Don’t mention the L word

Shhhh. Don’t say the L word. Let’s report on the school closure debacle without mentioning who was the government at the time which decided to mortgage the future of public services to the shoddier practices of the private sector at ruinously high rates of interest because it was a wizzard wheeze that kept it of the books during their term in office. Let’s not mention which party controlled the local authority in question with its lamentable record of controlling and supervising infrastructure projects that makes the South Sea Bubble seem like a model of financial probity. If we keep schtum long enough with a bit of luck we can find an angle to blame the closures of Edinburgh schools on the Scottish Government, and then it will all be the fault of the SNP. Then order and balance will be restored to the yooniverse and all will be well.

That seems to be the attitude of the Scottish Unionist commentariat as the news of the PFI schools debacle broke, a scandal which in a normal country with a normal media would be shaping up to be a perfect storm of Labour government mendaciousness, private greed, and Labour local authority incompetence and stupidity. If no one mentions the fact that all the schools were built during Labour’s term in office in Holyrood, using a financing wheeze devised by the Tories and leapt on with avaricious glee by Gordie Broon and the Westminions, then perhaps Joe Public won’t blame the Labour party or the Tories for the lamentable state of public school buildings or the soaring debt owed by local authorities. We can’t be having a major scandal implicating the L-word party in the weeks before the Scottish parliamentary elections.

Oh wait! We’ve found the angle. According to a random Tory MSP it’s all the fault of the SNP for refusing calls for school buildings checks. Phew. That was a close one, if this had gone on much longer we might have had to mention Labour in a negative context after all, and that would have been really bad especially because if you say Labour three times the ghost of James Kelly’s career appears before you to drone on about the iniquities of SNP housing policy and bore you to death. You might think that local authorities should be the bodies responsible for checking and supervising council buildings built for the council under contracts that the council entered into, but that would mean the fault for the buildings’ shoddy construction was laid back at the door of the Labour party where it rightfully belongs, and we can’t be having that in the Scottish media.

PFI was invented by the Tories and embraced lovingly by both Labour and the Lib Dems. It was an accounting trick designed to fool voters, allowing government and local authorities to build infrastructure projects but keep them off the books temporarily. The cost was kicked down the line, costs which have been soaring. Councils which are now complaining that their budgets are being squeezed are having to devote increasing amounts of their budgets to servicing debts incurred by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories under dodgy PFI schemes, schemes which we now see were in many cases poor value for money and which delivered infrastructure which is not fit for purpose.

The debt owed by Scottish local authorities now totals almost £15 billion, which works out at over £6150 per household, compared to £3100 per home in England. Last year Scottish local authorities had to devote over £1.5 billion of their tight budgets to servicing their debts, much of which was spend in servicing their PFI payments. Having to pay so much to deal with their debts, councils are forced to borrow yet more, and end up in a vicious circle of borrowing and debt while overal budgets are squeezed as Holyrood is forced to pass on the cuts imposed on the Scottish budget by the Tory government. That’s the toxic legacy of Gordie Broon’s prudence.

That would be the same Tory government that few in Scotland voted for, that has but a single MP in Scotland, but which we have to suffer because Labour and the other Unionist parties told us we’d be better together with the UK. Nevertheless, the difficulties of local authorities still manage to be the fault of the SNP, and those Unionist controlled local authorities are the ones which howl the loudest about the problems they face due to the actions of their own parties. It’s still all the fault of the SNP though. Just because.

One of the first acts of the SNP government in 2007 was to abolish the iniquitous PFI scheme and replace it with a non-profit scheme. PFI was a get rich quick scheme for the private sector, a get poor later scheme for local government and the public purse. We’re experiencing its ill effects now. The private sector seeks to maximise profits, and if it can get away with shoddy building practices because it hasn’t been properly supervised by a Labour local authority with a history of failing to supervise infrastructure projects properly, and a history of corruption in its building works, then it’s going to cut corners and cut costs. The result are schools with walls that fall like the walls of Jericho the moment someone rings a school bell. Meanwhile 9000 Edinburgh kids are left without schooling in the run up to their exams. It’s still not the fault of Labour though. Oh no. We can’t be having that. Only one party is ever to blame for anything in Scotland. Let’s not mention the L word.

Labour and the Tories embraced PFI with the same zeal they now show in trying to disavow any responsibility for its malign results. But then they’re aided and abetted by a media which equally zealously seeks to blame the SNP for each and every ill to beset Scottish society.

