It looks like Labour has a UK leader that understands Scotland and, judging by the response, Scotland understands him. By distancing himself from the SNP’s shallow class politics, Jeremy Corbyn is showing he understands that Labour’s recovery will not be about rich versus poor, but that it is about convincing everyone that social justice is in their interest.
Corbyn was clear that “flags don’t build houses” and the SNP’s record in government shows he is correct – The last Scottish Labour Government built 5,000 social housing units per year, whereas the SNP have managed just 3,500 annually, but have waved flags a lot.
He was also critical of the SNP’s management of the ScotRail franchise where in 2008 they awarded it to First Group without consultation as doing otherwise would harm their shareholders. In 2014 the SNP Government refused to delay the franchise allocation by a few months – a move that would have allowed them to bring the service back into public ownership. Eventually, the SNP gave franchise to a company owned by the Dutch government. This was despite an earlier pledge to run ScotRail as a not-for-profit trust.
The Labour leader’s comments on CalMac were also insightful as it took industrial action and a concerted campaign across the Labour Movement to force the SNP Government to bring the tendering process to a position where the rights of the workforce were properly respected.
So whilst Corbyn’s comments were brief, he has shown he understands the nature of the SNP Government. Adding to this, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has told his party’s conference that voters in Scotland who are against austerity should “come home to Labour“. These remarks will not have gone unheard amongst former Labour voters and that will be a real concern to the SNP hierarchy.
Indeed, the SNP’s Angus Robertson MP was left to draw upon pre-election SNP rhetoric by pointing out that Labour had signed up to the UK Government’s “Charter for Budget Responsibility” (CBR). He has clearly forgotten that after the election Nicola Sturgeon accepted that the CBR allows the UK Government “flexibility to increase spending over its current plans, while still reducing the deficit” – ie it is compatible with the SNP economic “plan”.
Perhaps Mr Robertson should have just waved a saltire?