It was an ecumenical weekend for me in the political sense. On Friday a meeting with the Secretary for State and other Labour parliamentarians, then off to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth.
The message was essentially the same. Our Public Works campaign sets out why public services are vital to the sort of society we want in Scotland. We have the right wing lobby arguing for small government and a public service safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. In contrast we are promoting public service principles of fairness, solidarity and accountability; delivered by public services that add value to the wider economy.
Our alternative budget sets out how this can be paid for even in this economic climate. Fairer taxation and cutting out the real waste of spending programmes like Trident. The alternative scenario is cuts and job losses on a scale equivalent to the collapse of the coal and steel industry in Scotland. With all of the long term consequences that are still with us today.
At our fringe meeting I focussed on the misguided responses to the financial crisis being considered by some councils. A profusion of trusts and outsourcing could result in a patchwork of public service delivery, not unlike the 19th Century. At that time Liberals like Joseph Chamberlain came up with radical solutions – they called it local government. In fact Chamberlain went much further, giving councils the power to purchase electricity companies. Now there is a radical programme for any political party!