A Nightmare on Elmer Street

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The Sunday Herald this weekend led on predicted cuts to Scotland’s police forces. The story was based on claims from Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation and was made all the more dramatic with the inclusion of some pretty sensational quotes.

Phrases like “blood on their hands”, “The murder rate will go through the roof.” and “More people will be murdered” gave the article the feel more of a promo for a Holywood slasher movie than a political piece in a quality newspaper.


The Sunday Herald this weekend led on predicted cuts to Scotland’s police forces. The story was based on claims from Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation and was made all the more dramatic with the inclusion of some pretty sensational quotes.

Phrases like “blood on their hands”, “The murder rate will go through the roof.” and “More people will be murdered” gave the article the feel more of a promo for a Holywood slasher movie than a political piece in a quality newspaper.

The papers own editorial continued the gruesome theme:
“Holyrood Finance Secretary John Swinney is set to wield the Scottish axe in November.”

The sensationalism was matched in idiocy by the comment from James Kelly, a Scottish Labour MSP, who said: “These figures show the SNP is completely failing to protect frontline services. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill should tell his Cabinet colleagues that community safety is a bigger priority than plans for an independence referendum, or failed quangos like the Scottish Futures Trust.”

That Labour have been in control of the UK economy for the last 13 years and have all but ruined the nation seems to have escaped Mr Kelly’s notice.  This is a ruination that will see Scotland’s grant reduced by around 25% over four years.

As for an independence referendum, it should be remembered that the vast majority of Scots wish such a referendum and that top of the list of priorities for Scots is certainly not the nuclear warheads currently sitting on the Clyde and costing £billions.

But back to the central theme of the story: ‘Blood on their hands’, ‘murder rate will go through the roof’, ‘wield the axe’, ‘numbers would be slashed’ – the ‘X’ rated imagery was clear. The SNP’s Finance Secretary was the new Freddie, and a nightmare on our streets is about to begin.

But, blood and gore aside, are such cuts really the fault of the SNP; can they be blamed for the dire state of the UK economy simply because they are about to have their pay packet ‘dipped’ by Westminster?  It’s hardly the fault of the child if the parent suddenly buggers up the household finances and subsequently has to reduce the child’s pocket money.

Of course that is exactly the message that Labour will try to convey as the Scottish election approaches.  They will try to convince Scots that the Labour induced nightmare that awaits is the fault of the SNP, that these cuts, caused by Brown’s economic mismanagement, are SNP cuts and that by voting Labour then somehow Iain Gray and his team will be able to protect Scotland against the other bogey man – The Tories.

The message will be deceitful, it will be completely untrue – it will also be headlined.  Make no mistake though, Labour provided no protection against Thatcher in the eighties and as things stand there will be none now.

Irony
Scotland sits like a cork on an ocean. It bobs about on a sea of waves emanating from London and the tidal wave approaching is not of the SNP’s doing.  If Westminster decrees that Scotland is to be given less to spend then there is nothing any party at Holyrood can do about it – they (including Mr Kelly’s Labour group) have absolutely no choice.

The media narrative will closely follow Labour’s press releases and public statements, Labour in Scotland will present the cuts as ‘SNP Cuts’ and will introduce the spectre of the Tories for added effect.  However this pantomime villain style of politics, urging everyone to boo the ‘bad guys’, is no substitute for real policies and sooner or later Labour will have to present their alternative.

People like James Kelly know this.  They know that at some point between now and next May Labour in Scotland will have to explain how they propose to divi up the shrinking grant from Westminster.  They will have to decide what services they will cut when Gordon Brown’s financial chickens come home to roost.

It is at this point that reality will hit the Scottish public – as things stand, there is no protection, there is no defence.

Right now Scotland has absolutely no powers to mitigate the catastrophic affects of these Westminster cuts.  Some may argue that Holyrood’s never before used tax raising powers could fill the funding gap.  But such taxes would not be investment taxes, they would be used in order to pay wages and would need to increase year on year in order to match inflation.

Scots could see their tax burden increase year on year but no improvement whatsoever to services.  Furthermore the now forgotten tax proposals put forward by the Calman Commission will see Scotland’s grant reduce further meaning even more tax hikes on those Scots fortunate enough to still be in employment.

The irony in all of this is that Scotland is in fiscal surplus, we are actually in pretty good shape.  In plain English we give more money to the UK Treasury than we get back.  The current constitutional set-up means that because we send all of our money to London for them to send some back then Scotland sees no benefit from the income generated through our successful businesses and spectacular resources.

Far from protecting Scotland from the world wide financial crisis, the current set-up is actively harming our nation.  Scotland is being slowly dragged into the UK’s financial abyss.

This last week saw yet more oil discovered in Scotland’s waters and a report suggested that Scotland’s offshore renewable industry has the potential to be bigger than our oil and gas industry.

When you couple this with between 40 – 100 years of oil left in the North Sea and the fact that we hold 25% of Europe’s renewable energy then the situation Scotland is facing is tragically bizarre, it seems the richer we become in resources the poorer our citizens get.

Only last week the world renowned former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, described the UK as having “squandered” North Sea resources.  Professor Stiglitz not only endorsed the SNP’s call for an oil fund but insisted it was essential if we are to avoid leaving future generations impoverished.

If Labour’s Scottish branch is serious about defending Scotland against Westminster’s looming cuts, already predicted to be “brutal”, then they have to acknowledge that the current set-up is untenable.  Scotland needs either full fiscal autonomy or full independence in order to combat the economic mess.

The public may buy into the ‘SNP Cuts’ message, but Labour need to remember that should Iain Gray find himself in Bute House next May then the Scottish public will not be very forgiving if they find the new emperor has no clothes and steadfastly refuses to open the independence/fiscal autonomy wardrobe.

A naked Iain Gray (cruelly named Elmer Fudd by some newspaper hacks) will be left holding the axe – it will be a Nightmare on Elmer Street – and who will have ‘blood on his hands’ then?

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