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.