Democracy or deferral? The SNP’s Reluctant Radicalism

4176_0fdbOn Wednesday two front pages summed up the uncanny effect that the Scottish National Party, now gathering for its party conference in Aberdeen, has had on Scottish public life. The Spectator ran with a feature by aspiring Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins casting Nicola Sturgeon as the sinister ruler of a ‘one party state.’ Meanwhile the National, the pro-SNP paper that launched shortly after last year’s referendum, offered readers a colouring-in page featuring Scotland’s 56 SNP MPs.

The absurdity of both these visions of a party at the height of its powers – the fanzine glee and hysterical caricature – is a reminder that Scottish public life is often self-consciously immature. Then again, Scottish politics has had a lot of growing up to do in a very short space of time.

The most basic fact that any student of contemporary Scotland needs to understand is that Scottish politics has been moving at an astonishing pace over the last decade. Only five years ago Scotland inhabited a different political epoch – the SNP’s position as the insurgent party was far from secure. Indeed, until the final weeks of the 2011 Scottish Parliament election campaign it seemed possible that the party’s time at the helm of devolved government would be a brief footnote. The notion that Holyrood would serve primarily as an expression of the country’s unshakable loyalty to Labour rule was still widespread.

The SNP played a marginal role in the 2010 general election, failing to make any gains and running a lacklustre campaign that betrayed a lack of confidence and vision. Jim Murphy (who would later fail so lamentably to revive Labour’s fortunes in May 2015) suggested on election night, ‘This is the day that the Scottish public have said “No more”, to the SNP, “we’ve had you in power for these years, you’re a novelty that’s worn off.”’ Within a year, all of that had changed.

Premised on a solid record of delivering populist universalism in health and education, the SNP’s success in 2011 was based on a pitch that the party was the most solid and competent potential administration on offer. After four precarious years as a nimble minority government this offer seemed both credible and appealing. It was seen to enshrine the kind of politics ‘middle Scotland’ was prepared to lap up, consensus driven, centre-left, pro-business. It also played well with the bastions of power in the Scottish establishment too. Those capable of kicking up a fuss in Scotland’s mighty public sector unions and civic institutions were, on the whole, placated.

What no one predicted was the astonishing scale of the SNP’s triumph in 2011. Its success at totally eviscerating Labour’s heartlands seemed so sudden and thorough, its victory so total, that the election represented a pivotal moment of release. It was, in an entirely unforeseen manner, a profoundly radical event. Those unconvinced by the party’s offer have consistently failed to offer up any form of credible opposition ever since.

With the transformative experience of last year’s independence referendum now the subject of wildly divergent histories, the present role of the SNP is becoming weighed down by the pressures of its own contradictions. To think of these tensions purely in ideological terms is to miss the point. Instead, the problem relates to the dual role the party has set for itself. On the one hand, as by far the most powerful organisation within the loosely defined ‘Yes movement’ it can lay claim to the kind of broad based insurgent status of anti-austerity parties in southern Europe. On the other – it remains a moderate, awkwardly centrist, party of devolved government – coping with the inevitable scandals of office and trading performance stats about public services and economic growth with its rivals.

The SNP’s success at the ballot box has, perhaps perversely, hobbled its ability to push at the boundaries of devolved government through radical reform. This problem is familiar to many parties with a strong mandate. As David Runciman observed of majority governments, ‘They are not more decisive. They are just more biddable.’

Of course, the remarkable discipline that the SNP has shown for the best part of a decade is made possible due to its ultimate goal of independence. Thus far, this has allowed the not insignificant ideological differences within its ranks to only rarely make a public appearance. Yet as the party’s record becomes the subject of more scrutiny this serene picture seems somewhat less tenable.

How, we might ask, does a party representing the country’s mega-rich in Aberdeenshire square its priorities with the dire need for radical change in the former mining towns of Fife and North Lanarkshire? Uniformly, the referendum result saw a Yes vote align with areas of notoriously low life expectancy. In these communities a generation has grown up knowing only the bitter legacy of deindustrialization – taxpayer funded prescription charges and university education can only do so much. Without massive structural economic changes the collapse of British social democracy in central Scotland will remain a far more relevant feature of people’s lives than any fledgling Scottish alternative.

This then is the ultimate choice facing the current party of government in Scotland. Can it take the creativity and radicalism marshaled during the referendum and put it to work in transforming those areas that cried out the loudest for independence? Or will the promise of independence actually become a means to defer any form of radical change?

