One, two, three, what are we fighting for?

DH cropLabour Hame Editor Duncan Hothersall compares the SNP and Scottish Labour manifestos and challenges the perception that Scots are helped by a vote against Labour.


I have lost count of the number of times I have been exhorted to fight this election on the basis of policies. I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve been told voting SNP will keep a Labour government “in check”, “push Labour left”, and ensure things are delivered “for Scotland”.

The SNP have – finally – launched their manifesto for the 2015 general election and we can compare it to the Scottish Labour manifesto. So let’s take a look at the concrete policies, now they are out, and see if this argument stacks up.

In each case I’ll compare Labour and the SNP, and look at the impact SNP votes might have on the policy of a Labour government.

Labour commitment SNP commitment Impact of SNP on Labour
Cut the deficit every year and reach current account surplus by end of parliament Additional borrowing every year and retain deficit past end of parliament thumbsdownMore money spent on debt interest rather than public services
Increase taxes on wealthiest in first year, meaning immediate increase in public spending Stick to Tory spending plans for first year thumbsdownBigger cuts in public services
Protect spending on health, with additional spending from Mansion Tax Will protect spending, but promises of additional spending are uncosted thumbsdownRisk to increased NHS funding
Protect spending on education and international development No commitment to protect these spending areas thumbsdownRisk of cuts in education and overseas aid
50p tax rate for highest earners Same thumbsevensNone
Ban exploitative zero-hours contracts Consult on zero-hours contracts thumbsdownNo definite action against exploiting workers
Make it illegal to undercut wages by exploiting migrant workers No equivalent thumbsdownRisk of continued exploitation of migrant workers
End blacklisting and back an enquiry into it No mention thumbsdownBlacklisting goes unpunished, will happen again
Abolish loophole that allows firms to undercut permanent staff using agency workers on lower pay No mention thumbsdownMore job insecurity, wages driven lower
Mansion tax to redistribute wealth across the UK from richest to poorest Opposed – mansion tax to only apply within Scotland, raising significantly less money thumbsdownMore inequality, less money to spend on essential public services for those who most need them
Stop winter fuel payments to richest 5% of pensioners; cut ministerial pay. Opposed thumbsdownLess money to spend on public services for the poorest
New 10p starting rate of tax Same thumbsevensNone
End Marriage Tax Allowance Same thumbsevensNone
No increase on basic/high income tax, National Insurance or VAT No equivalent thumbsdownRisk of VAT rises or other stealth taxes
Tough penalties on tax evasion, close loopholes on unfair avoidance Broadly equivalent thumbsevensNone
End non-dom status to reduce tax avoidance Same thumbsevensNone
Long-term investment approach via National Infrastructure Commission No cross-UK investment plans thumbsdownFewer opportunities for the vital investment Scotland and the rest of the UK needs
Improved access to finance for co-operatives and mutuals from the British Investment Bank No equivalent thumbsdownLack of support for co-ops and mutuals to improve inclusion and best value
Tax rebates to Living Wage employers No equivalent thumbsdownFewer workers benefit from Living Wage
Minimum Wage to reach at least £8 per hour Minimum wage to reach £8.70 per hour thumbsupHigher wages for the lowest paid
End fees for employment tribunals Fees to remain thumbsdownAccess to justice denied to unfairly treated workers
Guarantee the Barnett Formula End the Barnett Formula thumbsdownCatastrophic black hole in Scotland’s finances likely to be around £30-£40bn across this parliament
Protect pensions across the UK Protect pensions in Scotland thumbsdownAlmost impossible to see how this is compatible with Full Fiscal Autonomy without massive cuts elsewhere
Energy price freeze and reform energy market No equivalent thumbsdownRisk of higher energy prices and continued failing market
Implement Smith Agreement in full Attempt to hijack Smith Agreement to shoehorn in additional demands thumbsdownRisk that the further devolution agreed by all parties is derailed
Continue to pool and share resources across the UK Full fiscal autonomy thumbsdownLess redistribution of wealth. Less money to spend on public services in Scotland. More money for England and Wales.
Constitutional convention for the whole UK No equivalent thumbsdownLack of opportunity for people across rest of UK to participate in constitutional reform
Abolish House of Lords and replace with Senate of Nations & Regions Abolish House of Lords, no replacement thumbsdownFurther erosion of the unity of the UK
Remain in the EU Same thumbsevensNone
Enable public/non-profit ownership of railways No equivalent thumbsdownRailways continue to siphon public money off into private shareholders’ pockets
Ambitious low carbon target for whole of UK Roughly equivalent, though only declared for Scotland thumbsevensNone
Triple lock against fracking Broadly equivalent opposition to fracking thumbsevensLittle difference, though local communities denied final say
Votes for 16 and 17 year olds Same thumbsevensNone
No tuition fees for university students in Scotland Same thumbsevensNone
£1,600 Future Fund for every 18 & 19 year old not in college, uni or apprenticeship No equivalent thumbsdownFewer life chances for those who need them most
Retain the BBC as a widely respected publicly funded broadcaster for the whole UK Break up the BBC to create separate Scottish version thumbsdownDuplication of spending, less quality TV.
Reverse the 2012 Health and Social Care Act Same thumbsevensNone
Build 200,000 homes a year across the UK Build 100,000 homes a year across the UK thumbsdownLack of affordable housing
LGBT Rights Envoy Similar thumbsevensNone
Respect Scotland’s democratic decision to remain part of the UK “We will always support independence” thumbsdownConstant grudge and grievance to push for independence
Free bus travel for all apprentices No equivalent thumbsdownFewer opportunities for young people to get into work
New £200m Mental Health Fund, new £200m Cancer Fund No clear equivalent thumbsdownRisk that these priority areas do not receive appropriate additional resources
Reverse cuts to HE bursaries and restore highest level for poorest students Opposed thumbsdownLess access to further and higher education for the least advantaged
Scottish Anti-Poverty Fund to make food banks history No equivalent thumbsdownLess help for those most in need
Double paternity leave & increase maternity pay No equivalent thumbsdownTougher for parents of newborns
Scottish Jobs Guarantee paid for by bankers bonus tax No equivalent thumbsdownLess opportunity for work
Restore local accountability to Scotland’s policing Continue the centralisation agenda thumbsdownPolice Scotland continues to lose public support
Fully implement Leveson Same thumbsevensNone
Strategic Defence Review in 1st year to include Trident No renewal of Trident thumbsevensGiven large Commons majority for Trident renewal, SNP anti-Trident policy unlikely to have any effect

