The phoney war is finally over. The independence campaign is in full swing. And as it gets going, there is a simple question for Yes Scotland: who are the 10%? Which 10% of people can be persuaded to switch to a yes vote? Answer this question, succeed in persuading most of them, and so long as none of the current supporters switch the other way, we’ve won.
In answering this question, the polling has been pretty consistent. The people who could bring the yes campaign a majority are those who most fear a future Tory at number ten. It’s those who are angry with Westminster and yearn for a country that leans more to the left; those who wish to save public services from austerity and hope for greater equality; those who side with the underdog and believe the future lies with the many, not the few; those who fear UKIP isolationism more than an internationalist independence; those who have least to lose and most to gain.
The rich and the right are voting no. That much, we already know. The whole ball game has to be that 10%: a mixture of people from the missing million, and left voters who can be persuaded to part ways with their party – Labour or Lib Dem – just this once.
I say all this because, of late, Alex Salmond has made a few comments which remind us that though he may sit to the left of Scottish Labour, that isn’t saying much. In particular, his fiscal policies leave much to be desired. And this is a real problem. Because, alongside foreign affairs, tax policy is the main lever he is arguing for.
The famous example is corporation tax – which he has consistently said he would cut. More recently, he told the New Statesman that he would only increase the top rate of income tax to 50p if Westminster did first. The White Paper proposes the abolition of air passenger duty: a tax paid overwhelmingly by the rich.
I am happy to argue until I’m blue in the face about why his economics are wrong. Flights take wealth away as much as they bring it with them. The climate change they will cause will certainly do little for our future economic prospects. Opposition to higher top rates or support for lower corporation tax only make sense if you think that wealth trickles down, rather than understanding that in fact is is hoovered up. But that’s for another day.
The problem for now is the taste that these accumulated policies leaves in the mouth of those who read about them. They give a very clear impression that, for all of their belief in public services, the SNP ultimately think that people are rich because they create wealth, rather than just because they accumulate it. It leaves an underlying impression that while they are happy to do left wing things that no one really objects to – like free education, they aren’t willing to stand up to the powerful when they need to.
And the problem with this is that it makes them look untrustworthy to the 10% identified above. It makes them feel like fair-weather friends.
Of course, I’m a Green member. So from a cynical perspective, the fact that the SNP look like a party which can’t be trusted to stand with the people against the powerful may be a good thing for us in the long term if you measure success in piles of ballot papers. But all of this presents a problem for the Yes campaign.
Because the 10% aren’t the most frequent flyers nor the payers of the upper tax rate nor those who benefit from low corporation tax. They are those who already have to pull in the slack for the wealthiest.
There is, of course, a simple get-out clause. Yes Scotland isn’t the SNP. If people vote yes, then they will have the chance to vote for whatever government they want. They can, if they choose, elect a government which won’t abolish air passenger duty and will increase the top rate of income tax. But this get out clause only works so long as Yes Scotland genuinely isn’t the SNP.
So, here’s my fear. When push came to shove over currency, the statements from Yes Scotland essentially repeated the position of the current Scottish government. This is despite the fact that two of the parties on the Yes Scotland advisory board – the Greens and the SSP – both support an independent currency. Now, of course, the SNP is much bigger than both the Greens and the SSP, and by far the biggest part of Yes’ coalition. But all that means is that they have their own press office, and are more than capable of articulating their own position.
A few months before the referendum, no one on the Yes side wants to fall out. And I have no interest in complaining about past statements about currency: water, bridges, and all that. But it is crucial, surely, that Yes Scotland doesn’t make this mistake again with corporation tax, or the 50p tax rate, or whatever else comes up next. Alex Salmond is welcome to his own brand of centrist politics, mixing in fiscal conservatism with universalist and liberal principles. It’s a mix which has got him a long way in politics, and which brought us this referendum in the first place.
