Tag Archives: Scottish Politics

Wealth Tax 2: Revenge of the Blog…

…or why context is everything.

So, my recent blog post on Richard Leonard’s plans for a Wealth Tax had an audience, which is nice. I mention this, not to brag about #numbers, but because at least one of the members of the audience was a senior partner at Thompsons Solicitors, Patrick Maguire. He disagrees with my view, so decided to produce a rebuttal blogpost on Unison’s Dave Watson’s website (albeit without linking to or describing the post he was rebutting). Continue reading Wealth Tax 2: Revenge of the Blog…


Why I’m Labour

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I am voting Labour in this General Election. But I want to talk about why.

I’m voting Labour because I believe, fundamentally, that the Labour Party is a force for good. Every government of change in this country has been a Labour government; and every Labour government has fundamentally changed this country for the better.

In the 1920’s, it was a Labour Government that created affordable local housing for people.
In the 1940’s, it was a Labour Government that created the Welfare State as we know it today, and created the NHS that brought us into he world and we now all rely on.
In the 1960’s, it was a Labour Government that decriminalised homosexuality in the UK, which was the first big step towards the equality this country now enjoys.
In the 1990’s, it was a Labour Government that introduced the National Minimum wage, that protects so many workers of all ages and kinds.
It will only be a Labour Government that will provide the change that this country once again desperately needs.

It is only a Labour Government that will ban exploitative 0-hours contracts across the UK, protecting the rights of working people across the UK. Working people, people who are relying on working income to feed their families and heat their homes, should be able to rely on regular work and decent income, without having to wait on a text to see if they should bother to go in that morning, and whether they’ll be paid at the end of the day. It is the only part that has constantly and consistently supported the Living Wage in public procurement and in private business.
It is only a Labour Government that has pledged to tax the richest and support the poorest. It has will re-introduce the 50p tax-rate, ending the Tories tax-cut for millionaires; and will lower taxes for the least well off in society. It will introduce a Mansion Tax on homes worth over £2million, and use that money to properly provide our public services which have been under-funded both north and south of the border. It will end once and for all the scandalous Bedroom Tax.
And it is only a Labour Government that has a real plan to help real people and stand up for the powerless against the powerful. It will take on the energy companies by freezing energy prices for 2 years and give the regulator to make sure prices are fair. It will stand up to Murdoch and his media empire, by creating proper regulation of the press to stop them hacking phones and going after the family of 17-year old girls who don’t support their point of view. It will tackle tax-avoidance and not turn a blind eye to it as has been done before, and end the archaic position of non-doms who escape their fair share of tax. No more!

This is a Labour Party that will stand up for people across the country and across our nations. And that means letting the nations standing up themselves. A stronger Scottish Parliament than the one it created in 1999, and one prepared for new responsibilities as it approaches its 20th birthday. An end to the House of Lords and a new elected Senate of the Nations and Regions to ensure that all regional voices are heard and shape the future of the country. And a conversation about how we continue in the future, with a real examination of how our country works.

I am voting Labour because I believe in Labour’s fundamental tenant: that by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we can achieve alone”. It is this that encapsulates the Labour Party in Scotland, Labour across the UK and the entire international Labour Movement of which I am proud to be a part. The SNP have claimed that they can keep Labour honest, and make us true to our word. As much as I appreciate their support of Labour’s policies (many of which they have voted against in the past – tax rises for the richest, rent-caps & the Living Wage condition in public procurement among others), there is, I think, too wide a gap between the two. Labour is a Democratic Socialist Party; the SNP is a Nationalist one. The first requires solidarity; the second demands separation.
I believe the Union (for all its faults) is a fundamentally good thing and Scotland benefits from it. Only be coming together and sharing what we have will we be able to help those who need it most. What illustrates this fr me is the Mansion Tax, a Labour Policy with SNP support. 95% of all the money it raises will come from the South-East of England and only 1/3 of 1% will be raised in Scotland – yet that money will benefit people all across the UK, with c.10% coming to Scotland. The same with a bankers’ bonus tax (affecting the richest in London). These policies only help the poorest in a UK context. If we cut Scotland off from this pooling and sharing of money, we do Scotland a disservice. Full Fiscal Autonomy, which Nicola Sturgeon has committed SNP MPs to supporting, would deprive Scotland of so much.
Not only would it mean a £7.6bn funding gap this year alone (rising to £10bn in the next 5 years) it would cut Scotland off from so much more. Money that could fund 1000 new nurses and 500 new GPs. Money that, would not only reverse the some 140,000 college places lost over the last 8 years, but actually help the poorest Scottish University students as well. Fee-Free tuition is great, but it alone does nothing and helps only the middle and upper class. Labour’s plan to increase bursaries for the poorest students by £1000, is what will help us get working class Scots into University – something that Fee-paying England is currently doing far better than us. Money that would let us provide £1,600 for every 18 and 19 year-old not in further or higher education, and not in training, to get ahead. And money that can guarantee a job for every single 18 to 14 year old that out of work for more than a year.
Labour offer pooled money for progressive, radical policies – I don’t want to walk away from that.

