scottish government.

They write: ‘…consistently the poorest 10 per cent have been losing a greater proportion of their incomes in tax than the average and indeed than the richest 10 per cent. We have a regressive tax system.’ That’s a British tax system. Scotland has one small component available – raising or lowering the basic rate by 3p. Everything else is done at the British Treasury (where Catherine worked so closely with Alistair).


‘Britain is now one of the most unequal and divided countries in the OECD and is returning to levels of inequity not seen since the 1930’s. And yet the tax system exacerbates that state of unfairness in incomes with associated inequalities in health, life expectancy, well-being, education and other indicators of a cohesive and inclusive society.’

How much of this do you reckon is down to the reckless, uncaring John Swinney?

Here’s a rather politicised section from their report that neatly sums up the Unionist attitude – but missing from Wilson and Macleod’s analysis: ‘While the mantra of We’re All In This Together has metamorphosed into the Something for Nothing Culture (Lamont) and Only 12 per cent Are Net Generators of Scotland’s Wealth (Ruth Davidson), the Sunday Times Rich List recorded that the top 100 multi millionaires in the UK saw their collective wealth increase by 29.9 per cent – a whopping £77.25 billion.’

Everybody on benefits in Britain is ‘relatively much worse off than their counterparts across most of Europe’, according to the OECD.

Then, in contrast to Wilson and Macleod, they nail the Unionist lie. ‘The devolved powers at the disposal of the Scottish government and Parliament, even as amended under the Scotland Act 2012, can have but limited impacts on inequality and poverty…’

They then focus on local taxation and don’t believe the council tax is a fair system, an argument the SNP applied when they tried unsuccessfully to bring in local income tax. That was opposed by Labour, the councils, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the unions and the (British) (Labour) Treasury which said it would cut one billion pounds out of the Scottish budget if it went ahead.

Now don’t tell me any government can’t do more to combat poverty. I’ve expressed before how this is the single most important issue for me and I question just how committed the government is when so many other priorities have to be met. But who is lecturing here?

Wilson and Macleod were both at the heart of the Labour government which consistently missed its targets for eliminating poverty. Here’s the view of Peter Townsend,
Professor of international social policy at the LSE: ‘All OECD countries have substantial public social security systems. The most successful in reducing poverty rely predominantly on universal or group schemes, which are invariably more efficient and less costly to administer than means-tested benefits, including tax credits. But these schemes also contribute to social integration, link the generations and support those who cannot be expected to earn their way out of poverty.’ But that meant higher taxes and hitting the wealth creators.

So Labour make progress but not enough and then in the Westminster cycle, the Tories come in and undo it. That is why there is no definitive progress on equality in Britain and nothing but independence can change that.

But read carefully. What we are offered here from like-minded Unionists with a total commitment to the British state and thick as thieves with Alistair Darling, is a critique that there is no need for independence and, crucially, there is no need for extra powers. These are anti-devolutionists – regressives bent on undoing the advances Scotland has made and if the power of the Yes movement is defeated, it will be defenceless against them.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

28 thoughts on “A Poor Show

  1. I read your words every day and they make my heart sing. Thank you for your honesty and straight forward explanations. Please please keep going !

  2. Derek as you and I both know The Black Report ( 1980) highlighted the growing inequalities underpinning, poor health , poverty and the need for change.
    In her current guise as a journalist, I can just about let Catherine McLeod off but as Alistair Darlings former ‘ eyes and ears’ and for Brian Wilson there is no excuse.
    Not only did they have the connections, the power and the majority government to implement real equality , they had the opportunity to take Britain in a completely different direction.
    It is risible the current airbrushing going on in the Labour Party regarding Foundation hospitals, the lack of social housing that was built and the compliance to banks and big business.
    Here we are 24 years later and what has changed since the Black Report for too many? What has changed for the Catherine Mcleods and Brian Wilson’s since then?