I’m sure alert readers will highlight any errors or omissions, but by my reading of the two manifestos, the only positives an SNP vote brings is a promise of a higher minimum wage, and an admirable but almost certainly doomed-to-failure commitment to scrap Trident.

Across numerous other areas, a vote for the SNP rather than Labour will have a negative effect on public spending, health, economic growth, access to education and, fundamentally, on the core aim of Scottish Labour which is to deliver a fairer Scotland.

The argument that a strong group of SNP MPs will help Scotland is blown out of the water. The more votes for the SNP the less likely a Labour government anyway, but as can be seen from this analysis, were a Labour government to be in power reliant on SNP support, it would be disastrous for Scotland.

Scotland needs a Labour majority government in the UK.

A vote for the SNP is a vote against Scotland’s interests.


A handy booklet version PDF of this manifesto comparison can be downloaded here:
LH manifesto comparison april 2015 small

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30 thoughts on “One, two, three, what are we fighting for?

  1. One two three
    what are Labour fighting for,
    Austerity Light
    and we don’t give a damn,
    next stop is tomorrow’s jam.

    The cuts the cuts the cuts,
    tell us about the Labour cuts.


    1. I like the way “Austerity Light” is thrown at Labour, as if saying that you want to make sure you can afford what you spend somehow lets down the vulnerable – it doesn’t. It ensures the vulnerable can have security tomorrow as well as today.

