Submitted to Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser and RMT News. Published in Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser.
I see that last weeks Advertiser column by Elaine Smith MSP was almost the same as that published in the October issue of the Rail Maritime and Transport union magazine where she complains that the Scottish Government awarded the Scotrail franchise to Abellio. The RMT article was accompanied by the headline “Scotrail Privatised By Scottish Government.“ Scotrail was privatised by the Tories in 1997, two years before the Scottish Parliament was even created and ten years before the SNP gained power, so why lie? Mrs Smith seeks to make political capital from the actions of the Scottish Government, and I was very disappointed to see the RMT joining in with her. Both the RMT and Elaine Smith called for the tendering process to be put on hold until the new devolution settlement was put in place. The question ‘how long is a piece of string’ comes to mind as there is nothing agreed and no date by which anything must be delivered by. Would one year be sufficient? Two perhaps?
Had the Scottish Government taken the steps of putting the process on hold both the Mrs Smiths Labour Party and the RMT would be complaining about the uncertainty which would be created, and would no doubt also complain at any compensation which was paid to the bidders. Incidentally where was this compensation to come from? The ever shrinking Scottish budget which is about to be cut by £4 Billion irrespective of which party gets in at Westminster, that’s where. Labours answer at every turn is that the Scottish Government should pay for others mistakes. The Labour proposed, Tory imposed bedroom tax saw the SNP strip £35 Million from other areas to pay for that debacle. Which area of the budget would be the next one to be stripped to pay for dithering? Health, education, housing? Do tell us Elaine.
Mrs Smith and her party have spent two years campaigning against the Scottish Government having full powers over Scotland. The Scottish Government in their white paper Scotland’s Future stated that with independence they could pursue public supported or not-for-profit models in future, after the new franchise is completed. She can hardly then complain that the Scottish Government has to abide by the restraints imposed upon it. She has even less cause to complain when it is revealed that the Labour Party’s own plan laid out in the document Powers For A Purpose stated that they would look at ‘a new approach after the end of the franchise which starts in 2015.’ This means they would have done exactly as the Scottish Government has done! What would they have done afterwards though? What would the new approach to railways in Scotland be? It would be whatever London tells them it will be, and if London Labour is still pursuing privatisation you can be damn sure the Labour branch in Scotland would be told to fall in line.
Profit now goes into private hands, irrespective of nationality. Whether those hands are Dutch, French or German, the effect is the same. The money does not go back in to the system. It goes to shareholders. Labour had 13 years to call a halt to that. Instead they dug themselves deeper into the trough. Whether it is energy companies or rail companies, the concept of foreign companies owning UK national assets is one that red and blue Tories both subscribe to. Labour will gripe about it when it suits them politically but when given the chance to change it do nothing. Her Party helped buy the rope to bind the SNP’s hands; she can hardly complain they are now tied tightly.