    Their utter hypocrisy leaps off the page only surpassed by the stupidity of a newspaper to pay them for this guff.
    Angry Derek, you bet I am , I see the ‘ outcomes ‘ of their rank rotten damp housing, kids with asthma now adults, lack of being valued, the sheer weariness of never being able to break the cycle because there was always another priority ( Iraq, numerous houses to be bought, deals to be made ) and the irony is there would never have been enough money to buy the paper to read how bloated and self satisfied the voices who were supposed to be fighting their corner had become.
    On your previous thread you highlighted the poor wheelie bin as another nationalist hate symbol, well we should really call it a Wilson bin instead of a wheelie bin because like Brian Wilson’s rhetoric, you clear your house of crap every two weeks and lo and behold like Wilson two weeks later it’s full again.

  3. Sorry that should be 34 years later

  4. Pentland Firth

    I’m forming the impression that, after hiding away for something like 15 years, Labour anti devolutionists are now finding the confidence to emerge into the sunlight again. Their brand of “One Nation” (i.e., British nationalist) new Labourism has also been voiced by the likes of Margaret Curran and Johann Lamont in recent months, and clearly has support within a party which is totally devoted to winning power but only pays lip service to social justice and equality. Hell mend them.

  5. Cag-does-thinking

    I think the re-emergence of the anti devolutionists is partly because they may have the most to lose having been amongst the biggest gainers while they played with the Westminster levers of power. I don’t doubt there are those in Labour who really believe in reducing poverty but the society we have is really an indictment of how dismal their attempts at social justice have been.

    I don’t class myself as a socialist but if I dislike one group it’s those who profited greatly from politics saying that they were changing the world for the better while hauling themselves up the social scale as their primary motivation.

    It’s fundamentally dishonest, at least the tories are pursuing an agenda they believe in.

    If you want social equality make it happen.

    Ten years in power and all that Labour will be remembered for is a war and bankrupting the country. That’s the legacy that will be engraved on their tombstones. Surely, no matter how naive and new a Scottish independent government is it cannot do as badly as history shows they did. They aren’t really in a position to lecture the SNP on social justice when they failed so badly to deliver it.

  6. HandandShrimp

    Brian Wilson is utterly irrelevant to the independence/devolution debate. He was opposed to devolution and is therefore not an honest broker in the matter. He isn’t interested in how we can improve the process or even reduce inequality, his only concern is to protect the status quo. If he could roll back devolution I am sure he would.

    • Yes, Brian Wilson cares only about Brian Wilson and his concentrated effort to clamber up the social ladder. Sad that Labour members have fallen so low. At least (as was mentioned above by Cag-does-thinking) the Tories are honest in their lack of concern for all but the wealthy. I’m delighted, though, that many honest “Old Labour” supporters have decided to ditch the “new” lot and start afresh in an independent Scotland.

  7. Can’t stand Brian Wilson and as for Catherine McLeod. I worked at the paper she writes for and the impression I got was that she do anything to get herself in with those with influence at the same time treading over anyone who got in her way. I still have the tread marks!!!!!!!!

  8. A cursory glance at the postings on BT in response to Wilson’s latest offering reveal the ‘esteem’ in which he appears to be held amongst the anti devolution Unionists.
    I say cursory, as it’s best not to dwell too long there. The bile & hatred directed at our country’s desire for self-determination can be quite nauseating; a good shower & sweet tea afterwards helps.

  9. Labour “thick as thieves”. I am glad at last someone else recognises that the threat to social progression in Scotland comes from within the Labour party itself.

  10. One of the biggest sources of poverty and misery in the UK is the DWP and its neoliberal policies deliberately designed to give the victims of neoliberalism the blame for the predictable effects of having policies that cause permanent mass unemployment and suchlike.

    Needless to say, the Labour Party fully support everything the coalition government are doing to effectively destroy the British welfare state and put it beyond the reach of anyone who needs it in order to survive economic downturns or personal problems such as illness and disability.

