WHY I’M FRACKED OFF WITH KEZIA AND SCOTTISH LABOUR

KEN HOUSTON

A clever lass, Kezia Dugdale, who after becoming head girl at one of Scotland’s top state schools (Harris Academy, Dundee), went on to gain a law degree followed by a Masters in public policy.

So where did it all go wrong?

The question may seem like an oxymoron given that Kezia managed to climb to the top of the greasy pole of the Scottish Labour party in Scotland, aged just 33.

But consider the direction she has taken the party since being overwhelmingly elected (with more than 70 per cent of the vote) and the question does take on a certain relevance.

Labour is understandably upset at having been usurped in Scotland by a left-leaning SNP which seems to have stolen many of the emperor’s clothes, but out of adversary comes opportunity, especially with a new leader who has had a good education, is articulate and generally comes over as photogenic.

Yet rather than set Scottish Labour on filling a political vacuum by charting a more nonconformist route to recovery, Kezia decides instead to out-left the leftist policies of the SNP.

Speaking to party activists in Glasgow last month, she confirmed a welfare-related set of policies in anticipation of the Holyrood elections in May – ensuring that children leaving care and going into higher education receive a full grant, abolishing the so-called bedroom tax, raising the Carer’s Allowance and doubling the Sure Start maternity grant.

This, of course, is on top of her commitment to raise income tax by 1p to be devoted to education although if, in the likely event of Labour forming the next Scottish government, it remains to be seen how much of the extra money will be left for coal-face chalkies after the education department administrators, school social workers and diversity officers have had their cut of the cake.

But where Kezia has really disappointed anyone thinking of a fresh approach is her total opposition to fracking, a process that would make the UK (and Scotland) less dependent on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas.

In fact if the evidence from across the pond is anything to go by, fracking is transforming the economy with the USA expected to shift from its current position of being a net importer of gas to a net exporter by 2020.

Another advantage will, of course, be job-creation – and not only jobs for geologists, chemists or other related professionals but also for skilled tradesmen, plus drivers and other ancillary workers – i.e. what is (or used to be) Labour’s core vote.

Also this boom could be more advantageous than the North Sea in that most of the workers will be in a position to return home to their families in the evening, rather than spend two weeks out of every three offshore.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, nine companies have applied to drill for shale gas on 19 sites in Scotland, each covering around 60 square miles across the central belt. Ineos, one of the main proponents of fracking, already owns several licences to drill in the Falkirk area.

Growth in skilled employment over the last two decades has largely involved financial services and information technology, and the jobs have been mostly what used to be described as ‘white-collar’ (albeit with less emphasis on ties nowadays).

Fracking gives an opportunity to provide some balance in favour of what old Labourites might call ‘the real workers’ – yet the party that still claims to represent them is turning its nose up at the opportunity.

Kezia and Nicola recently had a spat in Parliament over fracking but the former’s opposition was matched by the latter’s mendacity.

Kezia wanted an assurance that the SNP opposed fracking while Nicola replied that fracking “ain’t going to happen” while the SNP government’s current government moratorium remains.

This moratorium was introduced just over a year ago after the independent Expert Scientific Panel Report on Unconventional Oil & Gas, commissioned by the government, concluded that on balance there was no environmental reason why fracking should not go ahead given certain safeguards.

However, the moratorium can last for two years and even if discontinued, there are experts who believe that Scotland will already have missed the fracking bus.

In all fairness, the Scottish Greens’ opposition to fracking is understandable as they are simply sticking to principles on which their party is founded, even if it seems contradictory given their support for the industrialisation of the countryside with inefficient wind turbines whose costs have driven huge numbers of pensioners and low-income families into fuel poverty.

However, when it comes to parties allegedly committed to a ‘dynamic economy’, like Scottish Labour, the SNP and the Scottish Lib-Dems (who recently voted for the moratorium to be lifted then did a quick U-turn) – frack the lot of them.

 

EU A BIG ISSUE FOR HOMELESS SCOTS

Iain Robertson, head of sales and marketing at the German-owned automobile company, BMW, which also happens to own Rolls-Royce (remind me again, which country actually won World War Two?), is another captain of industry who has come out in favour of the UK staying in the EU.

When asked on Radio 4’s Today programme if Brexit would not be welcomed by British workers as they would not have to compete with foreigners for jobs at BMW’s UK plants, Mr Robertson said that the question was not relevant to the company because most of its foreign employees in the UK had been hired because they held special skills.

A fair point but the position of most prominent Brexit supporters has been that even in the event of the UK leaving, skilled workers from Europe – or elsewhere in the world – would continue to be granted entry if they were necessary to meeting certain skill shortages.

This is somewhat different from the present automatic ‘freedom of movement’, one glaring example in Edinburgh being that of an extended family of jobless Roma who have exercised their right to move here from the continent, set up home locally and put a one-legged granny on begging duty at the entrance to Boots The Chemist on Princes Street (blatantly displaying her stump for good measure).

Meanwhile the younger members more or less grab the most lucrative Big Issue sales pitches – thus squeezing out homeless Scottish vendors some of whom, no doubt, have experienced family breakdown or drug and alcohol problems and who against the odds are trying to get their lives back together.

Twitter: @PropPRMan

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