The nature of devolution is crucial to understanding the ambiguity that frames this choice. With no macroeconomic powers available to the Scottish Government, ideology operates at a remove from party politics. Essentially, the SNP’s triangulation is embedded in the constitutional set up itself. The party’s political reflex is to contrast any failings with the loathed, nuke-toting, overlords in London. But if the radicalism within its ranks is primarily expressed through ultimately futile oppositional efforts at Westminster (against Osborne’s budgets and Trident renewal) it risks repeating the mistakes of Scottish Labour in its anti-Thatcher heyday.

However, the blatant fiscal trap that has been set by the Conservative government, primarily through the devolution of income tax rates, suggests that next year’s Scottish Parliament election will be fought along more traditional left/right lines. With current polls showing only a marginal difference between Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives, it seems likely that the latter party will become the de facto opposition. The issue of whether the SNP decides to use those additional tax powers to fund its progressive aspirations will become definitive.

The pursuit of social justice must always involve complex political choices. That much is inescapable. On progressive issues recently highlighted by the SNP such as land reform, housing and local government taxation, there is still the possibility of radical change. Yet in a small country even the most powerful of governments must constantly navigate a packed field of lobbyists and vested interests. The watered down proposals within the party’s Land Reform Bill, which have now been so clearly and vociferously rejected on the conference floor, offers a clear demonstration that the party cannot take its radicalised activist base for granted.

So there still remains a glimmer of promise that the SNP’s massive new membership could focus its attention on achieving a combination of radical measures internal to Scotland. If the party was bold enough to devolve more powers from Holyrood, and reverse its instinctive desire to centralise, it could demonstrate it is serious about the business of transformation. It might do so by responding to widespread calls to significantly expand Scotland’s tiny number of local authorities. The average Scottish local authority contains 165,000 citizens compared with around 5,000 in the EU. This remains one of the most glaring anomalies about the way the country is governed and it is entirely within the SNP’s power to change it. If such a move was combined with the implementation of a progressive outcome from the Scottish Government’s Commission on Local Tax Reform, the ideal of a far more autonomous and democratic country could start to be realised in practice.

It still seems possible that the SNP might attempt to transcend the iniquities present at a UK level by resolving to use its unprecedented mandate to change Scotland from below. The party clearly knows how to harness the energy of mass democratic participation to win elections, that much is self-evident. The more prescient question is whether it can channel this energy into the work of transforming Scotland, now.

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  1. GreatBigHoo says:

    “Transforming Scotland”.

    What does that MEAN?

    Mhairi Black (MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South) and others say that only Independence can and will bring about “a better society”, “the kind of society that Scotland deserves”, “give Scotland what it needs and deserves” and so on.

    What does that MEAN?

    Serious question – I’d like one independence supporter to set out precisely what this actually means, i.e. what kind of society will it be? Will it be:

    Socialism? (Mhairi Black is a socialist). Let’s be VERY clear about what Socialism is. Socialism is where the commanding heights of the economy (from which money and therefore all things flow) are owned and controlled by the State. This of course is a failed model abandoned by advanced western liberal democracies on account of it bringing almost universal misery and suffering everywhere its been tried. (Yes, state regulated capitalism crashed in 2008, though it is on the mend, but lots of people suffered. But the suffering arising from a crash in state regulated capitalism is nothing compared to the suffering caused by Socialism).

    Social democracy? Social democracy is what we have now in the UK. A regulated capitalist economy providing free at the point of delivery universal healthcare, education and a welfare state. It might not be ‘social democratic’ enough for some people, but that is what we have. Tweaking that social democracy would see some differences, but essentially you’d be sliding across quite a short part of the spectrum. Scottish social democracy involves lots of hand-outs, like free university education, where all benefits accumulate with the well off. This is achieved by salami slicing the genuinely universal stuff like health and education, and blaming ‘Westminster’ for ‘savage Tory cuts’. How would an independent Scottish social democracy really be any different to the UK?

    Low tax, low regulation, free-market, decentralised economy?

    Low tax, low regulation, small state, free market economy retaining some centralised control, where the plan is attracting and generating new business at such a scale that tax take is maintained or actually increased to fund ever-expanding public servives and spending? (No-one believes this b*llocks of course, it’s been theorised but never actually achieved in the history of the world, ever)

    Some kind of economic sorcery? e.g. we keep hearing about how if only the Scottish Government only had control of many ‘levers’ (rubber levers, in reality) then an economic miracle the likes of which the world has literally never seen will occur, outstripping the performance of the world’s strongest and most successful economies by many factors.

