Monday, July 27, 2015

Good Morning The People Of Scotland

Presenter:  ...Derek McSmug is the SNP spokesperson for Really Complaining About Things.  Derek, thanks for joining us on the show.

Derek McSmug:  Thank you, Gary.

Presenter:  Derek, you said yesterday that a second Scottish independence referendum is "terrifyingly inevitable".  Does your party intend to bring forward plans for another referendum in the near future?

Derek McSmug:  Well Gary, I think it's no secret that we're in favour of Scottish independence!  (Laughs)  But no, we have no plans to hold a second referendum in the foreseeable future.  We're focusing on standing up for the people of Scotland against the Tories' swingeing cuts to public services, which the Labour Party is fully -

Presenter:  Well, if you're focusing on standing up to the Tories, why do you keep talking about a second referendum?  Why not move past that and focus on your work at Westminster, or on governing here in Scotland?

Derek McSmug:  Frankly Gary, I'm shocked and disappointed that you've said that.  You know that it's for the people of Scotland to decide whether there should be a second referendum and I don't think it's for the media to tell the people of Scotland that they mustn't discuss their constitutional future.

Presenter:  With respect Derek, it's you that keeps talking up a referendum, not the people of Scotland.

Derek McSmug:  Yes, and I think we had a General Election only a few months ago, in which - as you'll recall! - my party did rather well with the people of Scotland!  (Laughs)  But really, we're focusing on resisisting the Tories' swingeing cuts to public services, cuts which the Labour Party -

Presenter:  Okay, can you tell us exactly what it is that you're doing to protect Scotland from Tory cuts?  Because you seem to spend quite a lot of time appearing in the papers and talking about referendums, and monkeying about sitting in the other parties' seats, but not a lot else.

Derek McSmug:  Gary, we represent the interests of the people of Scotland at Westminster and I can assure you that the people of Scotland absolutely do not think that resisting the Tories' swingeing cuts to public services is worthless.  We just had a General Election that proved that, as you'll recall, in which my party did very well.

Presenter:  Yes, but -

Derek McSmug:  ...But on the subject of a second referendum, I do think that a second referendum is inevitable, but we're focusing on fighting the Tory - 

Presenter:  Well, if you're so focused on fighting the Tory cuts, why do you keep talking about a second referendum?  Why not just keep quiet about a referendum?

Derek McSmug:  Gary, I'm really saddened by your tone and so too, I'm sure, are the people of Scotland.  They don't want to be told to shut up about their constitutional future by the media and frankly, this is just the kind of distraction and smear tactics that we're so keen to get away from, so that we can focus on fighting the Tories' swingeing cuts.

Presenter:  But you don't seem to be doing anything to fight the Tory cuts.  You just keep appearing on TV shows talking about referendums and complaining all the time, without - if you'll forgive me - appearing to do anything useful.  Can you tell us about anything that you're actually doing?

Derek McSmug:  Well, I think that's typical of this broadcaster's condescending attitude towards the democratic will of the Scottish people, frankly.  The people of Scotland made their opinions clear on the matter at the General Election which, as you'll recall, my party did rather well in.  They want us to fight the Tories' swingeing cuts -

Presenter:  But you're not fighting anything, are you?  You're all just standing around making grand speeches, blethering about referendums and ensuring that you get your faces in the paper as often as possible! 

Derek McSmug:  Gary, I have explained this to you again and again, and it's just not sinking in.  We represent the interests of the people of Scotland.  They elected us - and my party did very well, as you'll recall - to resist the swingeing Tory cuts and, as for the prospect of a second referendum, that is up to the people of Scotland to decide.

Presenter:  But -

Derek McSmug:  And it's terrifyingly inevitable.

Presenter(Sighs)  Derek McSmug, that's all we have time for.  Thank you for joining us this morning...

Derek McSmug:  Thank you, Gary.


(For anyone who's mystified: this is a fictionalised and satirical version of interviews that play out on Scottish politics shows on radio and TV most days of the week.  It doesn't matter whether the topic is another referendum or the NHS or agriculture and, if anything, I'm being considerably harsher on the interviewer than on the interviewees).   


sloppy said...

