Money for nothing: SNP’s mad crusade to make work pointless
By Graham Grant
IN a corner of the Scottish Government website, there is a document that promised the 2014 referendum would be a ‘once in a generation opportunity’.
The infamous White Paper also pledged a ‘rich society’ following a Yes vote, one that ‘will require hard work’.
Whether to file this tome of half-truths and blatant lies under fantasy or crime fiction (not much of a whodunnit, admittedly – Alex Salmond was the culprit) is a matter of debate.
But there is no denying that the overall objective of a ‘rich society’ – and the need for great effort to achieve it – are worthy enough, whether you’re a Unionist or not.
Against that backdrop, it is all the more surprising that the SNP is now building a society that at every turn appears to devalue ‘hard work’.
In fact, it is promoting a ‘something for nothing’ culture that at its heart penalises aspiration in the name of ‘progressive’ values.
True, Scotland’s Future, the official name of the White Paper, also claimed that after a No vote the country would grind to a ‘standstill’.
This enables ministers to cite constitutional reasons as the explanation for some of their policy failures, arguing that independence would have led to a full-scale socialist nirvana.
The ‘standstill’ the White Paper forecast has come to pass – in the form of negligible economic growth, on course to be the lowest in the developed world.
For this malaise, ‘Tory austerity’ and Brexit are the sole items on an endlessly revolving carousel of blame (the SNP’s incompetence is conspicuously absent).
But even factoring in the stupidity of the electorate in rejecting independence, surely a ‘rich society’ founded on ‘hard work’ should remain a key goal.
Yet the SNP’s tax reforms seem designed to punish those who voted against the alleged paradise of Scotland’s Future.
In the eyes of many Nationalists, they are ageing, well-heeled – and selfishly looking after the pensions they feared would be swept away by breaking up Britain.
Motivated by that lingering grudge, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s Budget, which won initial Holyrood approval last month, means more than a million Scots will pay the highest taxes in the UK.
An unedifying pact with the Greens paves the way for an extra £169 a year to be added to the bills of middle-class workers on the higher tax rate.
Nearly 400,000 Scots are set to pay more following the decision to raise the threshold for the 41p higher rate of income tax to £43,430, rather than £44,273 as originally planned.
Higher rate taxpayers, in the eyes of Mr Mackay, are ‘rich’, and ripe for a spot of wealth extraction.
This is a wilfully simplistic view that fails to acknowledge the financial pressures most of us now face, from rising mortgage costs to the prospect of a council tax hike.
The UK Government has tackled the problem of ‘fiscal drag’ – where more and more are pulled into the higher rate – but in Scotland, it seems, it simply isn’t an issue.
Except that there is the small matter of infinitesimal economic growth, and the risk of entrepreneurs and new-start businesses giving high-tax Scotland the widest of berths.
Something for nothing, indeed, but the cash raised by targeting those who had the temerity to get ahead in their jobs, or launch their own companies, is certain to be frittered away on an ever-lengthening list of costly giveaways.
The foolhardier among you may have mentioned ‘baby boxes’ on social media – and if so you will know the effect is roughly equivalent to lobbing a hand grenade at a crowd of pub bores.
For Nationalists, the policy is sacrosanct – in that notorious SNP political broadcast, where party-goers were seen enthusing about Nicola Sturgeon’s myriad policy successes, one of the revellers ecstatically cries out ‘baby boxes!’
These boxes are stuffed full of vital necessities such as ‘organic muslin squares’ and ‘satin-edged cellular blankets’ – and a poem in the Scots language by Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay.
The ‘primary focus’ of scheme – which costs nearly £9million a year and allows every new mother to receive free goods worth up to £160 – was public health.
It was claimed that the boxes help to reduce cot deaths because they can be used for the baby to sleep in – discouraging risky ‘co-sleeping’, where the baby is in the parents’ bed (Moses baskets and cots are clearly too old-fashioned).
But the science is dubious, and there is no direct link between the boxes and mortality rates.
This means the SNP and its supporters – painting their opponents as people who hate babies – have had to talk more vaguely about how, well, nice it is for new mums to get such gifts from the state…
Perhaps baby boxes, which might at first seem an innocuous enough idea, have become so toxic because they symbolise a kind of largesse on the part of the Government (the taxpayer, in fact) that seems unhelpful at a time of economic stagnation.
Scotland, in the aftermath of a Yes vote, would have had a net deficit of more than £13billion – but naturally would still be a Promised Land for ‘progressives’.
Even in ‘standstill’, post-No vote Scotland, the benefits bill could soar by more than £12billion a year (not far off that net deficit, coincidentally), under a radical overhaul being considered by Miss Sturgeon.
There is just enough money in the public purse – after meeting Green demands for marine conservation areas for dolphins – for ministers to fund research of the ‘citizen’s basic income’.
It would lead to every Scot being handed a ‘wage’ from the State, and the recipients could then decide how much they want to work to top it up.
Under the scenario proposed by campaigners, the basic income would be set at £11,500 for pensioners and £9,000 for adults, with £4,600 extra given to parents with a child.
The First Minister’s own officials warned her the welfare proposals to hand all Scots such an income would be ‘very costly’.
They also forecast it could force all workers to pay a tax rate of more than 50 per cent on every pound they earn.
But despite the warnings, Miss Sturgeon said the idea ‘merits deeper consideration’, and pledged to press ahead with bankrolling detailed research of the proposal.
The Presbyterian work ethic so cherished in Scots heritage has no place in the SNP conception of the future.
‘Free’ tuition appears to have deepened inequality, because student bursaries were slashed to fund the flagship policy.
Meanwhile ‘free’ prescriptions (costing £1.3billion a year) mean the taxpayer is shelling out for Bonjela, bottles of Covonia chesty cough medicine and Nurofen lemon meltlets, at a time when the NHS is in crisis.
But every bill has to be settled eventually – and with or without independence the supposed Utopia the SNP is constructing is destined for disaster.