Elections are a time when a political party lucky enough to be in power (because that gives them a natural advantage) can remind people of everything they’ve achieved. The leaflet above is, I am assured, the SNP’s attempts to remind the people of the Edinburgh East constituency of those achievements. When you read it remember that the SNP has only one aim, of which more later.
First, have a glance at the achievements of eight years in power. They can be summarised in the following list:
- Protecting [a] budget.
Can you spot a theme here? It’s a bit like a supermarket punting a BOGOF*, that by now traditional device where you know you are not getting something free. The details may be different but they have that one thing in common – neither the BOGOF nor the list are free. You’re paying for them. In the case of the supermarket you’re paying because they can offer a lower price due to increased turnover (maybe) or they just pushed up the price in the first place. In the case of government you’re paying, of course, through your taxes.
Something could be said about each of the items on the list. For example, despite ‘free’ higher education a lower proportion of children from poorer backgrounds go to university in Scotland than in England. And the council tax freeze is not only bad in principle (see my previous explanations of why) it will lead in 2016/17 to thousands of job losses and cuts in council services. More significantly, for a party that claims to be socially progressive, the freebies (if you’ll allow me to dignify them with that word) are distributed to everyone regardless of income, wealthy as well as poor. And some actually benefit the wealthy more than the poor.
But perhaps the biggest criticism of the list is exemplified by the Leiber and Stoller song – ‘Is that all there is?’
In eight years of government is that all there is – ‘free’ stuff? Nothing about housing, educational standards, the economy, transport, infrastructure, the environment, renewables, better public services … ?
How different the future will be according to the SNP. Out with the simple freebies and in with some much deeper things. You’ll see the list of promises on the right in the leaflet above, again my summary:
- Listen and act on what they hear
- More jobs
- Affordable housing
- The environment
- Fracking no, renewables yes.
Like the list of past glories, something could be said about each of these individually. But the biggest criticism would be, what have the SNP achieved on each of these during their last eight years in power? Haven’t they been a priority before? Were there no stories of success to tell about them? And there’s the small question of how they’re going to use the new tax-raising powers to prove they’re as progressive as they claim to be.
The previous post on this blog, on hold for what might be called technical reasons, was entitled ‘Taking people for fools’ and I’m afraid this prospectus does little more than take the people of Edinburgh East for fools.
The biggest con trick may be what I hinted at in the introduction to this post – the absence of the SNP’s one aim. It’s still there in their constitution but of course goes unmentioned in their election material, the separation they call independence. Perhaps for once they are listening and acting on what they hear – the majority in the referendum who didn’t want that and who, in recent polls, don’t believe it could or should happen anytime soon. I live in hope.
UPDATE: a number of readers have pointed out to me that some of the items in the leaflet’s ‘record’ of the SNP were not introduced by them anyhow but by the previous Labour-Lib Dem coalition. I take the point. You’ll realise that I was not making a judgement on any individual item, merely the fact that given the chance to set out to voters the sum of their achievements in government, all the SNP could do was list what I called ‘freebies.’
* BOGOF, if you insulate yourself entirely from the world of marketing = buy one get one free