Thursday 12 September 2013

Labour's lies and the liars without shame

The Bedroom Tax Lie
More than a week ago Labour boasted of its 'action' on the Bedroom Tax, Jackie Baillie repeated that she was bringing forward a Bill to end evictions for these arrears.  We've seen what Labour's actual action on the bedroom tax is, and we know how confused Labour is over it, but let's leave that aside for the moment and remember JaBa's Bill, this legislation so fiercely touted.

Labour politicians have been seeking to put pressure on SNP politicians by demanding they support the Bill.  Their Deputy Leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, even brandished a copy of the Bill during the STV with Nicola Sturgeon, demanding that the DFM sign the Bill there and then.  AnSa, it would appear, let his spin-doctors' sense of the dramatic cloud his better judgement.  There's a bit of a problem with this Bill, though.

It doesn't exist.

As of 19.20 on the 12th of September 2013 it does not appear in the list of current Bills on the Scottish Parliament website.  Some may say "but it's a proposed Bill" but then I'd have to direct you to the list of proposals for Member's Bills which also, quite clearly, lacks any Bill of that description.  No Bill exists nor does a proposal nor even a draft proposal.  That is a cruel deception played by Labour, to pretend to care, to suggest there may be succour and hope for those currently being affected by the Bedroom Tax and those who will be affected by the Bedroom Tax in the future.

While JaBa and AnSa take their comfortable salaries and go home at night safe in the knowledge that the roofs over their heads are likely to stay there, they appear to find no compassion for those who are really facing the effects of this policy.

The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the effects of this UK Government policy and SNP councils the length and breadth of Scotland are doing what they can for the people affected and none of them are claiming it's a full solution.  Labour's lies in this instance are cruel beyond belief.

The smear at FMQs
That indication of how low Labour politicians are prepared to stoop is, perhaps, the worst, but any idea we might have had that this was not going to be a tactic used by many Labour politicians was dashed today at First Minister's Questions in Holyrood.  The transcription is in a pdf but will be up on the site in the normal way tomorrow.

Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland (except Falkirk, apparently), Johann Lamont, asked about a deal where land had been bought for the proposed Glasgow Airport Rail Link and later sold after GARL was cancelled.  JoLa's contention was that there was something dodgy going on.

The land had been bought from a businessman, Mr John McGlynn for £840,000, according to JoLa, and sold back to him later for £50,000, giving him a £790,000 profit and she inferred that it had been a dirty deal.  Here's a direct quote from her -
The land was bought in 2008 for £840,000 from a businessman called John McGlynn, who was then a donor to the Scottish Conservative Party. Since then, of course, Mr McGlynn has been on something of a political journey; he now supports the yes campaign. Since then, he has been appointed to the Scottish Government national economic forum and he has bought back the land from the Scottish Government for £50,000 and made a profit of £790,000. Is there some connection here or has Mr McGlynn just benefited from the First Minister’s gross incompetence with public funds?

She later made sure that there was no mistaking her allegation -
the Scottish Government bought the land for £840,000; it was signed off by the Scottish ministers; and the Scottish Government then sold the land for £50,000
and -
how does the First Minister justify buying a piece of land for £840,000 and then selling it back to the person he bought it from for just £50,000?
and -
Can the First Minister explain to them either why the issue has nothing to do with him or how he managed to buy a piece of land with their money for £840,000 and sell it for just £50,000?

By 5 o'clock Mr McGlynn was demanding an apology for the slur, Herald political journalist Tom Gordon had discovered a document showing that the land had been bought by Labour councillors on Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, and it had become clear that Labour had already been told this during the answer to the first question of General Questions last week.  Here is an excerpt from last week's questioning -

Mark Griffin: ... the last plot of Glasgow airport rail link land was sold back to the original owner for £50,000, which, at almost £800,000 less than they were originally paid, highlights the folly of the Government’s scorched-earth policy on GARL. What cumulative loss was made by the Government in disposing of land that had been purchased for the GARL project?
Keith Brown: First, I welcome Mark Griffin to his new position. I also congratulate him on his engagement over the summer.

Mark Griffin’s question has a fundamental flaw. The land that was purchased that he mentioned was initially purchased by Strathclyde partnership for transport, not by the Government, although the Government subsequently bought it from SPT. He might wish to address some questions to SPT about that.

So Labour's leader knew what the truth was - or should have, if she had taken the trouble to ask her Transport spokesman - and still made the allegation.  JoLa was trying to score petty political points but, in doing so, she make serious allegations about the conduct of Scottish Government Ministers and the First Minister in particular when she knew that there was no substance to them whatsoever.

That is something that politicians might be expected to accept as being part of the job in the rough and tumble of politics - although it shouldn't be - but her equal implied attack on Mr McGlynn who was not in Parliament to defend himself had no such justification.  It was shameful and shoddy.

JoLa, JaBa and AnSa have shown once again over the past week that they are not fit to hold public office.  They may not be in Ministerial office, they may not have any power, but opposition is also laden with responsibility and those offices should also be held with honour.  People who are not prepared to act with honour have no place in our democracy, they should all think on their recent actions.

JoLa as leader of the opposition, though, should shoulder more responsibility than most and, given that she has so spectacularly failed, she should resign.  I don't expect her to do so, nor do I expect any of them to consider their behaviour; they have no shame.


Anonymous said...

Excellent article Calum.

Just to add to the land -deal that JoLa harked on about in Holyrood, it appears to me that during this time a certain Archie Graham was involved at a significant level within SPT - so possibly she could have saved herself the public embarrassment and just asked her husband over the dinner table.

Keith Brown's full response to mark Griffin's question last week included the full details of the land deal which really should be read in full. Brown's response is available here:

Stravonian said...

It appears from the SPT minute and some of the later press coverage that SPT did not buy a piece of land - they bought a company called Airlink Security Parking Limited. The operation of this company was apparently transferred to another site and the cost of that operation is included in the £840,000.

If that is the case, there is no relationship between the figure of £840,000 and the value of the land when sold.

Lamont has questions to answer about misleading the parliament - and about not declaring the involvement of her husband in buying the site - hopefully she will be called to account for this shambolic incident.

There'll be a few of the young guns looking at her as pretty much dead woman walking.

Stravonian said...

Noted from later coverage that Archie landed in the SPT expenses lake too late to have been involved in buying the site - but she might have asked him for his thoughts before revealing her total ignorance.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good smear story.

MajorBloodnok said...

The GARL Act 2007 is explicit in defining how 'compensation' for land required to construct GARL would be arrived at, based on the value of land and the costs of any business having to relocate, for example. As the 'Authorised Undertaker' SPT was required to make those deals as laid out in the Act.

An important consideration was that the land could only be purchased if it was to be used for GARL. It couldn't be bought under the powers of the Act and then used for some other sort of speculative development.

Therefore, when Transport Scotland subsequently took over from SPT as the Authorised Undertaker (as it did with the Edinburgh Trams and other major transportation projects various (mainly Labour) Councils had started) and the Scottish Government decided that GARL would not go ahead on cost grounds (how much did that save the country?!) then TS had no choice but to sell the land at auction.

The fact that McGlynn happended to buy it back again in the depths of a recession after selling at the peak is neither here nor there, unless of course he was grossly overpaid in the first place, and of course that would be for SPT (and Councillor Watson) to explain and not Alex Salmond or the current SNP administration, which wasn't in control of SPT or in government at the time the original deal was struck.