The latest opinion poll for the UK Election, published by YouGov on April 10th, is quite remarkable: it records the highest-ever rating for the SNP and the lowest-ever for Labour.
This comes with less than four-weeks until polling day and after Labour’s leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, was supposed to neutralise the SNP surge by taking-on Nicola Sturgeon in two televised debates.
The reality is that Ms Sturgeon again emerged as the most credible politician amongst party leaders, as she had the previous week when pitted against David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and others.
In the STV and BBC Scotland debates, Mr Murphy came across as downright dishonest, which, of course, cannot have helped his party’s already-plummeting poll-ratings.
Any reasonable observer must surely now be questioning what is the point of the Labour Party. Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and now Jim Murphy have made clear Labour will adhere to spending cuts and austerity measures proposed by the Conservative Party. Prior to the dissolution of the UK Parliament, Labour MPs, including Murphy, voted with the Tories to impose a further £30bn of cuts, including £12bn earmarked to be slashed from the Social Security budget (which the right-wing London-based parties now call ‘welfare’ in an effort to stigmatise anyone who finds themselves having to claim a state benefit).
While thousands of women, men and children remain dependent on foodbanks to stave-off hunger, the Labour Party has committed to joining with the Tories in spending up to £120bn in building and maintaining a new system of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. This is what Labour leader Ed Miliband said during the week regarding his party’s position on the UK‘s nuclear missiles: “Our position is continuous at-sea deterrence, like the Conservative Party; renewing Trident, like the Conservative Party; multi-lateral disarmament, like the Conservative Party.”
The UK currently has four Trident submarines, each of which carries 16 nuclear missiles. Each missile has the killing-capacity of 8 Hiroshima bombs (the atomic bomb dropped on Japan by the United States). The Hiroshima bomb instantly killed around 80,000 people. Many more died from the long-term effects of radiation sickness. The final death toll was put at 135,000. Based on the Hiroshima deaths, the UK currently has the capacity to kill almost 9-million people, and the Labour Party is committed to join with the Tories to ‘upgrade’ the nuclear missile system by spending another £120bn.
Of course, Labour and Tory parties would also continue to use the Clyde as the base for the UK’s nuclear weapons of mass destruction, just 30 miles from Scotland’s biggest and most-populated city.
So, just what is the point of the Labour Party if it offers no alternative to the toxic Tories?
During the Scottish leaders’ debates, Jim Murphy excitedly pursued an answer from Nicola Sturgeon on whether or not the SNP would vote for ‘fiscal autonomy’ if it was offered by the UK Parliament. Ms Sturgeon, of course, said her party would support such a proposal. Murphy immediately said Labour would vote against Scotland receiving ‘fiscal autonomy’, despite this concept actually representing the ‘devo-max’ promised by Labour if Scots rejected independence in the recent referendum.
‘Fiscal autonomy’ would see Scotland control everything except Defence and Foreign Affairs, which would still be the responsibility of the UK Government in London. With ‘fiscal autonomy’ there would also be an end to the Barnett Formula, the method currently used to determine the amount of money Scotland receives every year in a block grant from Westminster. It was for this reason that Jim Murphy asked his question.
Labour claims that, based on UK Tory Government figures, withdrawal of the Barnett Formula would result in a £7.6bn deficit for Scotland. Therefore, the argument put forward by Murphy, Miliband and British Labour is that the SNP plans to vote for something that would leave Scots worse-off and would require higher taxes and cuts to services to balance the books.
The British Unionist coalition – Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP – along with London-based right-wing newspapers, tell us that Barnett is the mechanism that delivers financial largesse from England to the subsidy-junkie Scots. Actually, such an opinion could only be expressed by someone who either does not understand how Barnett works or who is wilfully lying.
In reality, the Barnett Formula is designed to ‘harmonise’ levels of government spending across the UK, which is another way of saying ‘reduce spending in Scotland’. This happens every year, irrespective of need in Scotland. It is also the case that the cost of providing services north of the border is often significantly higher than in England, partly because of the disparate nature of our population-spread. Therefore, providing the same level of service in Scotland can cost more than in England; so, what appears to be higher per-head spending in Scotland does not necessarily mean we are being better resourced than England, but Barnett still cuts our funding every year.
The assertion by Jim Murphy and Labour that there would be a £7.6bn ‘blackhole’ in Scotland’s finances with ‘fiscal autonomy’ and the removal of Barnett would only apply if everything else remained the same, such as Scotland continuing to pay for the Tory-Labour nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
The reality is that Westminster’s own figures for last year show Scotland paid £400 more in tax per person to the UK Treasury than anywhere else in the UK - the 34th year in a row this has been the case.
UK Treasury figures also reveal Scotland’s total revenue for 2013/14 was calculated at £54bn, with total expenditure on devolved areas of government being £40.8bn. This, then, shows a surplus of around £13bn. It is only when UK spending ‘on behalf of Scotland’ is included that the figures begin to dip into the red. For example, the UK Government charges to Scotland £3bn a year for the military (most bases are located in England), £3.1bn to service debt run-up by Westminster, and £2.5bn for ‘domestic and international services’. There are also charges made against Scotland for ‘non-identifiable’ services, which can include the offices of government departments in London and costs in relation to secret services such as MI5 and MI6.
This represents the ‘blackhole’ in Scotland’s finances to which Jim Murphy and the Labour Party currently refer in their election campaigning.
The arguments put forward by people like Jim Murphy and Ed Miliband are downright dishonest, and Labour’s policies are Tory policies.
On the basis of its actions, Labour deserves its lowest-ever poll ratings and deserves to be wiped-out in Scotland at the election on May 7th. They have no-one to blame but themselves.