Put your hands up if you favour a free education system for Scottish students. Probably all of you I guess. Now put your hands up if you are a racist, I would hazard that none of you still have your hands up.
Well, guess what – you should all hang your heads in shame because the SNP’s announcement of no tuition fees for Scottish students is probably racist. Well, that’s what Professor Tom Gallagher appeared to be implying in a letter to The Scotsman newspaper on Saturday.
Professor Gallagher, who is Professor of Peace and Ethnic Conflict at Bradford University, also backed BBC Scotland presenter Raymond Buchanan’s handling of the infamous Stewart Stevenson interview, claiming that the BBC dishes out the same treatment to all politicians.
Two words ………. Philip Hammond.
The professor also alleged that the BBC in Scotland had succumbed to pressure from the SNP ‘media machine’ and that the broadcaster was reluctant to explore what the SNP gets up to beneath the radar. The insinuation is that BBC Scotland are going easy on the SNP.
Two words ………. Stewart Stevenson.
The professor also made it clear his desire to see BBC Scotland offer a platform to those who believe the SNP’s student fee policy to be racist.
Mr Gallagher wrote:
“One test of the BBC’s editorial values will be the extent to which it gives a voice to those who think that education minister Michael Russell’s decision to single out English students for a massive financial levy is nothing less than racist.
“Indeed, it was exactly this kind of thing that regimes hostile to particular ethnic and religious minorities got up to between the two world wars.”
The racist insinuations weren’t restricted to Professor Gallagher though, for the other target of his ire – journalist Joan McAlpine – has also flagged up another in the shape of a twitter apparently from a supporter of the Green party.
The basis for these ‘racist’ slurs seems to be that the SNP tuition fee policy omits to pay for the education of Northern Irish, Welsh and English students as well – not to mention other foreign students outwith the EU.
Of course the claims are risible and easily disproved. As many commentators have pointed out the policy isn’t based on race or nationality at all but on residency. They also affect more nationalities than English students so quite why professor Gallagher claimed that English students were being singled out is unclear.
If we extend this bizarre logic are we then to believe that Thatcher’s poll tax ‘experiment’ was racist, that energy companies who charge Scots more are racist and that the National Grid is racist through its charging of firms in Scotland for connection whilst subsidising firms in England?
Anomalies are not racist, they are simply anomalies. Yes, some are grotesquely unfair but others are a product of an out of date Union that tries to pretend that devolution changed nothing. The Scottish government is given a sum of money with which to educate students living in Scotland which is what they have done.
But it’s not just the Scottish government’s preference on tuition fees that have led to these intemperate outbursts and absurd accusations. The local authority funding agreement has itself witnessed some of the most repugnant and quite outrageous public utterances ever seen from a senior elected official.
Labour’s Glasgow council leader Gordon Matheson gives the impression of having taken leave of his senses this week as he launched an unprecedented verbal assault on the Scottish government who have offered local authorities a commonly acknowledged generous funding package for next year.
That package affords local authorities considerable protection from the worst of Westminster’s cuts in return for implementing some of the policies that the democratically elected government had pledged – police/teacher recruitment, free personal care and a council tax freeze.
The leader of the Labour run council does not support the policies but, rather than increase the council taxes of Glaswegians – something that he supports – in order to pursue his own policies, Mr Matheson backed down and eventually accepted the deal. However he also let rip with a tirade of incredible accusations and outrageous claims – helpfully headlined and broadcast by Scotland’s informative and balanced media.
Here is a selection of Mr Matheson’s quotes:
“It is with a gun to my head that I agree to your short-term … targets, but it is something that I do in anger rather than co-operation.”
“You are now bullying us ” … “shameful way to run Government” … “the SNP’s extra cut for Glasgow” … “darkest days of Tory rule” … “anti-Glasgow” … “bullying, coercion and blackmail” … “dagger through the heart of the city” … “cares nothing for Glasgow”
The outburst brought a response in kind from the SNP leader of West Lothian council Peter Johnston who said: “If Glasgow Council Leader Gordon Matheson does not understand that the level of grant for each council is set by a pre-agreed formula between CoSLA and the Scottish Government, then he is not fit to hold his current position.”
The set methodology “specifically excludes political input”, he added.
BBC Scotland’s answer to accusations of overspending – Reporting Scotland – gave Mr Matheson a solo spot in order to promote his particular agenda, which was to bash the SNP and criticise the council tax freeze – no mention of the police/teacher recruitment nor free personal care. This wasn’t the first time Scotand’s tea time news programme has allowed the Labour councillor free reign with no specific counter. Reporting Scotland also helpfully implied the freeze was an election bribe by pointing out it was happening in the context of a Scottish election and that the cut is down to a funding formula – no mention of the £1.3 billion cut from London.
The reason for Mr Matheson’s current high profile of course is (other than the fall from grace of Purcell) that Labour no longer have a politician with any official status ready with an anti-SNP sound-bite. The closest they have is the leader of ‘Scotland’s largest local authority’ and the media will have to make do.
So the SNP are anti Glasgow, anti English and bullies to boot – no one in their right mind would vote for a party like that, or are we witnessing the realisation from many Unionists that very many Scots may well do just that come next may, hence the increase in vitriolic ‘foaming’ outbursts?
Mr Matheson would do well to remember just why local authorities are facing any cuts to their budget at all. The Labour party, his party, left the UK finances in a shocking state. After the general election result and at the eleventh hour the SNP and other parties offered Labour a rainbow coalition designed to prevent the Tories from taking office but Labour, especially Scottish Labour, refused.
Scotland now faces a cut to the block grant of £1.3 billion next year.
We leave you with a clip of the SNP’s Kenny Gibson being interviewed about student fees on the Andrew Neil show The Daily Politics – Look out for the gratuitous racist insult that is fast becoming habitual on BBC political shows: