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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Why I am voting Scottish Labour

Of all the elections I have been involved with this has to be one of the worst. The big issues that should have been debated have been swamped by the process of coalitions, deals and the banality of shoes, kitchens and bacon sandwiches. Dumbing down doesn't even begin to describe the coverage of this election.

But if you can ignore the drivel for a few minutes, let me explain why I am voting Scottish Labour.

Let me start with what I accept is an emotional reaction that I have heard many times - Labour has lost its way, the SNP now represents the traditional values that Labour used to stand for.

Now if you glance back in this blog and elsewhere you will see that I can be highly critical of Labour on many issues. I do recognise that there are good reasons for people to be angry with Labour because, on occasion, I have shared that despair. I am also not a tribal politico and I concede that there is plenty in the SNP programme that I agree with - not just the bits they cut and pasted from the Labour manifesto.

However, traditional Labour values are in short supply in their manifesto. The acid test of a socialist is a recognition that redistribution of wealth is required to tackle inequality. When Nicola Sturgeon was asked at her manifesto launch to name a redistributive policy enacted by the SNP in Holyrood, she was unable to cite a single example. We have had plenty of middle class welfarism, but relatively few effective measures to reduce inequality or poverty. We are told that Scandinavian levels of public services are possible without any increase in taxation and that simply isn't true.

The Blair and Brown government's did some great things. Devolution, minimum wage, cutting child poverty, tax credits, rebuilding our public services to name but a few. But it was often done by stealth because these good things didn't fit the New Labour narrative, and yes, they made some mistakes as well. The irony of this election is that we have a Tory leader lurching to the right and a Labour leader in Ed Miliband who is articulating genuine radical policies. They are not 'all the same' in this election by a long way.

For devolved Scotland there really is only one issue that matters in this election. Who will end Tory austerity and save our public services. The return of the Tories will result in at least another £2bn slashed from Scotland's budget and that's a further 30,000 public sector job cuts. Followed by employment law changes aimed at undermining workplace resistance to the cuts.

Labour's plan is not all I would want it to be and the new narrative of fiscal prudence risks precisely the same confused message as in the Blair years. But the numbers, as this chart shows, demonstrate Labour will deliver the best spending outcome and improve employment rights.

My biggest problem with the SNP programme is the economic illiteracy. I don't doubt that they also want to end Tory austerity, but their policies will have the opposite effect. Full Fiscal Autonomy will slash £7.6bn from the Scottish budget, rising to £9.7bn by the end of the decade and that's more than 140,000 Scottish jobs. And I'm sorry, but the idea that this can be wished away through eye watering levels of growth is frankly absurd.

Slogans like 'Stronger for Scotland' do have an emotional appeal and I appreciate that they can trump complex economics. But as my old Gran used to say 'they butter no parsnips". Only a Labour government can end Tory austerity, you can't vote for deals or coalitions, they aren't on the ballot paper. And this will be a Labour government that has real dividing lines with the Tories, who are now simply the party of the rich, for the rich.

This election matters in Scotland primarily for the impact on public services and those who deliver them. I am voting Scottish Labour because I am not prepared to gamble those services and jobs away for a slogan.



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