As the Arctic weather continues to grip much of Scotland and the UK, it’s nice to know we can always rely on the Labour Party for a ray of sunshine.
Several of today’s papers carry the news of how Scottish Government funding has largely eliminated (for Scots) one of the most absurd and debilitating aspects of rail travel in Britain – the labyrinthine, Kafkaesque fare structure that meant a passenger who bought their ticket at the same time and in the same place as the person sitting next to them might have paid almost twice as much for it.
While we can all doubtless imagine how the UK government would have chosen to solve the discrepancy – by doubling the cheap fares, thereby enacting “fairness” while also ensuring that disgusting poor people weren’t allowed to mix with nice Tory-voting types – the Scottish Government has gone about it the other way, slashing some fares by over 40% so that everyone gets the best deal without having to employ a team of forensic accountants to study the timetables for a week first.
Good news, right? Surely nobody could find a reason to moan about THAT?
“It is regrettable that despite Scotrail making a massive profit last year, the burden for getting rid of Scotrail’s pricing fix has fallen on the taxpayer. We must welcome any fare reduction but we need to remember that rail fares across Scotland are continuing to go up at a time when people’s budgets are being stretched to the limit.
That’s quite a catalogue of curmudgeonly carping in a few short lines: the Scottish Government shouldn’t have funded it, the taxpayer is suffering, fares are still going up, the problem has only been ALMOST totally solved, it’s “regrettable”, only people from Dundee are benefitting, end this madness, doom, gloom, etc.
(In fact, as the Record goes on to point out, savings include £17.80 off an anytime return between Aberdeen and Stirling (27%), £15.70 off a return between Aberdeen and Glasgow (20%), and £21.30 off an Edinburgh to Aberdeen return (26%), so the idea that this is primarily a local story about Dundee is nonsensical.)
We suspect if someone gave Elaine Murray a free Rolls-Royce, she’d complain it was the wrong colour and difficult to park. But then, not much ever makes Labour happy. Today’s Herald sees them also consumed with outrage that a once-in-300-years opportunity for the people of Scotland to democratically determine their own future will come in at the crippling total cost of £2.51 per person.
“Scottish Labour’s constitutional spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson MSP said: “So we now know that the cost of the SNP’s constitutional obsession is around £13m. The price-tag is substantial and doesn’t include the costs to Scottish families of sorting childcare or taking time off work due to schools being closed for the vote.
“As our economy continues to stutter along, all the effort is going into winning the battle to break up Britain. The absolute focus of the Government should be on getting Scotland growing again. Alas, even that is neglected on the altar of separation.”"
You did read that right, viewers. Exercising the national sovereignty endorsed by Scottish Labour in the 1989 Claim Of Right, for the first time in the country’s history, isn’t worth the hassle and expense of closing schools for a day (something we somehow seem to manage on an almost-annual basis for Westminster elections, Holyrood elections, local council elections, royal weddings and goodness knows what else). There’ll probably be paperwork and everything.
We can’t help feeling that if Labour didn’t so reflexively and doggedly try to find something miserable about every single event that ever occurs in Scotland under the stewardship of an SNP government, then not only might they be able to shed the pallor of bleak, grey misery that hangs ever-present over the party like a sour raincloud, they might even find themselves finally aware of the opportunities that a country in charge of its own affairs, rather than forever impotently begging Westminster for mercy and crumbs, might be able to realise.