Well it shook me, I have to say. When I heard there was to be a re-launch, I groaned. What that usually means is we would be the ‘best ever’, we would have the ‘boldest’ ideas and be ‘really radical – honest’. Every re-launch I can remember was 90 per cent marketing, nine per cent desperation and one per cent content. It’s what you do when your tea’s oot and nobody can think what else to do. (Labour’s annual leadership contest is always a re-launch in which everything bad is going to stop – until it doesn’t.)
But, contrary Nat that she is, La Sturgeon surprised me and just about everyone else by flourishing a dazzling Chinese fan of proposals and fluttering her eyes at us all. How we gasped as each exotic delight was unveiled. OK, I’m exaggerating, but when the UN head honcho on the environment, Erik Solheim, tweets his approval, you know you’ve hit the mark. At least, you’ve got the nod from the kind of people who matter rather than the kind of support Ruth Davidson attracts from, say, the leader of the Orange Order.
To be fair to the *Unionist opposition for a change (these are turbulent times), it does raise the question of where has all this come from and why have we waited til now to see it? Have eyes been off the ball too long? Was too much time spent in the war room not the work room?
I suppose the truth is that it’s always possible to invent new ideas when necessity is playing mother. And it’s not a moment too soon. They have grasped the initiative at the start of the political year, going a significant way to meeting Green demands and at the same time leaving in their vapour trail the policy-free Tories and the internally-riven Labour Party.
I like the mix of big vision and small-scale – moving to electric cars and pollution-free zones while giving discounts on returned bottles. Lifting the 1 per cent pay cap will give hope to those struggling with two jobs and on benefits while free care for the vulnerable is another of the many humane steps the SNP have taken to improve living conditions.
There was even the lollipop for the Daily Mail of implied tax rises – horror – which lets them avoid writing up the positive measures and just insert last year’s budget article with a new headline. Over at the Times, they missed the tax rise gift and instead wondered allowed how it will all be paid for. As you can see, there is no way the SNP can win.
I don’t think they will be dismayed by the Herald front page majoring on the tax hike because that really punches home the message that this is truly bold and is taking no prisoners. One suspects this is the real spikey wee Sturgeon getting serious about what she believes Scotland should be, like giving up on K.T.Tunstall and going back to Guns ‘n Roses. If there’s a consistent riff driving this programme along, it is progressive rock – her own Glastonbury debut but with left-leaning ideas she can actually implement, not Corbyn’s wishful thinking. It is, when you think about it, the one thing Sturgeon has over Corbyn, the ultimate ability to implement policy from a position of power. She is in government. He is not.
I don’t know about outflanking Labour, but the breadth of measures here allied to intent –as underlined by tax rises – poses a problem for the party and those sometime Nationalist voters tempted by Corbyn’s rhetoric. What more do you want, we may ask. This is a devolved administration checked by an overbearing state apparatus and yet it produces eye-catching policies both macro and micro. Indeed the flip side is that Sturgeon may have weighed in the balance the aspirations of middle class Scots and come down against their interests, potentially risking cementing the desertion of one-time voters in the North east and the Borders.
I’ve always supported the concept of the left-right balancing act because it’s important to create the idea of governing for all. The well-off and the wealthy have a stake in society too and their votes have been necessary to achieving the ultimate objective. I thought the decision not to raise their taxes but instead not to pass on the personal allowance increase was just such a balanced option. But it looks like the last election has added some crucial ounces to the scales and tipped them in favour of higher taxes. Bear in mind that this is exactly what the Tories planned when they drew up the last Scotland Act – virtually the only power Edinburgh has is in personal taxation. Mundell wants Scottish taxpayers to feel the pinch and punish the Nationalists at the ballot box. It isn’t about good governance, it’s about rigging the system.
Yet the mood surely is turning away from the budget-slashing Thatcherite horror show we have endured for 30 years – it gives us third world infrastructure outside London, underpaid and deserting nurses, family breakdowns, benefit sanctions, loss of personal dignity, wealth accumulated with the already wealthy and it gives us Grenfell. That is the heart of Corbyn’s appeal – the simple message that this has to stop and society gets rebalanced. Perhaps the realisation is dawning that for all the sacrifices, the national debt climbs, the deficit grows, the currency bombs and economic disaster beckons via Brexit. But Jeremy can’t rescue Scotland from this Armageddon and indeed has shown no interest in doing so. The effect of Brexit will be to make uniform the internal organisation of the UK to make a single harmonised trading bloc, ironing out differences not acknowledging them.
The coming weeks will, if a real debate is allowed, bring much of this to the fore as the Labour leadership contest unfolds. But I suspect neither candidate will seek to emphasise Brexit as it will merely underline how powerless and exposed Scotland now is.
The questions now are:For Labour voters – Is this good enough? How much more do you want and do you really think Scottish Labour would do better? For Tory voters – do you still believe the mess Britain is in and the disaster it’s heading for can be sorted by Ruth Davidson’s bluster and without tax rises? For Nationalists – Is this the flame that lights the fire and rekindles the belief?
*(And if you’re still backing Brexit, the leaked Home Office immigration paper demonstrates how, with your support, apartheid is planned for Britain with different categories of citizen based on country of origin and professional qualification. A whole new bureaucracy is needed to police the foreign population. Gastarbeiter will be categorised as acceptable and not acceptable with preference given to native workers. It will mean the state saying British Workers Preferred. For the low skilled – an absolutely essential part of the workforce – it means banishment. No Low Skilled Foreigners Wanted Here. Highly skilled staff will need to show their passport to get access to work – perhaps a sign could be painted on their coat. And don’t think about making your life here because the family who can join you will be severely restricted. Maybe reconsider coming to the UK at all. This of course will have no knock-on effect at all on British staff going to other European countries where they will be welcomed with open arms…
If Britain thinks it can make second class citizens out of European allies, it will come up against the full weight of the EU’s defences. This document will already have damaged the UK’s chances of a good hearing and an early trade deal. It is the clearest sign that Britain is turning into a racist state – Britain First – which every other nation will shun. The UK under the Tories is an international embarrassment and Theresa May revealed as a sinister right wing schemer with a hatred of foreigners which transcends the national interest. She means to stop fellow Europeans at any cost to the country.
Is this the Brexit that some independence supporting Scots voted for? Is this why they turned against the SNP in the election? Because I’d like to hear what they thought they were getting instead. If this apartheid state is the kind of Scotland you want, you can count me out. We are either internationalist and pro-European or we are nothing.)by