This particular screw up is laid squarely at Labour’s door and that party is the one which needs to be held to account for it. The silence of the Scottish media on that score whines volumes about their dysfunctional relationship with the public.

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33 comments on “Don’t mention the L word

  1. Luigi says:

    The big, ugly L word will come out eventually (it will have to), but not until the Holyrood election has taken place. There is no way the media will touch this until the votes have been counted. Not that this self-imposed silence will do their beloved red tories any good, but they certainly don’t want to see a bona fide unionist extinction event next month.

    The best the SNP can hope for is to:

    1. Sort out the mess asap, for the sake of the kids and their families.
    2. Rebut the ridiculous spin attempt to attach some blame on the Scottish government.
    3. arrange a full inquiry when parliament reconvenes, and:
    4. Get as many activists down to Edinburgh to explain over the doorsteps what extactly was done, what is being done and who is responsible.

  2. It’s astonishing really. Built for a (Not) Labour Council under rules imposed by a (Not) Labour administration at Holyrood and dreamt up by a (Not) Labour Government in London.

    Yet not a peep anywhere on MSM about those facts.

    Absolutely astonishing really.

    When Nicola becomes First Minister again on may 6th she should immediately announce a public inquiry into all PFI schemes in Scotland and hold (Not) Labour to account for the biggest public finance rip off in history.

  3. […] Wee Ginger Dug Don’t mention the L word […]

  4. AAD says:

    Fantasy land: Gordon Brown and Jackie Baillie on a platform explaining this one away. But we are all deafened by the silence coming from them, and everybody else in the media.

  5. Iona Brand says:

    Which ‘L’ word?..

  6. annelawrie says:

    STV news briefly mentioned labour & tory in explaining PFI contracts but interviews with Ruth, Kez & Willie all managed to parrot ‘SNPbad’.

  7. Macart says:

    LABOUR don’t really do responsibility, much like they don’t do honesty, ethics, empathy, consensus or simple respect. They do however do a neat line in the role of apologists, abstainers and spin doctoring. Anything for the sake of the party and party line. Twist, spin, smear, obfuscate and deflect.

    The SNP are the party of government no question, and the responsibility for handling this farce is now their duty. The ownership of said farce however, who is responsible for its existence, is another matter entirely. If Labour had even an ounce of moral courage or ethics, they’d hold their damn hands up and offer to support the SG in any measures deemed necessary to rectify the problem. They’d at least earn some respect for shouldering their share and offering support.

    How and ever their first port of call, as per usual, is deflection, the rewriting of history, smear without substance. Its anyone’s fault but theirs. This tactic is meant to do what at this point? Is there a solution involved? No. Will it endear them to the voting electorate? No. Do they think, after all of the shit they’ve thrown at this government and the electorate over the past few years, that repeating the strategy of smear and deflection is going to result in a different outcome this time?

    You’d think they’d take the goddamn hint by this point? But apparently not. This is exactly the type of politics which has brought their party to the very edge of total irrelevance. Perhaps simply nudging them over that edge would be the kindest act at this point?

    Though a firm boot in the arse is what they deserve.

  8. Saor Alba says:

    “Do they think, after all of the shit they’ve thrown at this government and the electorate over the past few years, that repeating the strategy of smear and deflection is going to result in a different outcome this time?”

    This is basically the definition of insanity. To keep doing the same thing and getting a different result. They are not really very good learners this Labour lot. Who, in their right mind would vote for this lot.

  9. Lizzie56 says:

    It’s Labour to blame and the really awful nasty truth about it all was that bankers were the main gainers through the massive dept our councils now pay for their 30 year contracts compounding this, they will never own any of the buildings. The dept has been sold on so many times, God only knows where it lies now. PFI’s contracts were inflicted on us by labour when Blair was in power and were established for the specific reason to give bankers a lucrative income. It’s fairly disgusting.

  10. Dan Huil says:

    Boycott the rancid britnat media.

    • Dan, many of us already have. After 50 years of taking the Herald, I have given up, as have many many others.
      The Herald is a football comic now, and a Unionist propaganda pamphlet.

      I cannot understand those who continue to print Better Together Blahs as ‘journalism; perhaps following the several Nights of the Long Knives, those who made the cut are rabid Imperial British Nationalists.

      Our Dead Tree Scrolls are loss makers now, owned by SE and American based neo liberal corporations.

