The consequences of no

Nicola Sturgeon made a speech on Monday asking Better Together and the naw ye cannae campaign to spell out the consequences of a no vote in the referendum.  We already know what the consequences of a no vote are, asking Better Together to spell it out is like asking Hannibal Lector to publish his cannibalism recipes in the lifestyle section of the Herald.

What we do know is that George Osborne promises another round of austerity cuts after 2015, and he wants the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the vulnerable to bear £12 billions’ worth of the £25 billion he wants to axe from public spending.  The unemployed are in no position to offer retiring politicians lucrative directorships so there’s little point pandering to their interests.  Anyway,  it’s only fair, the poor and powerless caused the financial crisis by selfishly not having any money to buy things and stimulate growth in the economy.  Besides, they don’t make as much of a fuss as investment bankers faced with a 0.08% tax on their bonuses.

Since the Tories have promised that the benefit cuts will not affect pensioners, that means the unemployed, the sick and disabled, and carers, will cop it in the neck amidst Daily Mail headlines about welfare scroungers.  Welfare is a Tory weasel word which aims to replace benefits in popular speech.  Welfare reeks of alms giving, rich people tossing a few coins at the ‘deserving’ poor in order to assuage their consciences.  Yet benefits is the better term, because a properly run and funded benefits system benefits society as a whole as well as the individuals receiving support.  I want country with a benefits system, not a welfare system.

Meanwhile Labour also promises to cut public spending by the same amount.  They also make liberal use of the welfare word, which is the only liberal thing about Labour these days.  Labour is quite definite that Tory welfare cuts are bad cuts, but they’re keeping very quiet about what they’d cut instead.  Meanwhile Johann Lamont tries to pretend she never described Scotland as a “something for nothing” culture.  This does not inspire confidence that Labour is committed to the principles of universality in the benefits system, nor indeed that we should have a benefits system at all.  They seem quite happy with Tory ideas about welfare and the deserving versus the non-deserving.

I have a direct interest here.  I do not receive welfare, I receive benefits and society benefits from the deal.  I’m a full time carer who had to give up employment in order to look after my partner, who has been diagnosed with vascular dementia.  You don’t choose to become a carer, you do it out of love and commitment.  It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life, physically and emotionally.

I don’t want to use this blog to discuss my partner’s care needs, but life is tough as it is, George Osborne’s plans will make things even tougher.  I have zero confidence in Labour, where the only difference from the Tories and their Lib Dem hangers on is that they promise to make cuts with a sad face instead of with the manaical glee of Danny Alexander.  This is the future the Union offers fulls time carers, no matter how Better Together might dress it up with a promise of devolutionary jam.

In return for a full time job like caring for a person with dementia, a job requiring you to be in attendance or on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, carers get the princely sum of £59.75 a week Carer’s Allowance.  Fulltime carers often work 168 hours a week in stressful and distressing conditions, and receive just short of 36p per hour for doing so.  There is no time off, no set breaks, no holiday pay, no holidays, just 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, working as carers or on permanent call, catching up with sleep when you can.  It’s not an easy job, emotionally or physically.  But we mustn’t grumble, at least it pays better than another Union benefit, the zero hours contract.

The local authority where we live can no longer fund much respite care due to the cuts that have already come in.  Formerly those like me who get no break from caring were able to receive up to 8 week of respite care annually, now the local authority can only fund 2.  Following the next rounds of cuts, it’s quite likely they’ll not be able to fund any at all.

I’m not complaining about having to care for my partner.  It’s what you do for those you love.  I would do it even without the £59.75 per week I became entitled to after I was forced to stop working.  All carers would, we’re not doing this for the money, for career prospects, or for public recognition.  We do it for unfashionable reasons that do not figure in UK Government policy making – love and loyalty.

A recent study from Carers UK found that, at an average unit cost of £18 per hour (the average cost of purchasing care services), the cost to the state of buying in care, unpaid carers save the Treasury £119 billion annually, more than the entire NHS budget across the UK.

The UK government is very much the benefits recipient here.  But making the weak, the poor and the powerless foot the bill for the mistakes and misdeeds of the elite is the politically prudent choice for a Westminster politician.  This will not change no matter who is in power at Westminster.  No further proof is needed that our political system is terminally ill and beyond hope of redemption.

The Union recognises no benefits from us, and there are no benefits from the Union, only welfare.   I dread the consequences of a no vote.  No matter what promises Better Together eventually trots out on what Scotland will get after a no vote, the destruction of the benefits system remains the harsh reality.

There will be challenges and difficult decisions to make in an independent Scotland too, but those choices will be made by a government we can hold to account.  There are no guarantees that an independent Scottish state will do more to lighten the burden of carers, but I don’t believe anyone who says Scotland couldn’t afford it.

