JAMIE GLACKIN dares to suggest that there might be more things for Scots to worry about than the constitution


Is this, as Alex Salmond claims, “The Independence Generation”? Well maybe. But until we have the referendum that’s all I’m going to say.

Why? To put it simply, endless talk about a referendum is meaningless until we actually know there is going to be one. It’s all very well promising such an important exercise in “the second half of the parliament”, but as other commentators far more eloquent than I have spotted, if we are indeed to hold a referendum then the legal mechanisms to introduce it would already have started. But for now, its generating more heat than light, so I think it’s best left alone. Especially at a time when there are far more pressing concerns.

The SNP conference started yesterday with Alex Salmond talking about the Independence Generation, and how it was basically the only topic that people cared about. Not true Alex. For a while now I and others of a less tribal nature have thought long and hard about the issues facing Scotland. Is independence really that high up people’s lists of priorities? Will people in the pub tonight be talking about “Indy Lite”?  I’m really not sure about that. The Scottish voters who returned the SNP with a majority in May are far more concerned about their job security, energy prices, rising food costs, all in the face of the mounting Euro debt/banking crisis. And despite what John Swinney would have us believe, the picture is not as rosy in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK. Why? Simple: “Plan MacB” isn’t working either.

I’m fairly certain that most of the SNP would believe that George Osborne’s economic policies are doing a lot of damage to Scotland. It’s now becoming obvious that choking growth through spending cuts are having the opposite effect on the deficit that they were designed to have. August saw record borrowing from the UK Treasury to pay for the growing numbers of unemployed people throughout the UK, all in the name of keeping the credit reference agencies happy and having “low interest rates”. And the problems get worse and worse with a Greek default a stuck on certainty. What are the SNP Government saying about this? How are they going to protect us from looming economic meltdown, (if the Eurozone doesn’t get its house in order)? Nothing. Nothing at all. If leaving the UK were genuinely in Scotland’s best economic interests why aren’t they doing something about it right now?

So rather than talk about independence, separation, divorce, whatever you want to call it, is it not time that the SNP started talking about how they are going to help Scotland through the economic woes ahead? Where are the Keynesian policies that a supposedly left of centre party should be adopting? Whilst I have said before that the Scotland Bill doesn’t go far enough in terms of devolution of economic powers and broadly agree with Malcolm Chisholm’s position on this, it’s true that Scotland will be able to borrow on the markets to fund our way out of the economic travails that lie ahead. We should be talking about the largest scale investment in public sector housing since the ’50s, demolishing the slums, boosting the construction sector that Salmond forgot, slashing the jobless numbers and giving people the dignity, confidence and cash in their pockets that funds the rest of the Scottish economy. Forget the bridge for now – Scotland needs quality homes that people can afford to heat. We need affordable rail and bus links connecting our towns and cities with rural Scotland. Why aren’t the SNP talking about reversing the catastrophic “Beeching” transport reforms? We need to be moving full speed ahead with the energy revolution that Alex talks of so fondly.

But we’re not. And why not? Because the SNP’s ambitions are currently heading in the wrong direction.

Now is the time for politicians of all hues to be ambitious, to be positive. But not by talking endlessly about something that might never happen and certainly not when the Scottish people aren’t trusted enough by their Government to know when the date of any referendum might be. We have a real economic crisis on our hands. Scotland’s Government can help, but until they start focussing on what really matters to the people in the supermarkets, in the pubs, in their homes, in their places of work then it won’t be the Independence Generation that we’re talking about. It will be the Forgotten Generation.

And Scotland won’t forgive them for that.

Jamie Glackin is former parliamentary candidate and a member of Labour’s Scottish Executive Committee. Follow Jamie on Twitter at @Jamie4Glackin

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13 thoughts on “The Independence Generation?

  1. This is perhaps one of the more realistic and mordant contributions I have seen from Labour. Jamie poses some very real questions, even if he wraps them in the regulation Labour-spin package (divorce; R-day, meaningless, etc). He would be sound in calling for things like “the largest scale investment in public sector housing since the ’50s”, but for the fact that it is already underway. His main gripe seems to be the Con-dem strictures, so why is independence not a viable option to release us from that burden?