      The print and broadcast propaganda machine Up Here is merely viewed as an unavoidable but necessary expense to quell the natives , and I’m sure any Corporate Accountant will be writing it all off against costs.

      No , Kezia. Labour did not build schools because of the mess that the Tories left us in prior to The Great Blair Coming.
      We don’t own any of these crumbling Lego Brick constructions. Thank the Chief
      New Labour embraced Thatcherism.
      So did you too, Kezia.
      We don’t have publicly owned schools any more.
      You are NEW Labour, girl. Public Ownership is a No No.

      Peter Mandelson’s New Labour Utopia did not include Public Ownership of anything.
      PRIVATE Finance Initiative. It does what it says on the tin.

      We are tied into contracts costing billions to rent substandard jerry built shacks. We’ll never ‘own’ them.

      If walls tumbling down is not a deal breaker, I don’t know what is.
      All bets are off.

      Cancel the contracts, sue the pants off whoever bought the toxic PFI deal from Miller, borrow money at record low interest rates, build schools, which will be publicly owned, staffed by public servants paid the living wage, and tear up the notional ‘debts’ owing to the Cowboy Builders.

      Next year we will turn our guns on ‘Arms Length’ Council contracts, another New Labour /Nice Little Earner for the Boys from Labour SE.

      Somebody may go to jail for this.
      BTW, Professor Tomkins. Higher education is not a ‘privilege’.

      It is always good to be reassured that The Blue Tories are the enemies of our Social Democracy.

  11. stewartb says:

    Re your comment Paul that: “One of the first acts of the SNP government in 2007 was to abolish the iniquitous PFI scheme and replace it with a non-profit scheme.”

    This is such a big issue that I think we need to be clear about what the SNP Government actually did when it abandoned PFI and started using the Non Profit Distributing (NDP) model.

    According to the independent European PPP Expertise Centre, an initiative of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Commission and others:

    “NPD is not a ‘not for profit’ model. Its aim is rather to eliminate uncapped equity returns associated with the traditional PFI model and limit these returns to a reasonable fixed rate set in competition.”


  12. Jan Cowan says:

    Nationalize all buildings, bridges etc. built using PFI theft and start afresh……….as soon as we’re independent.

  13. David Agnew says:

    This past year I have witnessed the UK media basically mop up after Scottish labour everytime it soils itself. It went from being the “Media” to the “Official Opposition to the SNP” to the “Carping on the sidelines like that bunch of Gobshites in Scottish labour”. So in conclusion we have not only witnessed Scottish labour vanishing up its own arse, but the UK media went and did the same thing. What a difference a year makes. It’s gotten so bad – I not only opted out of the BBC but the entire UK media. They only time I am aware of their bullshit now, is when my attention is drawn to it by WGD or WIngs.

    I am waiting for the penny to drop somewhere out there in UK meedja land, that not only have they not undermined the SNP but they are now as irrelevant as the UK parties in Scotland.

    If that was the plan, then well done. Mission accomplished.

    If that was not the plan…see that painting called the Silent Scream? That’s what they’re going to be like inside when the penny finally does drop.

    • Iain Ross says:

      I am with you but there is a danger of preaching to the converted here. We can all see it but I still know plenty of people, older demographic in the main and probably the backbone of the No vote, who listen to and read with religious pity whatever message the MSM pump out.

      Their actions are creating a real fault line in our society and as somebody on the Yes side I have lost all respect for the media along with the British establishment. There is nothing they can do to build bridges back to me, it has gone too far now.

      The issue we face is the same one we faced during the referendum, how do we bypass the MSM to present the message to those No voters out there? Make no mistake they are a formidable opponent. It really is a conundrum but it needs to be sorted before any new referendum. I suspect we are going to have keeping supporting blogs like this one and The National in what is likely to be a long grind.

  14. Papadox says:

    Anybody require any more proof the yoons and their masters in Westminster are the scum of the earth and anti Scottish? These are evil people! For Christs sake kids lives were put at risk and all the yoons can think of is their own skin. Total morons.

  15. Macart says:

    The FM gave them enough rope and now the noose is about to be closed. The FM is calling for an inquiry into the school closures and the PFI scandal. There’s a difference between slow to respond and allowing your opponents time to commit to a position they cannot retreat from.

  16. Johnny come lately says:

    Everybody knows these buildings were built using PFI by the lab/libdem administration. The media and the opposition partries attempting to deflect blame just underscores the perception by most, that the media and the yoonunist opposition parties are dishonest.
    Both the media and the yoonunist parties are now indulging in self harm rituals. What was once desparation has now become self abuse.

