jimtoggleJim O’Neill says we know what the battle will be in next year’s council elections – Labour will be fighting to retain local democracy in the face of an SNP desperate to centralise and impose.


Two major stories have drawn my attention over the last week and both go to the heart of the Scottish Government’s policies.

For that hardy band of comrades who go under the title of Chair or Secretary of Labour’s Local Campaign Forums, this is the maddest time of the five year cycle. It is the identification of the numbers of candidates we will stand in each ward and, following that, the management of the selection of those candidates by the members in each ward. I know because this is my second cycle of carrying out those tasks in North Ayrshire.

To say that herding cats is difficult (and I am a former cat breeder) bears no resemblance to managing the availability and expectation of our candidates during this period. For me, hopefully, it will be all over by Christmas and we can then concentrate on the development of a local manifesto and the planning of our campaign. This is particularly important after our terrific by-election win in the summer and the subsequent abandonment by the SNP of the administration.

However, one issue has been taken off our backs. We know already what the main focus of the campaign will be.

Just like the decision by the Tories under Margaret Thatcher and Michael Forsyth, after their humiliating defeat on water privatisation, which has given us such a lopsided council structure, from tiny Clackmannan to the biggest in Glasgow, the SNP have shown their intent to hamstring local government and thus local democracy. From the disastrous Police Scotland to handing unwanted powers to head teachers who just want to get on with providing the best education to their pupils, secure in the knowledge that the council has got their back, the Scottish Government has sought to interfere in what has always been the role of local democracy.

Now secret government briefing papers have come to light which threaten to forcibly merge council services. Many of these ideas have been investigated by the councils themselves in the past with mixed success. Removing councils from childcare decisions, even though childcare powers are implemented with great reluctance by local authorities and only because of parental failure, and removing from councils responsibility for roads and bin collections? Given Humza Yousaf’s failures over Scotrail, the prospect does not gladden my heart.

The documents go so far as to suggest that with what they expect to be greater control of local government by the SNP after next year’s elections, the SNP government is looking to more docile SNP councils to accept legislation to achieve this. Kenny McAskill, writing in the London Times last week, said:

“It’s time for the consensus to end and for radical change to be invoked. The way forward is to move service delivery out of the political arena entirely and into commissions…”

This, of course, is the total negation of local democracy. Commissions, presumably appointed by the Government, will decide what you need and what is good for you. 1984 just a little later. This is battleground 2017. Labour are up for the fight.

Meanwhile, how often have we heard this. “If only we had more powers we could turn Scotland into Utopia” or “the poor in Scotland need the devolution of welfare to allow us to counteract the ways of the evil Tory Westminster empire”? Well, largely down to the hard work of the Scottish Labour members at Westminster, we got what we asked for in terms of welfare powers.

But we now find, from a joint ministerial minute, that the Sturgeon government has asked for a delay in the implementation of those powers for another three and a half years! All the rhetoric has gone out the window and Scotland’s poor have been abandoned to the benefit cutting policies of Theresa May’s government until 2020.

If I hear another SNP MP or MSP whingeing about the attacks of the “Evil Empire” I may puke. They have just given up all rights to complain about welfare policy since they have the powers but don’t want to implement them. In an old Scots saying, which my Grannie often used, the SNP are “all mooth and nae troosers”.

Finally, I note that the SNP house paper “The National” has joined the ranks of those lazy journalists who steal other people’s ideas. Last Thursday, The National had Theresa May pictured as the Dark Lord on its front page. Note to Editor: Britain’s best political cartoonist, Steve Bell, has been portraying Mrs May as Empress Treeza aka the Dark Lord since her election to the leadership of the Tory Party in his brilliant strip “If”. Just sayin’.

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19 thoughts on “Welfare? Not yet!

  1. No Jim Bob its a simple case of Labour councillors being voted out on their past record in office.
    And what powers do the Scottish Government actually have on welfare and benefits? They certainly don’t have any power to reverse Red and Blue Tory welfare and benefit cuts now do they? They are supposed to have the power to introduce new welfare measures but once again it doesn’t come with any extra funding needed to pay for it. On the contrary the Scottish Government gets more powers to spend while simultaneously trying to deal with further cuts to the budget.
    Powers that cant be implemented because they are unaffordable. That’s our union benefit. That’s what Labour in Scotland supports.
    How about instead of transferring powers to spend Westminster transfers the revenues to pay for them? VAT income tax NI contributions Oil and Gas revenues Road tax export import duty etc etc.

    You want to save yer worthless disunion? Then I suggest you support the idea of FFA because this pathetic dance where we scratch at the surface of devolution everytime the SNP has a successful recruitment campaign while allowing Westminster to retain the revenues isn’t working for anybody.