The Labour Party has not, is not and can never be ‘perfect’. It can never offer a socialist paradigm because it knows it can never implement it. It was, let us not forget, Atlee’s government, idealised by so many in Scotland, who introduced the UK’s first nuclear weapon – but I hope that, along with the rest of the world, it will be a Labour Government that gets rid of them, not just the UK, but the planet. But The Labour Party, in particular this Labour Party, and only the Labour Party, is offering a radical vision for so many people.

It is once again only the Labour party that can be the government for real, effective, lasting change for working people – based not on where they come from or what they’ve done, but what they need.

It is that government that I will be voting for.

Sketchy Round the Edges…

…or why I need to check my tweets before hitting send.

I do a thing every night Sunday – Thursday. I carry out “NatOnal #HandWatch”. It’s not mean-spirited, I don’t think. It’s a bit off fun. It’s an establishing meme of Scottish Politics along with Soleros being the lolly of choice and things being in Alex Salmond’s pocket, the the front cover of ‘The National’ will have hands on it. Somewhere. There will be hands. They may be badly photo-shopped hands, but there will be hands nonetheless.

Some of my personal favourites so far are:

I accept its silly and pointless. I didn’t start the whole “Hands on The National” (or NatOnal – because the map of Scotland does not look like an ‘i’) idea, I just picked it up and ran with it. I don’t agree with The National’s political outlook, but it serves a market and good on them.

But today this cartoon was included in the paper, and I saw this preview on twitter last night and it made me uneasy. CAtqW4SWcAAxdmm

I’ll start by saying I genuinely love Greg Moodie’s art style. I don’t know why, but I love it. The stuff from before the #IndyRef, even attacking my own side, I love it. But my issue with the cartoon was the inclusion of Charles Kennedy sweating over a pint. The man’s issues with alcohol are well known and he doesn’t try to hide them. I said that I felt this cartoon was in poor taste (which may or may not be the right word in this situation).
Let’s get my complaint down here. I’m not complaining he’s making fun of alcoholism generally. Nor am I complaining about the political viewpoint – that’s not relevant. I’m asking what having Kennedy staring and sweating over a pint is adding to this frame.

The some of the responses to my (I promise, genuine) concerns were not ones I can agree with:

I disagree. Satire can be in good taste (if indeed taste is the right word). Private Eye’s ‘Royal Baby’ cover was a great example of that – indeed, most of Private Eye is. And besides, unnecessarily mocking somebody’s struggle with alcohol is difficult to justify.

The Lib Dems are rightly going to suffer for being in coalition with the Tories for the last 5 years. I think everyone should be reminded of their broken promises and u-turns. They are a party, I feel, that has no political credibility. However, I don’t see what that has to do with a man’s alcohol issues. The two are not connected in any way. The political vapidness of the Lib Dem platform can’t be used to justify unrelated personal criticisms.

No. It’s probably not worse than the Sun’s ridiculous Wrecking-Ball spread from a few weeks ago, which was sexist. It’s definitely not worse that David Coburn’s “Humza Yousaf, or as I call him Abu Humza” comment (for which he still hasn’t resigned). I think both examples are ridiculous. We can argue about whether its worse than Steve Bell’s cartoon (which I think was a classic Guardian “I’ll use a reference only about 5% of the population will get first time round”). But we have a deep-rooted problem facing addiction issues, and mental health issues more generally, in this country. Making fun of someone for it isn’t a great way to help open up the discussion.

I don’t object to Nigel Farage being pictured with pint – primarily because he isn’t an alcoholic. His constant use of pubs for photo-calls is a cultivation of his “man-of-the-people” image, not a chronic dependency. The point being made here is a fair one, but in my mind, the two are of a different class.