    My own view is that these statements mean nothing at all. Or in another way they mean everything and anything. Because the SNP are ‘standing up for Scotland’, are ‘Stronger for Scotland’ and ‘won’t have Scotland being talked down’ (and other endless appeals to emotion) the faithful believe that they will be able to have their (insert utopia of choice here). And furthermore, the different choices of utopia held by different people will be capable of being created and sustained – all at once.

    A kind of tartan polyverse.

    “a better society”, “the kind of society that Scotland deserves”, “give Scotland what it needs and deserves”.

    WHAT IS IT? What does it look like?

    ps I’m Scottish btw, and would be happy to see Scottish Independence, before you get started with the ‘you are an evil corrupt neoliberal MSM brainwashed unionist shill who hates our freedom’ etc.

    pps If you’re going to start with the ‘even if we tried to explain it to you, you are a neoliberal MSN brainwashed unionist corrupt shill and you hate our freedom so you wouldn’t understand anyway’ stuff, don’t waste your, my or anyone else’s time.

    1. Terence says:

      It’s not rocket science ? What does it mean ? Are you for real ? It means Independence for Scotland ,there will be no transformation until we are independent and make our own decisions and run our own country making and amending laws as required.Once independent the people will vote for a government and that government will transform Scotland .The kind of society we have will be different and will change and mould itself to one that can survive and develop with the economy we build ,it will take time and several governments as the people push politics in the direction the majority of voters want.There will be no hiding in a small government like ours unlike Westminster where there are politicians we have never heard of or voted for.We will have the government we choose and the country and economy we build.Im looking forward to it ,there will be tough decisions to be made and great complex discussions about what we want but it will our choice our discussion ,England and Westminster will not be controlling us and our country and resources anymore ,hallelujah.

    2. Stu says:

      What a fantastic, articulate response to the usual hatred that you are subjected to when questioning what the SNP really want to do. I too am fed up with their bluster. I am not a Labour supporter. I am not a Tory. I am not a Lib Dem. I am totally unbiased. But I can’t see a lot from the SNP that has any actual substance.

      1. Carntyne says:

        Don’t vote for them.

        Simple!

        There is no such thing as a perfect political party.

        I vote SNP in the hope Scotland will achieve independence.

        I firmly believe we are more than capable of running our own country, certainly more efficiently than our current Westminster overlords to whom Scotland is nothing more than an afterthought.

    3. James Coleman says:

      Since you don’t clearly state what your political views are we must assume from your writings that you are at least a neo-con. And in a centre left state always demanding of others the answers to problems which have many solutions, but never providing any solutions yourself. A dog barking at a tree because although it knows the tree is there it doesn’t know why, so makes plenty of noise to show its displeasure. Come back when you have had a think and can provide a few answers yourself.

      1. Gordon Adam says:

        As the article states, the SNP has to keep its appeal vague to keep everyone on side. It’s a party that’s managed to gain support from people as diverse as big business interests and the radical left, but whatever platform you push you can’t keep all of those people together unless there’s some common goal at the end of it (i.e. independence).

        As such at times it can be quite difficult to get a straight answer out of the party on key policy questions. If we were independent would we raise income tax, for instance? Any socialist worth their salt would likely tell you that you can’t solve inequality without a progressive income tax capable of meaningful redistribution from the rich to the poor, yet many in the SNP seem to instinctively favour tax freezes/cuts, partly because they’re popular with the electorate. Alternatively are the SNP a Green party? They appear to be when it comes to funding renewables, yet in other areas they prioritise business interests over the environment (oil, road building, air tax, possibly in the future fracking given their reluctance to push for an outright ban).

        I think the key point here is that nobody agrees on all of these issues. They are by their very nature controversial because they’re distributive and produce winners and losers whatever you do. It seems to me that about 90% of political discussion in Scotland now revolves around the SNP as a party rather than policy issues. Almost as if the debate has become “are you pro-SNP or anti-SNP?” rather than “how do you think the country should be run?” I’m not sure that’s a positive thing for our democracy.

        1. Andy S says:

          Gordon, I understand your valid point about being pro or anti SNP not necessarily good for our democracy, but you can hardly blame the SNP for not having any credible opposition, can you? I think that that is the crux of the problem here everyone knows that politically you only say what you are certain you can deliver (at least if you want to be successful) if you have a strong opposition then you have to be specific with your policies, but if the opposition are AWOL it makes sense to be “woolly” and lack real detail. By following this approach you don’t fall short and you don’t do the opposition’s job for them, democracy in Scotland today has the SNP, 3 Unionist parties that are all toxic because of how they have acted in word and deed towards Scotland over varying periods of time and to various levels, the Greens (who should get more support than they do), the far right Kippers who’s policies are too far removed from the majority of socialist leaning Scotland to be a credible force and finally a number of far left socialist parties that manage to fight when there is only one member in the room. Given that landscape it is difficult to blame the SNP for leaving out much of the detail, I’m a party activist and I’d like to see more debate at conference to give the general public more detail in many areas. Having said that it’s not easy to debate when Gideon hasn’t given us any details of our budget and “Fluff” Mundell can make up his mind what he want’s to put in the Scotland bill.

