I don't normally write about politics because lets be honest, it turns folk off and lets be honest once more, I can't afford to do that with my readership numbers. But, I couldn't not say anything about this rammy over universal benefits which is so popular here in Scotland yet so derided in England or I should say, derided by Westminster in England.
As I see it, its this simple; what kind of society do you want to live in? For me, something approaching a caring but not overly indulgent one is what I'd prefer. These universal benefits are not free, they are already being paid for out of general taxation, the wiggle room in terms of public spending is what you spend it on, not as Labour and Johann Lamont etc would have you believe; that it can be spent at all.
You might say, 'but the rich benefit more than the poor' and have a point, but time and again its been proven, if you start means testing, two things happen; people (especially vulnerable OAP's) are embarrassed by it so don't even ask, and the process costs a ton of money, the savings are questionable. Take prescription charges, something Jackie Baillie (Labour Health spokesperson) who last night on newsnight said she'd reintroduce for the richest (ie. people earning over £16k pa, so not the super rich.) What she didn't say is it costs as much as you'd save to means test it, she went on to say she'd spend the money saved elsewhere, its just really very lazy debate and so easily debunked, a bit like telling your Mum you didn't eat all the biscuits while wearing the empty biscuit tin on your head.. Or something...
(It has also been pointed out, that if universal benefits are universally dumped then the rich wouldn't be paying for them any more but the poorest would be losing out; so who really benefits after all?)
In any case, the point I was making is this, well two points actually. Firstly, an example, my mother gets free personal care in her home, obviously I know her (she's my Mum) so I know if this was means tested, she wouldn't even ask for it, she'd be in a care home even now although she's thriving at home. I would challenge any hard-nosed conservative to deny her and people like her, the chance to live in their own home with dignity.
Secondly, and this was the point I was really trying to get to, Labour have abandoned Scotland, deliberately and cynically, I say this because down South there is still a large number of voters who believe England subsidises Scotland (look at any BBC article on the topic that allows comments,) suffice to say, English tax payers do not subsidise Scotland. Scotland's GDP figures are worked out minus Scotland's geographical share of oil revenue (stay focused now,) its a bit like Westminster working out England's GDP figures and leaving out financial services income. Worked out per head of population Scotland pays more into the UK coffers than does England, that info comes from the UK Government who lets be honest, would lie about it if they could.
Still, since a great many people in England think they're paying for Scottish universal benefits, something they don't get, when Johann Lamont etc say this needs to be remedied, not only does it fly in the face of what Labour actually stand for, ask yourself this, to whom does this idea really appeal? Scottish or English Voters?
We basically have a Scottish Labour Politician appointed by a Scottish electorate making a policy decision which is popular among English but not Scottish voters so her party can gain votes in England. I can't figure it out any other way. Ed Miliband might look like Wallace, just think about how cynical this actually is and look at him again, in fact; look at all of them.
Is there a more damning indictment of Labour in Scotland, that they would do such a thing? At least the Tories have an excuse, they've only got one (pretty daft) MP and a rump of MSP's in Scotland.
A foot note. Unionist politicians always base the things they say they'll do around UK union economic conditions, Lamont says we should look at our spending, fair enough. In the Union Scotland currently forks out for things like trident, wars in sandy places and aircraft carriers (with no planes so in reality; large flat boats.) Would Scotland if independent do this? No, these three things alone free up (in UK terms) billions, I mean to say, hundreds of billions over the life time of the activities. What would you rather spend your tax money on, a nuclear weapons system that will never be used, or making sure your mum or dad got a wee bit of dignity later in life and your kids can get to uni so they can pay the taxes to help cover the ongoing costs and to support positive, useful pursuits at home in Scotland and further afield?
Universal benefits are not something for nothing, for this to be the case, so would all other government-provided services and last time I checked, I'm still paying a hefty wedge each month in income tax for them all.
Don't worry, the next blog will be a nonsense, kudos if you got down this far and shame on you if you just skipped down with out reading, you should know, I will be testing you...