Sunday, 14 September 2014

Please vote No. Don't make Scottish poverty worse.

Why am I voting No? 
This was Cupar yesterday. Please keep it like this.
There are two main reasons. One is my love for my country, which is the United Kingdom. That's no reason for you to vote No if you don't feel that.
But please please please vote No because of poverty.
For the longest time it's inflamed me that so much of the Yes campaign is about making Scotland richer and England poorer - as if that was an axiomatically good thing. It's incredibly selfish, and will increase poverty in the UK and I oppose it vehemently.
But apparently most Yes campaigners don't care about that at all. Ok, so be it.
But it's now become clear that a Yes vote is the best guarantee of an increased level of poverty in Scotland.
Yes campaigners can shout "food banks" and "UK inequality" as much as they like. Do you think I think those are good things? No.
Surely all that Scottish oil wealth will eliminate poverty? It's not *quite* impossible but I'd certainly take a bet at say 3-1 that in 5 years after Independence Scottish poverty will be worse. (I'm serious, I'll take the bet if I know you, and you can even choose the measure of poverty). 
Why am I so sure?
Scotland will start off with - assuming geographic share of oil revenues - a deficit which is roughly the same percentage as that of the UK as a whole. There is no such thing as "Scottish Oil Wealth." There is major income from oil, but it's not a game changer for Scotland - because without oil Scotland is significantly poorer than the rest of the UK. So that's roughly neutral.
And it will start off with a decimated financial services industry. Which employs 100,000 people. I use the term decimated carefully, since probably the rapid loss of jobs will be about 10,000. Probably over time it will be far worse. That's just one industry. If we lose thousands of jobs, take a wild guess who will be the losers? Right, it's not middle class people like me, it's the poor.
And Scotland will start off led by politicians who have spent their whole careers aiming for independence for richer or poorer. That's noble and I respect it, but remember what it means. They literally will take independence at the cost of making people in Scotland poorer. Their entire career is founded on that basis. Remember what that means. Whatever your hope is for an independent Scotland, many longstanding campaigners on the Yes side would grab at an independent Scotland even if it meant the exact opposite of that.
And it will start off in a country where the bogey words "Westminster" and "Tory" have become hate filled code for the unacceptable use of the word "English" as an insult. Led by a party who use this code as much as they can. Just the other day Salmond was talking about "Team Scotland" versus "Team Westminster". You know what, Alex? We are all on Team Scotland. And you can choose not to believe it, but Westminster politicians are too.  
Food banks? Bad that we need them - but where is the SNP support for making them full of food for the poor? At a trivial cost to the taxpayer the government could have made them (literally if they wanted) flow with milk and honey.
Inequality? Where are the SNP policies for redistribution? What have they done to help? I give them credit for exactly one thing - giving money to councils to help ameliorate the bedroom tax. They didn't even have the guts to boast about it - as they had every right to - and I assume that's because they don't want people to know that the bedroom tax is not a big issue in Scotland now. And then they didn't even bother to show up for a vote to eliminate parts of it nationally.
Health poverty? I have watched in disbelief - and fury - at the health minister of my country using the terrible horrible life expectancy in parts of Glasgow as a reason for separation. For example, arguing as a positive point that the reduced life expectancy in Scotland makes pensions more affordable. The health minister of Scotland! I know it's not an easy problem to fix, but my god if it was my responsibility and it was this bad after 15 years of devolution and 7 years of SNP, I would be looking everywhere I could to find solutions, not saying it was all the bogeyman's fault.
Poverty full stop? Why am I paying the same tax rate as my friends in England and Wales? Because the SNP government for 7 years has not raised it to help people less lucky than me. They even let the power to change tax rates lapse.
Yes, some of the reasons I just mentioned are criticisms of the SNP.  I've already blogged about how Salmond tells us that a Yes vote is a vote for him: and indeed he made it even clearer in the second tv debate after I wrote that. But my main point is that - with most of the powers necessary to make things better for the poor in Scotland - the Holyrood government has failed after 15 years.  Actually, to be more precise, I'm sure they have succeeded in various ways, but not as much as we would have liked.  And for complete clarity, I absolutely believe we'll see increased poverty whether Scotland had an SNP, Tory, LibDem, Labour or any coalition government.
Please vote No. Don't make Scottish poverty worse.

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