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Wings Over Scotland

Delayed transmission 41

Posted on June 04, 2013 by

This morning’s Daily Record carries a story about Ed Balls’ policy speech on welfare yesterday. Commendably, the Labour-supporting paper isn’t shy of pointing out the implications of Balls’ comments:

“Scots could get welfare benefits at lower rates than people in wealthy parts of England under plans being worked on by Labour. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls yesterday raised the idea of a regional cap on welfare, opening the door to variations in a range of social security benefits.

Balls said the welfare cap of £25,000 a year per household should be higher in London but could be lower in parts of the UK where housing is cheaper.”

We’d have been even more impressed, though, if Wings Over Scotland hadn’t revealed the reality of what Labour’s future plans meant for Scotland almost three weeks ago.

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Don’t cut universal services for the old 63

Posted on February 16, 2013 by

Let me declare an interest. I am old enough to get the £200 tax-free winter fuel payment and free local bus travel anywhere in England. As I live in London my travel Freedom Pass extends to local bus and tube travel throughout London 24/7, and local trains from 0930. I guess the whole package is worth £700 a year to me, tax-free. Though in truth if I paid for London travel I would claim back much of it from clients and customers. So that’s that out of the way.

Well almost. I do not in the slightest need that money. If it disappeared tomorrow I would shrug and say “So be it”. It would not leave me freezing in the winter and cut off from family, friends or the local library. Or, come to that, work. So: I get it; I do not need it; and the amount is small enough in my personal financial affairs that whether I get it or not is neither here nor there.

So that leaves me uniquely able to say unequivocally that it would be complicated, counterproductive, and wrong to stop winter fuel payment and free bus travel for those over state pension age. Here’s why.

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Here’s how this works 69

Posted on January 31, 2013 by

1. Scottish Labour says universal free bus travel for pensioners is unaffordable.

2. Scottish Government manages to reduce the cost of universal free bus travel.


4. Repeat ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

2012: Socialist Unity Of The Year 24

Posted on December 27, 2012 by

In a year characterised by a marked increase in heat, as the Holyrood opposition focused its efforts almost exclusively on personal attacks against SNP ministers in an attempt to decapitate the Yes campaign, very few things could be said to have united a wide spectrum of the political sphere, from the radical arch-left to soft nationalists and Labour traditionalists alike. But a speech in September saw almost the entire Scottish media and blogosphere react with one astonished, horrified voice.

You don’t need us to tell you which one, do you?

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Rushing to judgement 26

Posted on December 21, 2012 by

When we wrote a story earlier today about another piece of embarrassing evidence falling off the Scottish Labour website, we thought it was nothing more than the latest in a long line of attempts by the party to clumsily cover its tracks over policy U-turns. But when we did a little digging, we found something altogether more interesting.

Because when we typed the page’s address into The Internet Wayback Machine for fun, we fully expected to find that the line about continuing free prescription charges had been deleted yesterday, or at least in the weeks since Johann Lamont made her infamous “something for nothing” speech.

Instead, however, TIWM listed only one previous version. While it’s not the sole factor, pages tend to show up on the archive site when they’ve been amended, and the only time the Wayback Machine had been called on to notice this particular page since its creation in November 2010 was on Friday the 6th of May 2011 – the day after the Scottish Parliament election delivered a historic landslide victory to the SNP, and an unprecedentedly humiliating defeat for Labour.

Results were still coming in on the 6th of May, but Scottish Labour had clearly already decided to eradicate mention of their promise to maintain free prescriptions. Now, it seems rather unlikely that the party convened a meeting of its executive committee, debated the policy, decided on a change and dutifully edited a page of its website while everyone was still digesting the scale of their defeat and/or catching up on some much-needed sleep after a long night of results.

(Indeed, it’s possible that the web page was changed even earlier than the 6th.)

The only reasonable conclusion it’s possible to draw, then, is that the policy was already internally a dead duck before election day. The party’s manifesto pledge (which can be found on page 41) that “with Scottish Labour, there will be no reintroduction of charges for prescriptions in Scotland” must therefore have been a deliberate and cynical lie, set to be abandoned even if the party won power.

