Beware the traps

An interesting remark from Kezia Dugdale quoted in today’s Herald,

“The original purpose of devolution was to forever protect Scotland from the worst of the Tories…”

I don’t recall that ever being mentioned at the time. It suggests that, even as British Labour was setting up the Scottish Parliament, they were assuming that they would lose to the Tories in coming elections. It is also difficult to see how something which was set up to be no more than a “parish council” might have the capacity to effectively counter the power of any Westminster government, whichever of the British parties was in power.

And aren’t British Labour and their Tory allies known for whining endlessly about Holyrood “picking fights” with Westminster? Now, Kezia Dugdale seems to be saying that this is precisely what the Scottish Parliament was supposed to do.

Except that she isn’t demanding that the Scottish Parliament oppose Tory policies. She is demanding that the SNP administration facilitate the Tory onslaught on the poor, the powerless and the vulnerable by subsidising their policies out of the meagre allocation of the block grant. She is demanding that the Scottish Government take resources from other areas where they are just as desperately needed in order to mitigate the effects of Tory cuts.

Dugdale is not talking about opposing the Tories. She is talking about enabling them.

We saw a precursor to this in the matter of the so-called “bedroom tax”. While the SNP fought tooth and nail for the abolition of this odious imposition – first introduced by a British Labour government – “Scottish” Labour was solely interested in attacking the SNP administration for failing to divert resources from other areas of need to alleviate the effects of the policy. When it was pointed out that permission was needed from the UK Government to do this, did British Labour in Scotland get incensed that the Scottish Government had to beg to be allowed to spend Scottish taxpayers money as it saw fit? Not a bit of it! Instead, they accused the SNP of “blaming London” and, of course, of “picking fights with Westminster”.

At that time it was pointed out that this would not be the end of it and that it was quite insane to imagine that the Scottish Government could continue to effectively subsidise Tory cuts from a finite and shrinking budget. It is just this insanity that Dugdale is demanding. Because her thinking doesn’t go beyond the first anti-SNP line that pops into her head, she is insisting that the Scottish Government must fully mitigate the effect of Westminster’s ongoing assault on the weak without having any addition resources to do so.

Of course, Dugdale doesn’t talk about resources. She talks about “powers”. She insists that the Scottish Government has – or soon will have – the authority to counter Tory welfare cuts. This is a highly dubious claim in itself. It becomes utterly ludicrous when one recognises that power is totally useless without means. And the Scotland Bill being pushed through the UK Parliament, with only token interference from British Labour, explicitly excludes the possibility of Scotland having the additional resources that would be required to fully off-set all the Westminster-imposed cuts.

Dugdale’s remarks are interesting for their foolishness. But they are interesting for another reason. They are interesting because they hint at the real purpose of the British state’s latest round of constitutional tinkering. That purpose has absolutely nothing to do with restoring to the Scottish Parliament powers that it should rightfully possess and everything to do with setting an array of fiscal traps for the SNP administration. All Kezia Dugdale and British Labour in Scotland are doing is trying to spring some of those traps a bit early.

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About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. None of my attitudes are immutable. None of my conclusions are final. None of my opinions are humble.
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