The Vow has been delivered.

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During the 2014 independence campaign I led over 100 “Better Together” volunteers in an area of Edinburgh which is home to tens of thousands of people. Over that summer each volunteer I trained was told that our message was that a No vote was about securing more powers for Holyrood.  This was the vow we made on literally thousands of doorsteps.

Eighteen months later it is now clear that that vow has been delivered with the negotiations on the Fiscal Framework reaching a successful conclusion. As John Swinney said on BBC Radio Scotland today “the Smith Commission report has been delivered” and as Nicola Sturgeon said in Holyrood yesterday “this deal will ensure that funding  for Scotland will not be changed without the Scottish Government’s agreement ”. This is what Scotland voted for in 2014.

As the party of government,  it fell to the SNP to ensure that more powers were delivered whilst ensuring “not a penny” is taken from the Scottish Government’s budget.  The SNP’s role is ironic given the finical ruin that would have come with their preferred referendum outcome. An outcome which no independent fiscal analysis has shown would be in Scotland’s interests.

We cannot, however, let more powers and fiscal agreements be the end point of Scotland’s political enlightenment.  The SNP have shown themselves to be a timid government which is happy to tinker at the edges of the problems Scotland faces and manage gradual decline in public services. It’s now time for the political class in Scotland to put their constitutional differences aside and draw up bold plans for Scotland’s future.  Let’s talk less about the 1707 Act of Union and more about using Holyrood’s newly won powers to ensure health, education and welfare in Scotland is fit for the 21st century.

The dishonesty at the heart of Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

 

 

Neil Findlay may well have been wrong to call Nicola Sturgeon a “liar”, but dishonesty is at the heart of her politics.

She opposes Tory austerity, but backs the bigger cuts that would come with full fiscal autonomy.

She opposed George Osborne’s budget,  but stands “shoulder to shoulder” with the Tories delivering it in Scotland.

She claims her council tax freeze is protecting household budgets, but her poverty advisor is clear that it is making inequality worse.

Worst of all, she promotes the idea that public services in Scotland can be revolutionised by tinkering at the edges and funded by cutting taxes. This is a Tory agenda.

After 9 years of government, and an unprecedented majority, we have a First Minister who has offered Scotland nothing bold. Despite the breadth and depth of political capital she holds, she is happy simply to comment on issues as they arise rather than implementing any of her progressive rhetoric.

If we are to keep our SNP Government, let’s keep Nicola Sturgeon true to her word and at least expect her to make some of her rhetoric reality.

 

First Minister’s Questions – Sturgeon deliberately misled parliament and Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon ended First Minister’s Questions this week (report, 05/02/16)  by claiming Scottish Labour was an “utter disgrace”. Those who choose to judge others must think carefully about the example they set.

Several times during First Minister’s Questions Ms Sturgeon deliberately misled parliament and Scotland. She repeatedly claimed that everyone in Scotland who earns more than £11,000 would pay more tax as a result of Labour’s plan to raise income tax by 1p to protect vital public services.  Whilst this is technically correct, she omitted to mention that those earning  £11,000 – £20,000 would actually be better off as a result of the rebate Kezia Dugdale proposed. The First Minister also failed to mention that the estimated 15,000 people who will lose their jobs as a result of her cuts won’t be paying much tax at all.

Ms Sturgeon also used wonky maths to suggest that those on lower incomes would pay a higher amount of tax than somebody like her. Again, this was misleading. The Resolution Foundation, who have said the Labour proposals are progressive and would lessen the impact of austerity, are clear that the “richest will pay significantly more, not only in cash terms but as a percentage of their incomes too”.

On both these points, Nicola Sturgeon is not lying. She is, however, coolly misleading the people of Scotland.    As Alex Salmond once said when modestly praising his own talents: “The art of politics is not to lie”.

Kezia’s test for former Labour voters who now back the SNP

Since the referendum the SNP Government has branded itself as being anti-austerity. However, they have been happy to simultaneously pass on austerity driven cuts to our public services. Scottish Labour have now shown that there is a progressive alternative. We can choose to ask those individuals who earn more than £20,000 per annum to pay a wee bit more tax and use that money to invest in education and social care in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale’s progressive and bold plan to raise the income tax rate by 1p to fund essential public services is a test for the SNP. They can choose to ignore it and commit to thousands of job losses, or they can back Kezia’s plan to  protect the services the vulnerable need. It is up to them, they have a parliamentary majority.

The policy is also a test for former Labour voters who now back the SNP. These are not the intransigents that want independence at any cost, but people who simply want Scotland to be a fairer country to work, live and bring up children. I find it hard to believe that this latter group will choose to back SNP cuts to schools when there is a fair and progressive alternative.

After all the coming Holyrood budget vote and May’s Scottish Parliament election will not be about independence, but about improving Scotland. I would urge SNP supporters, from ordinary Scots to the MSP elite, to look at what Scottish Labour is offering and support what is best for Scotland.