Thursday, 28 May 2015

How devo powers could help Ruth Davidson

Three posts the Daily Record

Hi, I'm Ruth and I can save you money..
Have you met Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish low tax party?
That’s the doorstep pitch the Scottish Conservatives will use next year after the Scotland Act comes into law.
When the pomp and ceremony is done, when the swords-length debates are settled, a new political dynamic will emerge in Scotland from this Queen’s Speech.
By next Spring, in time for the 2016 Holyrood election, we will have a parliament responsible for the first time for raising 40 per cent of Scotland’s taxes and deciding on about 60 per cent of spending.
No one can dismiss it a “pretendy parliament” anymore. Despite inevitable protestations, no nationalist can deny this great leap forward for self-government.
As the late Margo MacDonald lamented, until now the Scottish parliament has not really set a budget, just decided how to distribute money raised elsewhere.
With the Scotland Act that changes. Politicians will answer for what they spend. It is a prospect parties and the public alike should reish and it will change the landscape.
Until now all the attention has been on how the SNP is outflanking Labour on the left, while camping out firmly in the middle ground of government. 
Little notice has been paid to what might happen if the Tories make Scotland’s middle classes an offer they can’t refuse - lower taxes than their English contemporaries.
We know how much the Tories like a little tax competition within a devolved UK.
George Osborne devolved Air Passenger Duty and promptly halved it for children taking off on holiday. There’s only one way for Holyrood to respond when it takes responsibility for APD.
Similarly, John Swinney swiftly altered his Land and Buildings Transaction Tax on middle class properties when Osborne offered English sellers a better deal.
As Tory Austerity 2.0 begins to bite next year can the SNP offer low taxes? 
The SNP has scooped up left wing votes and stands for independence.
So, if you back the Union and believe in low taxes the Tories will offer you a leaflet. 
Knocked off a pedestal, Labour is unsure of its offer, and this week a Lib Dem vote equates to a vote for fibbing. 
Squeezed from the left, pinched on the right, what will this mean for Scottish Labour’s middle class support? 
 Devolution, the reviving drink for the Scottish Tory party - who’d have thunk it?   

When Yes means No

Last year a Yes vote meant leaving the Union, next year a Yes vote means staying in the Union. Got that?
In the European referendum coming swiftly down the tracks the question will be framed so we will be asked  to confirm we want to stay in the EU.
No one should underestimate the advantage of Yes, the positive choice which gave the Scottish independence campaign plenty momentum.
But it is going to be hard to drum up enthusiasm for endorsing continuing membership of the European Union.
Even with tinkering reforms the organisation is basketcase behemoth incapable of responding to the needs of millions of Europeans.
There are powerful political tides are sweeping the continent - strong nationalist movements, hard attitudes on immigration, aggressive Russian expansionism and the siren call of parties and governments who would wish away the rules of economics.
Britain is not immune to these currents. Already we have walked away from our commitment to the Mediterranean refugees. Alex Salmond, to his credit, made his first policy statement as the Foreign Policy spokesman on the issue.
My generation has had the protection of Europe from war and hunger and, when the wall came down, the cultural and economic prize of central Europe opening up like a clam.
It would be complacent to rely on the power of Yes to prevent the disintegration of the EU or our departure from it.
It is not impossible that the tide could turn, that we could become the generation who turn our backs on Europe.

Lessons in being a minority partner

The emotional vote in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum boosted liberal spirits across the British Isles.
Success has many parents. But it was the Irish Labour Party that made the vote a manifesto issue and condition of coalition with the Fine Gael government.
Labour may not reap the reward but has delivered a lesson on advancing progressive politics while being a minority coalition partner.
And, if anyone asks you what’s the point of a Labour Party...

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