The Russian Doll*

Unravelling the layers in search of the nugget of Labour’s income tax policy is like the Russian doll. It seems to be impenetrable and then the result is disappointingly insignificant.

Starting on the first layer, I suggest Labour has the biggest and most enduring obstacle of all. It’s called credibility. The question for Kezia isn’t: What are you saying? It’s: Who’s listening?

Labour has fallen so far in public esteem that they could offer free doughnuts at Greggs and nobody would listen (This may have been a Murphy idea. Can’t remember)

Before they start asking teachers, policemen, social workers and binmen to pay more in taxes from wages that have been stagnant for years and have fallen behind inflation, they must first find a method of communication. The truth? They have no one who convinces the voters they either know what they’re talking about or can be trusted.

Labour of old has left the stage. When Blair was strutting from Commons to studio, he left a vapour trail of invincibility. His lieutenants were often well-known, die-cast Scots. Sure, there were doubts but the party was so far ahead and had sewn up Scotland from top to bottom so much that they filled the landscape. You couldn’t see past them. And one thing you knew – they weren’t Tories. Nationalists tried to say so and so did Tommy but Labour voters had no doubt. A vote for Labour was a vote against the Tories. Voting Labour was like grabbing hold on a lifebelt with both hands.

Only about 20 per cent still do so. The referendum showed over a sustained period that there is on key policy areas little between them but more than that, it demonstrated how emotionally close they were, how easily the same rhetoric came from their mouths, how casually they grinned for photos together. Ed Balls joining Osborne to threaten removal of access to our currency was for many the nadir. This could have changed with Corbyn’s elevation but his hesitancy and the froideur in Westminster has left doubt when there should have been revival. Scots still look to London for a sense of what Scottish Labour really is – perfectly natural for a British party with an HQ in England. A strong leader there might have helped assuage doubts over Kezia, but…

Kez remains a likeable and enterprising activist but Labour voters will ask themselves if she is capable of managing power. If she came into their house selling insurance, would they see beyond the chat and happy smile and imagine a hard-nosed operator safeguarding their money? Someone who will stand up to pressure and deliver for them? Doubt it…

Layer two is the basic premise of a policy to raise more money when the agenda is firmly set – one that says Scotland is having its budget cut by a London government that Scots overwhelmingly didn’t vote for. In fact, Scotland voted against this kind of government on an historic scale. Whatever doubts Scots have over the SNP, they are persuaded they mean what they say and will stand up for Scotland against a Tory Prime Minister. As the Unionists would say – Scots blame Westminster. We do. And we’re right to do so. The systematic cuts in our national budget are not the SNP’s work but the British government’s (the one Labour said they preferred under Better Together).

From there it’s short hop to understanding that Kezia’s promise is to get us to pay more to help make up for London cutting our budget. If they also realise that any additional money raised is likely to be removed via the block grant, the nail is driven home. The SNP, like all governments apart from the neo cons in London, doesn’t want to cut local government budgets. But it is already draining away Scottish resources on ameliorating the deleterious effect of austerity policies. A generalised sense that the SNP is putting a finger in the dyke mitigates against doing more of London’s dirty work by raising taxes. (The SNP may itself put some income tax up – in fact will – when the powers are fully devolved but will be cautious about undoing all its good work via council tax freezes by hitting moderate earners.)

Another layer is the contradiction of adopting a left-leaning posture on income tax while offering a giveaway to house buyers – surely an appeal to broadly different constituencies. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t work together as policies but it leaves voters with yet another doubt about what Labour really is. Surely pumping air into the housing bubble is a luxury for better economic weather when we might want to get first-timers into ownership. The social priority is affordable housing. If the national accounts are so in need of an injection that taxes must go up, why use it as a bribe to homeowners and give added profit to builders?

Layer four I think is already identified by the Tories and not unreasonably so. (Sorry, being even-handed for a minute). If Labour end the council tax freeze, it means bills go up. If they don’t implement the Air Passenger Duty reduction, it means that tax stays 50 per higher than otherwise. If they’re now telling us that income tax will go up…well, they’re party of tax rises. Not a happy story to tell on the doorstep.

I saw Neil Findlay’s maladroit tweet informing me that one out of four people wouldn’t pay more under Labour’s plan. As my nine-year-old would say: Dad. You’re hopeless. That means three out of four would pay more. This tactic of saying A Penny for Scotland backfired even for the Nats when they tried it. Labour can’t (any more) make that sort of emotional appeal to Scots and in any case, if the message is: Vote for us to tax you more to pay for local government….well, good luck. Most councils have failed, like the unions in the blog above, to connect with their voters and build up their support. I fear few voters have much love for the council, even if often it isn’t their fault.

