The differences between Labour and the SNP are smaller than you think

In seeking to put as much distance between it and the SNP as possible, Labour is alienating potential voters in Scotland


Writing for the Scotsman over the weekend, Jon Curtice of Strathclyde University had a dire warning for Labour: “Rather than beginning to puncture the nationalist balloon, Scottish Labour is if anything falling even further behind the nationalists in the polls.”

Labour’s problem is that they are playing to the Tory tune. In seeking to put as much distance between it and the SNP as possible, the party is effectively alienating pro-independence supporters who previously voted Labour. In the process they are choking off the only viable option to a stable Labour-led government that can go on for a full Parliament.

Politics has changed – and potentially for good. The UK is fractured; but rather than embracing Scottish voters and seeking to tie the SNP to the difficult decisions to come, Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are slowly prising the Scottish-England border apart.

All of that aside, what of the content of the SNP’s manifesto, which Nicola Sturgeon today declared to be ‘bursting with ideas and ambition’?

At its heart is a commitment to bring an end to austerity. What it dubs a ‘modest’ spending increase of 0.5 per cent a year would, the manifesto argues, enable at least £140 billion extra investment in the economy and in public services. On the basis of an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Labour could potential sign up to such a plan and still meet its fiscal targets.

On housing, the SNP commit to the construction of 100,000 new affordable homes a year each year and to increasing the minimum wage to £8.70 an hour by 2020 (Labour  has committed to increasing it to ‘more than £8 an hour by October 2019’).

Restoration of the 50p top income tax rate mirrors the commitment made by Labour. It would also be difficult to find a Labour politician willing to argue against an increase in the Employment Allowance, or to support the £3 billion cut in disability support which, the SNP argues, ‘threatens to cut the income of a million disabled people by more than £1,000 a year’.

For the rest of the day, politicians of the major parties will be doing their utmost to undermine the SNP. In reality, however, the differences between the SNP’s plans and Labour’s are not as stark as some in Miliband’s circle might have you believe.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

55 Responses to “The differences between Labour and the SNP are smaller than you think”

  1. Robbie

    The differences may not be too large, but they are large
    enough. Labour made a choice when it launched its manifesto to focus on swing
    Labour-Tory voters by appearing ‘fiscally responsible’, i.e. by committing
    itself to making cuts perceived to be necessary. So whilst Labour could have
    endorsed the SNP’s modest spending increases and still hit their target, they
    have decided not to.

    You also have the record of each government. The SNP have been committed to universal services on university and prescriptions. They have ended the use of PFIs in Scotland and ended the right to buy council houses so as to maintain council housing stock. Labour’s record is rather different.

    What’s particularly interesting is that Scottish Labour used to be more left-wing as well. They originally ended tuition fees, though kept a graduate fee of £2,000, and introduced free personal care for the elderly in the first place. That ended when they decided to outright oppose just about everything the SNP put forward in an attempt to bring down the SNP minority government, and they haven’t recovered since.

  2. Roger Day

    Where do the SNP stand on electoral reform? We’ve had 35 years of neo liberal economic dogma and there has never been a majority in support of it.Could we change the voting system and have a second election?.This is what really terrifies the Tories

  3. PaulK

    Nicola Sturgeon today declared to be ‘bursting with ideas and ambition’?
    Best thing for Scotland to leave the UK one minute – then the next, reaching out to the UK to lead it to better things. I think she has more ambition than ideas.
    The concept of an SNP alliance with, and possible control of, a Labour government is a significant disincentive to those who are considering voting Labour in the rest of the UK.

  4. treborc1

    As labour moves back to the New labour center ground of course, the SNP move further to ward labour old socialist left of center, and the people in Scotland are more or less socialist.

    I notice labour have stated they need to have the votes of the sick the disabled and the poor as they race back to the new labour they are now blaming the Tories for the welfare reforms, laugh it hurts my sides

  5. Gary Scott

    This is very true. It started with a policy of noncooperation in Holyrood which was designed to make SNP governance impossible. The public were unhappy with this, Holyrood was designed to make coalitions the most likely outcome but Labour and the LibDems weren’t playing ball. The result was an SNP landslide at the next Holyrood election.

    The leadership in Scotland didn’t pay too much attention to this. To be fair, in the 2010 GE Labour still won most of the seats. They surmised that the worst case scenario was SNP at Holyrood but a large Labour bloc for Westminster.

    This didn’t anticipate the campaign in the Scottish Independence Referendum. There were several problems from the get-go on this. Firstly, about 25% of their support were independence supporters, the same people voting SNP at Holyrood. They were using Labour as a tactical vote in the GE to keep the Tories out. Labour COULD have done what the Tories plan for the EU referendum and have two groups: Labour NO and Labour YES. In the event unofficial groups were formed and politicians, such as one lady councillor in Inverclyde, who expressed any support for independence were made to resign.

    Secondly, this campaign ‘Better Together’ was run for two years solid. It put out material several times a day, everyday for two years. It was funded by various groups and interests such as Hedge Funds, Labour Party, LibDems, Tory Party, Orange Order, Britain First etc as well as numerous small, individual donors. Even accepting money from these groups would be considered highly controversial. Although it was the three main parties who were the faces of the campaign. There was a HUGE amount of Tory money put into this and in an area that’s been solidly behind Labour for 50 years this was, quite simply, a betrayal.

    So, taking the ‘Tory shilling’ the campaign set about what they jokingly referred to as ‘Project Fear’. The name was apt. There was no positive point ever put across about remaining part of the UK, only extreme negatives on independence. After two full years of talking down their own country, scaring pensioners and coming up with a ‘Vow’ at the last minute that wasn’t worth the paper it wasn’t written on using the funding allowed for each of the three parties separately as well as the Orange Order, Britain First, Brittanica (BNP offshoot) and a holocaust denier and then the funding allowed for the Better Together organisation – after all that they managed to turn from being trailing by one per cent to leading by ten, literally overnight.

    They JUST managed to get the result. After all that, the reasons why voters are moving away from Labour are clear. Could it have been avoided? Yes, but the party was not engaged enough and frankly, didn’t want to be. Small branches are easier to manage during selections. To be fair, all of the political scandals of the past few years doesn’t help either but this doesn’t make people actually go and become members of another party.

    Currently SNP membership is 115,000. The equivalent of one in forty of the Scottish population is a member. This is more than all the smaller UK parties combined and is snapping at the heels of the number in the Tories.

    This seems to have happened quickly, it hasn’t. It seems inexplicable, but its not. It seems unavoidable but it wasn’t. If Labour is to continue as a force in British politics it must accept that the leaders both in London and Scotland got it wrong. They must seek to persuade not berate and engage voters rather than make announcements to the party faithful.

    Take this in the spirit in which it is intended, food for thought. Labour could be the growing, progressive and popular party that SNP is at the moment but only if it allows this to happen and refuses to let the Conservatives set the agenda.

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