Alex McKirgan is representing the Scottish National Party in the PGS Election on May 7th.
In this election, the SNP has made the clearest, most coherent case for ending austerity. Labour
are so afraid of being accused of being financially reckless by the Tory press that the are merely
offering 'Austerity-lite'. The SNP are also the only major party committed to voting against the
renewal of Britain's nuclear deterrent.
Let's take these in turn. Austerity has failed. Not only has it failed as an economic policy, it has
failed by the targets set by George Osbourne, himself. At the last election, Alastair Darling said that
trying to eliminate the deficit completely in 5 years was a self-defeating policy driven more by an
idealogical drive to reduce the size of the state. He proposed that Labour would cut much more
slowly and halve the deficit in the five years of the next parliament. The Tories screamed that this
would make Britain like Greece, the bond markets would panic and dump British debt leading to
crippling rises in interest rates. For the first 3 years of the Parliament, the coalition cut hard and
guess what.....? Aggregate demand collapsed at a time the Eurozone was struggling. Not only did
the economy shrink in real terms, Government revenues fell. So, as fast as government spending
fell, revenues came down, meaning the deficit reduction stalled. In the second half of the
Parliament, the cuts slowed down and guess what happened.....? the economy started to grow.
At the end on this parliament, real wages are still 2.5% below 2010 and the deficit has been halved
rather than eliminated. This is a deficit reduction that, when proposed by Alastair Darling, was
supposed, according to the Tories, to put us on the road to bankruptcy. The clear conclusion that
we should have learned from the 1930s is that trying to clear the deficit when demand is weak, is
self-defeating. There is an even stronger moral argument against this austerity and deficit fetish.
Cutting government spending clearly affects people lower down the economic scale. The decision
to cut spending while cutting the tax rate for higher earners is clearly ideologically driven and
clearly morally reprehensible. There may not be many people at this school who's families rely on
benefit payments, but that doesn't mean we should be unconcerned by the consequences of this
damaging policy. Austerity has needlessly inflicted terrible damage on some parts of our
community and even if this hasn't affected us, we should still be outraged.
The SNP has committed to bring down the deficit while increasing budgets by 0.5% pa. This
spending will go into investments in health, education, housing and infrastructure. The SNP has
been in government in Scotland since 2007 and has shown it can implement progressive policies
and balance the books while maintaining a strong partnership with business, something the Labour
Party has struggled to achieve under Ed Milliband.
The SNP is also the only major party committed to voting against the renewal of Trident. This
nuclear deterrent is no deterrent at all against the type of threats we currently face. Did Britain
having nuclear weapons deter Argentina from invading the the Falklands? No. Did NATO having
nuclear weapons deter Russia from annexing Crimea? No. Did the U.S. having nuclear weapons
deter the 9/11 attackers? No. Were ISIS deterred by Western nations having nuclear weapons?
I believe we should be spending money to defend the country, but let's spend that money on things
that actually defend us. By retaining nuclear weapons we are clinging to a symbol that harks back
to when Britain was a world power. We are not a world power. We are a medium sized European
country and we would be better off if we started behaving like one. Retaining a nuclear capability is
not a costless decision. Replacement of Trident will cost £100 billion. If the biggest challenge we
face is the deficit, then this is a very expensive status symbol that we cannot afford. Just imagine
the good we could do if we spent that money on improving the health and productive capacity of
our country. Are people in Italy, Denmark, Holland and Germany less safe than us? Rubbish. They
have wisely decided to focus their defence efforts on being a productive member of NATO while
investing to grow their economies with the money that we spend building and maintaining
expensive nuclear bunkers in Argyll.
In the later stages of this election, the Tories have tried to win back support from UKIP by
demonising the SNP, suggesting that any government that relied on SNP MPs would lack
legitimacy. This is an outrageous slur from a supposedly Unionist party. They are saying the
Scottish MPs are only welcome to have an influence in Westminster if they are acceptable to
Middle England. Nothing that happened during the referendum caused as much damage to the
long term survivability of the Union as this divisive tactic. Now, as a Scottish Nationalist, I'm OK
with this but clearly, not all Scottish votes are equal in Westminster. The Tories are outraged at the
prospect of England being run by a government relying on support of a party that is alien to them,
but this is what Scotland has faced many times in the last. When Scots complained about this, they
were told that this is how a Union works but clearly this only works one way.
So either way, the Union is heading for at least some kind of federal structure, if not total break up.
As we move down that road, a large SNP contingent at Westminster will be a strong voice for
modern, progressive policies.
Vote SNP to end austerity.
Vote SNP to get rid of Trident.
Vote SNP for progress.