The Scottish Government has set out its programme for government for the coming year. This is the Holyrood version of the Queen’s speech in Westminster only without the fancy costumes and the Mediaevalesque traditions that were really only made up in Victorian times in order to give the proceedings an aura of historical legitimacy so no one would complain about how ludicrous they were.
In Westminster today we had the spectacle of Boris Johnson describing as a “union benefit” a hike in National Insurance which Scottish workers will also have to pay in order to cover a shortfall in England’s social care budget. Johnson claimed that a portion of the money raised will be spent on health services in Scotland, either forgetting – or more likely not caring – that health services in Scotland are devolved. So this “union benefit” is really yet another assault on the devolution settlement. For those British nationalists who say that Scotland shouldn’t look a Westminster gift horse in the mouth, this is no gift horse. Any funds disbursed to Scotland will come from taxes paid by Scotland. We pay our taxation, we pay into a pot which our own government needs to ask permission for funds & then the British Government fiscal controls to allow us to look after the best interest of our nation. If Holyrood had full powers over taxation it certainly would not choose to fund health and social care with a regressive tax the burden of which falls disproportionately on the lower paid and the poor. What Scotland is being burdened with by this Conservative Government is, as SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said, effectively a new Tory poll tax.
Boris Johnson’s new poll tax will see a regressive tax hike unfairly penalising young people, low paid workers and families. The Tories want to tax Scottish workers twice, forcing them to pay the bill for social care in England, as well as Scotland. The Conservative proposals will protect the wealth of home owners in London and the South East of England where average property values are high at the expense of the low paid, and those living in areas where property is far less valuable. It’s a classic example of robbing the poor to pay the rich. The Tories are robbing Liverpool to pay Surrey.
Meanwhile back in the land of the grown ups, well, away from the Scottish Tory benches that is, and Tess White was being very quiet today. The Holyrood event is a much more business-like affair than the Queen’s speech or the yah-boo-sucks and gaslighting which passes for debate in the chamber of the House of Commons.
Independence was given top billing in the First Minister’s speech. Poor wee Douglas Ross was full of his entirely predictable manufactured outrage because independence was mentioned in the opening paragraphs of the twenty-seven page programme for government. You’d think that the man whose own party’s campaign centred entirely on preventing a pro-independence majority in Holyrood, and which signally failed to do so, should not be all of a sudden surprised that the parties which promised another independence referendum should be committing to bringing about that independence majority which the electorate of Scotland gave them a majority in Holyrood to deliver. It’s almost as though he does not realise that the reason we voted for both SNP and Greens is so that Scotland can become independent and get away from that shit show called Westminster.
Douglas more than anyone ought to know that when the voters of Scotland looked at his party’s opposition to another referendum and decided that they were still going to elect a Scottish Parliament with the strongest pro-independence majority ever, voting instead for parties which are committed to another referendum, that there was going to be another referendum. This is a programme for independence, not a programme for government, fulminated Douglas like that was a bad thing. Douglas so badly wants people not to talk about another independence referendum that he spent almost the entirety of his ten minute rant spitting feathers about nothing else.
But then Douglas represents a party which feels no need to be bound by its manifesto commitments, or indeed by basic honesty. His boss in London was today announcing a rise in National Insurance in order to pay for the rising costs of social care in England despite the Conservative manifesto in the December 2019 General Election explicitly promising that a Conservative government would not raise taxes, including National Insurance, in order to pay for social care in England. The SNP is actually committing itself to keeping a manifesto commitment, unlike the Tories who regard manifesto commitments as becoming expired the second that they get into power.
I have to confess that I switched off the telly when the self-important void that is Alex Cole-Hamilton got up to speak, figuring that I wasn’t going to miss anything relevant or interesting, or indeed coherent.
Much to the disgust of Douglas Ross, and probably the Alex-Cole -Hamilton shaped void if I had been listening the First Minister affirmed that there will be another independence referendum in the first half of this Parliament, which means it will take place before the end of 2023, She stressed that the “democratic mandate to decide the country’s future is beyond question”. It is a shocking indictment of the lack of respect for the electorate displayed by the Conservatives and their fellow travellers that the First Minister even needs to spell out what the entire country knows this Scottish Parliament was given its pro-independence majority to do.
She also said that the Scottish Government have restarted preparations for the detailed prospectus to be put forward in that second independence referendum campaign. This will not be a Brexit style referendum where the people are effectively being asked to sign a blank cheque. Brexit,the pandemic, and the urgency of the climate crisis have changed everything, that’s why the prospectus for independence must be built anew. The prospectus detailed in the White Paper in 2014 is now a historical document.
We can now look forward to detailed proposals which will undercut the favourite attack points of the British nationalists. When the next independence referendum takes place we will be campaigning from a position of strength and confidence. No wonder Douglas Ross is raging.
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