Monthly Archives: November 2015

Is Labour an anti-growth party?

The fall out from the Tory government’s cuts to tax credits continues to dominate discourse in the media. As usual most of this coverage attempts to portray the Scottish government as the guilty party in this. Labour in particular seem to be more interested in shouting SNP bad than trying to stop the cuts at Westminster. If the cuts do go ahead, then it seems that Labour in Scotland is committed to fully re-imbursing individuals for the cuts to their benefits. This will require them to find a not inconsiderable sum of around £440 million. This is an additional £440 million over and above the current Scottish budget.

Labour’s rather flimsy proposals for raising this extra money is also given pretty much a free pass in the media. However I do not intend to focus on how the money for these top-up payments may be found. Others have already written about this. What I want to do is to focus on the implications of Labour’s outright hostility to a reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD).

In their rush to find the money to pay for mitigating or reversing the cuts to tax credits, Labour has stated that, if they were to form the government after next May’s elections, they would not implement the SNP’s proposal to cut APD.  As far as I can gather their sole reason for opposing a cut in APD is that it is a tax cut for the rich.  This was the resounding view of Duncan Hothersall, Editor of Labour Hame, in a particularly gushing piece of adoration for Kezia Dugdale. Now this seems a very odd position to take. I am sure some rich people will benefit from a cut in APD, but so will many, many people on low or middle incomes. There is no evidence whatsoever for the claim that a cut in APD will only benefit the rich.

It is even more worrying that Labour seem to be unwilling to recognise the potential economic benefits to the Scottish economy from a cut in APD. While no-one can guarantee what will happen in the future, there are very sound economic reasons in favour of a cut in APD. The tourist trade is likely to be a prime beneficiary of any cuts. A sector of our economy which employs many people. Yet Labour seems to be completely blind to the prospect of increased employment in this sector as a result of cutting APD.

Now there may well be sound economic reasons as to why a cut in APD might not lead to improved growth in the economy. However it is interesting that Labour has not produced any studies to this effect. Their sole objection seems to be that such a cut benefits the rich. It is very sad that Labour seem to be so intent on doing down the SNP that they are willing to ignore the prospect of increased growth and increased employment opportunities.

A further comment on Labour’s position on how to respond to cuts in tax credits. It is noteworthy that Labour have concentrated their fire on the SNP and not on the Tories, who are, of course, responsible for these vicious and unnecessary cuts. Labour are never willing to explain just why people in Scotland should have to pay more in taxes just to reverse or mitigate nasty decisions from Westminster. The media rarely push them to explain why this has happened. For then Labour would have to justify their claims during the referendum campaign. We were repeatedly assured by Labour that we would all be better together by staying in the UK. Seems a lot more like worse together.


Leave a comment

Filed under UK

Trident and Labour

The recent decision by the Labour party in Scotland to reject the renewal of Trident is to be welcomed. The size of the majority of delegates who voted against renewal – 70%-30% – is pretty conclusive, and should rule out any change for at least a couple of generations. Welcome though this conversion is, it is doubtful if it will have much or any impact either at Westminster or here in Scotland.

Trident will still be renewed

As Trident is a reserved matter, the only votes that count are those at Westminster. There, a large majority of MPs will vote to renew our nuclear weapons. The Tories of course, but also the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs. As Maria Eagles pointed out, the Labour party’s official position is to support the renewal of Trident. Irrespective of what Scottish Labour thinks or does.

As things stand in Scotland, three of our main political parties – SNP, Greens and now Scottish Labour (assuming SLAB is a party and not just a branch office) are against the renewal of Trident. At least 57 of Scottish MPs (not sure how Alistair Carmichael will vote) will vote against the renewal. Hard to find a clearer example of consensus in Scottish politics.

Yet all this will be brushed aside when the vote takes place in Westminster. The massed ranks of Tory and Labour MPs from England will ensure that Trident is replaced. Pretty much sums up the irrelevance of Scotland within the UK. Even if all these 57 MPs from Scotland were Labour and against Trident, it would make no difference.

Impact in Scotland

As the preceding section demonstrates this decision by Scottish Labour will only highlight yet again how Westminster can always overrule decisions by Scots. This is true for all reserved matters and the forthcoming vote in Westminster will only emphasise that if you want to get rid of Trident then the most effective and realistic way of achieving this is through Scottish independence. Perhaps not the message Scottish Labour were intending to send out.

Impact on Scottish Labour

The biggest impact of this vote may be on the Labour party itself.  For the dilemma for Labour in Scotland is that if it wants to convince a majority of Scots that their future is best served by continuing to remain in the UK, then they need to demonstrate that the views of Scots have some kind of influence at Westminster. This has to be in relation to reserved matters, not just Trident, but defence and foreign policy and above all, on macro-economic policy. Otherwise Labour runs the risk of a slow, but steady move of more and more Scots in favour of independence. After all if the UK is a union of equals, how come Scotland is always outvoted at Westminster?

If Labour seriously wants to preserve Scotland in the Union, then it needs to quickly come up with some practical ways of increasing Scotland’s say in reserved matters. I can think of two that would have some, though limited effect. The first is to campaign for PR for Westminster and to succeed in persuading the UK Labour party to do the same. With a PR system on the Scottish or German lines, it becomes difficult for a single party to achieve an overall majority on its own. PR would certainly prevent a party with only 37% of votes winning complete power. As the Tories did last May. With more parties represented in Westminster, Scottish MPs could expect to have greater influence on decisive votes.

The other practical step for Labour in Scotland is for the party to become a completely separate party from the UK party. A party with similar or the same values if you like, but accountable to a different electorate – the people of Scotland. Such a move would give Scottish Labour MPs a greater mandate at Westminster, when it comes to negotiating votes at Westminster. If the UK Labour wanted the support of Scottish Labour there would have to be some give and take. The views of Scottish Labour, if different from UK Labour would have to be recognised and taken into account in any negotiations.

If both steps were taken and the UK did move to PR, then, in a more plural Westminster, not just Scottish Labour but all Scottish MPs could expect to wield more power and influence than at present.  Together this might be enough to persuade enough Scots that Scottish Labour has something different and interesting to say.

While these steps might well increase the power and influence of Scottish MPs at Westminster, it would still only be a slight increase. Welcome enough , but perhaps not decisive enough. As with Trident, if you really want the decisions that affect Scotland and its future to be taken by the people who live in Scotland, then the only way to ensure that is in an independent Scotland.

Leave a comment

Filed under Independence, Scotland, UK