  17. davidbsb says:

    I looked at the SFT website, and its just jargon. I understand the international jiggery pokery reasons for putting capital projects off balance sheet. I understand the PFI was a bad deal for taxpayers, and a good deal for “investors”.

    Can someone explain, in an unbiased, uncomplex fashion, how the current SFT system is better value for taxpayers?. I get that non profit is a saving, but is it so radically different than PFI?

    The state used to borrow the money and build and own the assets itself. Not always a good idea, as huge debts were written off in relation to housing – some of it demolished already – when the housing was put into housing associations and the like. Do we now own the M74 extension? or are we leasing it? Is the new bridge ours on a mortgage, or owned by a pension fund and we will just be renting it?

    There is a scandal here, but is it really over and done wae?

    • davidbsb says:

      Bite 2:

      I am a member and supporter of the SNP. I am most reluctant to raise this issue prior to an election where the PFI shambols Labour has bequeathed us may be an issue. In particular I know the Unionist biased media hate us, and will pick up on anything to discredit us.

      I have now spent an hour on websites looking to get my original question answered. And all I can discover is that SFT seems to be PFI with a lower interest rate. There is nothing transparent which leads me to suspect that we get different ownership terms. All I see trumpeted is amazing multimillion pound “savings”. I begin to wonder if those are like the amazing savings you get when you buy something you weren’t going to buy anyway but which is on special offer.

      I am intent on looking into this further, after May 5th.

  18. rockpool says:

    Labour still haven’t committed to never using PFI again. PFI debt is playing a big part in allowing neoliberal politicians in the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem parties to keep pushing for privatisation of the NHS in England, which as we know has major knock on effects for the Scottish NHS.

    Talking of major it was John Major’s government that was the first to use PFI to build the Skye Bridge. Labour should have opposed themselves to it irrevocably then. Instead Blair and Brown took PFI to levels even the Tories had never done.

    How many of the big companies that benefited from PFI were major donors to Labour in the Blair and Brown years?

    As for the BBC. Either Panorama will not make a programme about Scotland’s PFI built schools or if they do they will let the unionist parties off lightly and try to blame the current Scottish Government.

  19. John Edgar says:

    What strikes one in this whole scenario is how the msm ate becoming ” detached” from the political reality in Scotland post 2015. Their field of narrowed vision is to deal with the parties as if the SNP MPs and the SNP government did not exist. It is the denial attitude. What they seem to forget is that the public who overwhelmingly voted SNP in 2015 and appear to do same in a few weeks time are more politically savvy than before. We all know Slab and Lab were responsible for pfi et al. We are not daft any more. Despite the contortions and deceptions of the msm between September 2014 and the general election 2015, the SNP got about 50% of the vote. You would think the msm would admit defeat and start to engage openly with current Scottish trends and developments. They are hoping for normal politics to be resumed – that is the old two party Con and Lab duopoly with the Lib Dems hanging on.
    When the SNP are returned to government in May, and the Red and Blue Tories slug it out to be opposition ( that’s aspirational!), the msm commentariat from Cochrane at the Telegraph to Crichton at the Record should seek “release” . Their efforts are in vain.
    Watch this space.

  20. Norma Slimmon says:

    Spot on Wee Ginger Dug! Owen Jones has joined the ranks of the MSM sheep. He should read this

  21. John Edgar says:

    Wee update from msm AND the L- word is mentioned, I kid you not.
    Go the the Guardian, article posted by Mike Small at 13.22! Today.
    Excellent account and detail. He pulls no punches at all!! It should go viral on social media, if you are in that sort of thing.

  22. Tinto Chiel says:

    Thanks for another wonderful full spectrum attack, WGD. I still don’t know why as many as 20% are likely to vote Slab next month. This PFI crap would make a maiden aunt froth at the mouth.

    “Cancel the contracts,” said Jack Collatin. Yes, or perhaps follow Monbiot’s suggestion,

    Either way, Labour and the guilty parties amongst the contractors must pay the full price.

    And if anyone still thinks the MSM has any integrity, well………

  23. Janet says:

    And it wasn’t just the buildings that were procured via PFI, it was also the ancillary services, when all we wanted were the buildings!

    PFI was designed to make rich people richer!

  24. H R Anderson says:

    AA love this blog…. Not only dae Aa get excellent articles such as this…. The comments are priceless for further info… Thankss wee dug…😊

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