But if we are going to win the referendum we need to put together a coalition that is even broader than that which won the SNP the 2011 election. And the evidence is that, while Salmond may sit in the centre of Scottish politics, the most likely winning coalition will consist almost entirely of people to his left.
In this context, if Yes Scotland just parrots the SNP line, then there is little point in its existence. The SNP are more than capable of doing their thing on their own, and they will bring their own coalition of voters to the ballot on the 18th of September. Yes Scotland’s role has to be to win everyone else – to secure the missing 10%. And thats made up of Labour voters, progressives with a history of backing the Lib Dems, Greens and socialists. This doesn’t mean that they should take particular policy positions. But it does mean they need to steer clear of backing up Salmond’s occasional neoliberal lurches.
If the Yes campaign becomes a parrot of the SNP, it may as well shut up shop. The SNP have got the whole being the SNP act pretty nailed down. Yes Scotland’s job is to reach the other 10%.
The Young Greens are planning actions at campuses across the country as part of a national week of action against pay inequality at UK universities.
The youth branch of the Green Party, which represents thousands of students and young people in England and Wales, has launched the week of action running from the 17th March-21st March as part of its Fair Pay Campus Campaign. The organisation’s Fair Pay campaign is calling on universities to:
1. Publish the ratio between their highest and lowest paid worker
2. Commit to working towards a 10:1 ratio on campus
3. Pledge to pay directly employed workers the living wage
4. Ensure your contractors pay their workers the living wage
5. Publish the pay of vice chancellors and senior management
Chris Jarvis, Campaigns Coordinator and organiser of the week of action said: “Fair pay at our universities is resoundingly on the agenda. As part of our ongoing campaign to make pay in the higher education sector more equal, the Young Greens have called this national week of action to demand universities take the huge pay gap in the sector seriously and to treat institutions of education as public goods – not fat-cat corporations.
“Over the past 6 months, education unions have been rightly taking industrial action over a 13% real terms pay cut since 2008 – at a time when the pay of the average Vice Chancellor has increased by 8% last year alone. It’s time for university bosses to treat all staff fairly instead of stuffing their own pockets.
“Thousands of university staff across the country are lingering on low pay and being shifted from outsourced contract to contract, while university heads earn more than the Prime Minister. Our Fair Pay League report shows that if university heads took a pay cut to £140,000 – still an enormous sum – the money raised could bring thousands of minimum wage workers up to the Living Wage.
“As it stands, the lowest paid in HE currently have to work on average 18.6 years to earn the annual salary of the head of their university. This is a national scandal at a time of cuts to education, and it’s time that universities got behind the Young Greens’ call for maximum pay ratios of 10:1. Our week of action will be calling on universities to do just that.”
The Facebook event for the Week of Action is here: www.facebook.com/events/630502876998854/
Read the Young Greens’ Fair Pay League report on university pay: fairpayunis.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/2013-fair-pay-league.pdf
For more details visit the campaign website at fairpayunis.wordpress.com and
Find the Young Greens online at: younggreens.greenparty.org.uk
Here’s a strange thing. Alistair Darling is quoted in yesterday’s Telegraph as telling Scottish voluntary organisations that they would lose lottery funding if people vote yes in September’s referendum. Only, there’s one small problem with the story. He didn’t actually say it.
The Telegraph reports that:
“Speaking at the SCVO conference in Glasgow, Mr Darling will say: “As part of the UK we have more funds at our disposal to bring about the kind of change our communities need. Shutting ourselves off from what we know has worked makes no sense.
“Projects and groups in Scotland have received substantial funding from the National Lottery. It’s a cross border relationship that works, but only because we are part of the UK. Leaving the UK would fundamentally change that.”
Better Together pointed to a parliamentary answer showing that only 739 of the 226,000 National Lottery grants – representing one per cent of their total value – have been classified as “overseas” over the past decade.
They were defined as those made to projects located in “all countries outside the United Kingdom”.
Presumably the fact that the story says “will say” is because the story was based on a press release issued before the speech happened.
