Monday, 1 October 2012

WHERE WOULD LAMONT'S LABOUR TAKE US?

There are, I suppose, many reasons that people want independence for their country.

The fact that independence is the natural state for a country is probably first among these. And even if it is not articulated, it’s at the back of everyone’s mind.

Others may cite, in the case of Scotland, that a relatively poor backwater of the UK, where comparatively little has been spent could, in fact, be one of the richest countries in Europe, if not the world. And that our way of life could be completely transformed by being masters of our own money.

One of my personal thoughts about remaining in Britain (the political rather than geographical Britain, that is), as a relatively left leaning person, has been the move of the UK to the right. For me, I suppose, it must have started under Mrs Thatcher where services were routinely sold off at rock bottom prices so that we could all become part of a “shareholding society" (or so that her friends in the city could make a killing, whichever you think more appropriate). [Surely Mrs Thatcher couldn't have been so stupid that she did not realise that soon after people had bought shares, they would sell them off for profit to big organisations which, in the end would control our Gas, Electricity, Telecommunications, Airports, Steel, Oil (and in England, Water) to mention only a few. And that in many cases these companies would be based in abroad.] 

Then we were all to become property owners as she sold off council housing at amazingly low prices... tempting even relatively hard line socialists with the notion of owning their own house, and all for only a few thousand pounds.

If you add that to the fact that she smashed the unions and shut down the kind of industries where they thrived, you can see that by the time she was stabbed in the back (metaphorically) by the Tory Party, she had completely changed the face of the UK. Major carried the programme forward with one of the most audacious, expensive (and disastrous) of all privatisations: Railways. 

And because Scotland was ruled directly from London, nearly all of these privatisations affected us too, wherther or not we wanted them.

Any hope we might have had of a move back to the left, as might have been expected when, after 18 years of Tory rule, England voted the Tories out and Scotland got its beloved Labour Party as rulers, was very soon knocked on the head, as Tony Blair set about the business of 'de-socialisting' Labour. Fortunately he was forced by the Council of Europe to set up a separate Scottish parliament, which he hoped to control from London. (A parish council, he called it).

Happily, despite his wishes, and a great deal of coming and going of Mandelson’s men (Lance Price used to arrive in Edinburgh ‘capuchoné’) and possibly because Labour needed the Liberals to form a Scottish government (or executive as we were told to call it) Blair failed to control his parish council, at least to the extent that he would have liked and Scotland retained some vestiges of the pre-Thatcher days.
Now Britain has a new Thatcher, who has taken on the privatisation of the health service in England; there is a Labour party in England that will not reverse these changes if it gets into power, and we have a Labour Party in Scotland that seems to be, despite protestations to the contrary, taking orders from London.

So, where would this leave us on the health front if we were to reject independence and then elect a Labour government for a devolved Scotland?

Would they bring in a private health service and would there be any advantages in that? I'll rephrase that...would there be any advantage for us in that. Because, as Craig Murray points out, Dr Éoin Clark has done an analysis of how the current government’s supporters have fared as a result of the privatisations and why would that not equally well for Labour.

Alex Neil says that it won’t happen in Scotland under the SNP, although there is a already a level of privatisation in personal care. But a report for what Labour is pleased to call 'NewsNat Scotland', shows that the costs of operating health services in Manchester are far lower than in Glasgow, and that, at least initially, there seems to be little difference in the level of service. 

But then, to begin with the privatisation of care homes seemed to work well, before big business took a hand in it, greed took a grip, it all went pear shaped and the government had to bale the whole sorry lot out. What will happen when French, American or Chinese companies buy out the current providers, then find that insufficient profit can be made?

And what other right wing Thatcherite policies would a future "Labour" party adopt in Scotland, at the behest of its English parent party to keep the south-east of English on side?

I wonder what your thoughts are...

24 comments:

  1. tris

    http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/opinion/comment/brian-monteith-johann-lamont-is-no-tory-1-2556725

    Labour has always said that it wishes to redistribute wealth through taxation or welfare payments – and Ms Lamont is not departing from this. What she is now saying is that the welfare state – as adjusted by the SNP – has become of benefit primarily to the Scottish middle classes rather than the poorest in society and that Labour wishes to return to helping the weakest rather than the most articulate.

