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The SNP have published their manifesto. Its 50 pages paint a picture of a party stuck in the past and concerned more with changing flags than changing lives.
The contrast with the forward-looking radicalism of Scottish Labour’s manifesto couldn’t be clearer.
Indeed even being clear is something that separates the two documents.
Where Labour’s commitments are straightforward and easy to understand, the SNP fall back time and time again on a studied vagueness.
Executive pay is just one of many examples of this trend.
When it comes to tackling greed at the top the best they can do is to say they “will consider proposals to ensure fairer pay by ensuring that the balance of salaries of all employees within a company or organisation are considered when senior pay packages are decided.”
What, or even whose proposals they are, far less how they will be considered, aren’t things they see fit to tell us. Contrast this with Labour’s plans: “We will require one third of boards to be reserved for elected worker-directors and give them more control over executive pay — because when those who depend on a company have a say in running it, that company does better and lasts longer.”
Unambiguously stating both the problem and the measures to be taken This, unlike the SNP plan, will definitely involve the empowerment of workers.
Empowering workers though isn’t a big concern of the SNP. Their manifesto doesn’t contain a single mention of trade unions. They have dropped their commitment even to repeal the Conservatives’ anti-Trade Union Act of 2016.
There are no plans to tackle bogus self-employment and the only zero-hours contracts they intend interfering with are those deemed “exploitative” again, how exploitative will be defined and by whom isn’t stated.
Instead of Labour’s commitment to a wholesale restructure of the Thatcher/New Labour employment law framework, the SNP recommend their own tepid “Fair Work programme.”
This programme is largely an appeal to business to exercise “the better angels of their nature” with the threat of removal of government grants and contracts for those that won’t.
As a method of encouraging some measure of corporate social responsibility, it’s got some merit but its a poor substitute for a programme of employment rights.
The nationalists call for the devolution of employment law powers to Holyrood — as they do for many other things.
Unlike other areas though they give little indication as to how they would use them.
Devolution to serve nationalist ideology and ambition — rather than powers for a purpose.
The superficiality of the changes sought by the SNP are displayed through absence as well as ambiguity. Scottish Labour are unequivocal: “We will bring rail, mail and energy into public ownership to end the great privatisation rip-off and save you money on your fares and bills.”
Meanwhile the term “public ownership” doesn’t even feature in the SNP manifesto. Far from solving fuel poverty by nationalisation to keep bills down the SNP show an archaic enthusiasm for the efficacy of the free market. This is to be made more efficient by setting up a body to encourage more people to switch suppliers which will in turn give people a better deal.
It’s so archetypically New Labour in its enthusiasm to try and make Thatcherism work better that I’m half expecting Nicola Sturgeon to get Peter Mandelson to front it up.
The SNP are against a publicly owned UK-wide railway system. At first glance this looks like the standard “everything should be Scottish” argument rather than opposition to public ownership. Their manifesto though commits only to system where the public sector “can,” not will, and “control,” not own, the railways. A conclusion that they are content with private ownership is difficult to shift.
This isn’t of course to say that the SNP manifesto is all bad — it’s not.
Sturgeon, whatever her failings, is not Iain Duncan Smith. Neither, however, is she a socialist of any sort — nor is the party she leads.
The SNP manifesto shows not merely lukewarm support but outright opposition to some of the key measures that Jeremy Corbyn hopes to progress in government.
It makes it clear that for workers in Scotland, as elsewhere, seeking real change, the only option is to vote Labour.
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