But sources at the event itself have told Bright Green that he said no such thing. And they were listening pretty carefully.
There’s an obvious reason why he didn’t say it: the comments are idiotic. The implication from Better Together is that Scotland would only have access to 1% of lottery money because that’s the current share that goes to projects overseas. Yet this rational would only work if Scots themselves contributed nothing to the lottery: it is based on the assumption that all of the money spent in Scotland by the lottery is raised in the rest of the UK. Of course, in fact, Scots do buy lottery tickets.
The SNP White Paper suggests that they would like to continue to operate a shared lottery across the old UK. But if the rest of the UK refused to participate, then, of course, the Scots could, if they wanted, choose to set up their own lottery.
Had Mr Darling actually made the comments as reported in the Telegraph, the senior voluntary sector figure told me, he would have been “ripped to shreds” by charity managers who understand that these statements are simply idiotic fear mongering. So, instead, he merely put the comments in a release to friendly journalist, who seem to have published them without questioning. Saying he was going to say them was easier than, you know, saying them to a room full of people who aren’t friendly journalists.
This isn’t the first time this week that the Better Together campaign has shouted “boo” then run away before anyone could ask them why. This week, George Osborne flew to Scotland to give a speech on currency. Bernard Ponsenby, political editor of STV, signed off his report on the speech with quite an extraordinary insight into the total failure of the No side to be accountable. He said
“the Chancellor’s speech… was not the subject of rigorous media scrutiny. Today the Chancellor only took three questions from journalists. Last Friday the Prime Minister made a speech. There was no broadcast interview on its contents. A few weeks ago, the foreign secretary made a flying visit. There was no broadcast interview by the Foreign Secretary for this channel.
“STV News wanted to put a few questions to the Chancellor. We attempted to ask a few questions as he left. His car moved from the front door of the hotel to a side entrance as his press team appeared to want to shepherd him away without taking any further questions. Eventually, after much too-ing and fro-ing, he emerged, flanked by advisers.”
The question “Chancellor, how much is this decision today going to cost businesses in England” went unanswered.
Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems understandably demand serious answers from those of us who support independence. But they don’t hold themselves to the same standards. While they are more than happy to fear monger through the pages of friendly papers you can tell the confidence they have in their arguments by their reticence to answer for them in public, or to say them to the faces of the people who know what they’re talking about.
Update: Third Sector Yes have got in touch with the following quote:
People should be prepared to back up their media claims with genuine and open discussion with the relevant experts, and be prepared to have their claims challenged. We certainly believe he would have received little support amongst third sector experts for his reported views.’.
To conclude, Joe Biden has a message for Better Together.
Dear Prof Grayling,
I read your column in the Herald with interest. I think it’s important that people who are based in the rest of the UK engage in the independence debate, and so I am glad that you are doing so.
I do, however, think much of what you say is claptrap. The idea that “Scotland’s history on the world stage began with Union in 1707” is absurd. To talk about the Scots as “the North British” makes you sound like little more than a petty Victorian imperialist who begrudges an accidental arrival in the 21st Century. I think that your accusation that the SNP are a party of resentment of the small for the bigger is a deep misunderstanding of a party which is always careful to express its solidarity with English people.
I think that your claim that the Scottish government wants the normal benefits of being in the EU (free movement of people, for example) and so doesn’t want real independence is pretty laughable. Ireland has free movement of people with the UK. You can travel across Western Europe without brandishing a passport.
I find your implication that smaller countries might lead to more wars absurd, and that it ignores the role that big countries like Britain have played in recent years in invading poorer countries around the world. That you celebrate our historic empire as a place to exercise “North British talents”, but then say that you fear that Europe will return to the bloodbath of the 17th century makes it sound like you think that while the history of Europeans killing each other is awful, the history of Europeans murdering black and brown people for their land was some sort of great romantic adventure.
