Labour must back SNP shovel-ready calls


By a Newsnet reporter

Labour are coming under increasing pressure to support the SNP’s calls for Capital Spending investment from Westminster to assist Scotland’s economic recovery from the UK coalition government’s austerity measures.

Over the past months the Scottish Government has made numerous calls on Westminster to release £400 million for capital projects in Scotland.

However despite an increase in capital project spending being UK Labour policy, the Scottish branch of the party has so far refused to publicly back SNP government’s calls for funding for ‘shovel ready’ projects north of the border.

The construction sector across the UK has experienced contraction as a result of the drop in public spending on infrastructure.  Both the UK and now the Scottish economies have been tipped back into recession as a result.

Johann Lamont’s Scottish Labour party are now facing calls from party backers to join Alex Salmond’s calls for extra funding.  An editorial in the Labour supporting Daily Record newspaper yesterday called on Scottish Labour to support the Scottish Government’s efforts, noting that the Scottish Government’s analysis of Scotland’s economic problems is identical to Labour’s.

Entitled ‘We need to work together for our future’, the Record editorial column stated:

“Alex Salmond is right to call for a £400million cash advance to get his list of ‘shovel ready’ projects off the ground.  And it’s why Labour should back him.”

The paper added that it was time the two parties came together to form a joint action group to force the Coalition Government in Westminster into a U-turn.

Scottish Labour’s silence on the issue so far will raise fears that the party’s MPs and MSPs are putting tribal loyalties before the good of the country.

In March this year, SNP MPs at Westminster put forward a motion opposing the Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s reduction of the top rate of income tax.  However Labour representatives failed to show up to vote against the Tory tax cut for millionaires.  A tweet by Labour MP Willie Bain then revealed that there “is a long-standing Parliamentary Labour Party convention that we do not support SNP motions”.

Labour was immediately accused of putting its party interests first, even to the extent of not supporting a motion which also happened to be Labour policy.  The SNP’s Westminster Treasury spokesperson Stuart Hosie said:

“Willie Bain’s admission is astonishing, and raises the question of whether Labour’s no-show on the Budget vote was a screw-up or tribalism.  It is clear that Labour hates the SNP much more than it loves Scotland.”

Labour claimed that their abstention had been intended, but a leaked admission from an advisor to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls revealed that it was a “screw-up”.  Labour’s embarrassment was compounded when it was further revealed that the party had sent instructions to its Scottish press office to “hold off releasing line [that absention was deliberate] in Scotland just yet, in the hope that it is ignored”.  

Mark McDonald, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, has now written to Labour MSP Richard Baker – Labour in Scotland’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment – urging him to back First Minister Alex Salmond’s calls for shovel ready cash to help move Scotland forward.

Mr McDonald, a member of the Finance Committee, said:

“The interests of the people of Scotland would be best served if Labour backed the SNP’s calls for a cash advance for the shovel ready projects.

“I have written to Mr Baker urging him and his Labour colleagues to help build an unparalleled level of pressure to force the Tory-Lib coalition into another U-turn on their lack of capital spending in Scotland.

“I’m sure this is what grassroots Labour supporters want – their politicians standing up for Scotland and taking a stand against the Tories. I hope that Labour politicians see sense and back our calls for funding for these important projects now.

“We have had several U-turns from the Chancellor since his budget; to call for another is both totally reasonable and entirely possible.

“Although in terms of employment Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK, it is clear that more direct action from the UK Government is needed in the form of funding for the shovel ready projects.

“The case is that properly targeted and shovel ready projects – with £400million for Scotland – could make a profound difference to the construction industry immediately at this particular time and tackle the problems in Scotland inflicted by UK Government at the present moment.”