    BRIAN MONTEITH

    seems to encapsulate the snp non philosophy quite nicely.
    the welfare state in Scotland has become the fiefdom of the middle classes and you defend this inequity mendaciously.

    Bought and sold for snp Gold
    Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

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  2. Not what the Labour party seem to think of her...

    They seem to have a problem with the idea of universality being binned.

    Welsh Labour have said no way, while Ruth Davidson and Murdo Fraser congratulated Lamont for following Tory policies.

    Still, if you're happy with it...cool.

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  3. Why did you put up two posts the same CH?

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  4. All the MSM say they are different which is why it confuses me.

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  5. "And what other right wing Thatcherite policies would a future "Labour" party adopt in Scotland, at the behest of its English parent party to keep the south-east of English on side?"

    The problem isn't just Labour. As the Tories and Labour continue down the privatisation route in England and start to charge for public services and to reduce their scope the consequences will hit us in Scotland as the Barnett formula block grant reduces in step with English spending.

    What we have in Scotland is a time lag between the cuts hitting England and the recalculation of the Barnett formula and the chance to target money and make efficiency savings for ourselves but at some point there will be no more clever budgeting and making do and whoever is in power is going to have to cut.

    That's what a lot of people fail to understand. Under devolution it doesn't matter who we elect here we have to go with the public service policies in England eventually.

    The only difference in the end between a Labour government in Holyrood and an SNP one is that the SNP won't cut willingly.

    Only independence will enable us to raise and spend our own money free from the red and blue Tories.

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  6. AH CH. You should probably never believe what you read in the MSM. They lie.

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  7. Last Thursdays “Newsnat” Scotland that interviewed Alex Neil on the subject of private involvement in the NHS highlighted unfavourable the Scottish NHS with (presumably) a business run by two GPs in Somerset that concentrated on providing almost bespoke care to patients with breathing difficulties. As if comparing Scotland largest employer with a two man operation in England would give and kind of fair comparison.

    For a start it took no account of potential future developments. The NHS belongs to us all and is free at the point of need. If we rule out agenda led government meddling for no good reason that is what it will always be. It may not be the most efficient model and certainly wont stack up to a two man operation where one or other of the two GPs can personally know and care for all their patients. But what happens to that two man operation in 10 or 15 years time? It may have an altruistic aspect to it, as well presumably as a profit motive, while it’s small and personally involved. But the nature of a private business is profit and not care. And to obtain more profit expansion is always necessary. So what happens when the 2 man business expands? When it is floated on the stock exchange, or has a number of management buyouts or is taken over by ATOS? We don’t need to look far to see what happens in this scenario.

    Southern Cross was started in 1996 by John Moreton a returnee from New Zealand, who had done well over there and was able to start a care home business after the Tories last tranche of letting the private sector do what the public sector ought. How much he gave to the Tory party we don’t know but after he left Southern Cross he and Ian Duncan Smith were involved in a software company. By 2002 Southern Cross had expanded to 140 care homes and that was when Moreton was bought out by the first management buy-out. The company expanded again and by 2004 it was the largest care home provider in the UK. That was when there was a second management buy-out in partnership with US company Blackstone Capital Partners for £162 million. Blackstone is an American asset management and finance company totally divorced from any interest in providing care for the elderly and only interested in maximising bonuses, profits and dividends. To that end it implement a lease-back arrangement for all its care homes that looked great on the books for a while but eventually saw the whole thing collapse.

    That’s not the only example. They abound. Like First bus group. Which started as an management buy-out of Aberdeen busses when Mrs Thatcher de-regulated them. They pulled out of East Lothian all together when they did not make enough money leaving people there with no bus service at all.

    We need to understand that some things are not and never will be better run by the private sector. When a private enterprise gets as big as the NHS its concerns are solely with making profits and nothing else! Not running care homes, nor buses nor providing water etc.

    The fact that Tory donors like Lord Ashcroft are in line to make a killing tells us all we need to know about the agenda behind the privatisation of health care in England. It has nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with feathering various nests. Lets us all sincerely hope that it never comes here!

