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Damned if they do

Posted on March 31, 2013 by

After six years in kneejerk opposition, extending even so far as to abstain on or vote against budgets with their own amendments in them, Scottish Labour have apparently suddenly discovered the merits of mature, constructive consensus politics. This week has seen the party calling for unity in opposing the bedroom tax, and demanding that the Scottish Government should mitigate the effect on social-housing tenants by providing tens of millions of pounds from its own budget to bridge the gap.


There are numerous reasons why this isn’t a practical long-term solution, some of which we explore in the comments on this Labour activist’s blog post. But if anyone should be wondering why it might also seem politically unattractive to the SNP, perhaps it might be instructive to note what Labour’s reaction was when the Nats did that very thing a year ago, when finance secretary John Swinney found £40m to lessen the effects of UK government cuts forcing the poorest to contribute more Council Tax.

“The Scottish government has announced it is funding a £40m ‘shortfall’ in council tax benefit, after accusing UK ministers of unfairly cutting it. SNP ministers said the deal would help protect vulnerable people. Labour and the Lib Dems questioned if it could be paid for.”

“COSLA president Pat Watters added: ‘In taking this decisive action to cover the cost of council tax benefit, together with the Scottish government, we will once again be protecting the most vulnerable in society.'”

“Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, said: ‘Everybody knows the Tories are cutting too hard and too fast, but we can’t pretend this announcement plugs the gap. Even with today’s figures, local councils face a £17m black hole across Scotland – on top of SNP ministers passing on a massive 90% of all the cuts they face to Scotland councils.‘”

(Our emphasis, as ever)

So that’s what Labour did the last time the SNP did what Labour are demanding it does now – moaned that it wasn’t enough (but also that we couldn’t afford it anyway), and rather than welcoming the move, sourly attacked the SNP for “passing on” Westminster cuts to councils. With gratitude like that, it’s hard to blame the SNP for seeing no gain in acceding to Labour’s demands now.

The circumstances of the two situations are rather different. With the bedroom tax, there are other and better alternatives, such as councils and housing associations reclassifying properties as having fewer bedrooms. No similar option was open with regard to Council Tax Benefit – councils can’t redesignate what someone’s earnings are, leaving the Scottish Government with few alternatives other than to either find money from somewhere or watch the poorest and most vulnerable suffer.

But as we’ve seen, Labour will attack the SNP if they DO directly compensate victims of Tory reforms, and they’ll attack them if they don’t. So the SNP could probably be forgiven for keeping on doing what it thinks is best for Scotland’s social tenants and landlords, without the dubious (and dubiously-motivated) benefits of Labour’s input.

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    46 to “Damned if they do”

    1. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      In fairness, there’s a decent piece in today’s Herald from Labour council leader Tom McCabe on why the “no evictions” legislation also called for by Labour is a badly flawed idea:

    2. Craig M says:

      There’s an easy way to solve the debate on who did what re the bedroom tax.
      Rev, set up a page where every Labour MP representing a Scottish constituency and every Labour MSP is given a secure sign in, then invited to vote Yes or No on whether they support the Bedroom Tax. There is no excuse for them to refuse. They are our elected representatives, they are answerable to us, the voters. Those who refuse, we can then take it for granted that they support the Tax. Of course, if they participate, then we can see how they vote. We’ll see how much moral courage they have then.

    3. DougtheDug says:

      Rev. Stuart:
      Tom McCabe has put a little more thought into his article than simple one-stop SNP bashing however he’s still talking about the best way to work around the legislation in Scotland at a local level.
      He can’t reconcile the simple solution of ditching Westminster and its endless “Buggin’s Turn” between Tory and Labour with his hard line unionism.
      He still believes that Scotland is always better Tory than independent.

    4. Jiggsbro says:

      In any event, Labour’s version of ‘consensus politics’, as evidenced by the inimitable Duncan Hothersall, is ‘Everybody should support the Labour idea. Don’t discuss it or attempt to build a consensus, just do as you’re told’.

