As the Scottish Referendum approaches, I find myself increasingly irritated by the political spin presented by both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns. This is an example of something I think is particularly dishonest.
A persuasive argument put forward by the SNP is that independence means that Scotland will get the government it votes for. The point is continually made that Conservative governments have been imposed on Scotland for many years although Scottish voters have not elected a majority of Tory MPs since the 1950s. To my mind, this argument is the most compelling reason for voting ‘yes’ in the forthcoming referendum.
Alongside the argument for independence is the spin that independence will mean that Scotland can create a ‘fairer society’, with the implication that this will benefit poorer members of society, although those making the argument are very careful to avoid making any hard commitments here. There is also the implication that current politicians are the best people to deliver this ‘fairer society’ after independence and policies such as the abolition of university fees and prescription charges are contributors to this.
The SNP’s PR have done a good job here in convincing people of their ‘fairness’ credentials but if we look a bit deeper, what we see are policies that benefit the salaried middle classes rather than poorer members of our society. The SNP have their roots in areas that were previously Tory and the epithet ‘Tartan Tories’ is, I believe still valid. Here are some examples of middle-class policies:
1. Freezing of council tax. The more expensive your home, the more you save. Funded by cutting council services many of which are predominantly used by the old, sick and disabled. Benefit claimants did not pay council tax anyway so they gain nothing from this. This policy has been copied in England by the current coalition government.
2. Abolition of university fees. Universities are dominated by middle class students so the savings accrue mostly to them and their parents. Funded by cutting college places that are mostly taken up by students from poorer backgrounds. In England there has been some (not enough) targeting of funding to poorer students.
3. Abolition of prescription charges. Only 10% of people paid prescription charges and most of them could afford to do so. Loss of revenue to the health service that could be used to improve healthcare in general.
4. Reducing corporation tax (a stated SNP policy in an independent Scotland). Predominantly will benefit business owners, many of whom may not even live in Scotland.
You may or may not be in favour of these policies but it is dishonest to suggest that these policies are contributors to a fairer society. The current SNP government has penalised the poor and those on benefits to try to preserve the incomes of the salaried middle classes. This may be a good political strategy but it certainly isn’t fair.
Of course, independence is not about re-electing the current Government although I imagine they will reinvent themselves as an alternative political party in the event of a ‘yes’ vote. Perhaps they will be the new ‘Scottish Conservatives’?
Disclaimer: I am a home owner and require regular medication, which I no longer pay for, so I have benefited from the current Scottish government policies.