    4. dean clark says:

      What I take it to mean is what everybody wants… Fairness. It is fine that companies make money, that is their function and in theory it provides tax. What is happening under our curent system however is that we have mega corporations deciding such things as how much tax they will pay or having a say on government policy. They are stifling all competition and in general contributing very little to the majority of mankind. The insane amounts of money these companies bring in shouldn’t be concentrated in the pockets of individuals, relying on them becoming philanthropists, it should be put to use improving everyones lot. You say socialism is a failed venture but you are simply putting a label on to a particular episode in history and saying “that’s it, it can’t work as it’s been done” as opposed to thinking of ways to modify it to work (I.e, remove the human element, we are technologically advanced enough to do that now). Capitalism is also a failed venture, you know this. We have watched countless crashes or slumps and our planet is frankly screwed. No successful venture can include razing your own home surely. What I wanted to see from independence was the emergence of more political parties, real visionaries and whilst I acknowledge that the SNP aren’t them, they are our best hope of ushering them in. A new party could not exist in the current political landscape as they would be torn apart by the media/political ideology club that exists in the UK. I think it would thrive in an independent Scotland though, and hopefully spread outwards.

  2. Gordie says:

    What is it you want to see happen in Scotland?

    1. GreatBigHoo says:

      I’m asking the questions here.

      You first: what do YOU want to see happen in Scotland that will ‘transform Scotland’.

      (note: the removal of Trident will not ‘transform Scotland’).

      I’m Scottish, but don’t live in Scotland (I live in England).

      On the one hand, I’d like to see the Separatist’s economic pretensions tried out in real life (and watch them turn to disappointment)

      On the other hand, I do have concerns about having a neighbour where there is serious social unrest and economic chaos as a neighbour. (Post-independence, you’d be at each other’s throats in a few years, when you don’t all get the different utopias you thought you were entitled to / promised).

      I’d just like to understand what these soundbites actually mean for people (if anything, beyond appeals to emotion).

      1. Kangaroo says:

        What does it all mean?

        It does not need a label so don’t try and put one on. Independence simply means being able to make our own decisions without having to put up with Westmonster.

        We will end up with a society which is whatever the people want within the budgetary scope of the country to deliver it.

        You might need to reference wings for the wee blue book or business for scotland to figure out that we are prosperous enough to go it alone.

        If we were a basket case then why did wastemonster want to hang on to us so much? Answer: -The money. They suck us dry and spend it on SE England. There is plenty of evidence for this just go and look.

        1. Gordon Adam says:

          “You might need to reference wings for the wee blue book or business for scotland to figure out that we are prosperous enough to go it alone.”

          This depends what you mean by “prosperous enough”. There’s no question if we declared independence tomorrow we’d have to cut spending from current levels if you look at the fiscal situation. In the last GERS report we generated 8.6% of UK revenue and spent 9.2% of UK spending (with a geographic share of oil – i.e. the maximum). That equates to an annual gap of about £4 billion. That was before the oil price drop so the situation is even worse now than it was then (best estimate is around £7 billion year on year). We’ve been in that situation (i.e. generating less revenue proportionally than we spend) in 12 of the last 16 years so this isn’t a temporary problem.

          Wings/Stuart Campbell (i.e. the Wee Blue Book) and Business for Scotland tend to adopt a few approaches to try and skirt around that state of affairs. The Wee Blue Book simply quotes revenue without mentioning spending. It states (rightly) that we generate roughly the UK average level of revenue for our size of population without oil, but that’s just a fairly disingenuous way of implying we could do away with oil and still continue spending at the same level we do now (which is completely untrue). If Stuart Campbell wants to argue that independence is worth significantly reducing our current budget (so that it matches the UK average) then fine, but he doesn’t say that – instead he tries to simply confuse people into thinking oil is a bonus by only offering one side of the equation (revenue) without mentioning the other (spending).

          The other great argument you’ll see is just to reject the figures outright – they’re all nonsense, Unionist propaganda, so riddled with errors they don’t count, etc. This is, of course, the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand and makes essentially no sense at all when you consider the White Paper, Business for Scotland and the Wee Blue Book all use GERS as their primary source as well. But it sounds good and reflects the classic habit, common to both sides of the independence debate, of instinctively regarding any counter argument as complete rubbish by default.