  2. You’re not even whistling in the dark here, Jim you’re whistling underwater.

  3. I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why the snp who controlled North Ayrshire council resigned after losing a by election and labour then took control the snp could have tried to carry on as a minority but decided it was more important to in their words reset their party the council leader was on holiday another refused to go and was removed I am a labour party member I have friends who v ote snp and others who are members they are saying whats the point of voting for them when they walked away and left Labour the party they attack every day in control the by election defeat left labour with a I seat majority but the nats rather than try to stay in power just walked away blaming the voting system for their defeat not a word of an explanation to their voters and they will have the nerve to ask for votes next year on a happier note I have just completed the basic computer buddy course run by nac in Irvine library I had a great volunteer tutor the library staff are dedicated and a credit to the council also today I had to attend Gartnavel General Hospital respiratory clinic I got a great result and I would like to pay tribute to all members of staff including the patient transport service driver

    1. David. Punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. You should try it sometime.

      When your opponent has more votes than you, in a democracy that usually ends your term in office.
      Of course there is always the possibility that Labour would abstain—-it seems to be their new default position—-when in doubt, do nothing!

    2. Only a member of the Labour party in Scotland could have come up with that as a version of events. Labour gained control over North Ayrshire because once again they are the second vote choice of the Conservative voters in Scotland. Blue Tories voting in preference with Red Tories in order to prevent the Socially Democratic left wing SNP keeping control of a local authority.
      Labour and Conservatives hand in glove within Scotland once again.

    3. ” the by election defeat left labour with a I seat majority but the nats rather than try to stay in power just walked away”

      Is that the council where labour told everone who would listen that they intended to takeover then threw the toys out of their pram because their bluff was called? Just wondering?

      1. nope its the council where the snp rather than even try to stay on decided in their words to reset the party.i am just asking who took that decision.was it the council leader who was on holiday. was it the councillor who refused to go.perhaps it was party hq .when did their members find out.the people who matter the voters found out via the local papers.I was told by nats members their second preference votes went to labour .the exact words were where else would we go. a seinior party member told me that on the day they resigned. clearly no idea it was about to happen.has the local snp been reset the public will decide in may

  4. WOW, secret government briefing papers, whatever next. Of course the fact Scotland has seen labour in all its glory in the past few months, really makes the people want to vote for it.

    The simple fact is Jim, people in Scotland don’t trust labour, they know if it comes between something for the betterment of Scotland or Westminster, labour will always go for Westminster.

    Your simply not to be trusted.

    1. maybe you can explain why the voters of North Ayrshire should trust the snp at next years council election when after losing control of the council because they lost a by election they voluntarily walked away it will be interesting to see how they react when the voters ask questions and what about their members were they consulted just to settle things they should release the minutes of the group meeting that took the decision or did the leadership take a decision and impose it on the party

  5. “Local democracy”. Is this the same Labour Party which introduced Academy Schools in England? You know, the schools that took power away from local authorities and give it to head teachers?
    Education is one thing that needs central control to ensure fair funding, and give every child a good start in life.
    Local politics is too often a swamp of self interested “worthies” living in a golden past which never existed—–“oh the belt was fine when I was at school, for those too stupid to conjugate latin verbs in primary two”—where they walked 7 miles in their bare feet through the snow.
    And most councillors couldn’t run a raffle, never mind an education system in the 21st century.

    1. Guess who now want to take powers away from Local Authorities and hand it to Headteachers in Scotland….Yup the SNP

    2. “Is this the same Labour Party which introduced Academy Schools in England?” – er, no actually. Dunno if you noticed, we had a leadership election thing? Changed leader, altered party direction and many policies? You’re thinking of the Blair/Brown Labour party.

  6. “Removing councils from childcare decisions, even though childcare powers are implemented with great reluctance by local authorities and only because of parental failure, and removing from councils responsibility for roads and bin collections?”

    Except when Labour councils play politics with local services to undermine the Scottish Government.
    How often has labour in Scotland tried to blame the Scottish Government for local Labour authority decisions? On schools the NHS welfare care in the community etc etc?
    If it wasn’t for the fact that Conservative voters and now second voting for Labour in order to stem the tide of SNP dominance over all tiers of authority Labour would be done and dusted at all levels.
    Useless decrepit and corrupt to the core.

  7. I sometimes watch question time on the BBC . I turn the sound down and read the text messages. they are very revealing. I voted remain so I would now be called a remoaner. but I say if all they do is call us names like some people responding to this blog do you don’t have an argument. it is also interesting the number of texts from Scotland that support brexit. they are calling on the uk gov to get on with it and leave.the fm told the irish parliament she has to take into account the 1 million scots who voted brexit.i know people who voted brexit and are very upset we are still there.i have had heated arguments with people over remarks they made on immigration .I have known those people for years. David Cameron has left the uk in a mess he called a ref because he needed to unify his party and see off ukip he failed in both.hard brexit soft brexit it might be those bad Europeans might not give us a leaving present.and I say to my nationalist friends the hard right are on the rise trump in America .we are trying to get to the front of the que Alec Salmond said there wont be one its going to be America first. the hard right might also come to power in France andGermany .and if Scotland was independent how would we cope in that world.then there are the million brexiteers and I am not one I don’t think they will vote for independence .the ones I know say why breakup the uk and be governed by Brussels not my view but something our politicians should take on board

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