Screw up or tribalism: questions for Curran over Labour’s tax cut no-show


By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have questioned whether Labour’s failure to oppose a Tory tax cut for millionaires on Monday evening was a “screw-up” or tribalism after a tweet by Labour’s shadow Scotland office minister Willie Bain MP revealed that there is “a long-standing PLP convention that we do not support SNP motions”.  The admission raises difficult questions for Labour’s shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran, whose office was copied into the email exchange which was leaked yesterday.

Yesterday, an advisor to the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, claimed that Labour had made a “screw-up” by not voting with the SNP and Plaid Cymru against the cut to the top rate of tax for the highest paid.  The leaked admission revealed embarrassing efforts by Labour staff to spin the line that their abstention had been planned, and instructions to Scottish Labour’s press office to “hold off releasing line in Scotland just yet, in the hope that it is ignored” by the Scottish media.

The embarrassing Budget no-show followed vocal opposition and several pledges from shadow chancellor Ed Balls to vote against the tax cut for the wealthiest.  However due to the failure of Labour MPs to attend the vote against the tax cut, the Coalition Government won the vote on cutting the 50p rate to 45p by 319 to 22, a majority of 297.

The admission by Mr Bain apparently confirms the accusation often levelled at Labour party in Scotland that the party’s tribalism causes it to oppose all and any policies proposed by the SNP, irrespective of the merits of the policy.  

The Labour party in Scotland continue to oppose the SNP Government’s flagship policy of minimum pricing for alcohol, despite the policy being supported by major health organisations and charities, all the other major parties.  Even recent signals from the Labour party south of the Border that they now support minimum pricing on alcohol have not led Labour in Scotland to drop its opposition to the SNP policy.

Commenting SNP Westminster Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP 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.  Even when it came to voting against a Tory tax cut for millionaires, Labour could not put its resentment of the SNP aside in the interests of ordinary working people.

“Mr Bain’s comments are a very sad indictment of Labour, and his party’s failure to put people before narrow politics will rebound very badly on them.

“While Labour abstains on Budget votes, the SNP will oppose the Tories unfair Budget which punishes pensioners and public sector workers and does nothing to stimulate the economy.  This was not a budget for Scotland and is proof of the urgent need for Scotland to have control over financial powers with independence.”