          Finally there’s a more nuanced and reasonable argument that even though we’d have less resources, we might be able to restructure the economy over time and make up this shortfall. Alternatively, the extra freedom we’d have to manage the economy might qualitatively improve the country even if in raw quantitative terms the fiscal position implies it would make us worse off. This is broadly what John Swinney will say if you press him on the topic (he’s a bit more sophisticated in his arguments than the Wee Blue Book needless to say).

          Of course, this last argument effectively portrays independence as little more than a punt at decidedly shoddy odds. I’m also not sure Swinney believes it himself. The most sensible course of action for a party trying to make us independent would be to do exactly what the SNP are doing – put it on the backburner, try and win an election off the back of their actions in government, and hope a few years down the line the fiscal position changes (as it might) and economically it’s a more attractive proposition to have complete fiscal autonomy.

      2. Stevie Anderson says:

        You’re asking the questions and supplying the answers. There doesn’t seem much space for the rest of us in your solipsistic conversation.

        1. Carntyne says:

          He’s offering an opinion , which is more than you can manage dickhead

      3. James Coleman says:

        Aah! The truth emerges. You are NOT one of the “Separatist’s”. Although you claim to be one of that mythical breed, a BritNat who voted, or claims he voted YES. Be aware. False claims won’t gain you extra credibility on this site.

  3. John Silver says:

    I don’t know the answer to any of your questions.

    I assume that if we gain independence, we would run some sort of democracy, where we cod choose a socialist government, or a social democratic government or even a Tory government if we wanted.

  4. willie says:

    Post the implementation of the Smith Report – Scotland Bill the Scottish Parliament will still have very little fiscal control.

    Value Added Tax, Corporation Tax, Excise Duty, Fuel Duty, the Climate Levy, Insurance Tax, National Insurance, Employers National Insurance, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Insurance Tax, Income Tax allowance thresholds, share dealing tax, oil and gas extraction- licence levies are but many of the tax mechanisms retained by Westminster

    So excuse me for having a guffaw when a unionist scum bag tells me that the Scottish government is being granted extensive powers in the greatest example of devolution ever.

    Pure pish because Westminster still hold all the cards.

    Oh and I forgot the licence fee for the biggest pile if propaganda, the BBC. Even that’s not being devolved.

    Well done Mr Gordon Brown when you sided with the Tories. You certain sold us a bummer but the people know and both you and your Tory bedfellows will be history come next May as the GE showed.

    1. John says:

      Well said Willie.

    2. Stu says:

      Unfortunately you show the type of person you really with the comment ‘unionist scumbag’. Yes, you are the type of person we want making decisions for the country where those who don’t agree with you are branded a ‘scumbag’.

      1. Andy S says:

        Stu that is how democracy works or have you forgotten that? If there are a majority of people that want to call those who refused to believe in the judgement of our own people, “Scumbags” then they get to govern the country. Right now the UK is governed by a party I believe is hell bent on rushing at full speed into war with obsolete equipment that were it to actually work would just make the situation worse. Unless we are extremely careful the conflict in Syria could easily escalate into a global conflict. The words I have to describe them are, well let’s just say unparliamentary at best.
        Scotland can do so much better than that bunch in Westminster, how? By spending our money wisely on things we need and will actually use is a good starting point. £100 billion on something that doesn’t work and you can’t use without permission is nothing more than a vanity project in a vein attempt to keep Britain as something we haven’t been for decades. Even the American Generals think we shouldn’t renew Trident, that we should spend our money on modern conventional weapons because as things stand we’re not an effective allies.

  5. thomaspotter2014 says:

    What Willie said.

  6. tony martin says:

    An excellent article and so glad to see the issue of local government raised for once. Something that Leslie Riddoch gas been hammering away at for a long time. It is outrageous that we do not have local authorites as in europe. Smaller local councils also give women an opportunity to continue what they are doing already in their neighbourhoods but do it as a councillor. This would help acheive better gender balance in politics.

    1. Stu says:

      The SNP would hate that as then their plan of making the country Edinburgh-centric would be put on hold.

    2. James Coleman says:

      Al in good time, all in good time. The SNP would not be so stupid as to devolve power to LAs which are riven through with low intellect SLAB dossers and timeservers who would do nothing with the extra powers except try to undermine an SNP Government.

      1. Clydebuilt says:

        Aye James that’s the way I see things. Whilst Lesley Riddoch has a good point about the size of Local Authorities. For many in the Media, devolving power to Local Authorities is an idea whose time has come, erm because the SNP are established in Power at Holyrood.

