Saturday, April 21, 2012

Alex Salmond claims voters can “trust” SNP as he launches party's manifesto for local council, saying that to George Laird would ring very hollow

Dear All

The SNP have launched their council manifesto yesterday with the First Minister Alex Salmond at the helm.

However, straightaway he has run into controversy with opposition parties already asking him to explain how he will fund flagship election pledges.

He says SNP Councils will protect council staff from the axe, and also deliver them a “living wage” of £7.20 per hour.

The pledges seem fine but as the SNP cuts town hall budgets by £350 million, it raises questions of how this is to be funded.

One of the most glaring omissions of the SNP manifesto is three words.

Not the ‘we love you’ theme but local government reform.

Since there is no agenda for local government reform, it means we are stuck with the status quo.

In this election there is no big idea from the Scottish National Party, their election campaign for all intensive purposes is so low key that no one is noticing it.

To address their key pledges!

1/ The council tax freeze will be maintained.

This isn’t a pledge since the SNP Government has already pledged this.

2/ There would be no compulsory redundancies to council workers.

This doesn’t mean a commitment to maintain current numbers or even expand the council workforce. Opposition parties will be homing in on what the SNP are not saying about protecting departments and service provision.

3/ Council workers would also receive a living wage of £7.20 an hour.

In Glasgow, the living wage is already paid to council employees, and this begs the question, if the living wage is right as Alex Salmond suggests, why didn’t SNP Councils pay it before?

One thing about this election is the practice of trying to continually relaunch the SNP campaign. This practice was used by Labour regarding Brown’s election and we all know how that turned out.

This election for me is not about the local election but about how the 'Salmond bounce' carries over from Holyrood 2011.

This is an election which is being fought without a spark, without a hook to capture the voters’ imagination, no big idea.

Glasgow still remains the SNP’s top target; there the problem is that Labour and SNP both have more or less the same manifesto.

The SNP even if successful has made the mistake of rolling out the same manifestos in all councils.

These are local government elections and should be fought as such.

Alex Salmond said the SNP is “the only party to be trusted to protect family budgets” in local government.

Did he forget that it was the Labour Party that first introduced the council tax freeze?

Conservative local government campaign co-ordinator John Lamont said:

“What voters will want to see is exactly how these pledges will be paid for. The electorate won’t be fooled by empty words. The SNP has an obligation to set out how these significant spending commitments would be paid for, or which services they would cut to fund them.”

I don’t see how the SNP can pay a living wage without cutting services, given their manifesto singularly fails to mention local government reform.

More money for the council employees means less in budgets for service provision.

And the cuts passed on by the Scottish Government are going to get worse, that is why local government reform is so essential.

The Scottish Government budget for local councils is falling from £11.548 billion last year to £11.197bn in the year ahead.

A staggering cut of more than £350m.

Many will see the no compulsory redundancy policy as hollow because the SNP has been part of ruling administrations in Scottish councils, like Fife which have shed hundreds of staff through being compulsory dumped.

Labour chief whip James Kelly accused SNP councillors of failing to stand up to Mr Salmond over the cuts in local authority budgets.

So, you can immediately see how Labour wishes to play this, they are saying that if the SNP is both in national and local government that their councillors will just roll over if Alex Salmond cuts their budgets.

Well that’s true, that is what they signed up for, its called Standing Orders which each candidate must sign to tow the party line.

Kelly added:

“The SNP have passed on 90 per cent of Tory cuts to local councils, and it’s clear today that they expect their councils to meekly accept that and not rock the boat. By contrast, Labour councillors across the country are coming up with innovate ideas to create jobs, protect families and put you first.”

With less than 3 weeks till polling day, it will be interesting to see if the SNP’s Edinburgh centralist campaign will defeat Labour’s locally produced manifestos for each area.

This election does highlight something which I have previously blogged, there is a geniune lack of talent in the SNP, which is recognised by the fact that the 'local' SNP campaigns in all of Scotland, are all centrally produced by SNP HQ.

Which rather makes a mockery of the "trust" statement by Alex Salmond.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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