Scotland deserves better from its politics

Elizabeth-Anne CallahanElizabeth-Anne Callaghan says while we keep re-fighting yesterday’s constitutional question, Scotland’s communities are suffering. The Scottish Parliament must do better.

I wrote at the beginning of April about Moving on from the politics of excuses, setting out my views as a Yes voter on politics in Scotland today.  But the independence vote of 2014 continues to dominate the Scottish political landscape, and indeed this was reflected in the Scottish Parliament elections last month. It’s proving impossible to get away from it, much to my annoyance.

To be clear, I’m not annoyed that Scottish folk want independence or to remain part of the UK. I’m annoyed that this seems to be their priority above all else, and this reflects in our Scottish Parliament. Is it similar to Westminster becoming a platform for EU leave/remain and not much else? Is this a ridiculous comparison? I’m not so sure.

Listening to the maiden speeches of new MSPs, I was struck by how much I agreed with Richard Leonard saying the Scottish Parliament was becoming complacent. If we aren’t the worst at something, then we tell ourselves we are doing well. The Scottish Parliament has control over social work, education, health, housing and homelessness and much more, yet we seem more interested in what is, or isn’t, happening at Westminster.  Our NHS, our children’s education, services to support Scotland’s most vulnerable, all within Holyrood yet we seem constantly to be looking elsewhere. Who does that?

Last week saw Scotland’s education in the spotlight, as depressing figures highlighted a stark inequality gap, a gap that to our shame, is growing. The reply on social media – ‘WHY IS THERE NOT MORE IN THE MEDIA ABOUT TORY ELECTION FRAUD’? Good question, but as education is devolved, Tory election fraud on the front page won’t make this education gap any smaller!

As someone who did vote Yes, it won’t come as a surprise that I favour a less centralised UK and less central government.  When Tony Blair came into power in 1997 and delivered the devolution vote, I was delighted. To be fair to Tony Blair, he also challenged head on the dissenting voices of the No campaign, and devolution was won with 74% voting in favour of a Scottish Parliament and 63% voting for the Parliament to have powers to vary the basic rate of income tax.

It seems obvious now that the Scottish Parliament would become a platform for independence and the argument would dominate. It certainly led to an increase in the support for SNP (a party in existence for over 80 years). I don’t have a good history with the SNP since their vote of no confidence in the Labour Government in 1979 – a vote brought about by opposition leader Margaret Thatcher to enable the passing on of Tory cuts to Scotland’s communities.

Everyone in Scotland now seems to have a ‘side’, Yes or No. Some wear the badge with absolute pride, the stickers are on cars, on social media profile pictures, the t-shirts, the flags… And I saw a recent opinion column in the Herald where we now seem to have journalists having a go at one another depending which side they are on. Obviously depending on the side, they take the moral high ground and get praise from others on the same side. What an easy piece to write.

And that’s the point. In all this sound and fury, I’m still not seeing any moving on from the ‘politics of excuses’ or any real questions being asked regarding the thousands of job losses in Scotland’s councils and public sector, most of which is within the Scottish Parliament’s control. Around 1 in 12 people in Scotland are employed in council services. That’s 1 in 12 in Scotland with their job under threat and the services they provide. Is a task force getting set up for them? Not that I’ve heard.

Serious questions now must be asked of the way we are conducting the Scottish Parliament and our political debate. While we fight over yesterday’s question of Yes and No, Scotland’s communities are suffering, and I can see no end to this.

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6 thoughts on “Scotland deserves better from its politics

  1. For historical accuracy:

    1. When the vote of no confidence was called Labour only had a few months left before they would have been forced to call an election
    2. After the winter of discontent, nobody (not even Callaghan) believed Labour had any chance of winning the next election, no matter when it was called
    3. The SNP voted against Labour as a direct response to Labour’s gerrymandering of the devolution vote which meant that even though a majority voted for devolution it was denied.

    I don’t expect this to be published as it goes against Labour orthodoxy but if it is perhaps someone can explain to me how it is the SNP’s fault that Labour were unable to win a general election.

