DH cropDuncan Hothersall, Editor of Labour Hame, says this is a significant moment – for devolution, for Scottish Labour and for Scottish politics.


We have a government in Scotland which looks at a problem and sees only the politics. We need a government that looks at a problem and sees the possibilities.

I see things differently. I don’t look to make political capital out of a grievance. When I see a problem I ask – what can be done? So let me say today to Scotland what we will do.

If the Tories do not see sense, Scottish Labour will stand for the elections with a promise to restore the money Scottish families stand to lose from this Tory tax rise on working families.

We will act as soon as the new powers make it possible. We don’t need to tax ordinary Scots more to make this change. We just need to make different choices from the Tories and different choices from the SNP.

When Kezia Dugdale reached this passage in her first conference speech as leader on Saturday, the hall rose in a spontaneous standing ovation. I was among those standing. Because this was the moment we as a party put into practical, straightforward policy terms the argument we have been making ever since the referendum ended and the grievance hunting season began.

New powers are coming to the Scottish Parliament. The first thing the SNP want to do with them is phase out Air Passenger Duty – a tax cut for the rich. The first thing Scottish Labour want to do with them is fund vital tax credits to help working families feed their children.

It what we do with power that matters, far more than where power sits.

Labour is on the front foot, and it shows. I, and I suspect most Labour activists online, spent much of yesterday under a shower of angry denial in response to this move. Because not only does it threaten the SNP’s core “we’re being stopped from doing what we want” narrative in a very substantial way, it also makes clear that Labour’s priority is to find answers, while the SNP’s priority is to pick fights.

The revisions to the Scotland Bill, most of which were drafted and argued for by Labour’s Ian Murray while the feeble fifty-five looked on in scorn, have delivered the powerhouse Scottish Parliament we were promised. Powers over tax and welfare spending in particular mean that these issues are no longer grievance fodder – we’ve reached the point that the grievance mongers need to stand up and say what they will do.

While SNP folk like Andrew Tickell in his @Peatworrier blog argue that it’s just too hard to reverse George Osborne’s vicious slashing of tax credits, the impartial Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) says it is beyond doubt that the Scotland Bill gives Parliament “the legislative competence to introduce top-up payments to people in Scotland entitled to reserved benefits”.

And while SNP politicians and online activists argue that the money can’t be found to do this, Labour quietly points out that the SNP are happy to plan to spend up to £250m a year to cut Air Passenger Duty, so if that money isn’t there they’ll be needing to explain how they are going to cover that! (Labour have also set out how by reversing George Osborne’s latest tax cuts for higher rate taxpayers we can find an additional £440m by the end of this parliament, more than covering the cost of this plan.)

Today in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour will put its money where its mouth is and bring this matter to a vote. I truly hope the Parliament supports Labour’s plan.

Tony Blair’s much maligned New Labour government introduced tax credits. It was a key plank in the policy platform that delivered a massive reduction in poverty across the UK. Labour has championed redistribution from rich to poor for decades, and in standing up today we are proudly defending our legacy.

But we are doing more than that. We are redefining “standing up for Scotland”. For us it means what it always should have meant to others. Not picking fights and finding excuse after excuse to demand another referendum and more separation. Not posturing and moaning and claiming our hands are tied. Not saying “it’s too hard” and blaming big bad Westminster.

When Scottish Labour stands up for Scotland we do it by turning a tax cut for the rich into a pay rise for the workers. That is what standing up for Scotland should look like. And today Scottish Labour steps forward to make it happen.

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25 thoughts on “A significant moment

  1. Oh and SPICe is not politically impartial Duncan they are civil service and run from the New whatever we are calling the Scotland colonial Office these days.

    1. SPICe is not politically impartial, eh? Run from the Scotland Office? Really? That you just lying about stuff again Mike? No wonder you like Wings.

  2. Sorry Duncan, but your arguments don’t hold water.
    It is obviously up to the SNP to explain where they would find £250 million to cut APD ( I had always thought it partly self financing as, far from being a rich mans benefit, it would encourage tourism, etc, and be a stimulant to economic growth), but the does NOT excuse Labour from telling us where THEIR £250 million will come from, unless they think Swinney has it in his sock drawer. As for the rest of the £440 million, that appears to be from a money tree as the cut from the Tories tax cuts don’t add up to much for Scotland.
    Scottish Labour economics appear about as credible as their defence posture.

    How will a Scottish government collect any additional revenue?
    How much will it cost to set up a mechanism to collect this extra?
    How will a Scottish government identify those who will be in receipt of extra benefits?
    How will it know when to stop paying those extra benefits?
    What impact will the move from tax credits to universal benefits have on this?

