An interesting take on Scottish, UK and international politics that hopefully stimulates a little debate on topics where there is too little debate.

06

Dec

"Post hoc ergo propter hoc"

jim murphy

SNP praised Ireland’s competitive tax rates, their VAT now hiked to 23%; not such a good idea now? #NoAnswersfromSNP.

While Alex Salmond is in China building diplomatic and trade links, Fiona Hyslop is not long back from the US and Canada building cultural links and Stewart Stevenson has been in South Africa highlighting Scotland’s world leading climate change legislations: Jim Murphy MP is sneering at Ireland’s economic misfortune. No wonder he never stood for leader of the Scottish Labour Party - that’s not leadership. 

 

The ‘question’ he poses could be put another way:

Jim Murphy praised the UK’s economic policy under Labour, UK VAT now hiked to 20%; not such a good idea now? #NoAnswersfromJimMurphy.

 

I’m pretty sure that he, like me, would not see Labour’s tax and spend policies during their time in government as justification for the Tories hike in VAT. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: low corporation taxes were not the cause of Ireland’s economic problems just because they came before the fall. Indeed, evidence showed that before the current economic crisis, low corporation tax helped boost Irish economic growth and actually boosted tax revenue.

 

Unfortunately Jim Murphy is not interested in engaging in a serious debate about Scotland’s economy: he is only interested in distracting attention from the Scottish Government’s plan for nearly £13 billion worth of investment in large infrastructure projects.  What else would you expect from Labour? There Scottish leadership campaign has, however, highlighted their number one policy – if the SNP is for it, we’re against it. 

07

May

New Post: Is David Cameron a Giant #Condem?

Only a vote for Labour can stop the Tories and secure the econom

The Scottish people woke up today to a beautiful sunny, blue sky. But they also woke up to an uncertain political future: the only certainty being it would not be what they voted for yesterday. The results are in and Scotland voted a resounding no to a Tory Government. Actually, a no to any sort of change - not a single seat changed hands from the 2005 election result. It’s as if the last 5 years had not happened: the downfall of Tony Blair; the SNP 2007 victory; the expenses scandal; the Tory revival; the LibDem surge. Nothing seemed to factor in Scotland except fear of a Tory Government.

The SNP failed to make much progress at all, gaining no new seats and losing Glasgow East. A work colleague said to me yesterday “I didn’t know you could vote or the SNP in this election, I thought it was for the British Parliament”. That just summed up the disadvantage the SNP had before they even began. Firstly, the three main parties did all they could to ignore the SNP who they said were “irrelevant” in this election. Secondly, the SNP and Scottish issues were excluded from the three leaders debates that dominated the election. Finally, their “local champions” campaign had no resonance with the electorate, who clearly voted for national parties, not considering the merits or otherwise of the candidates - which explains some of the disastrous MPs elected/re-elected in Scotland. However, it was probably the best shot they had.

Scottish Labour fought a campaign founded in fear - fear of a Tory victory - and it succeeded spectacularly. However, this did not stop the Jim Murphy and Iain Gray spinning a different yarn as the votes came in. Apparently, the SNP were not irrelevant, the people actually voted for Labour in disapproval of the Scottish Government! The Labour spin machine never ceases to amaze me.

Nonetheless, the result is worst for the Tories who only managed to hold on to their single seat, increasing their vote by a mere 0.9%. Like every other factor, the Cameroon revolution didn’t play in Scotland.

Steve Bell

So what does this all mean? Well it looks like nationally we are either heading towards a Tory minority government or a Condem Coalition. Neither result is what the people of Scotland want - the LibDems and Tories coming third and fourth respectively in the popular vote. Never mind the political crisis currently in SW1, we’ve now got a constitutional crisis in Scotland. The Tories have not just failed to get a majority in Scotland but, unlike their last stint in government, they can barely get one MP elected. A deluded David Mundell has suggested that Labours victory in Scotland actually gives the Tories a mandate to govern Scotland. I just don’t believe the people are going to buy it.

