At the end of the day life is about perspectives. The interesting thing about perspectives is that they’re personal. It’s why we don’t always [or often] all agree, and it’s why on those rare occasions that most of us do agree it’s called a common perspective.
The common Scots political perspective is social democracy, we don’t all agree with that all the time, but it’s reasonably accurate for most of us, most of the time. It’s emphasised by our voting tendencies.
To any individual capable of thought and wishing to secure an elected position in our nation it means any policies pursued should fit into the realm of being social or democratic. Those who can tick both boxes you might just be approaching a sure thing, deliver and watch the trust build. Fail to deliver, as the Liberal-Democrats discovered, and there will be a price for the betrayal.
Johann Lamont, Labour’s latest leadership incumbent north of the border went out of her way the other night to ensure she didn’t check either box. In fact she went so far as to take a rubber and remove the options of either social or democratic from the paper itself.
This was her effective promise to us.
It didn’t matter that she didn’t actually wield a piece of paper with strikethroughs over these two words, Social and Democracy.
Collectively that’s what we perceived she did. Twitter and Facebook lit up with it, a great many column inches were dedicated to it. People in the streets, including the average committed and dedicated Labour voter are left sadly shaking their heads. Shaking their heads and for the first time for many of them, though they may not yet realise it, they are now considering a “Yes” vote.
Ms. Lamont’s Newsnight announcement of future Labour policy was announced in dictatorial fashion, like a manifesto it has been embedded in our collective consciousness. There was no consultation of Labour members we heard of, no party conference discussion, no apparently collective decision making.
It was a decidedly Stalinesque media announcement by the red party that certainly wasn’t socialist and it assuredly wasn’t democratic.
Our perspectives are now in the process of being shifted again, but this time they’re not being nudged just by a fraction, this time our perspectives are taking the full brunt of a 10’ long 2x4 beam across the forehead. And it’s not being wielded gently.
New Labour, Scotland’s traditional party will be removing social equality from our land.
Cut away the fluff, strip the dressing, and dump the salad and desert, that’s the basic statement from Labour in Scotland. The meat in the oratory was “Just like England” and “Death to social equality, death to opportunity”.
That’s as blunt as it gets, like the individual hit by the 2x4 the average Unionist Scot has to absorb the blow, overcome the pain and shock, they have to comprehend what’s happened and they have to rationalise it as part of their healing process.
That rationalisation falls into three roughly even categories, “they didn't mean it” will account for a small amount of voters, those who refuse the evidence of YouTube, the media or their own often neglected research. Fundamentally these are the deniers in any society.
Then there are the justifiers, those who will look for any reason to accept the actions just perpetrated on them, and they’ll come up with everything from “it’s really not needed” to “we just can’t afford it anyway” through “It’s really my fault, you know”.
Over the coming months as the impact is processed we can expect the deny-ers and justifiers to make up the smallest portion of these previously “secure” Union votes.
Lastly we’ll have the realists, the ones who look into what’s on offer, and they’ll see that where Scotland’s Labour Party would have them walk is down the path of social inequality, of unbridled capitalism and of relative deprivation for most individuals.
For the majority this vision will not sit well with their perception of a fair, free and socially democratic land.
These are the ones who will realise that the raft of services proposed for elimination will not only remove some fundamental and unique aspects of our culture, but they will hurt us all universally.
Consider the average taxpayer, if we have no children our taxes still go for schools, we accept that, it’s a cultural and social necessity. That’s just one example.
We all pay in to support the common good of society, those who don’t pay their fair share are criminals or sociopaths; there really are no other words for them. These individuals reap our hard bought benefits and don’t contribute. That’s abhorrent.
Now consider Johann Lamont’s proposals, they’d lead to the re-introduction of means testing on an across society basis, that would be hugely expensive, demeaning and just as abhorrent.
Ms. Lamont proposes that those who can’t afford to pay, whose means tests prove they’re poor, deprived, or otherwise “worthy” of state aid will still have free access to services.
Ms. Lamont’s just alienated the poor, just as effectively as ATOS alienates the disabled. She has erected barriers in our society.
Ms. Lamont’s also put Labour in a place of alienating the rich. She’s telling them that their extra taxes they pay on their extra income will now be used to help the poor, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but she’s also telling them they’ll be taxed again, because the benefits they’re paying their extra taxes for will not be available to them or their children. They’ll have to pay again if they want those benefits.
Not only will the rich pay more, they’ll pay twice and then some. There’s no world in which that’s a fair shake. It’s a shakedown.
Ms. Lamont’s also alienated the middle classes, because she’s introducing uncertainty. Where will elderly care go? Where will the levels be set to qualify? Will my band D home suddenly have to pay for rubbish collection while the band C is exempted? Why should I pay £10,000 more for my daughter’s education than the McDonald’s next door when I only make £2,000 a year more?
As soon as we create a society of “I get but you don’t”, we create societal fractures. In Ms. Lamont’s world the poor could get free university without encumbrances, the middle class can scrimp and save and endure decades of debt so that their children have “equal” opportunity. This policy is proving a disaster in England, why bring it here unless you've simply been ordered to?
Mundane to extreme examples perhaps, but these are perceptions that are being created.
A fair tax system is where taxes are paid universally, with an increasing but not undue or inappropriate burden on the wealthy, and all share equally in the benefits of the taxes. VAT can’t be removed from children’s shoes only if you make less than twice the average wage.
Society has arguable obligation to provide food and shelter to all, at a basic level, with some limitations that society allocates. There’s no question these should be income based provisions.
Everything else in society should be provided as it is paid for, to every citizen. That is a fair society.
An unfair society will expect the folk in the band D house to pay more tax, to support charity, to invest in their children’s future as they also have to save for that education while being taxed for another child’s school.
Members of a fair society should simply expect severely unfair treatment to cause these supporting individuals to move. It’s like any relationship, if we perceive we are being treated inappropriately, we first tend to try to work out the issues, but if irreconcilable differences are there then we’ll tend to leave the relationship.
Scottish Labour just gave every appearance of reaching the “irreconcilable differences” point with many of their supporters; it will spill over into the referendum vote and future elections.
Labour achieved “irreconcilable differences” through proposing severely unfair treatment across Scotland’s franchise. The visit to the “decree absolute” stage may take time for many, but it is road they will travel. Even Tory London didn’t dare go so far so quickly.
Even Tory London would be aware that if just 1/3 of Scotland’s defence under-spend was used in Scotland then all these programs could not just be maintained, but increased, and we’re not even touching the savings through scrapping Trident.
Even Tory London would be aware that not only could these programs be expanded by doing this but that we’d be able to increase our military substantially, reversing London’s cuts.
Tory London also knows that even after all that was achieved there’d be money remaining to invest in either infrastructure or begin a sovereign wealth fund. Just from the defence under-spend.
Tory London appears to know something that formerly Labour Scotland doesn't and that’s why Labour in Scotland is working so hard to alienate all social levels of Scots society. Then again perhaps they have also been left wondering where that 2x4 came from, because it certainly doesn’t seem to have helped the “Better Together” cause at all.
“Better Together” is now severely compromised, because no matter the future damage control, no matter the policy or leadership changes in the next two years, the memory of the words uttered by Johann Lamont will remain fixed in the perception of many an average Scot.
The average non-politically inclined Scot now knows fully what’s on offer from the Union, and judging from the media and street reaction, they don’t like what they perceive at all.