There are not many greater examples of why a country needs a principled, effective opposition than that of the feeble Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn at Westminster. The Tories have created so much uncertainty over our future relationship with Europe and Theresa May’s government is going unchallenged as she begins to implement tax cuts for big corporations and fossil fuel giants.
For years, pro-independence politicians in Scotland have pointed to economic injustice coming from successive UK Governments, and demanded the power to do something about it. This is something which the SNP and the Greens have long agreed on.
Amid all the big disagreements in Scottish politics, there are still some areas of common ground. From arch Brexiteers to committed Europeans, from Union flag wavers to those still wearing Yes badges, and from austerity cheerleaders on the Tory benches to left-leaners who passionately believe in a new economic vision for the country; pretty much everyone agrees about one thing. We have a woefully low level of productivity.
Sometimes in politics a simple phrase gets lodged into everyone’s consciousness, framing a debate. This is sometimes deliberate, but it can happen by accident too. As Scotland approaches the first budget in which meaningful tax decisions will be made, one example of this needs to be challenged.
Recently I wrote how disappointed many people would be at the timid tweaks to council tax agreed by parliament. Local services deserve a firmer financial footing. To add to that, this week I published a report detailing Scotland’s 32 local authorities’ huge amounts of unethical and unsustainable long-term debt, which currently totals £11.5bn.
“The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scotland,” reads a rather grandiose monument at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. I put it rather more simply than the former First Minister when I told a student protest outside Holyrood in 2011: “If I ever vote for fees, sack me.”
Education is a right that should be available to all, not just those who can afford it. Creating more opportunities for everyone who wants to gain a place at college or university is vital for our collective prosperity and quality of life.
Mark called these extraordinary political times and I was going to begin by suggesting that 2016 might just be the weirdest year in modern politics - it has been bizarre. I think my greatest sympathies this year go out to Charlie Brooker, whose Screenwipe for the year is going to have to be about six hours long in order to fit everything in! We've watched throughout the UK as – for example – the Labour Party continues on its apparent course toward meltdown. MPs who seem to want a leadership election as often as UKIP have one!