The vote was around free school meals for kids in primary one to three and an extension of childcare for some kids who have parents out of work.
The part of the motion concerning free school meals has been in place in England for a while prompting Ruth Davidson (Leader of the Conservative group in Holyrood) to slaver:
"We have a Westminster policy delivered with Westminster money, and the SNP playing catch-up but trying to claim the credit”
There are so many things wrong with this statement its difficult to know where to start. A 'Westminster policy' wouldn't affect Scotland because this area of government is devolved - only Holyrood policy counts here. 'Westminster money' - insultingly, there is no such thing, its our money. The tax you (or your parents) pay in Scotland is collected by HM treasury for disbursement across the UK - its always YOUR money.
|Ruth loves to give people the impression Westminster 'funds' Scotland, ignoring entirely just how much cash flows from the people of Scotland to Westminster in the first place.|
The SNP 'playing catch up' has nothing to do with what ever party happens to be the Scottish Government of the day and everything to do with the way Scotland gets its pocket money from Westminster - enter the Barnett Consequential (yawn.) The Scottish parliament didn't have the money for this until England started spending on the policy, at that point a consequential kicked in and Scotland got its per capita share of the expenditure (worth around £60m,) albeit a year hence; this is how Scottish devolved affairs are funded. Its also why Ruth Davidson (a Tory) can claim the SNP or who ever else happens to be in power (although we suspect she'd never utter it about a Tory administration) will always be behind the loop.
|How most Scottish funding works and why without independence; it really doesn't.|
Its a common theme coming from Scottish opposition parties, on childcare for example, in the Scottish Government's publication 'Scotland's Future' they want to provide of 1000 hours of nursery care in an independent Scotland. Opposition parties say; why not do it now, its devolved. But how does the Scottish Government pay for it? If independent, the extra cash raised from tax revenues when parents return to work will go into a Scottish exchequer (which is how it would be funded,) currently it goes to the Westminster exchequer - where it stays - unless a consequential pops up. Otherwise something else in the Scottish budget must be cut, unlike Westminster, Holyrood cannot borrow to cover any funding short fall for devolved policies.
While this is can be a bit complicated, its exactly why devolution - as Westminster would have it - doesn't work and its why they desperately want a no vote in September. Every year Westminster is handed a blank cheque signed by Scottish tax payers to do with as it pleases, if it doesn't cover all of Westminster's lofty needs, don't worry, we write them another one to cover the interest on the money they had to borrow.
All of that with the background knowledge Scotland more than pays its way, Scotland generates 9.9% of the UK's total tax revenue with only 8.4% of its population.
|Courtesy of Business for Scotland|
This means, Scotland funds itself and would require (little or) no borrowing while the rest of the UK doesn't and does. We in Scotland end up helping to pay off interest on borrowing we didn't actually need in the first place. (Follow the link under the picture above for a more detailed explanation; its important and a bit galling.)
As usual I digress.
Labour's Kezia Dugdale was on the telly last night explaining why 'Scottish' Labour voted against free school lunches for all P1's to 3's. John McKay of Scotland Tonight asked: "Why did Labour vote against free school meals today?" Her reply...
"We had to vote against the government’s motion today because the last line of the motion said that you needed independence to ensure that kids in Scotland had the best start in life, the best opportunity to grow up in the best country in the world. We disagree, we don’t think you need independence to do that."For reasons already given (Barnett funding,) the point about needing independence to ensure kids get the best start is self-evident. Kezia (a Labour MSP) must not know what 'ensure' actually means; or perhaps she doesn't realise, if Westminster decide to discontinue the policy over free meals, funding for it in Scotland would disappear overnight?
To summarise, Labour voted against this policy because?
A) It doesn't go far enough
B) It goes too far
C) We hate anything which might put independence in a positive light.
|Pinched from wingsoverscotland, (its Kezia Dugdale.)|
The next logical step on this is universality (where every one gets access, not just those who need it.) Its a gnarly topic, why for example should rich OAP's get a free bus pass when they also run a posh car? Its a valid point, until you come to understand just how expensive means testing can be. In the area of school meals, there can be a stigma attached to those in receipt of free lunches. Even I remember at school the cruel ribbing kids got (in between hiding from dinosaurs and playing with lumps of partially formed coal) if they were getting a free lunch.
This policy does away with it completely and anyway, isn't having free school meals a good thing to do generally? Just because a family may be above the breadline doesn't necessarily mean the kids are being fed. Some might say, in order to be above the breadline, many parents have to spend so much time working they have less & less time to prepare hearty fayre for their sprogs.
In any case, this demonstrates why the current constitutional set-up does Scotland a disservice and highlights the hypocritical, self-serving nature of the opposition at Holyrood and the wider Better Together campaign.
Meanwhile, there are many in Scotland who will witness examples of this over and over again but because its the SNP and a man called Alex Salmond they'll side with arguments made by people like Kezia Dugdale or Ruth Davidson.
Next time, try ignoring the people and concentrate on the words only, maybe then promising free school meals for five to seven year olds won't sound quite so much like the work of the devil - as Kezia or Ruth would love you to believe.