When I was a wean, budget day was about the price of beer and ciggies. It was about how much a gallon of petrol was going to cost. Now it’s about how little poor people are going to have to eat. It’s about how many young people whose family lives have broken down are going to find themselves sleeping in doorways. It’s about how many disabled people and their carers are going to be trapped without support or respite. It’s about how many low paid workers are going to find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt without job security. And it’s about tax concessions for those who are already well off, the braying middle classes whose sense of entitlement grows ever greater. Budget day is about the rich getting richer on the broken backs of the poor. It’s about a fractured society ruled by those who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.
There’s been a sleight of hand rebranding of the minimum wage as a living wage which isn’t a living wage, but a massive slashing of tax credits for low paid workers. The poorest paid aren’t going to be any better off as a result of this budget. As usual, the ones who will benefit will be those who are already better off. It will be those who expect to inherit a million quid from the bank of mum and dad. It will be those on higher than average wages who’ve been taken out of the highest tax brackets. The tired grey faces on the bus will stay tired and grey, worried about job insecurity, worried about paying the rent, worried about putting food on the table, worried about paying for clothes for the weans. But Jocasta and Farquhar will be jetting off to the Seychelles, so that’s OK then.
So some days, you find that your natural reservoirs of patience and tolerance have run dry. Like when you see Labour people on Twitter complain about evil Tory budgets which slash the support for the poor and marginalised, give tax breaks to the better off and increase spending on the military. The word hypocrite was invented for people like that.
You can’t help but tell yourself that this is what they voted for after all. We had a chance to escape from this fate, but when the voters of Scotland were asked to think about the future of their country, Labour told them to think about the price of their car insurance and their holidays to Portugal. They scared them with threats to their pensions, they assured them that the NHS was safe. They lied, they threatened. And worst of all they stood shoulder to shoulder with those Tories they now condemn, and they did this in the full knowledge that Scotland might one day find itself prostrate and defenceless against the axe wielding maniacs of the neo conservative right. They lied and bullied so that Scotland would remain defenceless and incapable of deciding a different path for itself. They insisted that living with the very real threat of Tory rule was better than independence. Then they complain that we are subject to the fate that they wanted for us, and moan that some people call them rude names on the Internet. Well Labour, you got what you fought for. Dry your crocodile tears and suck it up.
So their protestations now against the unfairness and mendacity of Tory budgets ring as hollow as Ian Murray’s head. They’ve not got a leg to stand on, just like the poor who have had their support cut off at the knees thanks to the Tories’ benefits cuts. And all there is left to say to the bankrupt ideologues of Labour is – what the hell did you expect, fools? This is the consequence of what you fought for. You did this. You brought this on yourself, and you brought it on the rest of is. It’s only a pity that moral indignation doesn’t bring much of a comfort. It’s the only wealth we’ve got left.
Neither do Labour and its media friends have any right to complain that that Scotland’s single Tory MP has been able to reject every single amendment to the Scotland Bill. One MP gets to overrule 58. As far as Scotland is concerned, it’s like the General Election didn’t happen. The Conservatives are stuck in a watered down version of the Smith Commission time warp, and refuse to recognise that Scotland’s vote in May was a vote for greater powers for Scotland, that it was a vote to reject the inadequacies of the Smith Commission.
None of this matters. The Tories have a majority, and Labour and its media pals enabled it. They worked to ensure that Scotland remained in a place of powerlessness. Of course what evil Tories do is the fault of the evil Tories, but it’s also the fault of the Labour party. It’s the fault of the Daily Record, it’s the fault of the Lib Dems. They campaigned for Scotland to leave its arse exposed to the Tory air, they can’t complain now that it’s getting kicked.
This budget comes just a day after Kezia Dugdale, the candidate for leader of the Labour party in Scotland, said that the party had done too much for the vulnerable, and needed to concentrate more on those who have holidays in Portugal and complain about their car insurance. So we know what their priorities are going to be. Not fairness, not justice, not social inclusion, not democracy for Scotland.
So this is where we are. A nation that’s not allowed to act like a nation, trussed up on the table of a Tory banquet where we are the meal not a dinner guest, and we’re served up to someone else. The Conservative knives dig into our flesh and cut off slices for the bankers and the rich. And Labour chose this fate for us. They worked to make it happen. They don’t get to complain about it, and they certainly don’t get to lead the struggle against it. Scotland’s independence supporters are the new labour movement, not that sorry excuse of a self-serving party.
This is where we are, but it’s not where we need to remain. Every day, the appeal of independence grows ever more attractive. Every day, the hypothetical risks of self-determination shrink before the brutal realities of life in the UK.
Here were are in the dark days, the bleak times, the depths of winter, suffering the Tory budget blues. But the light of a Scottish spring is coming yet.
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