I think your willingness to evoke 17th century statelets when discussing the independence of a country which is, in population, bigger than most of the independently or autonomously run areas of the earth shows an impressive willingness to ignore basic global geography.
I find the fact that you spend so much time harking back to history, then accuse the SNP of being backwards looking is entertaining.
I find concerning the implication of the fact that you ask if you should get a vote because of some Scottish blood running through your veins. This question comes with worrying hints of ethnonationalism. If these things are decided on the basis of your blood, not where you live, would you also ask if the daughter of Pakistani immigrants ought to have the right to vote removed from her? That’s the logical conclusion. Hinting that there ought to be an ethnic rather than geographical enfranchisement system and then accusing others of petty nationalism seems to me absurd.
I think the fact that you segue from talking about the irrelevance of Bruce to dismissing the SNP argument without engaging with one comment from an SNP leader shows a profoundly shallow understanding of a debate which has largely revolved around how powers could be better used with independence rather than any historically deterministic romantic nationalism.
I find hilarious the fact that you can refer to the “the ghastly political romanticism of the last two centuries” in a piece laden with language about the prosperity and greatness of Britain.
But of course I will disagree with you. And the fact that you, unlike many commentators in England, have at least bothered to express your opinion is a good thing. And people should disagree, and be infuriated by each others’ comments: otherwise, what kind of democracy would we live in?
However, I would like to ask one thing. When entering this debate, please at least do the basic research.
For example, you say “Scotland is a net financial gainer from being part of the UK”. In fact Scotland is a net fiscal contributor to the UK. Not the other way around. Perhaps you mean something different by being a “financial gainer” but if so, you probably need to make that clear, and you probably need to explain why you think this.
Second, you imply that the Scottish government wants to shirk responsibility for various of the elements of a new state, including taking on a share of British debt. In fact, the SNP are proposing to take on a fair portion of the UK debt. They are only threatening to refuse to pay if the Scots are refused access to shared assets.
So, in future, feel more than free to tell us your opinions, and feel free to do so in a way which winds me up. But please, at least get our basic facts right.
ps How’s your £54,000 per student private university going?
Stuart Rodger is a political activist based in Scotland. He tweets here.
One of the most talked-about ideas at last year’s Radical Independence Conference was a Citizen’s Income – a guaranteed, non means-tested, basic income granted to every adult citizen of the country, regardless of whether they are working or not working. The topic has also been discussed at a recent Parliamentary reception at Holyrood hosted by Jim Eadie MSP, showing that this idea is gaining traction outside of the usual radical circles. It made a very refreshing break from the toxic mainstream media debate about welfare, where the unemployed are relentlessly demonised – usually by very rich newspaper columnists who have no idea what they’re talking about – with very real, very brutal human consequences.
The obvious objection to a CI is – where would the incentive to work be? It’s a view of society which sees value in people only in their ability to serve capital, and which refuses to allocate its resources according to need, but instead uses those resources to physically coerce human beings into work. I regard it as fundamentally immoral, and not without important parallels with slavery, to use human beings as pliable economic tools. Under the wage system, money replaces the whip.
In reality, though, the incentive to work is that everything you earn is on top of your CI. A basic income is just that – basic. The infamous ‘poverty trap’ – where people can end up poorer or no better off in work than out – no longer exists. Furthermore, I think it’s possible we would see an increase in overall employment – part-time jobs that were previously not an option could now be taken on. Some economists now worry that solid, secure, jobs for life are something of the past. A CI is a way of adapting to that.
Risky entrepreneurial ventures that weren’t previously viable could now be launched. Business could boom. Indeed, when a form of the basic income was trialled in Namibia, what they found was that economic activity actually rose, and that people became mini-entrepreneurs. Non-CI income rose by some 200%. Scotland has its own communities devastated by de-industrialization: under a CI and a proper industrial strategy, these communities could be re-born.
