My article for the Edinburgh Evening News on 27th June 2019. You can also read the full article on the Edinburgh Evening News website here.
Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are as big a risk to the UK union as any Scottish Nationalist, says Ian Murray
NEXT week marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Scottish Parliament.
I remember watching the historic moment on the TV, when I was employed as a young worker at Scottish Equitable.
Babies born on July 1, 1999, are now adults who have the vote and their own say in Scotland’s future.
There are 30-year-olds in work who were in secondary school when Holyrood first opened its doors.
Over the two decades since Tony Blair delivered devolution, the parliament’s powers have increased rapidly and today it is the Scottish Government which decides how much income tax we pay, alongside a raft of other policies like our schools, hospitals and care services.
The promises made before the 2014 independence referendum to build a powerhouse parliament have been delivered in full.
But, unfortunately, the SNP Government remains far too reluctant to use its far-reaching powers. The Nationalists’ arguments for independence are destroyed if they can’t blame Westminster, so they repeatedly refuse to act and instead prefer to create a false grievance that diminishes our Scottish Parliament.
This isn’t just bad politics; it has a real-life impact on people in Edinburgh and across Scotland.
Its taken poverty campaigners and opposition parties to sweat blood and tears to get the SNP Government to listen to charities who want to top up Child Benefit in Scotland to lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty. Just ponder that. Our scottish government refusing to use powers to reduce child poverty. That’s shameful.
It means the SNP Government won’t lift the two-child cap to end the rape clause in Scotland.
And it means the SNP Government won’t use its powers to help the WASPI women who have been hit by UK state pension changes. They have the powers but no political will.
Yesterday, the SNP published a report on progress towards tackling child poverty, and there have clearly been welcome steps.
But independence would be a disastrous backwards step. Public services are key to eradicating poverty, and leaving the UK would lead to even deeper austerity with less to spend on these services. That is confirmed by the SNP’s own economic blueprint.
Just like Brexit will decimate the government funds available for the poorest in society, so too would Scexit – but it would be significantly worse.
The majority of people in Scotland do not want a divisive second independence referendum, and it’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to listen to the people of Scotland.
We have wasted too much parliamentary time and money on constitutional disputes already. The solution to today’s challenges is not nationalism, whether it’s Boris Johnson’s English nationalism or Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish nationalism. It’s a return to progressive politics. The UK Labour government led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty in Scotland by focusing on it. The number of children in poverty fell from three million in 1998 to 1.6 million in 2010, but has since risen again under the Tories and SNP. Never let anyone say that all politicians are the same.
To address poverty across the entire UK, we need a Labour Party that is both progressive and electable. That starts with being unambiguously pro-EU and pro-UK, and there is still work to do in that regard. But it certainly doesn’t start with a Tory Party under Boris Johnson that is pro-Brexit and wants to prioritise tax cuts for the richest in society. He and the Conservatives are as big a risk to the UK union as any Scottish Nationalist.
And it doesn’t start with a Scottish National Party under Nicola Sturgeon that is pro-Scexit and refuses to use its powers to help the poorest in society. Nationalism is an opinion but it’s not entitled to make up its own facts. The facts are that it helps no one but the ideologies who pursue it at the expense of what matters.