….but did not get published this time:
Ian Bell writes with apparent passion about the plight of the poor and disadvantaged in Scotland (Herald 5th March); however, he fails to note that if the Scottish people had wanted a radical left-wing government to address these ills, they would have elected a radical left-wing Scottish Parliament.
Instead we have a right of centre SNP administration which wastes our money on a laughable White Paper rather than spending it on the poor, and which is wedded to buying office by ensuring middle class perks: these include free tuition for rich university students (while cutting FE places for working class kids), the preservation of unearned inherited wealth through “free” elderly care and the regressive Council Tax freeze. Put another way, if the Scots want redistribution of wealth to address poverty and disadvantage, why does Scotland’s second most left-wing party (the Greens) have only 2 seats at Holyrood, and the SSP has none whatsoever?
Like all of my Labour Party colleagues, I of course support all attempts to rid people everywhere of the scourge of poverty: that is the “social” bit of being a social democrat. However, unlike Mr Bell (and his fellow fantasists in the Yes camp) I believe that there is a need to gain electoral support for that enterprise: it is wrong to take people’s money off them without their consent. That is the “democrat” bit. And there is no evidence that Scots want to pay more tax to fund redistribution, either under Westminster or Holyrood.
The task of gaining the consent of electorate to transform society is a battle which needs to be fought for years, decades, generations, indefinitely; and its enormity is such that it is also one which is worth winning not just in Scotland but throughout the UK. (And through whatever influence we have, elsewhere in the world.) The 1997-2010 Labour governments showed what could be achieved, although their work was cut short by the world financial crisis and hampered by the length of the road back from nearly two decades of Thatcherism. In this enterprise, New Labour was supported consistently by Scots over all other parties, including at the 2010 General Election.
To throw in the towel and write off the poor and disadvantaged of the rest of the UK is at best a counsel of pessimism and despair. At worst, it assumes that their poverty is of a lesser degree than that of Scots or perhaps that they are less deserving of our support. Despite his apparent passion about poverty, Ian Bell obviously does not care about them, or the lack of action by the SNP Scottish Government on inequality, which he signally fails to condemn.
Peter A. Russell