It took almost 18 months from that day before Johann Lamont announced her “review” of policy to consider whether universal benefits like prescription charges would be retained under a future Labour government at Holyrood. The review isn’t due to publish its conclusions for almost two more years, and some prominent Labour MSPs have already suggested that free prescriptions will “probably need to stay” (despite the same member also describing them as a “right-wing policy”). But in the light of this evidence, we think it’s a reasonably safe bet what the final verdict will be.

Were readers to further conclude that it’s rather unwise – and perhaps even literally damaging to one’s health – to accept a word of anything Scottish Labour ever says at face value, we’d find it hard to disagree.

Lying with the truth 21

Posted on December 17, 2012 by

As Johann Lamont celebrated her first year as Scottish Labour “leader” by signalling the party’s intent to abandon the principle of free university tuition today, Nick Clegg completed the Lib Dems’ own sellout to Tory values with a despicable speech promising to back the Conservatives’ plans for welfare reform. The narrative was set earlier this month by the Chancellor, who justified the government’s proposed real-terms benefits cuts with a carefully-prepared line:

“We have to acknowledge that over the last five years those on out of work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as those in work. With pay restraint in businesses and government, average earnings have risen by around 10% since 2007. Out of work benefits have gone up by around 20%. That’s not fair to working people who pay the taxes that fund them.”

Terrible, isn’t it? Hard workers paying to lose ground to those layabout skivers who watch Jeremy Kyle all day. But let’s leave aside for a moment the issue that with an average of 23 applicants per vacancy (and sometimes far more), the huge majority of unemployed people are in fact desperate to find work, not lazy spongers. Let’s instead just take a simple look at what those figures mean in real life.

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Opting in with Johann Lamont 49

Posted on December 17, 2012 by

Nick Clegg’s speech on demonising and punishing the poor and sick (in which he displayed a heroic willingness to take one for the coalition team by declaring “the Liberal Democrats are now the party of welfare reform”) brought the issue of the “something for nothing” culture back to the forefront today.

Scots, of course, are already familiar with the leader of the Holyrood opposition standing up and angrily telling the chamber how unsustainable and morally wrong it is that well-off people such as herself are entitled to universal benefits at state expense.

Yet numerous reports emphasise that universality is a solution that’s practical as well as desirable, because it’s economically efficient as well as solving the problem of people suffering because they’re unable or unwilling to claim benefits they need and ultimately costing the state far more money in remedial care.

It’s a tricky old pickle and no mistake. So entirely free of charge, we’ve had a wee think and come up with a policy that squares the circle, so that Johann Lamont can offer to solve the problem without condemning hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Scots (and Labour MSPs) to lives of unending misery.

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Can we afford old people? 23

Posted on October 19, 2012 by

Scotland has been aflame with talk in recent weeks of whether universal benefits are sustainable or not, and in particular those which apply to our elderly. But there’s an enormous falsity at the heart of the position taken by the Unionist parties, because they refuse to consider independence as a possible solution and base their argument on the premise of a bankrupt UK constantly slashing the Scottish Government’s block grant for the forseeable future under a programme of savage austerity (which would be the same regardless of whether the Tories or Labour were in charge).

There is, of course, an alternative. By most sane assessments, an independent Scotland’s economic starting position would be pretty similar to that of the UK. Both sides of the debate quibble over a percentage point here or there, but the reality is that at least to begin with the amount of money in the pot would be more or less the same.

(Move a few decades into the future and an independent Scotland will either be drowning in wealth from a world-beating renewable energy industry, or crushed by debt because all the oil’s run out, depending on your ideological persuasion.)

The point the No camp must doggedly and repeatedly turn a deaf ear to, however, is that while an independent Scotland might not have vastly more money to spend than it does now, it wouldn’t have to spend it on the same things.