I’m fed up with the lies and the scaremongering, of being patronised by idiots.  Scotland is a rich country, if we are facing unprecedented austerity it can only be because Scotland has been badly mismanaged by Westminster.  If we are too poor to afford public services when we are such a resource rich nation, whose bloody fault is that then?

If the Union has been such a grand success, why are we too poor to make it by ourselves, especially since we are positively lowpin with natural and human resources that people will pay money for – oil, gas, renewable energy, whisky, coal, leading universities – and apparently we have shale oil and gas coming out our ears too, but we’re such a resource rich nation that we can afford not to exploit it.  This is not a choice you can make in a resource poor country.

The reason we face unprecedented austerity is because of political choices made by a political class over which we exert no effective control.  So it’s time for new management, a management that can be kept on a short leash and held to account, and which has to operate under constitutional rules that are written down in black and white instead of made up to suit themselves as they go along.

With independence there is the hope that things could change for the better, that we might have a government that believes in a universal benefits system, and recognises the benefits to society that such a system delivers because it ensures all citizens have the capacity to live decent and dignified lives.  I hope and believe that can be achieved with independence.  I’d like to hope it could be achieved in the UK, but I don’t believe it can.

There is no hope anything might change for the better with a no vote.  A no vote promises only austerity, welfare cuts and a privatised dignity services provider staffed by workers on zero hours contracts.  Those are the consequences of a no vote.  They’re not pretty, no wonder Better Together is keeping quiet.

7 comments on “The consequences of no

  1. […] The consequences of no […]

  2. As a former carer I just wanted to say thank you for this!

  3. Scaraben says:

    You and your partner have my sympathy, and you have my respect for your dedication to him. I hope you, and all the other carers in Scotland, will receive the better support that you deserve once Scotland is independent; sadly, the lot of carers and those they care for is only going to get worse in the UK in the foreseeeable future.

    Increasingly, the UK is not the kind of country that I want to live in. The idea of the UK as a fair, decent and democratic society has been slowly sinking since it hit the Thatcher iceberg; the decks are almost under water and it is time to take to the independence lifeboat.

    • Swansea Blue says:

      First of all you deserve the greatest respect for the sacrifices you make. We are in a similar boat in that my wife is her mums full time carer. It is a job that requires constant attention and means our social life is virtually zero and we don’t have much of any life. However, we do get a carers allowance and I really don’t understand why people believe that it is the States responsibility. The state helps considerably through the NHS and registered nurses coming every few days. I gave up my job to join my wife who couldn’t stand by whilst her mum was suffering. I remember pre thatcher times when we did exactly the same thing with the family rallying round to look after my grandparents who lived with us. Not sure how it was better. I’m no Tory but I remember the seventies. The poor were still poor it’s just there were less rich people around as they were taxed out of the country. Also I don’t believe you would base an argument about independence on the fact that you don’t get your own way in government.

  4. As an ex British soldier I held on to the hope that Britain as a nation could be saved from the cruelty and greed of the conservatives but can find no saviour out there. Blair’s new labour were untrustworthy and lied to the nation about Iraq and the current labour party are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. The conservatives are what they have always been, lying thieving manipulative bastards, and the lib dems sold what little pride they had for a couple of executive limo’s. The upshot of this is that I have very very reluctantly decided to vote YES in the referendum, I do not trust Salmond or the SNP any more that the other parties in London, but a Yes vote would effectively eradicate conservatism as a major political ideology in Scotland. That can only be a good thing. However a yes vote will almost certainly mean the eventual dissolution of the SNP, their very reason for existence being achieved. Which brings us right back to the beginning. The SNP support is made up of all political hues, including conservatives, so who’s to say we’re not going to end up right back where we are now sometime in the future.

    • weegingerdug says:

      My partner is also ex-services (and an Englishman) in his more lucid periods he says he wants to vote yes in September. He was a yes supporter long before his diagnosis.

      Neither of us have any particular faith in the SNP, but that’s not the point. We’re not voting for the SNP on 18 September, we’re voting on the principle of whether Scotland should elect its own governments and whether Scottish voters should be able to vote out a government they dislike. Under Westminster we’re stuck with the governments that England votes for, which follow a political agenda that is increasingly irrelevant to Scottish demands and needs.

      Maybe in an independent Scotland we could end up with a right wing government which preaches an austerity agenda, there are no guarantees. But it would only be elected if people in Scotland voted for it, and people in Scotland could vote it out at the following election.

      With independence there is at least the hope that things could change for the better. Right now we have no hope at all. At least with independence there’s a chance Scotland could have a real Labour party, not the pathetic excuse we currently suffer, obsessed with playing catch up with the Tories.

      A yes vote is a vote for hope. A no vote resigns us to helplessness and hopelessness.

  5. Papadocx says:

    Very humbling and thought provoking Paul.
    There but for the grace of god go us all. None of us know what is ahead of us or how we will react to it.

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