You have to hand it to David Cameron – he doesn’t hang about. Barely two hours had passed after the declaration of the result of the independence referendum when he started tying new devolved powers into legislation on “English votes for English laws”, in a slick knifing of his unsuspecting hitherto-allies in Labour.
And just as hot on the heels of the Smith Commission’s final report, he’s at it again.
It’ll be a brave Yes voter who buys a newspaper (other than The National) or switches on their TV or radio today, because Scotland is already enduring an outpouring of concentrated spin and outright deception that perhaps even exceeds that seen in the last few weeks before the independence referendum.
Blood pressures will be soaring across the land as people are told things about the final report of the Smith Commission that are flatly at odds with the reality, by journalists and broadcasters who either know perfectly well that what they’re saying is false or haven’t bothered to try to find out.
Below, you’ll find the facts.
We’re going to hold off full scrutiny and analysis of the Smith Commission report on devolution until it’s actually released and we’ve read it, rather than going on pure speculation like most Scottish newspapers this morning.
But what we CAN talk about is this.
We’ve had another letter from the government.
It’s still Jim Murphy Day here at Wings (did you all get nice presents?), but we’re as sick as you are of hearing him avoid questions about devolution, so instead we’re going to take a look at something else he said this afternoon.
‘We believe that those who can afford it should pay a little more. There are 16,000 people in Scotland earning more than £150,000 and increasing the highest rate of tax from 45% to 50% would raise around £250m.'”
£250 million? We’re sure it used to be rather less than that.
Today we’ve become quite obsessed with Jim Murphy’s pathological avoidance of a straight answer to the question of whether income tax should be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament or not. The BBC now has a report on his much-trailed speech in Glasgow, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First it’s worth having a listen to this.
It’s an interview taken from the “Pienaar’s Politics” podcast on Radio 5 Live earlier this month. And it makes for an intriguing study of the art of evasion.
Following on from this morning’s post, we thought it was about time someone found a definitive quote from Jim Murphy outlining his position on the devolution of full income tax powers to the Scottish Parliament once and for all.
It turned out to be a surprisingly tricky job.
It is, in fairness, a fairly slow time for politics news at the moment. But it’s striking all the same to open this morning’s papers and see almost all of them running what’s not only basically the exact same story, but also the exact same groundless spin on it.
THE SCOTSMAN: “Jim Murphy tells Scots Labour to back tax powers”
THE GUARDIAN: “Scotland [is] to be offered total control over income tax after Labour U-turn. Labour’s policy shift will be confirmed on Tuesday by Jim Murphy, the favourite to become the next Scottish Labour leader.”
EVENING TIMES: “Murphy in call for full devolution of income tax”
There’s only one thing conspicuously missing from all of the stories – a quote from Jim Murphy saying he backs the devolution of full income tax powers to Holyrood.
Peeking at the Twitter accounts of the country’s more prominent Unionists has been an especially entertaining pastime today, as self-awareness has been cast aside even more vigorously than usual in a concerted attempt to attack new pro-independence daily The National as being an uncritical mouthpiece of the SNP akin to the infamous Russian propaganda newspaper Pravda (mostly despite those concerned admitting to not having read the first issue).
It’s surely a tribute to the pedigree and potential of the new paper that the prospect of Unionists only having 97% of the Scottish media on their side has them hoiking toys from prams with such squealing abandon, and it’s both curious and hilarious that 35 newspapers in favour of the Union was a perfectly acceptable manifestation of the freedom of the press but a single one in favour turns Scotland into the Soviet Union.
But more to the point, there’s a far better candidate for the “McPravda” sobriquet.
There was a very disturbing opinion poll published by YouGov earlier this year and recently highlighted by the pollster, which took 16 policy propositions across a variety of subjects and set them against each other in a sort of Politics World Cup to find out the British public’s priorities. The result was predictable but no less depressing for it.
By some chillingly large margins, the policy the people of the UK want implemented more than any other is the spiteful removal of the right to benefits for new immigrants. (We suspect that if the question had offered the option of withdrawing benefits from immigrants full stop it wouldn’t have changed the figures much.)
And we couldn’t help wondering how big a deal that really was.