    5. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

      Labour are a busted flush. The cuts are only just starting to bite. What next from Labour? Are they going to demand that the Scottish Government find more and more money to counter all of the Westminster cuts?
      The nightmare scenario for unionists is just starting to develop. Hence the reason they are playing the deception card of indicate jam tomorrow, with more powers for the Scottish Parliament i.e Devo fantasy.   

    6. panda paws says:

      Jiggsbro “just do as you’re told’.” – that’s the Labour way
      I wish the Scottish government could spend its time managing devolved matters and not having mitigate the worst of Westminster policy on reserved matters.  (I look forward to there being no matters reserved to Westminster obviously).
      People will suffer, these awful ConDems screech Labour. But people suffered when the bedroom tax was introduced for private renters. Labour didn’t care then, it was their policy. People suffered when workfare was introduced.  Labour didn’t care; they introduced it. Bandwagon politics of the worst kind. If it was a Labour majority at Holyrood would they be giving a damn or is this another stick to beat the SNP with?
      The Coalition and Labour two cheeks of the same arse.

    7. Morag says:

      I was reading Duncan’s blog an watching him getting his backside handed to him by RevStu, then the Burd stepped in.  Will somebody please strangle Tweety-Pie for me, because she is not helping.

    8. Bob Howie says:

      Perhaps we should be building houses with “office style” dividers so every home is one bedroom but the divider can make two beds and because they are temporary they don’t count….lol
      Labour are a hypocracy, end of story

    9. EdinScot says:

      A message to Davidson and co, when in a hole its best to stop digging.  No wonder we have a chance to get rid of these chancers once and for all come September 18th 2014.  They wouldnt know the truth if it came and bit them on the nose.  The internet and social media is their downfall.  Same old Labour, say one thing and do another. 

    10. Vronsky says:

      “Will somebody please strangle Tweety-Pie for me, because she is not helping.”
      I’ve donated to Bella Caledonia in past but I have no intention of giving anything more so long as Kate Higgins stays on their editorial team.  She’s batting for the other team.

    11. Morag says:

      I had a right ding-dong with her on her own blog over her mindless promotion of this “organic” nonsense.  I have no objection to people who want to pay over the odds for fruit and vegetables grown to suit their irrational phobias, but when it comes to depriving animals of medication I draw the line.

      When she started lying, I quit.

      Of course this has nothing to do with independence, I’ve had exactly the same row with Rob Gibson, but I detect a zealot whose ideas must never be challenged.

    12. Blackford Wheeler says:

      DougtheDug on Tom McCabe (31 March, 2013 at 2:13 pm)
      “He still believes that Scotland is always better Tory than independent”.
      The “Better Tory” Campaign – I like that.

    13. Vronsky says:

      ” I detect a zealot whose ideas must never be challenged.”
      Ah, the irony.

    14. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      Now now……

    15. Aplinal says:

      Sorry you’re wrong here.  Morag is open to discussion and debate and is quite able to consider alternative approaches,  I too am increasingly fed up with “Tweety-pie” (I rather like that description).  She (T-P) really should decide what she really stands for and stop playing both sides.

    16. Malcolm says:

      I find Kate Higgins opinions either invigorating or frustrating.
      For example, this is a great article:
      However her fondness for a plague on both your houses type comments has at least made me hold my tongue on several occasions where people were beginning to look silly.
      There’s a line of thought that those in a movement who appear to be more vocal critics of those within than outside the movement are not at heart comfortable with the ideology they ostensibly support, and will in time betray it. Jim Sillars types. It is my view that the more ferociously one combats this kind of person, the more important they think they are, and the more they are encouraged to keep it up.
      PS I’d sooner buy a conventionally farmed carrot from a farm 5 miles away than an organically farmed one from Argentina.

    17. rabb says:

      PS I’d sooner buy a conventionally farmed carrot from a farm 5 miles away than an organically farmed one from Argentina.
      I just grow my own in pots. It aint rocket science.

    18. Vronsky says:

      I completely agree with Morag on Tweety-Pie – see my comment at 3:22.