    The non-political majority of Scotland may not be down the pub discussing the independence referendum but nor are they discussing Labour’s baleful non-contributions of the last few years, to which Jamie’s piece seems to belong. It’s fair enough for him to disagree with “Plan MacB” but it hardly moves the debate along when he offers not one shred of forward-looking policy for the SNP to consider and possibly pilfer. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    “Now is the time for politicians of all hues to be ambitious, to be positive.” he writes. Absolutely. But search through his contribution as I may, I can find little that shows he’s taken that laudable principle on board himself.

    1. I don’t think we’re currently seeing the largest scale investment in public housing since the 50s. I live on an estate of over 1000 properties built in the 1970s. Angus Council, one of the most active authorities in building new housing at the moment, is building about 100 over the next 4 years.

      Theres a bit of a mismatch in scales there.

  2. Sadly this is economic nonsense. The Scottish Government would have to use economic powers it does not yet possess to borrow money to go on a spending spree, admittedly on things we may all wish to see. Any boost to the economy will see a boost to revenues which will accrue to the treasury in London, not to Hollyrood.
    How then will we pay off the debt we will have built up? Only by cutting future spending so we end up worse off, not better. To make a virtuous circle we need Full Fiscal Autonomy, to reap a return for investment, not just borrowing powers which are useful only in major spending decisions.

    1. I thought it was councils who borrowed money to build council houses. Otherwise we’d call them “government houses”.

      What is needed is a small grant from the Scottish Government in order to make the inevstment worthwhile for the council to use prudential borrowing powers (most councils actually have far less debt on their books than they have limits on). Then the councils could borrow the money from the public works loan board and hey presto!

  3. One thing I’d like to call you up on, Jamie, if I may. You ask “Where are the Keynesian policies that a supposedly left of centre party should be adopting?” but in actual fact Keynesian policies are neither Left nor Right, and are in fact frequently used by both. Osbourne’s current policy of borrow, print & spend is certainly Keynesian, just as one obvious example.

    The big problem with Keynes is that he was absolutely wrong and his ideas are complete and abject failures. Time for both Left and Right to look to the Austrian school, IMO.

    Good article other than that, though 🙂

  4. Mr Glackin asks some fairly direct questions in this piece. Which is within his and everyones remit. But he is not just your average member of the public, is he. As a member of the Labour Scottish Executative Committee, surely he has some answers of his own that will persuade the public to support his party. And those answers have to exclude the usual labour diatribe of borrow and spend, because those options are not available.

  5. look at the number og times SNP are mentioned in this article– 7 times, how many mentions does Labour get
    — None, sats it all really. we’d rather talk about what the Nats are doing than say what Labour are doing.

    Salmond wons the Independence ideal and very soon he’ll own the Fiscal Autonomy ideal too.

  6. Are any critics of the article going to take any responsibility? You do know that you’ve been in Government in Scotland for the last four years? This isn’t about what Labour or any other party should or shouldn’t be saying. It’s about what the SNP Scottish Government should be saying and doing.

    1. Now Jamie! Dont be cruel! You know they cant manage that! Criticising Labour is such a habit they dont know how to do anything else!

  7. Prior to the SNP winning outright power in holyrood it was obvious that Scotland was facing serious economic danger, there was the upcoming public-sector spending cuts to be introduced by George Osborne , which will prove to be the most detrimental macroeconomic policy mistake made by any chancellor in modern political history.

    The unemployment rate in Scotland at the time of the Scottish election stood at 8.1 per cent, higher than the UK rate of 7.8 per cent. House prices were rising in every part of the UK except Scotland with a fall of 2.9 per cent

    Add into the mix the numerous promises made by the SNP which would add to the future economic worries for Scotland , his party’s promise to maintain free tuition for Scottish students, the funding of universal free prescriptions, a council tax freeze which will run in total for nine years, which will be catastrophic for local services.
    Alex Salmond was fully aware Holyrood had no power to raise taxes or to borrow and he was fully aware that the Scotland Bill wouldn’t provide these ,he knew the financial restraints he faced.So the question the people should be asking in the pubs and supermarkets is why did he make these promises to the people of Scotland, and how does he aims to maintain these election promises.
    When your unemployed or facing repossession of your family home ,do you want those in power to be fully focused on the real hardships facing Scottish families or do you want them focusing on constitutional change.

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