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How soon is now? 52

Posted on October 05, 2012 by

The Scottish media is enthusiastically continuing to follow Labour’s agenda with regard to slashing universal services. Both of last night’s current-affairs shows led with the topic again, and it’s all over the press once more today, in particular the Scotsman and the Daily Record. The former runs one story that carries a telling quote from Scottish Labour seat-filler Richard Baker MSP:

“We can’t wait to have these difficult decisions in a couple of years. The choices need to be debated now.”

While it’s been referenced in passing, the SNP oddly hasn’t really made much of the extraordinary hollowness of this demand, given than Scottish Labour have said their commission “investigating” the matter won’t produce a report for over two years.

We don’t know about you, readers, but our understanding of a debate is that two opposing sides both present their arguments and then there’s some sort of vote which determines who best convinced the audience that their view was the right one.

The SNP’s position is clear – universal benefits can be afforded, something that the Scottish Government has already demonstrated by balancing its budget since 2007, and it will prove its point by continuing to do so in coming years. Labour, however, want to somehow have a debate without having a position. It’s rather like demanding someone plays you at football and then not turning up for the match.

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Let’s get this straight 34

Posted on September 30, 2012 by

Hilariously, the Scottish Labour Party has just announced the personnel for its latest commission on devolution. We’re not quite sure which dramatic events have occurred since its last one, the Calman Commission, concluded that all Scotland needed was a few extra powers over speed limits and airguns. Oh, wait – yes we are.

It seems that a mere 18 months after it happened, Scottish Labour has finally come to terms with the electorate’s contemptuous rejection of its pathetically feeble vision of enhanced devolution. In just a year and a half, it appears to have finally dawned on the slow-witted dinosaurs at John Smith House that the Scottish people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo with a couple of trivial tweaks at the outer edges.

And in a panic, Labour are flailing desperately in all directions at once.

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The hits keep coming 27

Posted on September 30, 2012 by

Sadly these pieces all arrived too late to be included in yesterday’s round-up and poll. But all of them are still pretty unmissable reading. (And didn’t we tell you weeks ago that Kevin McKenna was starting to see the light? Oh ye of little faith.)

(Herald View in the Herald)

“Denied power at Holyrood for a second term, Labour appear so warped by their tribal hatred of the Nationalists that they would rather align with the Coalition than the SNP. Instead of recognising a fellow progressive force, they would rather collude in dismantling the welfare state. It is a pitiful sight.”

(Kevin McKenna for the Observer)

“Ms Lamont’s use of the phrase “something for nothing”, as well as coming straight from the grimoire of Margaret Thatcher is, at best, misleading, at worst, downright false… It’s difficult to assess which body of Labour supporters will be most insulted and alienated.”

(Iain Macwhirter for the Herald)

“As a presentational disaster this ranks alongside John Major’s back to basics speech which helped seal the fate of the UK Conservatives in the 1990s. There has been a whiff of decay around Scottish Labour for some years, but I’m beginning to think it has finally popped its clogs.”

(Socialist Party Scotland for

“Labour’s leader has signalled her support for a vicious extension of the cuts agenda and the tearing up of those modest but important advances that still survive in Scotland. In doing so she could also sound the death of Labour in Scotland.”

Putting the boot in 136

Posted on September 29, 2012 by

It’s been hard to keep up with the avalanche of opprobrium that’s been poured onto Johann Lamont’s head since Tuesday, as nationalists, commentators and Labour loyalists alike have all reacted with shock and horror to her craven, mendacious abandonment of the last shreds of the once-great party’s ideology.

(Even the most foaming of Labour’s ultra-staunch comment-thread attack dogs, such as Left Foot Forward’s absurd “Newsbot9”, called it “political suicide”.)

We can’t help but note the irony in the fact that Scottish Labour’s first ever full-blown, supposedly-independent leader is the one who has eliminated the final vestiges of difference between the more traditional Scottish party and its neoliberal London parent.

So to save you scouring the internet haphazardly, we’ve gathered together our top 10 picks of the bunch for some leisurely weekend reading. And just for fun, you can vote for your favourite in the poll in the central column. It’s no easy task. Enjoy.

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