jimtoggleJim O’Neill finds Big Brother in Irvine Jobcentre, and not much economic sense in the Scottish Government.


Last Wednesday I was proud to be with comrades from Labour, Unite the Union, North Ayrshire Trades Council and the Morning Star Readers’ Group to protest about benefit sanctions outside Irvine Jobcentre. The way sanctions have been implemented, especially with the arrival of Universal Credit, has been more and more bizarre. The operation of UC has been taken out of the hands of the Jobcentres and given to just three call centres covering the whole of the UK. Anyone who has tried to contact government Call Centres will understand the frustration that is building up among those who have been sanctioned.

However, the biggest issue that developed was not UC. The protest had not been publicly advertised. It had been arranged using social media by personal invitation. Imagine our surprise, therefore, to find two police officers on hand to ensure that we did not block the pavement. Our group included Holyrood candidate Joe Cullinane’s baby, who was a model of discretion and good behaviour, but our police friends stayed with us throughout the demo.

What was more concerning was that the Jobcentre was closed, allegedly for staff training, even though people turned up with appointments for interview. They had not been told that they should not attend. I hope that this does not lead to them being sanctioned.

It was clear that someone, probably from DWP, was monitoring our social media interaction, had closed the Jobcentre and had called the police to monitor our protest. This took two much-needed cycle mounted officers away from their real jobs and could have put other citizens at risk. Clearly Big Brother is back.

Sadly Chic Brodie, the SNP MSP who normally hosts the Irvine Beat Sunday Phone-In, was away at his conference this weekend so I couldn’t raise the horrific Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures with him. It was too much of an open goal to miss, however, and I shared it with the listeners. A huge deficit between what we had raised in Scotland and what government spent in Scotland.

Amazingly, at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola tried to blame it on Westminster, which only shows her economic illiteracy. This is the month that independence would have been declared had the referendum vote been a Yes. Luckily the good sense of the people of Scotland prevailed. Otherwise Scotland would have started life as an independent nation with massive economic problems.

Indeed, if any real economist had made such an incompetent prediction they would have been visiting Irvine Jobcentre. Yet John Swinney, a failed party leader, remains director of our economy. Perhaps that is why Eck has been exiled to Westminster.

Incredibly, Nicola used her speech on Saturday to promise a new referendum, saying that this time they would convince the No voters. With this record of economic soothsaying and the growing record of management incompetence, they will have their work cut out.

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