    Here is Camden Citizens Advice Bureau case evidence describing what the human rights abusing scum that run the DWP, such as Fester McVile and Ian Deathshead Smith, are doing to vulnerable people –
    Summary of 40 sanctioned Job Seekers Allowance and 9 sanctioned Employment Support Allowance clients assisted by Camden CAB between April 2013 – March 2014

  11. Here’s what I think of Lab and their action on poverty

    “More than 3.5 million of those in deep poverty were working-age adults, 2.3m of whome were without dependent children. The proportion of such adults in poverty – deep or otherwise – has not been higher in the last 14 years, at 19%. In 2008/09, for the first time in the series, the proportion of working-age adults in poverty without dependent children was higher than that of pensioners.”

    Look around you. How many people do you know of who have no children. Only 23% of Scottish householeds have under-16s in them. Think hard. How often have any of you turned to your childless friend and said “It’s alright for you! It’s not as if you have kids”

    During the Lab years, Lab made sure those with kids could eat. Why else do you think they constantly babble on about “hard working families”? They knew few would notice, few would care about those who failed to reproduce or hadn’t quite got round to it yet. And they were right. What we are seeing now, is families learning how to eat with next to no money and no money for fuel to cook it with – they are simply catching up (or is that down?) with the economic levels of those who had no kids during the Labour years.

    Every time I hear a politician talking about “family” I think… there’s a careerist hoping I won’t know the list of people in reciept of child benefit isn’t nearly as long as the electoral roll, and who clearly has no intention of serving my community, just a small section of it. .

  12. Thinking of privilaged labour types like Darling makes me think of that east of edinburgh BT campaigner Gary Wilson who jumped ship. He had his conversion in some big house in Edinburgh and felt so far removed from the reality of his labour roots that he had to go. I saw Darling at Margo’s memorial service and he looked very uncomfortable. There was a very special Edinburgh/Scottish atmosphere there – no need to explain the hibby jokes the nuances of social distinctions etc… I felt I was together with my ane folk. Darling, in my view, looked ill at ease, and didn’t sing along. Perhaps he belongs to another Edinburgh?

  13. smiling vulture

    Horrible Histories

    labour devo bill–page 6 + Scottish Referendum electoral commission

    For those that should NOT be devolved to Scottish

    1.financial and economic matters
    2.foreign affairs
    3.core of welfare state
    4.the constitution
    6.drug trafficking
    7.betting gaming lotteries
    9.civil service

  14. I’m forming the impression that Labour strategists aim to curtail the devolution programme. See Darling here at about 6′ 01 secs admit that he wants the referendum over and done with so that ‘we can put devolution to bed for a generation’:


    Remember all that rhetoric from the 1970s and 80s about ‘stopping the SNP bandwagon from rolling’?

    I think there are a hard core of Labour strategists like Darling and Wilson who were always deeply sceptical about the whole devolution project and now see the experiment as a huge mistake which has backfired badly on Labour. They now want to halt it or even reign it back.

    During the 1990s in the wilderness years some Labour people agreed to pursue devolution when it looked like it might provide a Labour with a power base north of the Tweed if Tory government continued for long periods in the south. But that was on the basis of Labour as the majority party in Scotland dominating it. It was never meant to be a gift to the SNP. Now I’m feeling there is a determined mood to scupper devolution now that they see power slipping away.

  15. Ah Derek another fine piece . I don’t mind the drivel anymore but can understand the anger and frustration when these cretins have their say. Sadly , it’s what we have come to expect and it’s often so doom laden that listening or reading it is a bad experience . The worst is yet to come.

    Most of the folks i chat to openly condemn the negativity and lies . even the NO voters. And to be fair they seem to be helping the undecided to vote YES. Many people don’t understand the complexities and see only anger even desperation in the parties. It worries me that the apathy that we had in earlier elections may start again as people are put off with it all. Sadly explaining your view makes it worse.

    I take heart in the fact that online i can find facts and views that matter but many of the locals around here don’t have broadband . Having only T.V and papers distorting the truth. The message will get to everyone for 18th, door knocking and leaflets do work wonders , its a slow process with the state hammering out the “cannie do’s” and most folk i speak to know where their vote is and don’t listen anymore. We will gain independence. Everyone feels it is time for change.

