The Bulgarian Policeman ties his shoelaces

alastairosborneAlastair Osborne says the SNP’s hubris is breathtaking in its scale, but the cracks are appearing and its nemesis will surely follow.


Shostakovich’s son Maxim used to perform a sketch for his father’s friends called ‘The Bulgarian Policeman ties his shoelaces’.

He would shuffle forward with his laces untied and a large stool under his arm. He placed the stool on the ground, lifted one foot onto the stool and then proceeded to bend way down and tie the shoelaces of the foot still on the ground. He then repeated this for the other foot. He would then bow, grinning widely, apparently oblivious to the irony of the applause.

I couldn’t help but think of that when Finance Secretary Derek Mackay stepped out to present his Scottish Budget – ‘The Scottish Finance Secretary ties his shoe laces.’

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four we are introduced to an invented fictional language called Newspeak created by the totalitarian state Oceania as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and eliminate concepts that pose any threat. The goal is for everyone except the Proles—the working-class citizens of Oceania—to be speaking this language by the year 2050. In the SNP’s Caledonia of 2017 this is one target where they are ahead of schedule. The words and language they use exemplify this.

The Scottish Government likes to talk of the possibility of ‘a progressive alliance’, yet by any and every comparison the SNP is no progressive party. There have been no redistributive policies from the SNP in government. Under the SNP we have seen the decline of the NHS and our education system. The SNP and the Tories joined forces to defeat Labour’s proposals for a progressive tax system. Under the SNP, Tory austerity is simply being passed on in Scotland, with the Nationalists planning a £327 million cut to local services in 2017. That is not ‘progressive’– it is a Tory budget.

There is also nothing progressive about seeking to break away from the rest of the UK – our biggest trading partner. In SNP Newspeak a ‘single market’ is good when talking of the EU but bad when it is the UK. And, of course, in the language of the SNP, saying they are in favour of a progressive alliance really means the opposite – they hate Labour so much they will do anything to bring about its destruction and the continuation of a Tory Government in Westminster as the best route to independence.

Today’s SNP are the perfect example of what Gore Vidal had in mind when he coined the maxim ‘It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’

Scotland will have £800 million extra to spend next year. This is not due to the use of devolved tax powers, but rather the hated block grant from Westminster. In SNP Newspeak, ‘new tax powers’ aren’t enough; ‘more tax powers’ are essential; but ‘using tax powers’ just doesn’t ‘feel right’. Unless you are a local council moaning on about budget cuts, that is. Then ‘using tax powers’ (i.e. the Council Tax) feels about right. ‘Borrowing powers’ on the other hand are doubleplusgood and should be used to the maximum even if the Scottish Government has no idea what they are borrowing for or exactly how the repayments will impact on spending on health and education in the future.

Economist Professor John McLaren has exposed the ‘duplicitous’ manner in which Derek Mackay presented his budget figures, saying it was ‘impossible’ to justify from the published information the SNP’s claim that council spending was increasing. He warned this ‘makes the schools budget difficult to prioritise’ given most of their funding comes from local government.

Professor McLaren found the entire cost of the SNP’s pledge to spend an extra £500 million on the NHS was coming from additional funds allocated to Scotland resulting from higher health spending in England. Writing for his Scottish Trends website, he concluded that Mr Mackay has merely tweaked decisions made by the UK Chancellor rather than make distinctly different choices to suit Scotland’s needs.

Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that she is increasing education spending to close the gulf in performance between the best and worst state schools is another example of SNP Newspeak. The reality is a huge cut in council funding. And Alex Bell, former advisor to Alex Salmond, described the budget as “cowardly” and accused the SNP of insulting voters’ intelligence by pretending it differed markedly from the spending choices made by the Tories in England. He concluded “The draft budget is a white flag raised by a leadership who don’t have the courage of their convictions.”

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesman, said the analysis ‘adds to the growing consensus that the SNP has passed up the chance to use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to do things differently.’ However, in SNP Newspeak, the Scottish Government hailed Mr Mackay’s spending plans as a ‘Budget for growth and public services’ adding: ‘The Scottish Government’s spending plans exercise our new powers responsibly, marking a significant step in the history of the Scottish Parliament.’

So the official line of Big Brother in Caledonia is that the NHS is doing just fine, education is expanding and local government funding is increasing. The reality is that A&E waiting targets are being missed, as are hospital admission targets with a shortage of specialists. You can’t expect to tackle an attainment gap in schools when you are cutting council budgets – the main source of educational funding. My grand daughter couldn’t pick the highers she wanted to study – nor the ones she needed to study – only those the school had the teachers to teach. Our councils are seeing their budgets cut massively this coming financial year.

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane slammed the SNP government for “dumping cuts” onto local authorities. He said: ‘Despite the Scottish Government receiving a £415 million revenue increase for 2017/18 from the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre notes a cash cut of £424 million for local government’s revenue budget for 2017/18.’

While Joe Cullinane understandingly saw the £9.2 million cut to North Ayrshire Council as ‘bad news following a £10 million cut last year’, the council’s SNP group described the draft budget as ‘a welcome boost for growth and public services’. SNP Group Leader, Willie Gibson, until recently Council Leader, hailed the finance secretary’s first funding settlement in the Scottish Parliament, for its ‘new investments in healthcare, education and local services’. But then he has the benefit of an O Grade in Newspeak.