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  8. Of course Doug. The huge costs of the privatisation scheme will initially manage to hide the fact that the Barnett formula will have to be adjusted down, if the English spend less money on services.

    I suppose, perversely, if private providers in England start to charge more and more (as bus companies have for example) the costs will rise. It is very easy to run at a tiny profit for the shortest of times. But greed always holds sway. It's all very well saying that someone else will come along and undercut, but the truth is that they are all greedy. They may undercut for a year or two, but the prices will soon go up. And that's before companies start amalgamating and selling off parts that don't make enough money. Just like the bus companies.

    Or they diversify and take their eyes of the ball, like the water companies did, resulting in drought/floods.

    Or they try get rich quick schemes like the care homes did and have to be bailed out.

    I take your bigger point that it doesn't matter what we do here; he are stuck with what money THEIR policies dictate. If they build another railway, or whatever, that isn't in their budget, we 'should' get extra money, but not, of course, if they can say that we benefit from it (Olympics!)

    And of course we get the reserved policies that the English vote for, because with fewer than 10% of the elected members we cannot hope to influence policy.

    Let's just hope that the Scottish population can be shown that in the next two years.

    B£air was right in a way about his parish council.

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  9. Brilliant post Munguin... Better, I admit, than my original.

    You encapsulated the idea of where the English Health Service is heading in 10-20 years.

    I thought this was still to come but already, I read a few weeks ago, doctor's surgeries in London have been taken over and closed down leaving patients with no cover. I don't know how difficult it is to transfer practice in England...en masse I would have thought VERY difficult!

    You mention care homes. I seem to have read over the last few years about how many people have discovered that their elderly relatives in privatised care homes, have been half starved, or drugged so that they require no attention and little food. I would imagine that people like this would die far earlier than they otherwise would, but, hey, there is an ongoing and endless supply of them to keep the homes going.

    There must be ways that we can save money in the public sector without handing important state functions to private sector venture capitalists who see throughput long before they see people, and whose own elderly are cared for by private nursing staff, at home.

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  10. And the snp will always find the funds to pay
    For all the freebies.
    Just wonder how that chimes with the low tax
    Economy Alex says scotland would be?

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  11. Well, Anon. Let's see. Off the top of my head, I'd say that we would save on being America's bell boy in wars prosecutes all over the world.

    So we would need fewer troops and fewer guns and less ammunition, fewer bombs, fewer aircraft...etc, etc.

    Then there's nuclear weapons. We wouldn't have them at all.

    Then there is all the fa la la that we spend making sure that we get invited to every conference,etc.

    Then there's the cost of the monarchy and the house of lords, and the far greater expense of the commons than the Edinburgh chamber.

    OK, some of these things are relatively small, (and some very large) but I'd rather that Mrs McGinty got her free prescriptions than that princess Beatrix had a bodyguard to carry her home pissed from night clubbing.

    Scotland would be, by all estimates one of the richest countries in the world. Rich countries can afford decent social services, especially if they butt out of other people's business, like some of our neighbours do, and Britain does not.

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  12. Since when has Alex Salmond said Scotland will be a low tax economy? Do you mean his intention to have Scotland competitive by having a low level of corporation tax (like Ireland)? While we acknowledge that competitive business rates are necessary they are not the be all and end all. And when the Scottish economy is not shackled to that of its larger neighbour we will be better able to direct our resources to where we want them to be instead of to funding vanity projects that benefit another nation like the M25 and the Channel Tunnel. If we did not have to pay our “fair” share of those, foreign wars, useless nuclear weapons and the egomaniacal aspirations of British prime ministers to “punch above their weight on the world stage” and feel important, then we most certainly would be able to continue to fund an exclusively state controlled NHS with all the services that we want our citizens to have free and for nothing. And why? Because when they pay their taxes they don’t care that the UK must contribute a proportion of its GDP in international aid to countries like India, that don’t need it, because that is the price to keep David Cameron’s backside on a G8 seat!