  7. tartanfever says:

    ‘I’d like one independence supporter to set out precisely what this actually means, i.e. what kind of society will it be?’

    Whatever you want it to be, use your imagination.

    For me, it’s based not so much around a political party, but more focussed on a constitutional convention. Take a similar journey as Iceland did. Elect representatives from across the Scottish diaspora and set them to work on how we want to protect citizenry from the political classes.

    Protect our environment, it’s not for sale unless the people decide – local community decision making. Halt the ever increasing lobbying body usually under the pay of large multi nationals infiltrating political decision makers in Holyrood by financially supporting political parties through public funding – no more private donations.

    These are the kinds of issues I’m keen on tackling. They may seem wild and fanciful but when you tear up the rule book we’ve grown up with all our lives, then anything is possible. Hell, even the chance to discuss these things on a national scale would be a start. This is what I regret most about the No vote, for me it subdued the potential of hearing so many voices full of ideas.

    These are the kind of issues I think would make a fairer society.

    I’m sure others will add more.

  8. Stevie Anderson says:

    A brilliant article doing what Bella does best in advancing the conversation by excellently analysing and provocatively challenging. Great stuff thanks

  9. Paul Martin says:

    “there still remains a glimmer of promise that the SNP’s massive new membership could focus its attention on achieving a combination of radical measures internal to Scotland.”

    This is the first annual SNP conference with 100K+ membership. Today showed that this membership isn’t complacent and increasingly it will work out how to keep the SNP’s radical edge shiny sharp if the leadership tries to play too safe.

  10. leavergirl says:

    Smaller local governance. More accountable local governance. A great idea… and if THAT is too radical for SNP, then SNP won’t deliver at all.

  11. manandboy says:

    At present, Scotland is like a zoo, ‘owned’ by Westminster. Go figure.

  12. Steve says:

    Only one thing more boring than trolls. Trolls who think they are more intelligent than their comments would suggest.

  13. Kevin Williamson says:

    Thanks Chris for this thoughtful article. You are asking questions of the SNP that need to be addressed.

    The Scottish Govt has all the powers needed to pursue radical land reform, or to decentralise power and decision making away from central govt, and away from 32 bloated “local” administrations, and into the hands of local people – who have shown in the last few years they can be trusted to rout the type of politicians who have given local govt a bad name. Its why I’ve no worries about SLab using empowered local govt against Holyrood. SLab are in terminal decline at both local and national levels. 2017 local elections could finish them off there too.

    We cant transform poverty or the economy until we have full independence but in the meantime these two crucial progressive ideas can be raised and championed energetically by the Yes movement and beyond.

    Taking control of our land and the empowerment of local communities would lay a firm foundation for winning Indyref2 when it comes.

    KW

  14. Dougie Blackwood says:

    I’m pleased that the SNP now have a significant power base in Scotland. One day I want us to be independent and the SNP are the only credible route to that independence.

    The party needs to be more decisive and face up to the challenges that confront us that are within the power of our legislature to resolve. There are significant things that should be getting done now.

    First and foremost the nonsensical position with local Rates or taxes should have been tackled by now. The rates freeze is becoming unsustainable and action should be under way to replace it, preferably with a land tax with teeth.

    Local government has been emasculated as part of control over taxes, and despite Lesley Riddoch making an excellent case for more devolution, nothing has been done.

    The police amalgamation was a step in the right direction but there are problems to be sorted; one man should not have the power to overrule local accountability where the settled and accepted regime for sex workers was upset and destroyed; we do not want armed police patrolling our streets and more importantly we do not want fewer and fewer police fortresses that are remote from the public – the Dumbarton office is being relocated to Paisley against everyone’s wishes.

    There is no A&E north of the Clyde and the new Southern General will never cope properly with the range of services that it has to cover; it’s a step too far.

    The Land ownership and management bill is poorly drafted missing a golden opportunity to transform many problems throughout Scotland. I’m glad to see that it was remitted at conference to be beefed up.

    Time for Scotland, and in particular the SNP, to shake off the shackles and the lack of confidence. Get on with fixing some of these things and show that we can be a grown up parliament.

    1. Fergus fae Ardgour says:

      Dougie – what do you mean by “…. no A&E North of the Clyde?” This abbreviation is usually used for “Accident and Emergency” departments of hospitals. If that is what you mean here, it is both wrong and silly (If you mean something else, please would you clarify?)

