Use the powers!
John Ruddy says we shouldn’t try to fight on our opponents’ territory – the constitution – but on our own ground: social justice.
Despite the election being a little over 18 months after the defining referendum over the powers of the Scottish Parliament, it’s surprising how little the issue of powers came up on the doorstep. In fact, in my experience, when they did come up it was a case of people not being aware of either the existing powers or the new ones over tax and welfare to come.
It’s not surprising, really, as the SNP have spent the last 9 years claiming they were powerless to act, and the time since the referendum claiming the new powers are either not what was promised, insufficient, or both.
That’s why Scottish Labour made our campaign squarely around using the new powers. I entered politics to make a difference, and the powers of the new parliament offer us a massive opportunity to make a positive difference to people’s lives. So it’s frustrating that so many people – nearly 45% – didn’t come out to vote last Thursday, let alone that those who did voted for parties who only want to use the powers in some Darwinian race to the bottom in tax rates.
But it’s also frustrating to see people, whether it is media commentators or party colleagues, suggest that we didn’t do better because we weren’t offering more powers. Those who want more powers are those who either don’t know the powers that we do have, or want independence. The latter are unlikely to be attracted to us until it is clear that independence isn’t happening any time soon, while the former need to be shown the level of powers we do have – and the impact they can make.
Every cut the SNP make, we must be there pointing out that if they used the powers they wouldn’t have to make it. Every time our children fall behind at school. Every time our Health Service is under pressure. Every time a job is lost.
Labour is the party of devolution, the party of John Smith and Donald Dewar, and we have delivered a parliament that is more powerful than the German Lander, the states in the USA and on a par with the Swiss Cantons. That’s not my assessment – that’s the analysis from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre.
We have a true powerhouse parliament that can really make a difference. We shouldn’t be fighting the next election on our opponent’s territory – the constitution – but on our own: social justice.