Meanwhile just down the road at Scottish Government owned Prestwick Airport, losses have increased to more than £7 million. The 2016 operating deficit at the airport, which was bought by Scottish ministers for £1 in November 2013, is nearly £1 million up on the previous year. Audit Scotland had projected total Government loans of £40 million by 2022 but new Scottish Government consolidated accounts figures show this could be reached by 2018. The losses come as the number of passengers using the airport fell by 25 percent in a year. The airport now has almost half a million fewer passengers than in the year before the Scottish Government took ownership.

It was right that the Scottish Government stepped in back in 2013 but there is an absence of realism in their statements about the airport’s viability. It was always going to be hard to turn it around so there is no need to hide behind talk of the airport growing into ‘the successful and vibrant business we know it can be’. They have high hopes for its future as a ‘Spaceport’. Meanwhile we have smart new signage in saltire blue and white and a bi-lingual sign at the rail station that ensures no passenger with Gaelic as their only language misses their flight.

The SNP’s hubris is quite breathtaking in its scale, but the cracks are appearing and its nemesis will surely follow. We see that in the reaction of economists, think tanks, former advisors, the growing resistance of councils. Their downfall will come when the electorate decide in their own good time.

Meanwhile, we can look forward to Mr Derek Mackay coming back on stage to reprise his hilarious performance of ‘The Scottish Finance Secretary ties his shoe laces’.

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13 thoughts on “The Bulgarian Policeman ties his shoelaces

  1. Congratulations, you managed to pull together every single labour soundbite peppered with cliches and a honeymoon over klaxon, impressive.
    This is the guff that killed labour.

  2. At least we are avoiding the double and triple “counting” of spending decisions, utilised by Brown and Darling to make it seem they were generous to public spending.
    Thing is, it would be impossible to avoid every spending cut coming our way from the English Chancellor ( and he/she is ALWAYS going to be English, post EVEL ), without pumping up Scottish income tax levels to an impossible high rate.
    I have asked before for Scottish Labour to come clean on the level of taxation required to meet their PRESENT spending commitments. C’mon, where’s the beef?

    I personally think funding for local government should be much more in local government hands ( if a formula for a level playing field could be found—reducing over a set time period, say 25 years ).. Then we would have less whining, but North Ayrshire et al could do a “Surrey”, right now, and propose a 15% hike. Or a 50% hike—–let the public decide at election time, or by referendum.
    As for economists, experts, advisors etc: we all know how “neutral” are the people quoted in the article.

  3. Its exactly the same gibbering pish as before.
    Blaming council cuts on the Scottish Government.
    Blaming council budget choices on the Scottish Government blaming the Scottish Government for Westminster imposed cuts to the Scottish budget that Labour refused to oppose.
    Blaming the Scottish Government for its lack of Devolved powers and controls which Labour refuse to support transferring to Scotland.

    Scotland will not have 800 million extra to spend next year at all.

    If all Labour drones can do is repeat the same gibbering pish over and over then all you deserve is the same replies over and over.

    Everybody in Scotland KNOWS Labours record in Government in Scotland that’s why Labour are lying 3rd behind the Conservatives and heading for 4th.

    We’ve heard the rhetoric before we’ve heard the same lies repeated over and over the same broken promises like a cracked vinyl record.

    And look what Osborne uses as a reference. Professor John Maclean Joe Cullinane and Jackie Baillie. An ex Labour councillor an existing Labour councillor and Labours economy spokesperson in Scotland.

    Couldn’t find a single reliable reference to even pretend this gibbering pish has credibility.

  4. This article is a stunning example of the age old tactic of attempting to mislead the public using the maxim “if you repeat a lie often enough, it will become the truth”.

    It is all just broken record SNPbad stuff. Yawn ……. zzzzzzzz

  5. ‘The Scottish Finance Secretary ties his shoe laces’

    The article is on a a par with fake news the fact of the matter is that the Scottish Secretary has a penchant for wearing slip ons preferably with crepe soles so hence on shoe laces

  6. Supreme court rules Scotland is a region of England. Hollyrood the most powerful Devolved Little Parliament in the world is now legally and officially nothing more than a talking shop with no constitutional authority at all and Federalism Home Rule Devo Max is a Gordon Brown fantasy.
    Nice to actually officially know Scotlands actual subservient place within this unequal disunion of Greater Englandershire and Labour in Scotlands acceptance of this servitude.

    So please no more of this pooling and sharing pish. No more of this equal partner pish. No more of this “Union” benefit pish.

    We either stand as a fully integrated Independent Nation State or we wallow in Regional subservience beneath a toxic criminally corrupt hostile State that values patronage privilege and exclusion over welfare community and inclusion. Who sees us as nothing but one of their own regions. An annexed territory.

    No where left to hide now Labour in Scotland. no more pretence of “Patriotism” no more being able to argue that this disunion of unequals allows us to reach our full potential as a Nation State.

    Kind of puts all the pish above right into perspective.

  7. Entirely agree Mike, but these people are British Nationalists they don’t even accept there is a Nation called Scotland! God knows how that happens to someone but that’s where we are.

  8. FYI, Scotland Act setting up the Parliament, reserved all European matters to Westminster, so SNP were always on a loser with their challenge. They only brought it knowing it would be shot down, to pursue their grievance agenda and lay more groundwork for a second referendum. Pathetic.

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