Finally, we uncover the little beauty inside. It presumes Scots are ready to pay more tax. Well it’s true opinion polls register folk saying just that but will they vote that way? It’s a different question when it comes to an election and the bank account is blinking. I suspect voters are happy for high earners to pay more but starting at £20,000 is a hard sell. That covers a hell of a lot of Scots trying to make ends meet. Scots who think too much goes to benefit claimants already; Scots who see company profits floating off in their billions to tax havens and sneer as corporations negotiate chicken-feed tax bills. ‘I’ve been clobbered enough’, will be the reaction of most.

Interesting to see though how they would react if Nicola made the same offer…

The devil of course is hiding in here too – how do you claim your £100 rebate if you’re earning less than the £20,000? What earnings count towards your £20,000? Will the self-employed make sure they dip below the cut-off? One suspects they’ll need to use the extra money raised to hire more staff just to administer it.

Still I suppose we can say this is an idea which puts Better Together to bed though as the plan to make  Scotland pay more in tax than the rest of the UK was surely what the No side warned against during the indyref? And yet here is Labour doing just that. Proshchay, moy drug!

* For Labour chums – Hiya, Simon Pia – I should remind you that in January 2015 Labour MPs voted with the Tories to make whopping spending cuts, lobbing £30 billion from public budgets, taking the UK back to 1930 spending levels. It was 515 to 18. Five – yes five – of your brave Labour members voted against the Tory cuts that are now decimating Scottish budgets.




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25 thoughts on “The Russian Doll*

  1. “This may have been a Murphy idea. Can’t remember”

    Almost did that spurt the coffee out at full throttle thing that you see people do on TV and you always think no one ever actually does

  2. Who is listening to Labour? Not enough to make a difference.

  3. Labour in Scotland gleefully sided with the tories during the referendum; now they are gleefully siding with them again over the insulting Scotland Bill.

  4. The thinking by some blinking lightbulbs in Labour seems to be: “are you prepared to support public services? In which case pay 1p more under Labour. If you don’t want to pay 1p extra you’re a bastard.”

    I thought we’d seen Labour draw back their skirts in disgust from their own strategies when Murphy played the Martyred Victim after the incident with the egg, but they seem to be steering even closer to the edge. Now we’re on “continue the work of the Tories and set neighbour against neighbour and hope they don’t ask questions.” What next? Crumbling into a sobbing heap on a TV interview and begging to be given one more chance? It’s still emotional blackmail, but with more Kleenex.

    Scotland has washed its hands of Labour. Now all Labour in Scotland has is the back of an old envelope and a curious misunderstanding of Scotland’s economy under Westminster’s anti-Scottish mallet.

  5. The Scottish Government is trying to bring the unions back into the type of central role you describe through its Fair Work Convention; something Labour in Holyrood never quite got round to!

  6. Osborne introduces cuts that Labour signed up to then Labour want to tax Scotland to mitigate Osbornes cuts, they say,then blame SNP for not agreeing with them and the cuts magically become the property and responsibility of John Swinney

    Funny thing is when you take a good look at Kezia’s Mistress plan she wants to return the money derived from her wheeze to be returned to local councils to administrate but refuses to ring fence the money for the services she claims she wants….which means….Labour councils could spend the money on sweeties if they wanted to and no Government could stop them…if Labour were in charge

    Thankfully for her and us nobody’s going to vote for her and she knows it , so all this is about is a slimy attempt to damage the SNP and not in any way meant as an actual serious policy because it’s stupid and even they know it is, what’s more worrying though is,

    This is the best they can do and there’s a danger we could all fall asleep bored into unconsciousness

    They’re like Roofies ….Yawn

  7. Labour’s mantra – offset or mitigate. Not challenge, not fight, not even negotiate, but meekly accept and offset using policy and piss poor gifted powers.

    A government of Scotland accept and offset…

    Take a wild guess at what I’m thinking?

    Is this our devolution settlement? Is this how devolution works? A devolved legislature uses gifted powers to offset the economic screw ups and harmful ideologies of central government. That is Labour’s definition of better together then is it?

    I’ll pass personally. I prefer a government with a bit more spine and a lot more care for its electorate.