Heh heh. If only the media were as probing as Gary.

gregorach said...

Is there anything that a minority opposition can actually do to effectively oppose a government majority? The fact that opposition consists of basically stuff-all other than talking a lot is a simple and inescapable fact of Westminster politics (or indeed any other parliamentary system with a well-disciplined party or coalition holding a majority of seats).

And while the SNP are only talking about opposing the Tory cuts, it's still more than Labour are doing.

What, exactly, would you have them do instead?

flyingrodent said...

Remember that the SNP isn't just the new Westminster MPs, it's also been the government of Scotland for eight years - half of that time as a government with a whacking great invincible majority, in a parliament that was explicitly designed to avoid single-party majorities.

What have they done with all the powers and resources available to them? Well, they've written up expensive handouts like free prescriptions - a great boon to the worst off, no doubt, but also an intentionally big handout to the middle class. They froze council tax, which has much the same effect. They poured a fuckload of money, time and effort into an obviously doomed independence referendum, and so on.

Otherwise, they've spent a lot of time making a big song and dance about how dangerously left wing they are, while in fact governing pretty much like New Labour did. If they've put a single redistributionist policy in place, I haven't seen it. Just today, they're turning to private finance to cover the projects that they already have underway.

All of which is fine by me, as far as it goes - it's just not the type of drastically socialist action that you'd expect from a party that just won't shut up about how very, very radical it is.

In the position the SNP has had for the last four years, it could've shoved whatever policies it liked down the parliament's throat, unopposed. Instead, it's spent the entire time scouring the policy books for easy wins, happy headlines and weak excuses to complain about evil, nasty Westminster.

If it was horsed out of power today, what long-term changes would be in place in Scotland, after the glorious opportunity that they've had? I can think of very little - pretty much just the Thatcherite consensus, and some funky Yes T-shirts that they're too depressed to wear. Oh, and a nice velodrome in the east end of Glasgow.

What, exactly, would you have them do instead?

At the very least - I'd like to see some kind of prep-work for the new Scotland Bill, with at least an indication that they have some kind of plan for what they're going to do with all the new powers they'll get. Thus far, all they've done is bleat about it to the press, in order to keep their supporters riled and bitter*.

I'd also appreciate at least a bit of evidence that they're working in committees and building agreements with other MPs. I'd like to hear a bit of actual analysis of what Cameron's Tories are up to and suggestions for what to do about it, and far fewer grandstanding speeches about how the SNP disagrees with the Tories because the SNP is very virtuous and left wing, and how it's fighting the Tories' swingeing cuts by fucking about on the benches and telling everyone how virtuous it is, without actually achieving much or offering any kind of alternative at all.

More toil and less troll, in short.

And while the SNP are only talking about opposing the Tory cuts, it's still more than Labour are doing.

This is certainly true, as I've noted myself. It's worth noting though that this is a very low bar to set, and that "Being taller than a hamster" isn't all that much to write home about.

*Not a difficult task, I grant you.

Anonymous said...

Good points, Flying Rodent. The rhetoric belies the reality. We know, for example, that although public spending in Scotland has been cut by around 4 percentage points less in Scotland than in England in the past five years, spending on public health in England increased by 6% in real terms compared with 1% in Scotland. As for education, we know that spending on schools in Scotland fell by 5% in real terms between 2010 and 2013, while spending in England rose.

In short, as a share of its budget, the SNP Government spends less than England on the NHS and education.

As for the SNP's abolition of tuition fees, so much lauded by the chattering classes, we know that there has been no detectable impact on the availability of university places to poor Scots. Indeed, the SNP has halved spending on student grants in real terms, meaning that poorer students are worse off than they were before. Scotland is the only part of the UK where borrowing is highest among students from poorer backgrounds.

I could go on. But where the SNP has brilliantly succeeded is in creating an illusion of competence, and a claim to be radical in its policies.

The facts tell us otherwise.

gregorach said...

If they've put a single redistributionist policy in place, I haven't seen it.

