Scotland is seeing a seismic shift in political allegiances. No more is it the Labour heartland that consistently saw forty plus MPs returned to Parliament as the bedrock of a Labour majority. The Labour lands of Glasgow seem to have fallen, and even the Fife haven of Kirkcaldy is perceived to be having second thoughts about the party that was once considered the natural party of government for Scotland.
Now it is the SNP whom voters are expected to rally behind in their droves. Under Nicola Sturgeon, the nationalists have their eyes set on overturning even the largest of majorities – as well as trying to expel MPs like Margaret Curran, the fiercest Labour lady in Glasgow, and Douglas Alexander, a man who has the political prowess to lead him into the role of foreign secretary.
Yet, the underlying issues remain. The facts still exist and the realities that face Scotland dispel the myths of last minute bribes and hollow rhetoric. The absolute truth in this election is that the Tories have failed Scotland (again), and they must be removed from power.
The question, by the acceptance of this fundamental, is who can get rid of the Tories; what must be done differently from the coalition government and who can best represent Scotland’s interests? Sturgeon and her party appear to have the strongest arguments, but closer inspection shows only one thing – that Labour is the party for Scotland.
Take the question ‘Who can get rid of the Tories?’. On the surface, it seems quite simple. Neither Labour nor the SNP will support a Conservative-led government, despite the fact the SNP would gain significant strategic benefit from David Cameron remaining as PM. This therefore leads many voters to the conclusion that its perfectly OK to vote for the SNP and still expect to see the removal vans queue up at No. 10, and to watch Miliband gain the keys. Think again.
Let us examine what we actually know. The SNP claim they will vote against a Conservative Queen’s Speech and not allow the Tories to form the next government (a lovely change in tactic from ’79). But we know Labour will also do this. So on the count of protesting against the Tories, the two parties are on the same platform.
But what about replacing the Tories. Is it good enough for centre-left politicians to just merely block a right wing government from being formed, rather than create a progressive one which will follow a fairer agenda than is currently set? Not for the millions relying on food banks it isn’t. Nor for the workers earning their poverty wages through zero hours contracts, nor the vulnerable people that are currently in the firing line for government sanctions because they need help from the welfare state. Britain needs a progressive alternative. This is what the SNP fails to offer.
We know that the only alternative to Cameron and his Etonian chums is the Labour Party. Rather than the SNP hitting this nail on the head with some sort of guarantee, they nor any of their candidates have gave a declaration in which they pledge to vote for a Labour Queen’s Speech – even if there is no deal between the two parties after the election – in order to ‘lock the Tories out of Government’.
It all comes down to this: if it were enough to protest against the Tories, then the SNP would be just as reasonable a vote as a Labour one. However, what we in Scotland need is to replace them, and Labour is the only party able to do that.
We know from the last leaders debate we can’t rely on the SNP being a proxy for a Labour government, as they have admitted that they may vote against a prospective Labour government’s budget. Their confession shows they are prepared to block the progressive government which the real people of Scotland (and the whole UK) desperately need. It therefore stands to reason that we must vote Labour to get Labour and, crucially, that the SNP are not the substitute in Scotland for a Labour government and fairer society that it brings. They are in fact a roadblock.
Let us now move on to what a new centre-left government must do, in an economic sense. The simple answer is end the Conservative austerity agenda. Despite many of us (including myself) being attracted to the anti-austerity rhetoric and spin employed by the SNP, and Sturgeon in particular, Labour’s plans lead down the fastest route to ending austerity. Consider this:
Labour offers a range of progressive taxes across the UK to alleviate the burden and cost that the global recession has had on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country. From the Mansion Tax, to the Banker’s Bonus Tax and to restoring the 50p top rate of Income Tax, the broadest shoulders would bear the heaviest burden under their proposals. Also according to the experts, the IFS, Labour would only need to make £1 billion worth of savings to match their fiscal commitments.
Whilst the SNP support Labour’s tax plans, they intend to prevent the revenue they bring from coming to Scotland – thanks to the truly nationalistic proposal, Full Fiscal Responsibility (FFR). FFR, quite simply, would end the UK-wide distribution of wealth and the Barnett Formula. This means that 1,000 nurses and 600 GPs we could bring in to Scotland through our 10% share of the UK Wide Mansion Tax would not be able to get to work in supporting our NHS, as Scotland on its own only raises 0.33% of the overall income the tax would bring in to the exchequer.
Furthermore, the IFS shows that under the SNP’s plans, the Scottish budget would go down and public spending cuts would be necessary. Under Labour’s, austerity would end sooner. Who do you believe, the impartial experts or the politicians?
Therefore we know that between the SNP and Labour, the party of trades unions and socialists is the party that will give Britain the progressive economic policy we all want. Making austerity last for longer, scrapping the Barnett formula and implementing FFA, which is what would would occur if the SNP had their way, will not lead to a fairer society or increase the distribution of wealth from the richest to the poorest in Scotland and across the UK. So, once again, the fairer economic policy we crave as left wingers and as a nation will only be delivered by a Labour government.
This moves me on to the third question facing voters at this election, who can represent Scotland’s interests best? Is it, as many voters will assume, the nationalist party that desires only the partition of the UK state and to free Scotland from the shackles of “Wastemonster”? Again, I don’t believe it is so. To all those who feel otherwise, let me say this: the Labour party has put Scotland’s interests at the heart of government, the SNP can only confine our voice to the back benches of Westminster.
Labour had Scotland’s interests at its heart when it created the NHS; had Scotland’s interests at heart when it legislated for the National Minimum Wage; when it implemented Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits; also when it founded the Welfare State; when it reduced child and pensioner poverty and when it established the Scottish Parliament. This shows our voice is heard loud and clear, without the SNP’s help, across Britain. And Scotland’s interests lie firmly in having a local veto on fracking; building 100,000 new homes; raising the Minimum Wage; providing more nurses and GPs for the NHS and by devolving more power to Scotland – all of which will be delivered in the next Labour government.
So this is why Scotland should vote Labour:
- Labour can and will replace the Tory government given the chance; the SNP cannot guarantee they will support Labour in doing this and run the risk of keeping David Cameron as PM.
- Labour’s economic policy will see to the distribution of wealth from across the richest in all of Britain to the poorest; the SNP purposely plan to prevent this from happening.
- Labour will put the interest’s of Scotland in the heart of the next government; the SNP will confine our voice to the back benches.
Labour offers real change. Not just a voice to protest against the Tories, but an alternative to the Tories and their austerity agenda. Labour will see those with the broadest shoulders carry the heaviest burden and this means that we can forge the way forward to a fairer economy and society. Crucially, Labour will keep the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people at the very core of their government.
Scotland’s voice can only be heard, and affect real, constructive, change, if this Labour government can comes to fruition. That, comrades, will only happen if Scotland votes Labour on May 7th.