  8. “Kez remains a likeable and enterprising activist”

    Switched off completely when I read this……………

    Sorry Derek

  9. having today watched what can only be described as an election broadcast by the BBC on behalf of Labour in Scotland promoting its weird and wonderful Tax scam , totally unchallenged , Labour seem totally oblivious to the fact any tax raised will be deducted from the block grant , the only thing we will gain are the administrative costs of a useless exercise, and this today was masquerading as a news report , and i wonder if was shown nationally or just for the consumption of the plebs up here ,i believe this is preparing the groundwork for an all out vilification of the SNP government when this useless fiscal framework in the Scotland bill finally hits the buffers , you can almost see the media onslaught being prepared ,when a government can’t even convince the house of lords where we have no representation and open hostility to anything the SNP government propose there is only one course they can take blame the SNP , I really hope the SNP have the guts to reject this useless mess and put an end to this totally pointless dragged out farce ,the media in Scotland will move heaven and hell to vilify the SNP they will try and probably succeed through the same methods used in the referendum lies barefaced lies its what they do it’s in their DNA , batten down the hatches the shit storm .is on the horizon .

  10. It’s a penny for Osborne.

    Until we are independent I will not support paying additional taxes.

    • Agreed. I’d be happy to pay more in an independent Scotland but not until then.

      I heard Kez on STV last night justifying her tax rise by saying something along the lines of: “…we can choose a different course from the austerity of Westminster”.

      The irony was lost on her.

  11. Why pay tax to London at all? Why not have ALL Scots taxes spent in Scotland. Why pay for Trident and London subsidies? Why vote Labour when you can have the real Tories?

  12. Has she got inside information about the current negotiations between Scotland’s and England’s governments?
    No agreement on budgets then no “devolved” taxes.
    Should suit the Westminster stooges who fought tooth and nail to stop any devolvement of powers to Holyrood beyond air gun regulations and road signs.

  13. I call Labour’s tax proposal the “Better Together Tax”, and recommend that others follow suit..

    The Coalition Government prepared a tax trap hoping the SNP would be stupid enough to walk straight into it, but, while the SNP called it out for what it is and gave it a body swerve, dear old Kezia has decided to blunder her way in. The Tories used to be known as the “stupid party”. It seems that that title should be transferred to Scottish Labour.

  14. Apologies to both Paul Kavanagh and Derek. I’ve just read that the Wee Ginger Dug had already coined the phrase “Better Together Tax” to describe Scottish Labour’s proposal. Once again I’m behind the times, but at least I’m barking up the right tree.

  15. The fundamental flaw with the extra taxation is this. The reason we are all suffering is due to WM cuts to Holyroods budget, and the consequential squeeze on spending from the SG.

    So Labour want the SG to tax the people in Scotland more, to pay for the cuts imposed by WM. How can they then claim there is a union dividend. We are punished for staying in the UK by the WM government ,then they have the cheek to ask us to vote no and pay for WM cruelty out of the reduced Scottish budget.

    Do Slabour still not get this!

  16. The BetterTogether Tax is extraordinary: Basically labour are saying; we are going to raise your income tax ,to mitigate spending cuts that we started to implement during the crash IN 2008, and continued to support by not opposing deeper austerity measures implemented by the condem gov 2010-2015. We are then going to “rebate” the tax paid by using the councils.

    So to sum up for Scottish labour – It’s a tax rise with a tax cut that you have to apply for as we have no way of identifying who is eligible or not. We have no way of knowing if the UK treasury will not treat this rebate as “income” and seek to claw it back in some fashion. There is also no guarantee that our attempts to mitigate austerity we supported, will not lead to further cuts to Scotlands block grant equal to the extra tax revenues raised. Nor are we willing to admit that our panicked tax cut wheeze would drastically reduce the revenues raised and limit our ability to mitigate austerity cuts in any meaningful way.

    What we are going to do is pretend all the cuts are down to the SNP. No cuts from westminster – because if it was Westminsters fault, that would make our tax plan look like the work of a foaming mouthed imbecile. Also we are hoping like mad that one will ask the obvious question: If the Cuts are all down to the SNP – and labour wins – why raise taxes when you could simply repeal SNP austerity? the answer? Because we in Scottish labour are betting the farm that no one in Scotland was paying attention to what was/is happening in Westminster with the tories in charge.

    In conclusion then: It’s clear that labour’s contempt of the electorate is matched only by their face melting stupidity to when it comes to opposing the SNP.

    The BetterTogether Tax: we’ll make you pay for staying British.

  17. Poorer together!

  18. Vote Labour for:

    Higher Income Tax
    Higher Council Tax
    Student Tuition Fees
    Forth Road Bridge Tolls

    That’s going to be a hard sell on the doorstep!

  19. Don’t worry about them being on the doorstep, they aren’t. But we are ; a group of us will be out tonight, canvassing for the third time this week.

  20. Those who the gods would destroy……….

  21. Steve Asaneilean

    Oh the irony – “we want you to pay for the cuts we helped impose”


  22. Not the place or time for humour I would think, but anyway, I checked with my local Greggs. They said something about “doughnut” and “Murphy” being in the same sentence.

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