      1. Dougie Blackwood says:

        There is no real A&E on the north of the Clyde west of Glasgow city centre. The Western has closed, the Vale of Leven is downgraded to minor injuries. For those needing a blue light it is either the Southern General or Paisley. On the doorstep, I spoke to a poor single parent; her child was taken in an ambulance to Paisley; she, of course, went with her; the child was admitted and having no money for a taxi and no car she was out all night trying to get home to Helensburgh.

        Those of us that are not poor have troubles getting there and back but not to that extent.

    2. tartanfever says:

      Control over lowering/increasing business rates has just been given to local councils yesterday.

      1. Leigh says:

        isn’t it the power to *cut* but not increase business rates – like Osborne’s proposals only sooner, and with the Tories a few (directly elected mayors) will be able to try and raise rates a bit (under measures effectively blocking increases) – both proposals put local authorities in increased competition with each (yet more neoliberal boosterism)

        it’d be worth looking at the market dynamism LVT might be expected to inject (freeing-up those too static assets) in connection to Scottish Retail Consortium’s views that business rates “undermines investment in property”

        John Swinney – “We have already set a strong platform nationally by delivering the most competitive business taxation in the UK; for example the Small Business Bonus Scheme alone reduces or removes business rates for more than 96,000 properties.
        “With these new flexibilities councils could, for example, use their local knowledge to attract new investment into town centres and help create vibrant communities where people want to live, socialise and do business.”

        Nicola Sturgeon – “This is an additional power to allow councils to decide if they want to set a lower rate as part of an effort to generate more economic activity in their area.
        “It is an important power to be giving local authorities and it is part of our effort to de-centralise and devolve power to local communities. We want power to lie as close to people as possible and this is an illustration of putting that into practice.”

  15. Fergus fae Ardgour says:

    I’m not sure that the argument about local authority electorates is well founded: The ONS says

    In 2014, the size of local government electorates ranged from the 1,600 electors in Isles of Scilly to 728,700 in Birmingham. The typical size of local government electorates varies between different areas of the country with a median across local government areas of about 97,500 in Wales, 97,300 in England and 93,100 in Scotland compared to only 41,300 in Northern Ireland. (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/pop-estimate/electoral-statistics-for-uk/2014/stb—2014-electoral-statistics.html#tab-Local-Government-Electors)

    So Scotland (where all authorities are Unitary) still has a median electorate size smaller that England or Wales. Isn’t the EU wide argument specious since most countries (i/c Scotland ) have directly elected “Parish Council” or “Community Council” bodies. If you considered those as the bottom level of local authority, very different figures would emerge.

    I’m happy to be corrected if I’ve misunderstood this, but on the surface this just looks like a non-demand?)

  16. john young says:

    Funny how thw naysayers NO,s on here never ever talk about the Westminster governments and how horrendous they have been in the governance of these Isles,they are everything we do not or should not to aspire to,just a wee ad-endum or addy oan,Scotland has been one of the poorer countries opf Europe,we then are sitting on untold wealth what do we do give it to the UK to fcuk up,for me sums up the self proclaimed proud unionist Scots no other country in the world would accede to this robbery.

  17. MBC says:

    I don’t think the party has internal contradictions. Only if you see it through the lens of English politics. There’s nothing inherently contradictory in being pro-business and anti-austerity. Business is after all a spectrum. The business the SNP most wants to encourage isn’t corporate power, but small and medium sized businesses that are Scottish-owned and Scottish-based and fit best with our economic realities and potential, businesses that are capable on innovation and creativity.

    There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    Without having the levers of power – by that I mean being independent, so that we set, collect, and direct our own taxes, macroeconomic and banking system – there is little the SNP can do with pocket money. How independent and innovative can you be when all you earn is pocketed by somebody else (Osborne, and Treasury) and you are given pocket money back for your day to day expenses!

  18. Frank says:

    Surely a party which has the support of Mhari Black on the one hand and Fergus Ewing and Michelle Thompson, on the other, has some degree of contradiction? Or a party which is anti-establishment, but also the establishment, or anti-austerity, whilst carrying out cuts to the letter?

    1. tartanfever says:

      I don’t think so Frank, lots of European countries have these parties – pro-business (you could effectively lower corporation tax and increase your tax take by having a more effective tax system) yet at the same time have a healthy welfare system and protections for the elderly, sick and disabled.

      Remember, we are in a way doing precisely that now. Scotland attracts a lot of inward investment when compared to the rest of the UK (outside London). We (stupidly IMO) gave Amazon a subsidy of £10m to open a distribution centre in Fife a few years ago yet at the same time we offer far greater benefits than England (prescriptions, elderly care, Bedroom Tax etc)

      It seems to me that a party that tries to encourage new business and provide good welfare for it’s citizens needs both types of politicians. Difference is good.