 For Labour the victory in Scotland is the electoral equivalent to Jim Bowen’s BFH (bus fair home), a consolation price after a disastrous defeat. In spite of a disappointing night for the SNP, the only person that can take comfort from the result is Alex Salmond. The result will bolster the argument for an independent Scotland, with pre-election polls suggesting a Cameron victory will make people more likely to vote for independence. The next few days and weeks will be very interesting and I think the only thing we can predict is that none of us can predict what is going to happen.

25

Apr

The First Cut is the Easiest - the Scotland Office

Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown restored the Scottish Secretary position to a full time one, appointing Jim Murphy. In spite of the fact that nearly all of the Scottish Secretary’s former functions have gone to the Scottish Government in the last ten years, the Scotland Office has grown. Since devolution the cost of the Scotland Office has rocketed from £3.7million in 1999 to £7.2million in 2009. From having only 20 staff in 1999, it had 55 in 2009. Why has it not reduced in size? Indeed, why is it still needed?

 

The simple answer for the Office’s growth, at least in the last 3 years, has been the election of an SNP Scottish Government in Edinburgh. The position has almost been reduced to that of a party political one, Jim Murphy is essentially a counter balance to the ineffective leadership of Labour in the Scottish Parliament, first from Wendy Alexander and now Iain Gray. Instead of Scottish Labour creating a strong Scottish party leader, as opposed to Iain Gray’s diminutive position as “leader in the Scottish Parliament” would reduce the need for this. Instead Labour has chosen to use it’s position in government to lend gravitas to a political position. I would expect, however, that Labour would rethink the structure of its Scottish Party if it loses the general election this year.

 

Is the Office needed at all? Probably not, but strong links between the Scottish and UK Governments are needed. All departments in Whitehall that have responsibilities that extend north of the border should share the role. More formal ties, adapted to suit each department, and regular meetings are needed. Spending over £7 million on a department to do this is not needed. As the main parties argue over where to cut first, the first cut should be the easiest: the Scotland Office.

25

Mar

Dumblebore and the 2010 Budget

Dumblebore presenting HM Government’s 2010 Budget

I know, that’s silly. Dumbledore had more convincing eyebrows than Alistair Darling. But Professor Trelawney’s crystal ball may have been consulted to predict our economic future (too far?). Seriously though, the budget is all black magic to me.

Take for example something you think would be a simple fact: the value of this years Scottish budget and the change from last year. Not so, it’s election year!

John Swinney, SNP Finance Secretary: “our overall budget is falling in real terms in the forthcoming year for the first time since devolution.”

Jim Murphy, Labour Scottish Secretary: “Next year the Scottish Government will have the highest ever budget - more than double what
Donald Dewar had.”

How can they be getting this from the same figures? I tried some investigation with mixed results (any help would be appreciated!).

According to the budget planned ‘departmental’ spending limit for Scotland 2010-2011: £26.2 billion (resource) £3.2 billion (capital) [total - £29.4 billion]. The 2009 estimate spending limit for Scotland: £25.6 billion (resource) £3.9 billion (capital) [total £29.5 billion].

By my reckoning this represents a £100 million drop in cash terms or (if we take into account inflation at 2%) a drop of £2.1 billion in real terms. This doesn’t take into account the “barnett consequentials” (extra money given to Scotland in line with extra policy spending in England) which total £82 million but it would still represent a big drop.

This would vindicate the SNP’s argument if my figures are right. Any help anyone can give would be great.

The issue I have with this isn’t really that we’re spending less overall - that can be justified in such a severe recession - but that the Scottish Government cannot chose for itself where it wants to see cuts, it just gets its “paypacket”. With full fiscal powers balancing the budget would be up to the Scottish Government - if we want to find extra money for a particular scheme we find it ourselves.

This view is so widely held in Scotland it boggles the mind and yet the UK Government, far from supporting such an idea, spends millions every year on the Scotland Office which is primarily focused on arguing against fiscal autonomy/devolution max or independence.