And let’s not forget that a colossal amount of work is done in society that is not formally regarded as ‘work’. I am talking specifically about parenting, care of the disabled by family members, and voluntary work in the community. At the moment, much of this work goes unremunerated – and is even regarded as inferior to proper, ‘paid’ work in the formal sense. (”What are those mothers doing at home when they should be out looking for a job?” is a question often barked, usually at poor mothers). A CI finally provides the financial space for this socially invaluable work to happen. What sort of a society are we if we don’t recognise the importance of these tasks?
There is also the class politics of this – how it affects the relationship between labour and capital. It seems to me that ‘welfare reform’ has a very specific agenda, which is to create a more pliable workforce. If people in work know that there is no longer much of a safety net, then they will hold on more tenaciously to jobs with bad conditions and bad pay. All of that means higher profits. A Citizen’s Income – a new, bolstered welfare state – begins to tip the bargaining power back in favour of labour. This is why a CI should be taken up by the trade union movement.
But for me, personally, the best argument for a Citizen’s Income is to improve public health, through the stress relief that it would bring. I write this as someone who has been on and off benefits for the past few years, and I can personally testify that the stress of it all sometimes made me feel physically ill. As the authors of the Spirit Level suggest, what could fill the explanatory gap between economic inequality and poor social outcomes is, simply, stress. Obesity, depression, addiction – all rooted in the intensely stressful society we live in. A Citizen’s Income – as well as being profoundly redistributive – would, in one fell swoop, lift a corrosive level of stress from our society.
And what of the cost and the politics of it all? Well, it’s far more politically palatable than it may sound – as a benefit that would be universal, the divide and rule strategies used by the right to pit the working poor against the unemployed would be blunted. It’s possible that some people would simply not accept the principle that you can get something for nothing, but that is merely because people have internalised the twisted principles of capitalism: and that’s something we’ll have to fight against. It’s far more affordable than it sounds as well: as the Citizen’s Income Trust have demonstrated, the cost would work out at roughly the same as the current welfare bill, which – we must not forget, the vast bulk of which is pensions, housing benefit, and working tax credit.
These are just initial thoughts. It’s possible there are serious drawbacks I have over-looked. Two spring to mind immediately. First, the definition of citizenship could be open to abuse – excluding those with a criminal record, recent immigrants etc. Second, contrary to my previous point about the class implications of a CI, it could entrench poor working conditions. It would be imperative those industrial battles continued. But for just now at least, I think this is an idea worth fighting for.
There will be an event about the Citizen’s Income with the People’s Parliament project in the House of Commons on the 4th March with Guy Standing (author of ‘The Precariat’), and Matthew Torry (author of ‘Money for Everyone’). Details here
There will be a major National Day of Action against Atos and the work capability assessments on the 19th February, with protests planned outside every assessment centre in the UK. Details here
Today, the Herald reports threats from the UK cabinet that, if Scotland votes yes in September, Westminster might deny the Scots their right to self determination. In this light, here the first chapter of the UN charter. You can read the whole thing on the UN website.
The UN Charter
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
- To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
- To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
- To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
- To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
It’s been pointed out that the joint first article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, both of which the UK is a signatory to, says this:
1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
Whilst the main UK parties struggle to out-do UKIP, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, gave this speech in defence of migrants and migration two nights ago at Magdalen College, Oxford.
When I’ve spoken previously about immigration, I’ve focused on what I’ve called the “race to the bottom” in immigration rhetoric, the way in which the Tory and Labour parties have been aiming to out-Ukip Ukip in promising new laws, new rules, new restrictions, to make the lives of immigrants, and those who might be perceived to be immigrants, more difficult.
And I think this is still a vitally important issue. As I said then, this nasty, stigmatising rhetoric, which seeks to blame immigration for low wages, for housing shortages, for crowded public facilities, is not only wrong – these are failures of government policy, not a result of immigration – has serious real world consequences.