    19. Erchie says:

      Having observed Ms Higgins in conversation, she reminds me of a lot of people I used to know in my student days. Some played purity games in politics, some only liked bands no one else had ever heard of, and which got dumped as soon as they had.
      Her insistence that she has been involved in Independence politics longer than anyone else, which  I doubt is true, I mean, I was around for the 79 and was campaigning for the Assembly. I can’t have been the only one.
      What I think she is headed for is a Sillars like attitude, “If I am not given due deference and recognition, then not only will I not play, but I will attack those who try”. This is ridiculous. As Rev Stu is fond of pointing out, the Referendum is about Independence. After that things change, we make a new \Scotland. It is unlikely to be one that conforms exactly to any one individual’s exact desires.
      If you want that opportunity, vote YES, if you don’t, vote NO, but don’t pretent both sides are exactly equivalent

    20. Aplinal says:

      Apologies, I misinterpreted your “irony”: comment in your post at 4.05

    21. muttley79 says:


      I was reading Duncan’s blog an watching him getting his backside handed to him by RevStu, then the Burd stepped in.  Will somebody please strangle Tweety-Pie for me, because she is not helping.
      Kate Higgins appears to want to be buddies with the No side as well as the Yes side.  Unfortunately this type of thinking means there will almost certainly come a time when you get confused.  Perhaps this has come about because she appears on the MSM in Scotland.  I get the feeling that Higgins is disappointed that she did not rise further in the SNP.  She also seems to think she is superior to many Yes supporters because of the length of her political activism in the SNP.  This is a very divisive attitude to promote.  Higgins also supported Euan McColm when he and Rev Stu were having an amusing dispute.       

    22. Morag says:

      How old is she for goodness sake?  Is she Wendy Wood on immortality pills?

    23. Albert Herring says:

      Maybe we could let her do Jackanory after independence.

    24. Arbroath1320 says:

      Sorry for going O/T here Stu but thought you’d enjoy this.
      Now call me cynical if you like but this suggests to me that Cameron has already surrendered the Independence Referendum to the YES campaign. What other reason could he possibly have for trying to do this!
      Return to 1707 BRIBERY offers anyone?

    25. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      Danny McCafferty reference removed.

    26. Dal Riata says:

      Sorry, O/T
      Passing by the newspaper rack when supermarket-shopping today I saw a screaming headline from the Sunday Express declaring, “From midnight, Scotland becomes a police state!”. Intrigued, to say the least, when I got home I went online to check it out and it’s, well…as ‘unbiased’, ‘balanced’ and ‘impartial’ as you might expect from a member of the present-UK mainstream media!!
      The lies, sorry, the ‘article’ consists of a laughably bad scare-story accusing (what else!) the SNP of creating a police state by merging Scotland’s eight police forces into one, and given ‘substance’ by extensive quotes from the one-and-only Lord Foulkes!
      Comedy gold once more from those who choose to do us down! Oh, and the comments following it just round the whole lying-piece-of-trash article off!

    27. The Man in the Jar says:

      I have just read Rev. Stu`s debate with Duncan Hothersall on DH`s blog. After what Rev. Stu had said about him I thought that I might just get a wee glimpse of sense from a unionist. I genuinely wanted DH to come out with something that I might have thought, “Fair enough I can understand where you are coming from” Sadly I think that I have just wasted my time. The guy seems to base his politics on a 1980`s advert for Coca-Cola. My impression is of a sad and deluded young man. A dreamer that prefers to live in a nightmare rather than reject party dogma and reach out for a better future.
      So sad, deluded and blinkerd for one so young.

    28. Dcanmore says:

      I remember Kate Higgins as an SNP activist back in the 90s. But I knew her dad better, a good long standing SNP councillor. Her brother is the same age as me so that would put Kate at around 46/47 yo. I always thought that Kate had an axe to grind with the SNP in recent years. I never warmed to her though, a bit of a fanatic feminist.

    29. Morag says:

      I don’t like fanatic feminists.  That must be it.

    30. Morag says:

      In the SNP branch I used to be in back in the 1990s, we had an activist who was still absolutely in there and up for it in his nineties, having been a founder member of the party in his teens.  And he had confused the hell out of the MoD during the war by registering as a conscientious objector because he refused to fight for the British state.  (He’s sadly dead, now.)

      I defer to that sort of long service.  Not to the sort of “long service” someone in their forties might have.

