Last weekend saw another march in London against “austerity”.
This really is an appalling abuse of the word. Food rationing post-War was austerity. Perhaps the three-day week with limited electricity in the 1970s was austerity. An ever increasing gap between rising public spending and falling income tax at a time when public sector wage growth vastly outstrips inflation is, quite obviously, not austerity.
Marchers claimed they had public support for their cause. Yet in last year’s General Election right-of-centre parties or those in coalition with them received almost two thirds of the vote in England.
There are those facts again…
At least it was different in social democratic, left-leaning Scotland.
Or was it?
Scottish Labour recently adopted a courageous policy of adding 1p to Scottish income tax. If Scots are opposed to “Tory austerity”, they reason, they will not mind paying a small bit extra to avoid it. In any case, have Scots just not had a huge debate about taking on more powers and thus obviously, by logical extension, using them? And of course, 21p income tax with the much higher personal allowance still means less to pay than when Labour left office.
Such a courageous, honest and rational stance would no doubt see a swing towards Labour in a social democratic country keen to model itself on Scandinavia, of course.
All the evidence suggests that Labour’s new policy is courageous only in the “Yes, Minister” sense – unpopular, in other words.
A survey by the very man whose exit poll pointed towards the real result of last year’s UK General Election shows that the comfortable majority of Scots oppose putting taxes higher than in the rest of the UK. In line with this, the SNP (which proposes no income tax rises, although it would change the bands to see 40% payers paying slightly more) remains well out in front. In fact, far from gaining it ground, Scottish Labour’s new policy sees it in serious danger of being overtaken as the main opposition at Holyrood by the Scottish Conservatives (who oppose any income tax rises or band changes at all).
Scotland is perfectly normal in this regard. As ever, people want more money spent on the services which affect them, but are notably unwilling to put their hand up to contribute any more towards them.
“Get those tax evaders and welfare fraudsters instead!”
Funny, you never hear that line in Scandinavia. But then, whisper it quietly, Scotland isn’t like Scandinavia…