Friday 28 September 2012

Labour's proposed Council Tax rise

So, when Johann Lamont raised her bugle to her lips and sounded the clarion call for the people to rally to her flag she talked about ending the Council Tax freeze.  Let's play with numbers:

The money allocated by the Scottish Government to fund the council tax freeze is £420 million this year.  Council tax brings in about £2 billion a year.  That means that just to cover the money that the Scottish Government currently provides to fund the freeze councils would have to raise Council Tax by 21%.

But that's not all, of course, because she's talking about Scotland's councils needing more money - money that she thinks they can raise from the Council Tax - on top of the 21% rise just to pay for ending the freeze.  25% jump in one year, maybe?  30%?

I think Johann Lamont should be telling us just how big a Council Tax rise she's planning.

Monday 24 September 2012

Who's obsessed by independence?

Here's something; the Scottish Affairs Committee is one of only two Westminster Committees with an opposition majority on it (the other being the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee).  A chance for this Labour-led committee to make a difference, to challenge Conservative and Lib Dem policies for their effects on Scotland, to stand up for their constituents, then.  Since the UK 2010 election, two and a bit years ago, the reports of the Scottish Affairs Committee have been:

1st report - Postal Services in Scotland completed in December 2010
2nd Report - Video games industry in Scotland completed in February 2011
3rd Report - UK Border Agency and Glasgow City Council completed in February 2011
4th Report - The Scotland Bill completed in March 2011

Then the SNP won a majority in the Scottish Parliament election in May 2011:

5th Report - Student Immigration System In Scotland completed in July 2011 (begun in March - before Scottish Parliament election)
6th Report - The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Unanswered Questions completed February 2012
7th Report - The Crown Estate in Scotland completed  March 2012 (begun in January 2011 - before Scottish Parliament election)
8th Report - The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Do you agree this is a biased question? completed May 2011
2nd report - The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: making the process legal August 2012
3rd Report - The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: a multi-option question? August 2012
1st Report - A Robust Grid for 21st Century Scotland August 2012

The referendum inquiry is still going on but there's no sign of any inquiry into how UK Government policies on welfare cuts are going to affect Scots, how rises in fuel duties affect rural Scottish communities, how the squeezing of the Scottish budget is constricting Scottish governance, nothing at all.  The Scottish Affairs Committee's remit, according to its own website, is clear "The Scottish Affairs Committee is appointed to examine the  administration, policy and expenditure of the Scotland Office and relations with the Scottish Parliament. It also looks at the administration and expenditure of the Advocate General for Scotland."  There's an inquiry into Health and Safety in Scotland but nothing on the effects of Osborne's budgets on Scotland, the austerity cuts, whether funding shovel ready projects and encouraging capital investment would help the Scottish economy, the impact of the Strategic Defence and Security Review on Scotland, the impact of disability cuts in Scotland, the delay in Renewables Obligation Certificates by the UK government, or the damaging impact of the UK's electricity transmission charging scheme.

Just as well they've got a Scottish party looking out for Scottish interests, then, with Johann Lamont who has claimed several times that constitutional politics don't interest her and she doesn't want to get involved in it; she wants to talk about the real issues which matter to real people, about social justice, and so on.  She became Labour leader on the 17th of December 2011 and asked her first question at First Minister's Questions (FMQs) on the 22nd of December.  She asked about child protection (the Declan Hainey case had finished its proceedings in the courts a few days beforehand).

Things went downhill a bit after the New Year, though, on the 12th of January it was independence she asked about; unemployment on the 19th with only a wee mention of independence, and it was back to all independence on the 26th.  Into February and it's independence she asks about on the 2nd, Forth bridge on the 9th with a bit of protectionism thrown in, and unemployment and independence on the 23rd.

By March she was obviously warming to the theme; on the 1st she wanted to know what Salmond had spoken to Rupert Murdoch about but couldn't resist slipping into the independence referendum, on the 8th the subject matter was independence, on the 15th it was childcare costs with only two passing mentions of independence, on the 22nd it was the NHS blankets story that turned out to not be true, and on the 29th it was education - and the referendum.  See, she really does detest constitutional politics.

April, racing on! 19th it was Doosan and the referendum, and on the 26th it was back to Murdoch but no constitutional references this time (I near fell awa!).  On May 2nd it was Murdoch again and only a tangential reference to independence through quoting the FM, on the 10th it was the local election results and the referendum, 17th it was child protection, 24th it was independence, 31st it was independence.  On the 7th of June it was independence again, and on the 14th back to Murdoch, 21st it was independence and on the 28th it was independence.

Maybe after the summer recess there would be a change in subject matter?  Well, 6th September it was independence again, on the 13th it was independence again, and on the 20th it was Freedom of Information.

So, in her 26 appearances at FMQs Johann Lamont has talked about independence 19 times, Rupert Murdoch 4 times, child protection twice, unemployment twice, education once, the NHS once, election results once, poverty not at all, policing not at all, engagement with Europe not at all, the effectiveness of Scottish Government economic plans not at all.  She's expressed more interest in Rupert Murdoch than any of the substantive issues facing Scots today and she seems to be as obsessed with independence as Ian Davidson.

The funny thing is that they accuse us of being obsessed with the constitution...