      If the SNP don’t believe in spending what you can afford why do they have a page on their website asking you to donate to them? Why aren’t they telling their supporters to save their money, and that they’ll run a lavish election campaign by running up ever higher overdrafts to fund profligate ways of convincing Scotland to vote SNP? Is it because if they do that they’ll be the ones stuck with the bills and long term pain, rather than the poorest in society?

  2. Superb. Should be on the BBC and STV and in at least one national newspaper.

    Or Labour should produce a leaflet…..

    If PDF available I would like access too.

    1. Agreed Alex. Excellent stuff. Very persuasive. Potential for a great leaflet here as you say with the 5 most compelling pieces on page one.
      Hope we don’t miss a trick with this.

  3. Oh! Dear! How in the name o the wee man do Labour, on their own, expect to get such things as a Mansion Tax past the HOC, never mind past the HOL?

    Here’s a wee bit of history for you. During the, “Great Depression”, the USA made no progress whatsoever to fight its way out of trouble until they began a system of government funded infrastructure projects.

    In the USA in 1926 land prices in Florida began to fall. Eventually the USA was producing more than it could sell internally or export. Farms also were growing more food than they could sell or export and prices began a downward spiral. The USA had too many local banks which couldn’t cope with a resultant run on the banks in 1929. There speculation on shares was far too high and the burgeoning middle classes spent lots of money on what were becoming useless bits of paper. At which point came the great psychological blow of the Wall Street Crash, (October 1929). The US had lent lots of cash to foreign, (mainly Europe), countries. And with the crash they recalled these loans. This then crashed the European countries economies and the closing European banks began the general World financial crisis.

    Sound familiar?

    Yet the USA made no real progress until they changed their government and they began to SPEND Government money on building Trans-USA highways, Railroads and such as The Hoover and Great Grand Coolie Dams. At which point the European Countries began a World War. The USA, while acknowledging it was also their fight, did not fight but instead first sold, on a Cash & Carry Basis, munitions and other goods to anyone with money and transport, (including iron to Japan). When the allies funds ran out they then, again acknowledging it was their fight too, began Lease/Lend and defeated their Great Depression. Mainly at our UK expense.

    Sound familiar?

    So explain how the UK, including Labour, expects to defeat this depression by doing the opposite to capital works and starving the weaker members of society by vicious austerity measures while the system, began by Labour, of indirect taxation hits the poorest, has seen the rich continue to get richer while food banks increase daily?

    Aye! That’s Familiar, richt enouch.

    1. Hi Robert. Labour’s manifesto (linked in the article) sets out very clearly that while we will reduce the current account deficit, we will also invest in capital projects, exactly as you set out, on the basis of historically low interest rates. This is, I think, another area where the SNP are broadly in agreement with us.

      1. Labour will reduce the deficit every year to a surplus?

        Did ED Balls and others not commit to £30.billion plus in cuts to achieve this? The same as the Tories.

        No mention in the above list of cuts to welfare and other areas affecting the poorest and infirm.

        Please just explain to me where these cuts will fall. Give me a list of cuts.

        Bankers’ bonus tax? Pluging tax evasion loopholes? Mansion tax? Good luck with those endeavours.

        The bottom line is Labour are not trusted. They have lots of Jam Tomorrow “previous”.

        1. In answer to your question, no, Labour never committed to £30 billion cuts. That is a Tory attack line now repeated ad infinitum by the SNP, and it is entirely untrue. Labour voted for the Charter for Budget Responsibility, which commits to cutting the current deficit during the lifetime of the next parliament. It can be summarised as “balancing the books”, which is something the SNP cheer John Swinney for doing every year. Apparently it’s not good when others do it.

          The independent IFS says that Labour’s plans for deficit reduction can probably be achieved without any further cuts beyond those already set out for 2015-16, but being a principled party, Labour has said that in the event increased tax income and economic growth does not deliver the required reduction, we will make cuts in non-protected areas – i.e. areas outside of health, education and overseas aid, all of which is protected.

