So Labour are all over the place with their latest Devolution plans.
Please see Wings Over Scotland for the details of the stramash.
Here’s a very brief summary of the what has been said (we think).
Richard Baker, Labour MSP, in answer to a series of questions on Labour’s (wickedly named) Devo Nano proposals, has framed a situation where you could have completely free tax competition between Scotland and the UK, across all tax bands. The only restriction would be that if Scotland cut or raised taxes relative to the UK, it would have to do so across all bands simultaneously.
This is the pertinent part, lifted from his reply to a Wings reader;
On income tax, we believe that the changes made by the Scotland Act 2012 are significant, but there is scope to go further.
The Scottish Parliament could, using the powers of the Scotland Act 2012, and our extension to their scope, choose to lower income tax, below the UK level, across all income tax bands.
Equally, it would be possible to use the same power to increase tax, above the UK level, across all bands.
But that isn’t what Johann Lamont said in an interview to Gordon Brewer.
So what is going on?
Confusion within Labour ranks?
I don’t think so.
Labour in Scotland are willing cannon fodder for the Union. It’s understood and accepted within the Labour Party at Westminster that the Scottish branch are lacking in the required skill set. They are simply not up to the job. Labour MSPs just cannot cut the mustard. It was never remotely imagined that Labour would find itself in this position, in opposition, facing a referendum, with the Yes campaign gaining momentum.
So what do you do in this situation? Well you look at it with dispassion and take meaningful decisions. In this case you adopt a position of the lowest common denominator. You act stupid.
It’s all they really can do and to be honest, why not? It’s not as if there is scrutiny on Holyrood Labour.
It’s going to be up to Messrs Darling, Alexander, Murphy, Davidson and the assorted Brit Nat big hitting loyalists at Westminster, along with their colleagues in the British Establishment, to secure a No vote.
Johann Lamont could turn up in a clown suit and talk about devolved taxation powers for Scotland and it wouldn’t make a ripple in the polls. Nobody within Labour’s intended audience is remotely interested and Labour know it.
I say this because you have to give them some credit. They may not be top drawer politicians but they will have a high degree of self awareness. They know they are not up to it. So they fall back on a position where they can afford to be deliberately confusing. In Scotland you can get away with this approach. Labour’s grass roots don’t watch Newsnight Scotland or watch the Lamont interviews. Labour are not going to be surgically disarticulated in front of a vast audience. So they can relax and bullshit until the cows come home because, to a degree, they will get away with it.
In addition, while they are spinning more yarn than the entire island of Harris, they can sit back and watch their on-line foes spend vast amounts of energy trying to make sense of it all.
The truth is, we don’t need to make sense of it. That’s not the point of Labour’s exercise. They don’t care. The whole point is to waste time and energy doing as little as possible. Hold the line, make suitable noises about devolution, more powers, throw in soundbites about social justice, family and Keir Hardie and it’s soon time for bed. Keep doing this every day up to the referendum and keep your fingers crossed that you’ve got away with it. Job done.
The Union is important to Scottish Labour; it provides employment and careers for Labour wannabees. It allows Councils to be corrupt with taxpayers money. That engenders loyalty and an unbelievable willingness to bend over backwards, to do anything to keep the status quo. To keep the Union.
From another perspective it looks an incredibly risky strategy, but considering the circumstances it’s actually sheer genius. Effectively, Labour are using the best of their ability for the maximum benefit. They don’t have ability and are doing nothing with it.
They are doing it deliberately.