The SNP’s claims of defending Scotland against Tory cuts are turning them into apologists for Cameron’s government, writes IAN SMART

 

The United Kingdom is in a financial crisis that is leading to significant cuts in public expenditure.

And a lot of people in no way responsible for that crisis will suffer as a result of these cuts.

Except apparently in Scotland.

For, while the Left throughout the UK is protesting about the effect of these cuts, the one political party who maintains that they still have enough money to do everything they want is the SNP. Indeed, while public services are being slashed in the rest of the UK, George Osborne, presumably out of the goodness of his heart, has, according to the SNP,  found enough money, through the block grant, for the Holyrood administration to implement their programme in full. And indeed to freeze Council Tax in the process.

All that’s required is apparently prudent budgeting and there need be no impact on the public at all.

If Osborne had any sense he’d surely be inviting John Swinney to stand beside him on the platform at the Tory Conference in Birmingham this week so that Swinney could exhort the rest of the public sector to follow his example. “We’ve got less money as well!” Swinney could declaim “But is anybody in Scotland suffering? Not for a moment. Indeed, through ‘prudent budgeting’ we can not only maintain all of our frontline services but also afford lots of perks not available to you spendthrift English!”

This is the politics of the mad house.

There will be those reading this blog who will be old enough to remember when a significant faction of the SNP thought it to be an error to advocate a devolved assembly. Anything less than full independence was no better than the direct Westminster rule. Indeed that was the party’s platform, more or less, from 1979 to 1997. They feared that participation in devolution, particularly devolution with little financial autonomy, would lead ultimately to comfortable acceptance of that settlement. In that, these Cassandras may or may not yet be right. But even they did not anticipate a situation whereby an SNP devolved administration became an apologist for a Westminster Tory Government’s public spending settlement. Yet, if we can, as the SNP themselves claim, have everything we want with the money made available by the Tories then, logically, that is what they have become.

Only we can’t have everything we want but, for some bizarre reason, the nationalists themselves won’t admit that. So we get the 1000 extra cops but only at the expense of 3000 back-up staff and an overall understaffed police service; we have the free university tuition but only at the expense of the slashing of college expenditure and the abandonment to unemployment of the less academically able; we get unrestricted bus travel for the over-60s but only at the expense of the Glasgow Airport rail link; we get “free” personal care but only at the cost of the denial of potentially life saving drugs to the NHS; perhaps above all, we get the Council Tax freeze but only at the expense of school closures, pot-holed roads and unattended child abuse.

Fair enough if these are your priorities, as they are apparently the nationalists’ priorities. But let’s not pretend any of this is “free”. Or adequate. It comes at a cost, much of it paid by the very poorest and most vulnerable.

And yet when Labour suggest that this is precisely what is happening we are met by flat denials from the nationalists and, in the mad world of Scottish politics, it is we who are accused of being apologists for the Tories.

You couldn’t make this up

Ian Smart is a lawyer and founder member of Scottish Labour Action. He is also a Past President of the Law Society of  Scotland. Follow Ian on Twitter at @IanSSmart. This post was originally published on Ian’s blog.