The Scottish Government never misses a chance to blame unpopular decisions on the UK government – even though there are alternatives that they could pursue.
A good example of this is their implementation of the pension cuts. They criticise the UK government for the proposed “pay more for less” pension reforms, but claim to have no choice but to implement them. This is not true. They do have a choice and they have chosen to implement them. Admittedly, the alternative choice is not without consequences. The allocation of funds to Scotland under the Barnett formula would be affected. However, that did not stop them in the past when there were other choices to be made with a similar impact.
Like so many other things, their solidarity with the public sector workers stops with the criticism of the UK government. On Wednesday November 30th, they crossed picket lines when they could have stood side by side with those who provide our public services.
Teachers, hospital workers, refuse collectors and dinner ladies were not the cause of the financial crisis. Bankers were. Yet while plans to tax and trim the casino bankers’ bonuses are abandoned, the public sector workers are being made to pay for the consequences of the bankers’ mistakes.
The UK government are attempting – with some success – to make this dispute a public versus private sector fight. But not everyone is taken in. Damaging the public sector does not do the private sector a lot of good. Taking money out of the pockets of workers, through pension cuts and pay freezes, also takes money out of the coffers of local businesses.
Meanwhile the gap between poor and rich grows. Forget the old Thatcherite myth of wealth trickling down. Money in the hands of the rich does not contribute as much to the local economy, or for that matter, the exchequer – whereas about one seventh of what ordinary working folk spend is VAT, for the rich, it is only a twentieth of their expenditure. The money of the wealthy is often stashed in offshore tax havens and it is calculated that there is a “tax gap” of about £120bn a year.
Instead of targetted people who contribute to society – health, education and other public sector workers, shouldn’t we make the people who have profited the most contribute more?
And, instead of speculation fuelling instability and providing the means of skimming wealth from our pension funds, stealing from the poor to give to the rich, shouldn’t we implement the Robin Hood tax, which would bring some of that money back into public coffers, and dampen the worst excesses of such speculation?