The drunk man in a pub, an irate woman on a bus, are all too likely to take this as permission, even an invitation, to take out their ire on an individual they think is an immigrant. We saw this with the stigmatisation of benefits recipients – hate crime against disabled people has soared.
Scotland on Sunday has an ICM poll out on the independence referendum today showing support for the Yes campaign up significantly. John Curtice has seen the tables, and you can see his detailed breakdown here. Below are my immeditate thoughts.
- It’s just one poll.
- But it is ICM. Who, as others have pointed out, have a pretty good record, and were the best predictors of the AV referendum result.
- And it confirms a bit of a swing that we saw before Christmas – though not on this scale.
- It also confirms anecdotal evidence I’ve been hearing over the last couple of months, and the sense I’ve been getting a bit too. Though she’s from the wrong demographic, it’s typified for me by my mum. She was undecided. She feels as British as she does Scottish – her mum was born in Jersey, she went to school in England, etc. But she read the white paper, thought about it carefully, and decided to vote yes a couple of weeks ago. People are taking their time to make up their mind, but as they consider their options, the swing is largely one way.
- The swing is largely among the young (who, it’s important to acknowledge, were undersampled). This is a key reminder of a crucial fact about modern politics: young people change their minds quickly, and en mass. I have a general principle in election campaigns that you can swing a university campus in two weeks. The same is true, it seems, in the referendum. My generation doesn’t vote because of past loyalties, is always willing to change its mind, and tends to do so together.
- The other big change is that the gender gap is closing.
- Which leads onto the second point – the White Paper mattered. It didn’t deliver an immediate swing, but it did put issues like childcare on the table, and though I doubt few will have read the full thing, I imagine lots of people know someone who has, and has spoken to them about it.
- I think Christmas is an important feature here. Changing your mind over something as big as independence is likely to happen through gentle conversations with friends and family. Christmas provides a perfect setting for that.
- The yes campaign has always been playing a long game. I had a chat with a friend who works there, a few months ago, in which they told me that, in focus groups, they can talk people through a series of stages and, by the end, get the majority to support a yes vote. As Stephen Noon explains in the Scotsman, this is what they have been doing. Winning isn’t about being ahead in the polls. It’s about getting most votes on the day. With 8 months to go, it’s more important to lay the ground for a yes vote than it is to convince everyone now.
- Better Together, on the other hand, are starting to look like they’ve played all their best cards. Whether or not there is a genuine lupine threat circling around Scottish accession to the EU, for example, is barely relevant. Their cries of “wolf” over stamps and mobile phone roaming charges and all other kinds of nonsense mean their warnings are now weakening in power.
- That said, the British state doesn’t want to break, and may well have a few more tricks up its sleeve.
- The SNP are slowly taking control of the Yes campaign. This may be a good thing – they have a record of winning – but it does highlight how important it will be for other voices to make sure they are heard. Green Yes and the Radical Independence Conference, for example, have already been key to shaping the narrative around the potential for an independent Scotland, and if the Yes campaign is to basically be an arm of the SNP, then it’ll be important that the plurality of the broader yes movement continues to be reflected.
- The key figure in the poll is that, when the leanings of the undecided voters are considered, the Yes campaign only needs to convince 3 out of every 100 Scots to switch from a no to a yes. It’s only one poll, but the trend is an upwards one for the yes campaign. Everything is to play for.
Brighton and Hove council’s Green Party administration has announced it will be pushing for a referendum on whether to save vital care services by increasing council tax by 4.75%. Here are ten immediate thoughts:
1) councils have been hit exceptionally hard by the cuts. This means services they provide – particularly social care for the most vulnerable people, have been brutally hammered. Here in Oxfordshire, elderly people are being priced out of care homes, people who need help to eat or to get out of bed or to wash are losing it.