    There seems to be more waffle than answers.
    One problem is, the Scottish media just aren’t asking ANY questions at all. I wonder why?

    1. The problem the people of Scotland who have not fallen for the SNP blame culture not accepting responsibility for their tory policies like cutting 4000 NHS beds 2500 nurses the longest waiting times in Britain for hospital treatment including cancer. education the main if not the only route out of poverty. For millions. Of young people. they promised to cut class sizes instead they have cut over 4000 teachers and teaching assistants. Schools expected to teach children on £2 a month budgets for teaching materials. Reports of schools using Bookmakers Pens. Teachers supplying materials themselves. The only way we can get access to what they are actually doing is through freedom of information requests.

      1. OK, let us take a wider view of this.
        Remember West Staffs, and the scandal of many early deaths in that Health Trusts hospitals? That was under Labour. But……Labour escaped the blame as there were English Health Trusts in place. Excuse me, but are there not equivalents in Scotland, who hire and fire staff? There are no reports of Junior Doctors going on strike here.
        Do not Local Authorities not run schools in their areas? With well paid Directors of Education? Do local authorities not receive a comparatively good share of funding in Scotland? How many decades has Labour ran Glasgow, Scotland’s worst performing education Authority? Isn’t it also the biggest per capita recipient of funding? Wasn’t it also the first place in the UK to instigate a council tax freeze? I could go on, but don’t want to waste time on refuting nonsense.

      2. “4000 NHS beds 2500 nurses the longest waiting times in Britain for hospital treatment including cancer.”

        Since the DEL has decreased by 9% over the past 5 years yet the NHS budget has fallen only by 0.7% in the same period – NHS spending has been protected as far as possible in the face of cuts and at the expense of other services

        “longest waiting times in Britain for hospital treatment” flatly untrue.

        “they promised to cut class sizes instead they have cut over 4000 teachers and teaching assistants”
        again flatly untrue as Local authorities (mostly Labour run have total control over their education budgets and employment levels.

  3. “…. the hall rose in a spontaneous standing ovation. I was among those standing ….”

    Could you be any more trite?!

  4. The Tories have a majority at Westminster.Theyll decide what Tax credits are to be.The Scottish Parliament can’t “reverse” them.It can,however,mitigate them.It seems very unlikely that Scottish Labour will win an outright majority at Holyrood next year but might be able to form a minority government with support from the Libdems and Tories in certain key areas.I think,in such a situation,Labour could bring forward such a policy and dare the SNP to reject it.If we accept that as a possibility,we then have to consider whether Kezia should wait until May to challenge the Scottish Government.Get the whole thing debated thoroughly in parliament before the election in May.Then voters will know exactly where all the politicians stand before they decide who to vote for.

    1. “seems very unlikely that Scottish Labour will win an outright majority at Holyrood next year but might be able to form a minority government with support from the Libdems and Tories”

      so much wrong

      Polling evidence over a sustained period shows Labour are going backwards in support and are nearly being overtaken by the Tories in constituency and regional voting intention – whilst the SNP have sustained the gains made in September 2014. Polling indicates an increased SNP majority for 2016 on current voting intentions and unless Labour make major changes in the next few months this trend looks unlikely to reverse.

      You cannot have it both ways – either the SNP are tarred with the tory brush or working with the tories is bad – you seem fine jumping into bed with them as a minority government

  5. What sticks in my craw Duncan is when Labour claim to have a great new policy based on new devolved powers which – if they had had their way – would never have been coming to Scotland!!

    1. Except that Labour put in the amendments which ensured these powers did come to the Scottish Parliament (which Labour set up in the first place when the SNP opposed it), so that’s something of a crock.

      1. Labour may well have set up the Scottish Parliament but if weren’t for the SNP surge in recent years they would not be voluntarily offering us any more. Transparent opportunists at every turn!

      2. The crock is ! that labour would never have proposed devolution in the first place if they had not been forced to do it by the rules of the EU.

        I always laugh when labour try to claim they were responsible for the reforming of the scottish parliment, it was the EU and the votes of the scottish people that did it.

        1. That nonsense about the EU forcing devolution is simply a lie, a made up story popular among the credulous and ignorant. And no, I don’t want to see the website. I’ve seen it before. It’s rubbish.

          Labour proposed devolution because it was an active participant in the Scottish Constitutional Convention (which the SNP boycotted) which brought together political parties and civic Scotland and created the blueprint for the devolution settlement we have today. Folk within the Labour Party – like our dearly missed comrade Bob McLean – fought hard for devolution for decades. To have that dismissed as being nothing to do with Labour is not only dishonest, it’s offensive. Don’t come back here with lies.

