IT’S TIME FOR A NEW OPPOSITION

DONALD PARBROOK

The English have had the good sense to spot a dud – and dodged a bullet in choosing another Tory Government against a Labour-SNP pact.

Ed Miliband had appeared to be against wealth creation, aspiration and the middle classes. His failure to admit that we arrived at the global financial crisis ill equipped to cope because Gordon Brown had borrowed billions was catastrophic for Labour. But the SNP actually lifted their end to austerity pitch from the Labour manifesto, so how did they triumph?

Yesterday’s Radio Scotland’s phone in on the election was fascinating. The referendum has removed apathy about Scottish politics. There is real anger, worry and frankly, a rather divisive edge to Scottish politics. Half the people who called the programme hated the fact that despite the NO vote, Sturgeon’s flag flying-social justice-progressive politics has taken over. The other half thought the result was wonderful, and were calling in to say the Tories have no mandate to rule Scotland.

This flies in the face of reality. The United Kingdom is a single sovereign state and Westminster is our Parliament.

The SNP’s stance makes being both British and Scottish profoundly difficult; their continued popularity means the people of Scotland will eventually have to decide which they want to be.

By continually appeasing the nationalists with promises of more devolution, the politicians have, tacitly, accepted that Scotland is actually a self-governing country.

In my view this is totally wrong.

Differences across Scotland are as wide as in England; lowland Scots have much in common with people in the north of England. It is the quality, not the location, of Government that matters.

We voted NO and that must be respected at some point. We should not assume NO voters wanted more devolution.

Nor do I think the hasty Smith Commission and other rushed changes are wise or, indeed, necessary.

Very few people are focusing on how bad federalism or fiscal autonomy could be for Scottish budgets, in a post oil tax climate. Excluding oil, Scotland is poorer than England. While the SNP promise to grow the economy faster than every other developed nation, nothing I see in the end to austerity agenda of wealth redistribution suggests this is plausible.

We cannot borrow and tax our way to prosperity – France has failed, the UK failed in the 1970s.For wealth creation the country needs to set globally competitive tax structures. National debt should not be increased to support over-spending by a state on day to day commitments.

I believe Nicola Sturgeon is the opposite of Thatcher; she will create winners and losers and deepen the English-Scottish rift that now exists. Too much time is being spent on our settlement and not enough on using the powers in Holyrood to improve lives.

More worrying for us all, there is no clear opposition party. The single party state is, for all practical purposes, upon us.

It’s time the leaders of the three UK parties in Scotland recognised the need for a unifying movement in Scotland. Ahead of the Holyrood 2016 election they should leave their mother ships and form a single Unionist, centre-ground party committed to upholding the No vote.

It’s time for a new opposition. Maybe Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie should go for a coffee…

 

Donald Parbrook is a Chartered Tax Adviser and writes in a personal capacity.

 

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