Debate: Managing Scotland's Finances

Linda spoke in the debate on 4 November:

“I read Andy Kerr’s motion with a sense of, “Oh, no. Here we go again.” We have heard the rant before—as always, against the background of Labour’s cynical and uncosted promises, which were this time outlined at the Labour Party conference. We had already heard of Labour’s plans to increase council tax; now, Labour has announced its spending plans. In these times of cuts that are being imposed by Whitehall, they would mean an additional tax burden on Scotland of some £3,000 per family over the four years of the next Parliament. Can Andy Kerr tell us what those income tax rises—pre and post-Calman—would mean for families in Scotland? They would not be progressive tax rises, because they would hit only those who pay the basic rate.

I note, too, the warning in the motion that

“the mistakes of the Thatcher years are being repeated”

by the UK Government. I cannot help but think back to the spring when Alistair Darling, the then Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, admitted that under a future Labour Government there would be cuts deeper and tougher than Margaret Thatcher’s cuts of the 1980s. Furthermore, he planned to keep cutting for a full seven years. I condemn the savagery of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government, but we should never forget that the Labour way is to take credit in the boom years and to run for cover when an admission of responsibility is required. The mistakes of the Thatcher years are indeed being repeated—by Labour, by the Conservatives and by the Liberal Democrats. Denis Healey once promised to

“squeeze the rich until the pips squeak.”

Labour’s intention and the Conservatives’ action is to squeeze our services until the public squeak, and to keep on squeezing…

The cuts started under Labour and have been continued by the current coalition Government. It is interesting that when the benefits system changes were announced, Labour’s big concern was for the higher earners who would lose out in child benefit. If it is also concerned about the loss of universality, how come that does not extend to the universality that was introduced by the SNP Government? In Scotland, Labour has abandoned the ethos of collectivism and the common weal: for the Labour group in this chamber, universality is conditional. That is a measure of how far the Labour Party has shifted from the labour movement, which once espoused aspirational core values. How times change.

On “The Politics Show Scotland”, Andy Kerr said that

“we’ve got areas of Scotland which are deprived, which will never come back up again.”

What a lack of ambition, and what an admission by the party that controlled urban Scotland locally for decades and which controlled Scotland nationally for 13 years in its most recent stretch of government. Scotland trusted Labour for far too long. Thankfully, with an SNP Government, Scotland now sees alternatives.

I hear Labour politicians—members of the party that walked us blindfolded into this economic mess—mocking other nations for having to make cuts. We have heard them talk disparagingly and, sadly, somewhat gleefully about an “arc of insolvency” that includes Ireland, Iceland and Norway. That is not only crass; it is a faulty analysis. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development expects those countries to recover from recession more quickly than the UK. The figures already show that they are moving in the right direction, and each of them has a better economic future than the UK, to which Scotland is currently tied. The UK is the only one of these nations that has a balance-of-trade deficit. Moreover, its growth rate is exceeded by that of Ireland, and Norway has exports that are worth almost three times as much as those of the UK. The arc of prosperity is now the arc of recovery, and Scotland should join that arc. Scotland should take control of its own finances so that it can join those independent countries, which best serve their populations.

Read the full debate at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/meetingsParliament/or-10/sor1104-01.htm

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