      1. Frank says:

        Yes, you can be pro-business, particularly in regards to SME and pro-welfare. No one is denying that. But the contradictions in the SNP exist. There are those who are in the SNP who want to go beyond the pluralist vision you outlined, and introduce policies based on redistribution. Land reform is just one example where that tension exists. You also didn’t address my point about being anti-austerity, but also having to implement austerity policies at local level.

        Right now the SNP’s internal contradictions are managed for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is no credible opposition in Scotland, and given the state of SLAB that looks set to continue. Meanwhile, the radical wing can be kept on board because everything can be blamed on Westminster, although sooner or later these tensions will erupt, hence the reason why fiscal autonomy presents the party with an array of problems. For example, would they increase taxes to compensate for cuts in Working families tax credits?

        The SNP’s vote is a reflection of social contradictions. Right now, they have united the poor in urban areas, rural conservative voters, and huge swathes of middle class Scotland. But how long can they keep that alliance together?

        1. inverschnecky says:

          I don’t understand your point at all. Sorry for being thick.

          If our corporate and corporate controlled media bellow ‘SNP Baaaaad’ at every single attempt at policy innovation – does that not discourage innovation at all levels?

          If our wonderful Tory goverment pass tax powers they know to be politically damaging to the Scottish goverment and then slash the overall budget – do you really think no-one will notice?

          If our imperial chums batter on about perceived economic weakness of the scottish economy do you think anyone will wonder whose policies got it in that state in the first place?

          Maybe, just maybe our tax-paying compadres will wonder if their taxes should be spent on blowing up the middle east?

          It could be that they will conclude that all is not ‘UKOK’, we don’t live in the best of all possible worlds, that our bacon loving neo-liberal masters are really only good at looking after themselves.

          Austerity.. Isn’t that just another word to get the poor and the sick to pay for the tory’s banking chums?

          From where i’m sitting your needing a wee bit more than a few ‘jolly tory tax wheezes’ and a compliant media to keep this glorious empire together.

          If you need a better answer to your question – the wee ginger dug has a great articule on devolved tory taxes and cats. Altho his vision of mundell is frankly … disturbing.

  19. bill fraser says:

    I think it is a good idea to adjust business rates where at all possible.We need to try to encourage small business’s to fill some of the empty premises that pervade our High streets.

  20. john young says:

    Agree bill fraser we should be doing our utmost to help/sustain small innovators,get as many involved,why can,t we encourage small holdings producing good organic meat and veg that can be sold locally or to the supermarkets thereby giving some a sustainable living.

    1. GreatBigHoo says:

      “we should be doing our utmost to help/sustain small innovators”

      There’s not much evidence that SME’s / micro businesses are better at innovation than larger companies – in fact the opposite tends to be the case.

      Larger organisations have more staff, so people can devote time or whole roles to innovation. Employees at larger organisations are more likely to have (innovation) experience at other larger organisations.

      The notion that SME’s / micro businesses are good / better at innovation by virtue of their size or ‘nimbleness’ is a bit of a myth to be honest. Too often, they just don’t have the time / resource to innovate. They spend all their time keeping their head above water.
      SME’s / micro businesses tend to be less

      Big companies have more staff, so more people can devote themselves to innovation. Many employees at large companies have experience at other large companies. Whether the company encourages employees to brainstorm or hires full-time positions dedicated to innovation, those employees bring their experience with best practices at other companies to their current company.

      “why can,t we encourage small holdings producing good organic meat and veg that can be sold locally or to the supermarkets thereby giving some a sustainable living.”

      You can ‘encourage’, but getting businesses that offer low yield / high value goods with high production costs aimed at a relatively small segment of the market (‘foodies’) is not easy. You often need agglomeration of points of sale.

      E.G. the part of Manchester where I live (gentrified close to city centre suburb) has a profusion of ‘independent shops’, markets, ‘pop ups’ etc. etc. (in which there is a large churn, they come and go). But you’d struggle to expand your market into inner city areas, sprawling estates, even the ‘burbs, who are variously served by Asda, Aldi, Lidl etc.

  21. john young says:

    Socialism is “dead in the water” so by dint capitalism is the way to go? have you had a look around the world lately,the scion of capitalism USA/UK are in debt up to and beyond their ears,yes capitalism is certainly good but for who.Don,t forget the first and only true socialist was Jesus Christ the first to take on the usurers,only thing it cost him his life followed by so many other advocates. down through the centuries

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