    31. molly says:

      C’mon guys,last night it was Fiona Watson ,tonight its Kate Higgins -what do you want ?Are you going to get personal about every one who sticks their head above the parapet ? That will really encourage people !
      If you want to have a go -have a go at the amount of cliches at ‘your Britain’ on line or ask why trade unions are still giving money to the Labour Party or why its taking someone like Ken Loach  to call for a new ‘left party’ or even how we get the message above across , explaining to folk who don’t read the blogs . Its adds nothing to the debate when Johann Lamont does it and adds nothing to the debate here.
      We maybe all want the same thing but don’t necessarily have to go about it in the same way.

    32. Malcolm says:

      I think you’re right Molly.

    33. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      With you on that one. Iain Hosackof Lochgoilhead died just over 2 years ago at the age of 105. He was our CA treasurer until around 1998. He was organising the Lochgoilhead SNP group until a few weeks before his death. He formed a branch of the SNP in Natal in 1946 by the simple expedient of having published a virulently anti Scottish letter in a S African newspaper and then getting the editor to supply him with all the names and addresses of those who responded angrily to it from which he formed a branch. (He returned to S Africa at about 90 years of age to queue with the Africans at the polling station to vote in the first post apartheid election.)
      That’s long service. 

    34. Morag says:

      My own story was referring to Tom Maxwell. He had some tales to tell. And he had a very shrewd tactical brain, too.

    35. douglas clark says:

      I don’t actually care too much about Kate Higgins sex. I do care that she appears to sit on the fence. If it was John Higgins, I would feel the same way.

    36. Morag says:

      I don’t really see why we should be constrained from remarking that someone is behaving like a jerk, if they are.  “Iron discipline in the SNP” has its limits.

    37. Malcolm says:

      You shouldn’t be constrained. But ask yourself what you want to achieve.

    38. Morag says:

      Well, if it’s as bad as advocating that we should all be referring to unionist politicians as ("Quizmaster" - Ed)s, I’ll desist.
      Free rein for anyone to be as big a jerk as they like, and nobody can say so because it might look like strife in the ranks, isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    39. douglas clark says:

      Frankly, if there is “iron discipline” in the SNP it has passed me by.

    40. Morag says:

      That was a joke.  That’s the unionist line to explain why we’re not all rebelling against Salmond’s vile dictatorial ways.

    41. molly says:

      Douglas ,its not about their gender and Morag we all have different definitions of a jerk.
      As I said ,we all want the same thing -Independence ,we just have different ways of going about it. 

    42. Morag says:

      Indeed.  And we don’t have to zip our lips quite that tightly, either.  I’ve been called plenty on here, and I didn’t hear anyone saying, oh don’t say that we’re all working for the same thing.

    43. douglas clark says:

      Well, if it is not about their gender, and I agree with you about the comments about Fiona Watson, what is it about?
      The independence referendum is miles behind when it comes to female voters. I am not at all convinced that most women would want to be represented by Kate, arms crossed, a wee bit this, a wee bit that, Higgins. However she appears to have captured a marketplace for doubt.
      Personally I prefer Joan McAlpine and Lesley Riddoch.
      But then, I can see a future of equality, which I think they share.
      This is really annoying.
      I want a lot more women arguing for independence. I have no idea why they don’t.

    44. molly says:

      Douglas clark. kate Higgins is (I think ) a founder member of women for Independence.
      I agree about L Riddoch and Joan Mcalpine but they are both journalists to trade.
      Last week, I watched a clip by Raymond Buchanan( before the SNP Conference started), interviewing 2 women and a man about Independence. Both women took their cues from the man, turning to see his reaction.All three were mature shall we say, this will not change for some overnight and I stress does not apply to all women.
      The encouraging thing is though,I find the women round about me are listening and they are thinking about it but bizarre as it sounds for some in 2013,no one has asked for their views before ,no one has been interested in what they think and for one or two ,all this “Referendum stuff” is new to them and that has to be borne in mind. 
      I think as well I Davidson is paid to be a politician so on politics leaves himself open to criticism ,Kate Higgins is not , I know which one I would want to talk about Independence with.

    45. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      A very perceptive response which had to come from a woman

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