          As for who should be trusted, the SNP based their White Paper on an unfeasibly high oil price which everyone said at the time was unreasonable and has since been proved to be. And who can forget their first act on coming to government in Scotland in 2007 was to renege on their pledge to dump student debt? Oh, every SNP supporter, it would seem, can forget that.

          Labour has a fully costed plan for the future of the UK. The SNP has a dangerously uncosted plan to divide the UK. If we care about social justice, we need a Labour majority.

          1. Labour are already committed to the £30 billion cuts.

            i.e. within the Budgetary Responsibility Bill committing all future governments to permanent austerity.

            Labour’s plan for “balancing the books” has to be done within an austerity government.

            Labour branch in Scotland’s manifesto contained committment to cuts outside protected areas. No details as to where cuts will happen.

            Again I ask you. Where will these cuts fall. Supply a list.

          2. You are simply wrong. And since you have access to abundant evidence which demonstrates that, I can only assume your lying is wilful.

            Labour did not vote for, and are not committed to, £30bn cuts.

            The CBR did not, and does not, commit all future governments to permanent anything.

            You have been told a lie. Please stop repeating it.

          3. How come Labour have set themselves until the end of the Parliament to cutting the UK deficit but have no such ambitions to reduce the gap between Scottish revenue and spending?

            Surely it would be healthier if Scotland didn’t have the £7.5 billion gap that Labour are talking up?

            It sounds to me like Labour believe the UK deficit can and should be cut but they have no such optimism or ambition that Scotland should live within it’s means.

  4. Very interesting Duncan I think though your best line was

    “Scotland needs a Labour majority government in the UK.”

    Has always been true yet I suspect taken for granted as a given amount of safe seats, policies may be good but labour’s history is not & in my job was always told you can change routine quickly but culture takes much longer & only driven by it leadership over a period of time.

  5. Excellent work Duncan.

    One thing that’s striking about the SNP manifesto is how much of it they nicked from Labour; mansion tax, 50p tax rate, end bedroom tax, end ‘non-doms’ etc.

    The differences are telling though, they say they will cut the deficit while at the same time they want £140bn in extra spending, they talk about extra funding on the NHS while they want FFA and the cuts that that would bring.

    While we are on the subject of FFA, how come the manifesto says that a move to full fiscal ‘responsibility’ would take ‘a number of years’, yet only a few months ago during the indyref campaign we were told that full independence would be achieved by March next year!

  6. I see what you are trying to do here, and (assuming you are being fair 😉 the manifesto pledges of the SNP and of (Scottish) Labour do indeed appear to be highly compatible, meaning that it should be easy for Ed and Nicola to come to some kind of arrangement to get legislation passed. Which is good for all of us.

    However, if you are trying to persuade socialist-leaning Scottish nationalists (like myself) to vote for the Labour Party, you are missing at least two important points:

    1. Labour and the SNP may both be talking the talk, but while I TRUST Nicola Sturgeon to walk the walk, I can’t say the same for Ed Milliband. Sturgeon sounds like a socialist and she also sounds authentic; Milliband does not (to say nothing of Balls and Murphy).

    2. As Alex Massie has asked on at least two occasions, exactly why would someone who voted yes last year vote for a unionist party this year? During the referendum campaign I had to decide whether I was a Scottish nationalist or a British nationalist. I did a huge amount of homework and concluded that (ceteris paribus) small, Scotland-sized nations are better than large, Britain-sized ones, both for their citizens and for the world in general. I now have the choice between voting for a Scottish nationalist left-leaning party and a British nationalist left-leaning party. Why on earth would I vote for a party like Labour which got it so wrong on the most important issue of our times, when there is another party with a very similar manifesto which got it right?

    1. You don’t have to decide whether you are a Scottish nationalist or a British nationalist. Socialists aren’t Nationalists of either or any stamp.

