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The SNP budget and Labour dog whistles

November 16, 2007

The SNP released their budget a few days ago. As expected, they won’t be able to meet all their election promises – but is it their fault, or the fault of the Unpopular Front?

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, handled the bad news skillfully: on the same day, he announced that Scotland would be independent in 10 years, thus dominating the headlines and shifting criticism of the budget to the inside pages.

The opposition parties, of course, have pounced on Salmond. From the same article:

Labour claimed that “Alex Salmond has finally shown his true colours”. Cathy Jamieson, the party’s deputy leader, said: “Since becoming First Minister, Alex Salmond has made breaking up Britain his priority – not health, education or law and order. Support for independence continues to fall, yet the SNP seem determined to try and create the fights they think will separate Scotland from the rest of the UK.”

Break up Britain: this is exactly the kind of dog whistle that gets the hounds in the tabloids howling, and it is a tactic that Labour increasingly rely on.
Here’s Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander:

“He has sat there sneering and laughing at the way the people of Scotland have been cynically let down.

“Time and time again, you have asserted in this place that you would keep your promises. You have not done so – parliament and the people have been misled.”

“This is more than broken promises, it is a breach of trust.”

This from a party that joined George Bush in Iraq, against the express wish of its constituents? That wants to lock up terror suspects, without trial, for longer and longer periods? The party that has introduced the surveillance society and invested billions in nuclear weapons?

It’s also disgustingly dishonest. There are two major reasons the SNP haven’t been able to fulfill their election promises:

One, the Scottish Government doesn’t have tax raising powers, and relies on pocket money from Labour-controlled Westminster. The amount made available for Scotland was rather less than expected this year.

Two, the SNP are leading a minority government, and the Unpopular Front – the unholy alliance between the Lib Dems, Labour and Tories – undermines everything they try to do.

For instance, Edinburgh’s new tram system will chew up £500 million. The SNP opposed it, on the grounds that Edinburgh already has an effective public transport system, and that this was just another expensive vanity project for the capital.

But they lost the vote, and Edinburgh is getting trams.

So the Unpopular Front undermines the SNP, and then attacks them for failing.

That’s what you’d expect from politics, but what I find really distasteful is the media bias towards the Labour party. Even the BBC – which has had to formerly apologise for this in the past – gave finance minister John Swinney a grilling over the budget without acknowledging the sabotaging by the other parties.

Time for a Scottish broadcaster.

This is what I find most disgusting:

I get the strong impression that Labour would rather see Scotland fail so that they can blame it on the SNP than see the country succeed and be forced to give credit. And so they will undermine any attempt to build up the confidence of the people in their own political processes. They fact that they would rather form an alliance with the Right wing Tories than the Left of centre SNP says it all.

The Scots have notoriously low self-esteem. It’s called the Scottish cringe, and it comes from being dominated for 300 hundreds by a larger and wealthier neighbour. Labour have relied on this, and focused their campaign on the idea that “poor wee Scotland can never make it on her own”.

Personally, I think it’s this kind of negativity that turned people off Labour, along with the fact that they were blatantly putting the needs of their party in Westminster before the needs of Scottish people.

I am not an SNP supporter and I have certainly never voted for them. But they have a confidence in Scotland that is really refreshing, and their term in office has been marked by a new optimism.

If by some miracle Scotland beat Italy this Saturday, they’ll be made.

The SNP are an interesting party. They are clearly to the Left of Labour, and they are not nationalists in the racial sense but rather in the sense of supporting local democracy – why should decisions affecting Scots be made in London? Their vision of Scottish identity is civic rather than racial, as evidenced by the large amount of support they get from Scottish Asians.

Here’s a Communist view:

The SNP has never claimed to be socialist or to represent working people in terms of their class interests. On the other hand, it does seek to represent a country that is overwhelmingly working class in composition and where the great bulk of capital is owned externally.

I think that sums it up quite well. The SNP has realised that Scots tend to be working class and Left of centre, and have shifted accordingly. They are also attracting some of the brightest stars in Scottish politics – I’ve just learned that one of my favourite bloggers, Osama Saeed, is their new Westminster candidate for Glasgow Central.

I’d vote for the man, not the party – you can join his Facebook group here.

All in all. an interesting time in Scottish politics, and a welcome change from the stagnant cronyism of the past.

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