    As for the politico’s ……………. their P45 is in the post.

  16. The supporters of the aggregated British state deny that Scotland is a country.
    They just can’t come out and say that because it would be electoral suicide so they dance around the issue by claiming we are better together and so on.
    Why do they have to claim we are one nation if it were true?
    You don’t hear politicians in e.g. the USA claiming they are one nation democrats because the self evident truth is that the USA is one nation.
    Deceit and lies are the tools of their trade and we should treat them with the contempt they deserve.
    Thanks Derek.

  17. I didn’t read to the end, sorry, but just wondered about the Scottish tax raising powers – they’ve never been used, have they? Council tax has never been raised. Notwithstanding the independence debate, I think we could have raised council tax, with protection for those who couldn’t pay, to support improved life chances for others. Why didn’t this happen?

  18. O/T

    Time is short, however we are slowly converting those yet to see the light. Never give up, never give in and get in there with the head down. We will win this by persuading only one don’t know each.

  19. Once again spot on Derek. Oh to have a free press in our country would be great, people might start buying newspapers again. Thankfully we have the internet.

  20. I seem to remember that Brian Wilson founded the West Highland Free Press? Indeed I attended the 10th anniversary, Run Rig and all. Times, as they say, change. What is the point of a free press which freely expounds lies, deceit and the scare stories from the establishment?

  21. As someone has already commented, we know what the Tories stand for – the advancement of their own self-interest and of course, that of the people they represent. The Tory party has always been happy to welcome to its ranks those who might once have been their opponents but can be identified as now having interests in common, hence Brian Wilson and his kind happily embracing the UK project against independence, entwined with Tories and their policies.

    Nothing could make clearer – one would have thought – the nature of what they are both protecting than when we see Tories and Labour politicians joining together to attack their true opponents, those who want to escape the corrupt Westminster system. That these Labour politicians appear still to have supporters beggars belief.

    There always was a natural drift of some Labour voters as they became better off – especially becoming a home owner- who would change their allegiance to the Tory party believing it to be the party which best served their interest. I could imagine that a lot of the remaining support of the Labour party consists of those who now feel no need to move party because the Labour party has also changed with them. The proverbial working class Tory can now stay within the Labour party, since they now look at and recognize, those like Brian Wilson who have made the same political journey.

  22. I’ve just been on the Better Together website and left a question, ‘So as you say we are better together with the rUK then why have food banks risen so sharply because of Westminster Welfare Reforms?’

    Will post back once I receive a reply. This could be fun!!

  23. Roibert a Briuis

    looks like an insider shares your view of the BBC

    In what appeared to be a reference to claims of bias at BBC Scotland, the unnamed insider said: “Not everyone at BBC Scotland is wicked, but many are scared and bullied.”


  24. Unlike Mr Wilson and Ms Macleod we are actively involved in solving the problem of crushing poverty in Scotland. The first wee hurdle is removing a form of governance which serves no one but itself. Placing the necessary powers and resources to act in the hands of the Scottish electorate itself seems to me to be a pretty positive step forward. The Scottish electorate can then decide what needs done and in what order of import. Again I’d say a pretty positive, inclusive forward looking step and we can do all of the above by simply putting a cross in a box. Novel I know, but pretty effective all the same. 😉

  25. Well said Derek, bit by bit the Unionist walls are falling down.
    If you don’t mind could I bring your attention the the John Jappy blog. He is getting some web exposure at the moment but no one is mentioning the nuclear issues that he has a number of articles on, they are truly
    frightening and really need serious comment.
    If you know them all, I apologise for asking you to give them a look, however if you have not seen these you will find them here. The public need to know.


  26. Keep up the good work – all of you! The truth shall out. In the meantime I’m I’m going to a Yes meeting in the Loch Lomondside village of Gartocharn tonight, and a meeting in Dumbarton next week and leafletting with dozens of others in West Dunbartonshire in between. No sign of Bitter Together anywhere.

Leave a Reply