There was then this comment:

I include this (borderline defamatory) comment only so I can show one of the best things I’ve ever created…Referendum Dogs (based on a picture a friend took after the 2012 Local Elections. You can take it as “Labour are criminals”, or just that it’s a cool picture.

ref dogs twitter

I don’t think Greg Moodie should resign or be fired. I don’t thing he should be abused or harassed online (some of the comments he’s received on twitter are well out of order). But I do wish that The National had exercised a bit more discretion. The Lib Dems as an entity, are fair targets – as are all political groups. But there is a point where you cross from criticising the politics of a person to criticising the person themselves.
Some have attempted to justify this as satire – and generally I’d agree with them. But in what way does Kennedy hold a pint improve the satire? I don’t think it does. “But”, say others (including Mr. Moodie), “in other frames of the comic, other people are drinking the pint”. That’s absolutely accurate. But I’m not sure that this completely expunges the issue. Why…look at Kennedy’s eyes in this frame:


To my mind, and it may well just be my mind, they seem to be following the pint. And, a picture of the paper itself suggests this is common to each frame:


I don’t know if this pattern is repeated in all the frames, but 3’s generally enough to establish something more than a coincidence.
To make clear, I’m not offended. I’m not hurt. I’m not harmed. But I am of the opinion that perhaps, just perhaps, a national newspaper should show a bit more awareness of what it publishes and how it can be seen.

Goodbye and Thank You Johann…

…or why Scottish Labour must be both ‘Scottish’ and ‘Labour’.

This weekend, Johann Lamont announced she will be standing down as leader of the Labour Party in Scotland. Before I say anything else, as a member I want the thank Johann for everything she did while leading the party. She held the party together after what was a (well-deserved) routing in 2011 and then led the party through the 2012 local election, holding Glasgow, and then (since everyone seems to have forgotten) WON a referendum on Scottish Independence. There were moments I cringed, and moments when speeches could have been better phrased. Yet, week after week, she consistently held her own against Alex Salmond at FMQs.

For what you did, I thank you.

But looking to the future, there are two major challenge Scottish Labour faces. The first is that is can not longer be afraid to be Scottish Labour. The second is that it must be allowed to be Scottish Labour.
It seems to me that recently, at both UK and Scottish levels, the Labour Party has been afraid to shout about what we stand for as a party, and instead watered it down to what we think people want to hear. At a UK level, our recent attempts to “tackle immigration” are a great example of this. A Labour government shouldn’t seek to tackle immigration, it should welcome the social, economic and poltical advantages immigration brings. but we don’t because we are concered about those who have “concerns about immigration”. These people fall into 2 categories.
The first are people who are genuinely concerned about the strain additional demand will place on out schools, hospitals and infrastructure. The Labour answer to these concerns is to say we will invest more in public services, and show how immigration is still a net positive to the country. The second are people who’s problem is with immigrants. We can’t help them, but still act as if we can see their point…I have to admit I can’t. We have to be brave and honest enough to say so.
The same issue exists in Scotland too. Whoever is elected leader in December cannot be afraid to challenge the assumptions we have allowed the SNP to establish. We are right to oppose unfunded universal free-prescriptions. Prescriptions for those most in need (the poorest, the oldest, the youngest, the chronicly ill, the disabled, the unemployed) were free before the SNP decided to make them free for the middle class and the rich. But we forget to say that’s because it costs the NHS c.£60million a year that could be spent on medical treatments and staff. Without that last bit we sound like cost-cutters and not a party that wants proper funding of public services.

And to do this, Scottish Labour must be given room to be SCOTTISH Labour. We may have won the IndyRef, but Scottish politics has changed forever. For the next leader to address this dynamic, they need to be able to make decisions (1) for the whole party in Scotland – I’m looking at you MPs; and (2) without the fear of a UK Labour veto.
I don’t think this means we need an “Independent Labour Party”, but we do need to mimic the current state of devolution within it. Policy making is near-enough separate, but leadership are still a matter of the UK party. That’s why the Scottish General Secrety can be sacked without the Scottish Leader being told: the UK level still controls structures. This clearly can’t go on.
In that brief time Wendy Alexander was leader, she famously challenged Alex Salmond to “bring it on” and hold the referendum before 2011.  Slowly but surely, this stance drifted backwards, and I would not be surprised if it was a UK ‘suggestion’ to drift. If rumours about Bedroom-Tax related orders are true, it only confirms that we need to be trusted to make the right call for Scotland, even if it makes the UK-Wide party a bit more uncomfortable. Part of this, of course, is that the leader of Scottish Labour has to be – in practice and not just name – the leader of the WHOLE of Scottish Labour (again, looking at you MPs).

Lamont’s leadership of Scottish Labour was successful one. In a time where we didn’t have a constitutional argument in the way, I am sure that would have been electorally successful too. But alas, circumstances, and it seems ‘comrades’, conspired against a woman who is committed to improving the lives  of the people she represents. I hope our next leader, whoever it is, is just as committed to those people, and much more ready to shout from the rooftops and soapboxes that we are Scottish Labour.

This post also appears on Labour Hame, a grass-roots run and organised Scottish Labour site. With thanks to Andy Todd for letting me use his lovely ‘graph’ in the banner.

Other people who have commented on Johann’s resignation and replacement include:
Duncan Hothersall:- Three things
Ian Smart:- Desperate Days
 – Jackson Carlaw MSP:- Send for Murphy