It’s the budget day tomorrow. George Osborne has been spending the last week like Scrooge, working out new ways in which he can extract a few more pennies out of Bob Cratchet in order to benefit the bank. Already over the past couple of weeks the Tories have cut benefit payments for people with disabilities and slashed tax credits for the lowest paid. Tomorrow it’s expected that there will be yet further cuts to the social security system, reducing what was once a safety net to a few frayed threads. But not to worry, there will also be tax breaks for the rich and funding for three more major transport infrastructure projects.
There are to be improvements to the M62 motorway across northern England, and Scotland’s taxes will have to contribute to two new railway projects even though the new rail tracks will hit the buffers long before it gets within a hundred miles of the border. There will be untold billions on yet another Crossrail for London, and HS3, a High Speed railway line between Manchester and Leeds. There’s a metaphor for Scotland’s place in the UK right there. We’re not on the fast track. We’re not even on the slow track. We’re not on the track at all. We’re just tracked down when the bills come in, so Scotand is helping to pay for a British road to nowhere.
Scotland’s getting new train services, but our railway system is already bursting at the seams. Some lines are going to require major investment and rebuilding if they’re going to be able to cope with increased services. Large scale investment in transport infrastructure in England is regarded as a UK national project and Scotland has to pay towards it without receiving any compensation by way of Barnett consequentials. Large scale investment in Scottish transport infrastructure is paid for by Scotland alone. That’s why it’s taken almost 50 years for the gap in the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh to be upgraded to motorway standard. That’s why it’s taking so long for the A9 to Inverness to be dualled. We’re paying for the new Forth Bridge ourselves.
Scotland’s transport comes out of Scotland’s budget, and when those pretty Unionist graphs show the Government expenditure so graciously bestowed on Scotland by the benificient UK, they also include a portion of the costs for London’s local commuter rail and trains that only reach Birmingham. You want an explanation as to why Scotland supposedly has such a massive deficit worse even than Greece? Greece doesn’t pay for the Istanbul metro.
London’s on its second ruinously expensive Crossrail project involving drilling tunnels under a congested city, but Glasgow’s modest proposal for a Crossrail project involving existing railway lines remains a distant dream and it’s only now that the main line between Glasgow and Edinburgh is being electrified. A high speed railway connecting Scotland with the rest of the UK and via the Channel Tunnel with the European high speed network remains as unlikely as George Osborne announcing in his budget that he’s going to raise taxes on bankers and company directors in order to increase benefits for people with disabilities.
Of course Scotland will benefit from Osborne’s new projects say the Unionists. These are major UK transport infrastructure projects which will benefit the entire UK. Scots travelling across the north of England will find travel time reduced as they zoom down the road amongst the speedier traffic on the M62. Scots travelling between Manchester and Leeds will zoom there in thirty minutes. Scots going across London will zoom across the city on the new north-south Crossrail 2. It’s a bit like saying that Scotland benefits from increased services on the Paris Metro because it makes it easier for Scottish people to get across the French capital when they go there on holiday. C’est ci un bénéfice de la Union.
The only zooming going on here is the attempt by certain Unionists to claim that Scotland benefits from English transport projects that Scotland has to help pay for. Still, we shouldn’t complain too much. This time there’s no new London sewer project which Scotland has to pay for like the last major upgrade to London’s sewer network operated by privatised water companies. The best that can be said is that at least the UK government can claim it’s not literally taking the piss this time, it’s just taking it metaphorically. And that’s about as good as it’s going to get.
The Chancellor is going to have to find a further £4 billion in cuts if he is to achieve his stated aim of balancing the books before the next general election. You can be certain that money won’t be found by increasing taxes on those who are already well off. It’s going to be found by cutting the social security of those who are most in need. Britain is an ugly country that’s getting uglier and crueller. There will be more poverty porn on the telly, inviting the better off to treat the poor and the vulnerable as entertainment. It’s the modern equivalent of the guided tours of the lunatic asylum two hundred years ago, and we’re the ones chained to the wall. We’re under the control of ignoramuses who claim we don’t even have a language, it’s just a made up pretend slang.
The Union is dying. An opinion poll out this week showed that a majority of Scots will vote for independence if the rest of the UK votes to leave the EU. The Union is dying because Scotland’s on the wrong side of the tracks. The Union is dying from a thousand cuts. The Union is dying because it’s being killed by Unionists, Unionists who have piece by piece dismantled all the bricks of the British state and gouged out the mortar that held them together. And then they stand shocked and surprised at the very idea that anyone would want to escape the rubble that they’ve created. What they don’t understand is that the more that they attack the fabric of the welfare state, the more that they privilege London infrastructure above everyone else’s, the easier that they make it for us to leave. Scotland is on the fast track to independence, and it’s down to the Unionists.
This will be the last post from me for two weeks as I am off to the USA to visit with my significant other, who I’ve not seen since December. Sam Miller (Macart) will be taking over the blog in my absence. I’ll be back on March 30. The dug is going to stay with friends in Glenboig, so he’s going on holiday too.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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