      3. “Except that Labour put in the amendments which ensured these powers did come to the Scottish Parliament”

        which ones? Calman has yet to be fully implemented and the only reason there are further amendments to the Scotland bill 2015 is the SNP rejection on advice from the devolution committee – the amendments are the conservatives. Since Labour offered the least powers during the Smith consultation this looks to be an inflated view of Labours influence.

        ([Scottish Parliament]….which Labour set up in the first place when the SNP opposed it)
        They took no part in the inital stages and campaigned for an independence question….when that was finally off the table the SNP swun behind the Yes/Yes campaign. You are tretching the truth a little.

        and had labour’s version of the Smith recommendations triumphed we would have had far far less

        1. Labour’s single MP, Ian Murray, tabled more amendments to improve the Scotland bill on tax and welfare powers than the entire set of 55 SNP MPs put together. What’s more, Labour didn’t just grandstand, we worked to get support for our amendments which is why so many of the changes we proposed were brought back by the government.

          While SNP grandstanded over the Scotland Bill, Labour delivered.

  6. And Labour has another golden dawn. And like all the others, it will fail. Simply because the Scottish electorate are now more “switched on” than they have ever been and are unlikely to be taken in by Labour’s magical-money-tree policies and petted lip, SNP-bad rhetoric. It didn’t work in 2010; it will fail spectacularly in 2016.

    1. I don’t believe Labour is proposing a magical money tree. But it’s worth noting that the SNP has done pretty well with theirs, so maybe there’s mileage in it.

      1. Please explain. The Scottish govt have not overspent in their entire tenure. They have had no need of a magical money tree as prudence (such a nice person) has seen them deliver so much within it. It is one of the reasons they are so popular while Labour is viewed with suspicion.

        1. I was referring to the White Paper, which built them enough support for a stonking election win in May, despite being based on an economic model that actually makes a magical money tree seem relatively rational.

          No Scottish Government has overspent, because up to 2016 the law does not allow them to. So that is a particularly pointless thing to cite as an achievement of the SNP. Prudence was built into the model.

          1. Of course, all in your opinion. Apart from the Holyrood budget bit which is as you say. Though, in the context of our little discussion, not pointless as you had not made clear your meaning.

            I had not realised the White Paper had played any part in the UK election. Other than when unionists reflexly and predictably attacked it from time to time. It was, of course, a possible future for an independent Scotland and not a Westminster manifesto. With all the powers independence brings, I was a pragmatic vision that none-the-less showed a belief and confidence in Scotland and its peoples. A belief that we could be just as prosperous as all our “small”, independent neighbours. A prosperity that eludes us as a peripheral economy of a UK that is increasingly focusing all economic power in the SE of England.

  7. The money is there to fund the tax credit cuts reversal.

    The powers will soon exist to permit this policy to be implemented.

    Labour (who introduced tax credits, with demonstrable success) has expended political capital in a clear committment to protect them.

    Why is this a bad policy exactly?

    Answer: it isn’t.

    It is an uncomfortable policy for nationalists because it demonstrates the potential of devolution within the Union. It demonstrates this potential in the most visible manner possible to the electorate…tax and spend.

    This isn’t empty political grandstanding by labour. I am confident that grievance politics will eventually wear thin on the Scottish electorate; grievance monger ink will in any event become more difficult to sustain as a credible response on substantive policy as the electorate begins to understand the shifting competencies tax and spend, especially if Scotland’s economy continues to grow as part of the U.K. Income tax and welfare expenditure are highly visible and emotive public policy areas. Decisions in these areas win and lose votes for political parties.

    To my mind, this policy announcement represents a serious and early intercession by labour with the considerable substance of post Scotland Bill devolved politics. This isn’t an uncosted stunt. It is the setting out of Labour’s strategy for engaging with what will likely become the post referendum ground zero in Scottish politics; the strong Parliament at the disposal of the Scottish electorate.

    It is our first meaningful engagement with the new powers at the ScotParl disposal. It is the first major policy position adopted since Kezia’s took office. We have decided to protect the low paid.

    Castigate that all you like. It is a credible, clear and readily communicable policy. The electorate will understand it, and many will be inclined to vote for it. It is the type of policy that Scottish labour members have encouraged for years. Congratulations to the leadership.

    1. “The money is there to fund the tax credit cuts reversal.”

      Where exactly, since Jackie Baillie made a ham-fisted attempt to explain?

      APD? not devolved to 2018 (at the earliest)….

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