|Reservoir Dogs, schemie style|
The highest profile policy announcement at their conference in Oban was the commitment to scrap the Council Tax freeze. You may remember the high profile campaign by COSLA and by the leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson a couple of months ago to have this measure scrapped by the current administration. Scottish Labour have committed themselves to scrapping this measure, but have said that they will put a cap of 2% on council tax rises. In a funny way Iain Gray (above, right) has produced a policy which pleases no one. Hard pressed people will see their council tax rise by 2% for every year of the next parliament, at precisely the moment where the Scottish economy needs people to spend money to put needed liquidity into the economy. Scottish Labour councillors are not happy either, they did not want a cap – it cannot have escaped their notice that Council Tax for Band D homes is 20% lower here than it is down sarf. The argument will be that this is to ensure the survival of frontline services, but surely there are enough examples of Labour largesse to torpedo this idea (just please let it not be the Tories supporting TPA that exposes it). The recurring theme of Grey’s ideas is that they really do not go far enough and smack of being stuck between two stools.
A classic of this stance is his pledge that he and his ministers would take a 5% pay cut if he was elected. While a cut of £5000 is not to be sniffed at, the First Minister still takes home around £130,000, which in Recession Scotland is somewhat exorbitant. If Gray really wanted to make a statement, he should have announced a cut of around 20-25% in his and his cabinet’s salary.
While the proposed cuts to the amount of Police services looks good on paper, this is a proposal which will cost money in the long run… as will the proposal to amalgamate all of the health boards. A much better proposal would be to get rid of the majority of middle management of the NHS. And what of “Education, Education, Education”. There are pledges to help to deal with illiteracy and numeracy problems, and to re-employ teachers “thrown on the scrapheap”. However there are no proposals as to how to pay for this. The last time Scottish Labour were in power, councils up and down the country signed up to renovate their school buildings using PFI. Today, PFI repayments take an estimated £800 million out of education budgets up and down the land. I would think that would have more relevance to our ailing education system than the current government.
Gray’s pledges do not have the look of the next Scottish government, and they still have the legacy of Jack McConnell about them – do less better. The policies do appear plausible enough to the hard core Labour voter, who will trust Labour more that they trust the SNP. However they have given something for the SNP to attack, particularly on Council Tax. They have also given un-costed pledges on Education & Health. They may well be favourites to win on May 5th (and I think that they will win) but they have given the SNP several lines of attack. Let the spinning commence.