    1. My recollection was that Labour was offered and could have tied up a deal with two N Irish groups—-but chose not to.
      They could still have tied the vote but the Labour Chief Whip abstained.

      Callaghan stated years later that he “was the worst Prime Minister, ever”.
      I don’t think he was, but he was certainly close. BBC Scotland adulated him, with James whatshisface ( the political correspondent—who got a promotion to London for his “work”)fawning all over him whenever he visited.

    2. Hi Jim – Thanks for commenting

      For accuracy, can I just confirm you have agreed with me that SNP did indeed back Margaret Thatcher’s no confidence motion ? A vote that did not reflect well on SNP, as they lost 9 of their 11 seats in the ’79 election ? Seems SNP Voters did not accept just any excuse back in the 70s, changed days.

      It isn’t SNP’s fault that Labour did not win ‘a’ General Election and I’m unsure why you would say this ?

      I could have also added that the 1979 SNP leader is another reason I do not have a good relationship with SNP.

      1. Hi Elizabeth & thanks for replying.

        What the SNP voted on was a motion of no confidence in the government & had nothing to do with supporting the Tories who just happened to be the party who raised it.

        In the aftermath of the winter of discontent the entire country had lost confidence in the government not just the opposition parties in Westminster, so the SNP MPs were expressing the widely held views of their constituents.

        When the vote of no confidence took place Labour only had a few months left before they would have had to dissolve parliament & go to the country, it was entirely Labour’s fault that they had made themselves unelectable & as a result handed the country over to the only other party who can win at Westminster.

        The vote of no confidence made no difference to any of this, it simply brought matters forward by a few months.

  2. It seemed to me ( also as a YES voter) that the main driver of the recent constitutional debate was the Tory Party, looking for traction—though much of the media have little interest in other areas of debate in Scotland—other than as a stick to beat the SNP with( always without context).
    Labour didn’t want to debate the constitution. The SNP having fought the General Election NOT seeking a new plebiscite, was low profile on the subject in the Scottish election. The Lib Dems were their usual hypocritical selves.
    In fact most of the print and broadcast media is overwhelmingly based down south, and report events with a big anglo-centric slant—hardy a surprise given the near collapse of Scottish based journalism. So the only Scottish story making the news down south is generally—the constitution. So its a journalistic/political circle.

    How do we end this?
    Independence would do it.
    But I have always argued that Home Rule/Devo Max would do likewise.
    Labour could have scored BIG by advocating their earliest Home Rule traditions, rather than toeing the Westminster line, but we all know that wont happen.
    The collapse in the price of oil, combined with the lack of industrial investment in Scotland over decades has made any of these options difficult because it has resulted in a bigger fiscal deficit than is comfortable—though if talk of ending Barnett comes true, then we would be no worse off than with Full Fiscal Autonomy ( given Barnett only covers 60% of spending, and Scotland does very poorly with the other 40%).

    And here’s the thing—if the UK wouldn’t encourage investment in Scotland while oil revenues were flowing and it was a Labour Hegemony, why would it do so now, with the SNP to the fore?

    1. Hi Gavin

      I’m not sure I’ve picked you up correct :-

      ‘though much of the media have little interest in other areas of debate in Scotland—other than as a stick to beat the SNP with( always without context)’

      I find this difficult to understand as SNP have been the Government in Scotland for almost a decade – of course they will be in the media. Education was not without context, very far from it.

      If Scotland’s Education was a Westminster matter, there would be National outrage based on last week’s inequality figures.

      Labour debated the constitution in the run-up to the referendum and made their position clear – solidarity across all borders. There has been no change in the arguments put forward then, from either side. It would be going over old ground.

      We are in the grips of Nationalist politics and its not good, as anyone can see. Referendums have become today’s smokescreen to deflect from real issues that affect us all in our day-to-day lives.

      I may have voted Yes but I know there is a chance we may not be financially better off and tough decisions would have to be made regarding Tax etc. Tough decisions SNP are not prepared to make, therefore Scotland would plunge head first into a massive financial black hole. For example, the latest GERS figures are important and Nicola Sturgeon did not handle this well when questioned. She squirmed and this is a serious concern.

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