SNP will continue to take Scotland on a steady fiscally ‘conservative’ course…

Very perceptive take from Professor Paul Cairney on where the SNP is after their conference. The reality is there will be no second push for a referendum until the answer is likely to be significantly different (an expression of doubt that the new converts to the SNP would trundle happily into the Yes lobby this time).

Nor will there be any sharp move towards the Nordic model of social democracy. (For a start the money is not there.) Paul notes clear fiscal policy of the SNP in a speech to be given by John Swinney:

…Scotland’s equivalent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirms that the SNP likes to combine ‘social democratic’ ideas on spending, but strategies on taxation that would generally not look out of place in George Osborne’s Red Box. Swinney will propose to give local authorities the power to reduce rates of business tax (well in advance of Osbourne granting the same powers in England).

This initiative follows a series of speeches by Alex Salmond, while First Minister, which suggested that the SNP would also like to reduce corporation taxes and airport charges, to increase economic competitiveness and encourage inward investment. It also reinforces the SNP Government’s decision to (effectively) ‘freeze’ the rates of council tax, which remain the more regressive option than its previous plans to introduce a local income tax, and likely aversion to raising income tax (the most toxic taxation instrument) in any meaningful way.

In that context, the economic lines between a Conservative UK government and SNP Scottish Government are far less clear than we might deduce from the vociferous debates that took place during the referendum debate in 2014 and were repeated in the run up to the UK general election.

Indeed, the biggest dividing lines were in areas that the SNP knew it could not control – when it argued for an alternative to ‘austerity’ and a slower rate of budget cuts to allow for economy boosting investment – which make the differences seem more rhetorical than substantive. [Emphasis added]

Convenient that. As Torcuil Creighton argued before the first IndyRef, the parallels with De Valera’s maxim that Labour Must Wait (a line which later was substantially mythologised as the actual reason Labour failed in Ireland)  are striking. Not least when you examine the policy detail:

In cases where the SNP has demanded more powers successfully, its actions tend to relate to ‘hot button’ issues, such as its intention to mitigate the effects of the ‘bedroom tax’. Rather than propose a major reform of tax and benefit provision to get to the ‘root causes’ of socio-economic inequalities via redistribution, it talks instead about the use of public service delivery to mitigate their effects.

This strategy relies largely on public service reforms, localism, and the idea of ‘prevention’ policies – to intervene as early as possible in people’s lives to improve their life chances, through interventions such as parenting programmes – which are also promoted by the UK Government. Further, these strategies generally come in second place behind the higher profile spending decisions which often exacerbate inequalities.

For example, the SNP Government maintains free tuition fees in Universities which, in the absence of redistributive fiscal policy, and the continued presence of an attainment gap, doubly reinforces major inequalities in education.

It has to be said that the SNP will be given a very broad licence to fail in these regard, as was Labour before them. That may be a reflection of the sheer scale of the problem of social exclusion that lies ahead. People need change they can believe in after all.

For now, Independence (or the dream of it) appears to be it:

As long as independence remains the main reported story of SNP conferences, and the SNP remains unusually popular, few will pay meaningful attention to these socio-economic policy issues.



  • Slater

    Immediately after the Scottish parliament election the SNP will ramp up the demand for a second referendum.
    They won’t do so beforehand because they want to maximise the SNP vote to include daft unionists and Labour supporters who think they can vote SNP without endorsing separation.
    Then we will all be told 54% or whatever of voters want freedom from British oppression. And want it now.

  • Tom Wintringham

    Whatever Mr Swinney tries to do on one hand to boost the economy he is inadvertently undoing on other hand when he budgets for officials who are committing crimes of economic sabotage and vandalism, committed by the UK police state in Scotland under the noses of the SNP government.

    Mr Swinney budgets for policing, prosecution and courts whose heavy-handed blundering criminal incompetence is wrecking the prospects for prosperity of the people of Scotland.

    The state crimes which I allege are wrecking the Scottish economy are those such as –

    * treason against the Scots for destroying Scottish democracy by imposing a “Stasi”-style police state crushing Scots’ freedom of expression, arrests for political comments in social media and court orders terrorizing and gagging political critics

    * economic sabotage and vandalism by crushing academic freedom and seizing irreplaceable economically valuable data held on computers and memory devices, wasting opportunities for future economic growth

    * causing deaths by failing to prosecute dangerous drivers who are medically unfit to drive

    Mr Swinney should put a stop on all Scottish government payouts to the police and prosecutors until such time as the following criminally incompetent officials are replaced


    * Chief Constable Sir Stephen House (he’s going, but he has not gone yet)

    * Chair of the Scottish Police Authority, Andrew Flanagan, newly appointed but already failing Scots by supporting the same UK-approved appointment process which chose House, restricting the candidates considered only to the pitiful plodding ranks of time-served UK police officers, excluding from all consideration the appointment of Scottish patriots who could police more intelligently

    * Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and Solicitor General Lesley Thomson, the Scottish government’s law officers, first appointed by Salmond and MacAskill but confirmed in office by First Minister Sturgeon, who had and still has the power to sack them and appoint new law officers, but for some unknown reason, has not done so

    * Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Catherine Dyer – the top UK civil servant in charge of prosecuting Scottish patriots and not prosecuting those who would kill innocent Scots

  • Gingray

    The SNP appear to be moving towards the more modern version of social democracy that is seen in the nordic nations, which is very business friendly.

    This was something that popped up on my greader this week, and the similarities with what Sweeney is proposing are striking: