After Allison Hunter’s comments to the Scotsman, MICHAEL SHANKS questions whether or not the SNP have anything to offer Glasgow.
Before I begin, I should state an interest. When I was selected as a Labour candidate, my main message to my local party was that I believed a positive campaign – quite different from our May 2011 attempt – was the only way we would win. I said then, and I still believe today, that letting people know why they should vote Labour, rather than why they shouldn’t vote SNP, is our best strategy.
The SNP did the ‘positive campaigning’ thing wonderfully last year. They had a vision, they articulated it well and they took the majority of people with them. But now the wheels are coming off and, if you’ll permit a mixed metaphor, the cat’s out of the bag.
Allison Hunter, leader of the SNP on Glasgow City Council, when asked what her priorities were for the city responded with the revelation that, with less than 100 days to go until the election, they haven’t actually thought of any.
The Scotsman: If you seize control of the council, are there two or three policies you would be keen to push through?
Allison Hunter: “I haven’t thought about that yet. Actually, I’m not an out-there leader. I’m a team leader. So we haven’t actually thought about that yet.”
Indeed, the only issue she seemed able to discuss was independence. Only when Scotland becomes independent, she claims, will Glasgow’s budget settlements improve. That in itself is an extraordinary statement since it is her own party in government in Edinburgh which decides how much money Glasgow gets, and it was her own party in Edinburgh which gave Glasgow one of the worst budget settlements in Scotland – with further cuts coming in the next three years.
When Hunter became leader of the SNP group, there was an understanding that she was most likely a caretaker leader until after the 2012 elections. She has considerable experience of party organising and was key to Nicola Sturgeon’s victory in Govan in 2007. Her aim, if anything, was to pull together the SNP Group and prepare it for victory in May.
But for months now the SNP have refused to lay out what they would actually do in the event of them gaining a majority on the Council. In February 2011 we got our first taste of that – whilst every other opposition party in the Council (including the sole Tory Councillor) prepared alternative budgets, the SNP went in the huff and because they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted, refused to table any alternative. Instead Hunter stated that it was impossible for opposition parties to prepare budgets at all. Quite how the aforementioned Cllr Meikle managed it then is beyond me.
So in February 2011, no policies. In June 2011 Hunter said: “It’s too early to speak about manifesto or policy commitments”. Now in January 2012, they are no further forward.
It follows then, that when asked what their three priorities are for Glasgow, the answer comes back – “independence, independence, independence”.
Speaking to voters across my own Ward, that answer simply isn’t good enough. People want to know about jobs and education, opportunities for young people, parks and roads, lighting and bin collections, social care and regeneration. People want a party in charge with a vision for the future and a track record of delivery. They want a party ready for the challenges ahead and with considered ideas on how to meet those challenges. They believe, as I do, that Glasgow deserves better than a party with the sole ambition of using this great city as a stepping stone to independence.
Michael Shanks is the Scottish Labour Candidate for Partick West. His website is –www.labourforpartick.com and he can be followed on twitter; @mgshanks. Alternatively, reach him on facebook: facebook.com/MichaelShanks4PartickWest