2) council tax is a bad tax, but it’s the only way councils have to raise significant amounts of revenue that is even vaguely progressive. Given how hard the most vulnerable are being hit by the cuts, a small increase in council tax after two years of de-facto tax cuts (rises below inflation) is the right thing to do. I have stood on doorsteps in working class streets in Oxford and made the case for this there, and I would happily do the same in Brighton. Of course we should keep fighting austerity nationally, and of course there are better things the national government could do to raise revenue than raise council tax, and yes, councils should play their part in the movement to fight for those things. But that doesn’t mean that councils shouldn’t do this.
3) the Greens proposed this before, two years ago, but Labour and the Tories worked together and instead voted to impose more cuts on Brighton.
4) Here in Oxfordshire, a council tax referendum is hugely popular. In one street survey, the journalist couldn’t find a single person who didn’t say they’d vote yes. It was one of the main things we campaigned on in one of the wards, and we won with a stonking swing. People know how important social care is, and are happy to chip in a bit so their elderly neighbour gets what they need.
5) A poll in Scotland earlier this month showed that 2/3 of Scots would be happy to see a council tax rise there to pay for local services. Council tax in Scotland has been frozen since 2007, so the situation is a little different, but I don’t see any reason to believe that polls down here wouldn’t at least show a majority saying the same, were anyone to ask the question.
6) This is good politics. The Brighton Greens have fallen out over the last year, let’s hope they all now have something to unite behind. It also helps to change the story. If the referendum goes ahead, then that’s what people will remember of this council – a council hit hard by government cuts who did what they could to fight them off.
7) It is impossible to engage in ‘what ifs’, but I suspect we wouldn’t be here if the left of the party hadn’t put pressure onto the council leadership. That said, for all the anger with the leaders of the council over the last year or so, this is a brave decision, and they should get credit for that.
8) If Labour and the Tories (who have a majority on the council between them) refuse this, and impose more cuts on the city, then the administration should stand down. It is a basic principle of politics – normal in all political parties – that if you can’t get your budget through, then you just become a political shield for someone else’s budget. It will be painful. There will be things they could have otherwise done that they can’t do. But if you can’t get your budget through, you are in office, but not in power. And that’s the worst position you can possibly be in.
9) it’s worth noting that not a single Labour council in the country has proposed such a referendum. This is a bold move. The leadership have put their careers on the line. It shows why it is so important to have a party to the left of Labour showing what can be done.
10) there will be lots of complaints about the cost of the referendum. But if it’s held on the same day as the European elections, it doesn’t need to be particularly expensive – all of the infrastructure will be in place anyway.
The Scottish Green co-convenor – and Bright Green co-editor – Maggie Chapman is in a neck-and-neck race with UKIP for the last of Scotland’s six Euro Parliament seats, according to YouGov’s first survey (PDF) for the 22 May election.
The pollsters put the far-right party in second place on 26% UK-wide, likely to cruise to multiple MEP wins in every English region, but in fourth place on 10% in Scotland, with the Greens just a single percentage point behind.
Chapman’s fellow Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie MSP explained:
The winning post for this election will be about 10%, and with the Greens and UKIP neck and neck, the first to that line is likely to shut out the other. By voting Green in this election, Scots have the opportunity to make this the one place where UKIP falters. We can show that Scotland is a staunchly progressive nation that will not be seduced by their politics of selfishness and hate.
A vote for the Greens’ Maggie Chapman is a vote for a Scotland that welcomes and values new Scots, that makes the banks pay for their crisis instead of blaming their victims, and that rejects nuclear weapons and warmaking in favour of co-operation and peace. It’s also a vote for an immigrant feminist – the ultimate slap in UKIP’s face.
Scotland was found to be the strongest part of the UK for Greens, ahead of even London, which has twice elected current Green MEP Jean Lambert. Scotland is also the only part of the UK in which the Greens are ahead of the Liberal Democrats, who are polling just over half the Green vote at 5%.
Polls early in the European campaign season traditionally under-estimate Green support. YouGov’s corresponding survey in January 2009 placed the Greens on 5% UK-wide, well short of the eventual 8% result.