Given that the Scottish Parliament doesn't currently have any powers over taxation (other than a marginal and politically-unworkable ability to vary the base rate of income tax) or benefits, they'd be very hard pushed to do much in the way of redistribution. The powers of the SP are deliberately limited with the explicit intention of preventing it from doing that sort of thing.

In short, they're only tinkering at the edges because that's all the SP is currently allowed to do.

They did propose a number of amendments to the Scotland Bill to increase their ability to do that sort of thing, but they all got voted down.

I'd also appreciate at least a bit of evidence that they're working in committees and building agreements with other MPs.

It's kind of hard to build agreements with people who constantly and very publicly re-iterating their absolute refusal to even consider the slightest possibility of ever agreeing with you about anything, so I'm not sure how much blame can be laid on the SNP there.

As for working in committees, you do realise that Parliament isn't actually in session right now, yes? And that absolutely stuff-all normally happens between a May election and the summer recess? There haven't been any committee meetings for them to work in yet.

Just be be clear here, I'm not actually an SNP supporter (I'm a Green) and I do think there are many legitimate criticisms to be made of their politics. I'm just not convinced that these are them.

Anonymous said...

Gregorach: The Scottish Government doesn't need to have full powers over taxation and benefits in order to implement redistributionist policies.

As I point out above, in the case of higher education the SNP have indeed implemented redistributionist policies. They've redistributed resources from the poor to the rich.

Stephen L said...

Oh, and a nice velodrome in the east end of Glasgow. Glasgow getting the Commonwealth Games - and the plans including the bike track - were decided when Labour was in office in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London ...

as for the SNP not having the powers to do things ...
They could have put in a fairer system of taxation for local Government (but haven't because they know their current Local income Tax policy is a dog with fleas).. that could have had a redistributive effect by being less regressive than the Council Tax is currently.

... but instead they have not only kept The CT unreformed they have instituted Perma freeze on it which has cost Scottish local Govt £2.5bn according to Audit Scotland.. meaning councils can only make up the money by just directly charging for services - which is even more regressive.

Within the cuts that have been handed down from Westminster they have passed around 90% straight on to Councils.. but within that managed to come up with a distribution formula that has somehow managed to see the starving masses of Perth and Kinross and Aberdeenshire have a budget share which has gone up - whilst leafy bourgeois Glasgow has it's budget share cut...This is certainly redistributive but not I'd argue progressive.

.. There have been around 40 000 jobs lost in Local Government, with around another 10 000 in other public services while the SNP have been in Government..and all the while Scotland has "the most generous package of business rates relief in the UK" (John Swinney, Scottish Parliament 22/01/14).

You might have noticed that Osborne reduced corporation Tax further in the budget.. down to 18% ..the SNP welcomed that. and the other cuts to business taxation.

The SNP could have supported Labour plans in Holyrood to limit private sector rents - and give tenants more security. That would have been a wee bit redistributive.

oh and the bedroom tax ... a year spent saying it's an issue for councils , until the cry from HA's and Councils became deafening. then came an acknowledgement and some money ( but not enough) .. Months passed and Labour put a Bill into the Scottish parliament which the SNP would have had to vote down. A few months before the Indyref - that wouldn't have looked good. SO nearly two years of argument from The Scottish Govt was just junked as if it had never been said - and they agreed to mitigate the impact. I'm glad it was eventually done but .. some questions need tro be asked about why it wasn't done sooner .

gregorach said...

Now those are substantive and reasonable criticisms. Much better than "they don't seem to be doing much" (in the fag-end of a Parliamentary session where sod-all happens anyway) and "they seem to go on about independence a lot" (as you would rather expect them to do).

Shuggy said...

Great post - and some good points in the comments too. The SNP's greatest achievement is, of course, to put all of this beyond criticism by saying stuff like, "Why do you hate Scotland, Rodent?" And shit like that. Did you see Ken MacLeod's short post? "We had to imagine ourselves as Venezuelans, in order to become Blairites." Wish I'd said that.

flyingrodent said...

I did read that - it's very, very true.