You know, it’s taken a while for the big three Westminster parties to find some sort of Kryptonite for the SNP, but like a dog with a bone they’re not letting go. Except that particular bone is nothing of the sort.
The Kryptonite in particular revolves around the proposals for Full Fiscal Autonomy, pro Independence supporter’s nominated consolation prize and if I’m being honest something I would have voted for over full Independence – had Cameron not torpedoed the two question referendum.
Fiscal Autonomy essentially involves the devolution of all tax raising powers to Holyrood. It would be the next logical step for Scotland in terms of both further devolution and also as well in solving Scottish issues with Scottish solutions. It would also, I would assume given the position of the Scottish electorate & our parties, consolidate the move away of Scottish politics from the obsession with the Anglo-American economic model and cement the move towards the Scandinavian economic model and hopefully help towards Scandinavian levels of quality of life. No bad thing. So what’s the problem.
Well, the recent release of last years GERS figures has got the… do we still call them pro-Unionist… Westminster Three up in arms as they show that there would be a deficit in the public finances. This current financial year, the deficit is estimated to be £7.6 billion with it projected to go up to £8 billion. Such Mystic Meggery should not really be a concern to the SNP for two reasons.
Firstly, and more obviously, we do not have Fiscal Autonomy as we stand at the moment. And there is currently no plan for it to happen. That calculus may change come the aftermath of the election, but in the meantime such political whataboutery should really be dismissed without looking disdainful. Well…. except that Sturgeon looks somewhat trapped back on her crease (to use cricketing terminology) whenever Murphy brings it up. Instead, Sturgeon should probably ask Murphy what would be in Labour’s 2018 budget… or something like that to show up the sheer stupidity of trying to second guess a fiscal decision that is unlikely to happen for another four years if at all.
The second reason is that those figures are predicated on the assumption that the fiscal levers will remain as they are at the moment. They will not as the Tories have pledged to cut taxes while Labour are campaigning on a tax raising ticket – the SNP have already said that they agree with Labour’s 50% rate though there’s nothing on the 10% starter rate or the scrapping of the rules regarding Non Domicile residents (or Non-Doms).
As I’ve said this shouldn’t really trouble the SNP or the FM, but in the television appearances that I’ve seen Sturgeon has been in a modicum of trouble over FFA. Today on Sunday Politics Scotland she didn’t look as surefooted until the subject moved away from Fiscal Autonomy – though being barracked by the three other party leaders would make anyone less than surefooted.
This is entirely about being seen to be the Anti-Austerity party in the eyes of the Scottish electorate. Labour cannot be seen as that, given Balls has already signed up to Osborne’s scorched earth. Their aim is then to paint the SNP as being less than truthful about their aims. The problem with that is that Sturgeon has developed a genuinely Keynsian roadmap away from austerity with the below inflation spending increases – something Labour would have done pre-Blair. So once again Sturgeon has an answer to those Labour attacks.