      You can decide to do what is best for the working people of Britain without Nationalism narrowing your focus.

      1. Labour worked in coalition with Nationalists in Wales 2007-2011 and have a long standing arrangement with Irish Nationalists who take the Labour whip in Westminster, in return for not standing candidates in Northern Ireland.

        In fact Ed Miliband recently went as far as describing the SDLP as a ‘sister party’, despite the fact they want reunification of Ireland or in Labour’s words, ‘break up the UK’

        So why are Labour so unhappy about working with Scottish Nationalists?

  7. Mark MacConmhaoil makes the first relevant comment on this string. Duncan’s efforts to make forensic comparisons between Labour and the SNP impressive as they may look are I am afraid pointless. As Mark points out nobody who voted Yes last year will ever vote for a unionist party.
    The division in Scottish politics is now between Holyrood and Westminster or if you like between nationalists and unionists. Alex Gallagher’s comments about ‘socialists aren’t nationalists’ is 60 years out of date. Cold war rhetoric. It makes me all nostalgic for TVs without a remote control.
    As Mark says Yes voters will never vote for the unionist parties. But there is no reason why No voters will not vote for the SNP because this GE is not about independence instead its about ensuring a strong Scottish voice at Westminster.

  8. Richard, You may well get your “strong Scottish voice” but it will likely be coming from the opposition benches as every seat the SNP takes from Labour makes the prospect of the Tories having the most seats more likely. You are right that this election should not be about independence (although, if this was the case, the SNP should ruled this out for the lifetime of the next Westminster government) so make it an election based on social justice and make sure a Tory government is not elected.

  9. Nigel, Im unsure how things will pan out after the election. It would probably be better that SNP MPs were on the opposition benches with a Tory government without representation in Scotland. Although Im afraid I cant see it.
    Labour ‘down south’ may well end up with a substantial minority that could rely on the SNP group to support them without any deals being done. The SNP would have no option but to vote with Labour as long as the proposals were reasonable (the SNP had to do the same as a minority government between 2007 and 2011 in Scotland. It actually forces the party in government to behave responsibly). Long term this is could be dangerous for the SNP as they are seen gradually seen to become part of the Westminster establishment.
    One things for sure though Labour in Scotland are toast.

  10. So the Labour Party aren’t nationalists…they just fly the flag at every opportunity and don’t want any more of those awful foreigners swarming over here…

    To be fair, Duncan, I think Miliband is actually a decent guy and is probably the most left-wing leader (at least on an intellectual level) you’ve had in a long time. But when you put someone like Murphy out front – a man who has never had a socialist thought in his life – and have him throw out lies after smear after lie after smear…it just becomes impossible to trust you guys. Also, it is utterly facile to say “I oppose nuclear weapons on principle…but it is absolutely vital that we still spend a ton of cash on making sure we have them for the next 30+ years.” It’s offensive to my logic board, apart from anything else, not to mention that Trident is utterly useless and only serves to extend the penises of the men who run our country. It doesn’t deter a damn thing.

  11. Oh, and PLEASE stop the “largest party forms the government” line. You know that either you’re lying or you’re planning to back a Tory government if they get one more seat than Labour. Which is it? Either way, it makes you wholly untrustworthy.

    1. It is a fact that since 1924 the largest party has formed the government. Not a lie, a fact.

      Why do you think the Tories are talking up the SNP? Why do you think the Tory mouthpiece The Sun is backing the SNP in Scotland, while backing Cameron in England? Every seat the SNP takes off Labour is a step closer to Cameron returning to power.

      1. “It is a fact that since 1924 the largest party has formed the government. Not a lie, a fact.”

        But its also a fact that they were only allowed to do so because the incumbent party was unable to form the Government first!

  12. This piece is as much telling people to vote snp as much as it is labour really

  13. Hello Duncan. It may be a fact the largest party has formed the government since 1924 but it isn’t the Law or indeed written down anywhere so it can easily happen no matter what you or Jim say.

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