That was the week that was.
It has been an interesting week or so in Scottish political life. Things have went so well for Labour that the SNP have been forced to play their #indyref2 card to distract their core support. Let’s look at what happened.
Friday (30th of October)
The Scottish Labour Party gathers in Perth for its conference and Kezia Dugdale has delivered on her pledge to return control of the conference to the party. The first session dealt with “Public Services and Wealth Creation” and included a resolution to buy-back PFI debt. To be clear, this debate was a sign that Labour had changed as it recognised both that Labour may have made a mistake with PFI financing and that the SNP were continuing this under NPD (their version of PFI).
Saturday (31st of October)
Kezia Dugdale gave the speech of a lifetime which set the news agenda for the whole week (and perhaps longer). Amongst other things, she committed Labour to protecting Scots from Tory Tax Credit cuts and laid out plans for closing the attainment gap.
Sunday (1st of November)
Kezia’s speech on Saturday was packed with progressive policies and was a clear challenge to anyone in Scotland who thinks Holyrood does not have the power to make Scotland fairer, or who talks left, but walks right. The SNP responded not by attacking the speech, but by adopting a key labour policy which they had voted against last year – they said that firms bidding for public sector contracts will be expected to pay employees the living wage.
Later that morning in an interview where she was been held to account for cutting the grant for the poorest Scottish students, SNP minister Angela Constance was told she couldn’t restart an awkward television interview again — because it’s live! I am not sure if this is incompetence or complacency.
At the same time the Scottish Labour Party was debating Trident and voted to oppose its renewal. I watched as speaker after speaker was warmly applauded (and often cheered) even by those who did not agree with the arguments which were made. This was not a conference of robots being dictated to by a leader which could not be questioned, but a gathering of comrades agreeing on how to reach a common goal – a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.
Monday (2nd of November)
In the Daily Record, Kezia Dudgale confirms: “If George Osborne doesn’t abandon his plans, Scottish Labour will go into next year’s election with a pledge to restore tax credits for working class families in Scotland“.
On this day we also saw Iain Macwhirter, a journalist/author much respected by nationalists, comment on the Labour Tax Credit position:
He was quickly put in is place by one online commentator known as “Mr Roboto”:
Tuesday (3rd of November)
The Scotland Bill returns to Westminster having been amended considerably and it is now clear “The” Vow has been delivered and, as Gordon Brown said, “it’s time to stop talking about the new powers and start delivering them“.
On the same day there is a historic vote in Holyrood – the SNP vote with Labour to oppose Trident renewal. On the Labour benches only Jackie Ballie opposes the motion.
Wednesday (4th of November)
There was a “significant moment” in Holyrood. Labour tabled a motion calling on the Scottish government to use the new tax and welfare powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to restore tax credits to Scots. In a chamber with a fair number of empty SNP seats (image), Labour argued that Scots facing these Tory cuts deserved more than warm words from the SNP. This debate highlighted yet again the SNP is a party of constitutional grievance that is willing to milk any issue for votes. Jackie Ballie:
“The SNP have spent days telling us we wouldn’t have the power to top-up tax credits, yet Alex Neil now accepts that’s just not true. Yesterday Alex Neil issued a press release demanding tax credits be devolved, even though he conceded today that the power to top-up tax credits is already being devolved. Why can’t the SNP just embrace the new powers instead of always talking Scotland down? The tax credit debate exposed what really matters to the SNP government – constitutional grievance rather than helping working families in Scotland.”
Thursday (5th of November)
Kezia asked Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly during First Minister’s Questiosn if the SNP would protect Scots from the Tory Tax Credit cuts. Nicola Sturgeon’s response was warm words and vague assurances.
Friday (6th of November)
Graeme Pearson, a former senior police officer, publishes his review of policing in Scotland. He found that many of the problems Police Scotland face are due to the SNP’s drive to centralise and the failure of ministers to put in place proper structures to hold the police service to account. Those decisions by SNP Ministers have led to increased pressure on our police officers.
His recommendation was to give officers more autonomy to answer questions raised by communities, as well as enabling better local oversight and improving the relationship between the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and local communities.
On the same day, the SNP’s position on Tax Credits was back in the news. Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Big Debate programme, John Nicolson (an SNP MP) was asked to “pledge now that the Scottish Government will mitigate in full the effect of tax credit cuts”. Mr Nicolson replied to say that “we can’t say that with any certainty”.
Saturday (7th of November)
The newspapers are now reporting on a story which was published in the Daily Record on Friday concerning the death of a man in the A&E unit of Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
An investigation is now underway into why he waited on a trolley for hours in the SNP’s flagship hospital. The death should not be blamed on the SNP, but the hospital is slowly becoming a microcosm of the wider problems the NHS faces in Scotland under the SNP.
Sunday (8th of November)
It’s been a dire week for the SNP and they need to divert attention away from the NHS, policing and welfare. Their only option is to play the referendum card and hope that it distracts their core support away from the other stories.
They therefore create a non-story about #indyref2 and hope their dutiful core support reacts like the mutts in Pixar’s “Up” when they are distracted by a squirrel – these dogs were well trained by their “good and smart” master. I think Scots are smarter.