Real anti-austerity politics have finally landed in Scotland


Kezia Dugdale Alex Rowley

At last voters in Scotland will have a real choice at the ballot box.

Scottish Labour’s policy to stop cuts to schools and local services by setting the Scottish rate of income tax 1 penny higher than George Osborne has challenged the SNP to put their money where their mouth is.

The response from the SNP has been revealing. Faced with the choice of using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop cuts to schools and local services the SNP choose to endorse the tax plans of George Osborne rather than do things differently.

In what felt like no time at all SNP Ministers have adopted Tory language and rhetoric around tax and public services. Labour’s plans to stop cuts were a ‘tax raid’ and a ‘tax hike’.

Humza Yousaf, the normally smooth talking SNP Minister who does a good line in progressive posturing claimed that the huge cuts to Glasgow City Council’s budget were something that could be mitigated with that old mantra of ‘efficiency savings’

But what has been unsurprising is the SNP’s attempt to spin their way out of a difficulty choice on progressive values. We’ve been here before.

When Scottish Labour brought forward plans to mitigate the impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland the SNP claimed it could not be done through devolution. They were wrong.

In a moment of uncharacteristic rashness John Swinney let the cat out of the bag why – in the years before the referendum he did not want to ‘let Westminster off the hook.”

How utterly shameful.

Just months ago, as Scottish Labour outlined how restore the money lost from tax credit cuts in Scotland the SNP attacked it as unworkable- only to be proven wrong in an absolutely shambolic Holyrood debate.

Because for the SNP the politics always trumps actually solving the problem. For Labour our values will always take us to a different place.

As we announced our new candidates last weekend I have never known our activist base so united and so enthused. I’ve never known them so proud to see their party taking a stand in doing the right thing.

The other point of this of course is fiscal credibility. As more powers over tax and spending come to the Scottish Parliament parties will have to lay out how they will pay for their promises.

The Scottish electorate is one of the most, if not the most, politically engaged in the world. They will not be taken for fools. Labour has said that we stop cuts to schools and public services and what is more we have clearly explained how we would pay for it.

Commentary around the new powers coming to Scotland has invariably focused on fiscal choices arriving in Holyrood, There is another side to this – it means real anti-austerity politics has arrived in Scotland. Making promises and then blaming a lack of powers is no longer credible.

Labour activists can be confident taking our message to the doorsteps around Scotland. Faced with a difficult choice between cutting our children’s future and using the powers of the Scottish Parliament we choose to use our powers.

It’s a choice you can make when you are willing to be bold and radical, not a timid triangulating Government which seeks to be all things to all Scots

It’s now time for the SNP to lay out their plans, and be honest with the people of Scotland.

Alex Rowley is Scottish Labour Deputy Leader and Campaign Manager for the Holyrood 2016 campaign.

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