    In terms of taxation Alex espouses a broad taxation base which will include Scotland being in control of its own oil revenue, excise duty, income tax, corporation tax etc. Has Alex said that all of these taxes will be low? I don’t think so! What he has said is that they will all go to benefit the people of Scotland rather than shore up the loony agenda of a Government elected by the South East of a neighbouring country.

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  13. In my opinion the future of the Health service will be decided by the voters to some degree but maybe not as much as they would like. I personally feel that Labour and the Tories longer term want to sell it off to create some sort of quarter way house in regards to systems in other countries.

    I lived in the USA for a time and my health care was excellent once I got insurance. But before I got insurance I had to use the emrgency room because my son was ill, I waited over 10 hours to be seen and then could barely afford the anti-biotics that he required.I remember sitting in the house thinking I wish I were back in Dundee I wouldn't have to be putting up with this shit. Eventually the work permit arrived, started work etc etc but I totally feel for americans without health care and fear for Scots if we ever go down that road.

    Labour started the slow privatisation of the NHS in England with Scots MPs supporting the motion, all Labour/Liberal and one Tory. Nothing I have seen changes my belief that we are moving towards a privatised system here in Scotland, it will just take a little longer. People need to wake up now to the threat posed by Labour.

    As far why I want Independence, it is purely the fact that I currently live in a country that is not democratic to the extent it should be. I live in a country that is a political plaything for vested interests of politicians. I live in a country with an unelected head of state, and where you went to school still dictates how far you will go, esp in public life. I could go on but I suppose my blog is rants.

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  14. The council house sell-off was one of the cleverest (from a Tory/New Labour point of view) things Thatcher ever did. For folk living week to week, going on strike is very difficult when you have a mortgage to pay.
    I think the main reason you see thousands taking to the streets in other European countries, is that they don't have a mortgage to pay. Fear of losing your home is a real worry for a lot of folk in this country.

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  15. 'One Nation' seems to be the buzzword of Tory thinking from the Tory(conservatives) and the Tory(labour) party's 'All in it together.' Britain a one party state just like Russia but don't tell the natives as they might get restless and want their chocolate ration increased.

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  16. Your rants are good Bruce. :)

    Will write more ...gotta go and pick my mate up from the bus station.

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  17. Bruce: I think the health service will probably have to change in the future. Alex Neil has pointed out that now some procedures are being carried out at home, which used to need a week in hospital.

    And there is the fact that there is an aging population, who will need more care; that too often in their own home. But the medication bill will rise.

    I have no problem with people looking at possible alternatives to what I have grown up with, but my experience of privatisations in the Uk suggest that it will largely be bad news for the service users.

    I'd hate to be poor in the USA and need treatment. I had a mate in Texas who worked for a small computer fixing outfit, about 10 years ago when he left university. The company couldn't afford any kind of health plan so Steve was left with a job but no health care. I asked what he did for treatment, and he said he self diagnosed and self treated...

    Obamacare may be slightly better, if they don't overturn it, but it would still scare me to have to rely on private insurance which could be null and void if I didn't put in my proposal form some hidden complaint that I didn't know I had!

    I'd also hate to find that I had one of the illnesses that the policy at my level excluded....

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  18. Never thought of that Juteman.

    Of course. In most European countries ordinary people rent houses.

    Strike pay doesn't cover enough for a mortgage.

    The cunning old cow.

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  19. One Nation Tories, CH... ha ha ha, bloody ha.

    I doubt that there is another country in Europe divided like we are.

    Class distinctions with titles all over the place; the richest rich, the poorest poor.

    It's a recipe for misery... and that is a recipe for disaster.

    Their policies are more or less identical, so it depends on which one you think is the less reliable, or the more repugnant. Dave or Ed, Tory or...erm Tory.

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  20. tris..The people in most EU controlled countries in Europe are now divided between the elite and the rest.
    An unelected centre on £330K plus exes and a fake parliament full of flunkies rubber stamping the centre's plans while on £200K plus exes.
    On a lighter note I can't read your blog links with the new purple on a black background colour scheme. Is it me ? Am I too old for jazzy ?

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  21. Ha ha... I'll change it, Monty.

    And we pay all our representatives far too much, at every level.

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