I was a bit worried about what Labour might do. I worried before the question was set because it was clear they could adopt Devo Max as a principle, “insist” on its inclusion as a third option, meanwhile start working on the detail to suit themselves and over the last couple of years run away with the polling and benefit from the oxygen of anticipated referendum victory and even a chance of winning at Holyrood again. They blew it.
Today was the chance to retrieve that loss by astounding us all with the scale of their ambition and rewriting the No campaign by shoving a pie in the Yes face. They blew it. Again.
Labour is pathologically inept. It is now the living embodiment of Johann…conservative, parochial, backward, deferential and unqualified for its role in public life. Not only is the level of their offering restricted, it makes the fundamental campaign error of being incoherent and therefore too complicated to sell on the doorstep. Is income tax devolved or not? How much? At the top end or at the bottom? Or both? Can the upper level go up AND down? Do other rates have to rebalance? How much will it raise and what will it be spent on?
A policy you can’t describe is a failure. What does it say to Labour voters whose incomes have fallen, or to those whose benefits have been cut or who can’t afford to eat? We’re fiddling around with some parts of income tax and we’re getting an extra £1000 a year from the 100 Scots earning more than £100,000…so that’s the Celtic squad taken care of.
Welfare is what Labour voters would liked to see in the hands of the Scots but that has been cherry-picked to include the bedroom tax which as been effectively neutralised anyway. Leaving almost the full range of benefits in the hands of the Tories is a vote-loser. Corporation tax would have been a logical adjustment – it’s already mainstream as an idea in Northern Ireland – but Labour’s timidity in differentiating Scotland gives the game away…they are resolutely British first. The same applied to air passenger duty. It’s a no-brainer for developing tourism, one of our biggest industries. So it would create an anomaly in the UK but aren’t anachronisms what the Union is all about? This is low level stuff in terms of the UK economy and in terms of the debate – it’s like control of air guns – but still they flunked it. This is a package defined by what it doesn’t offer rather than what it does. Not only does this miss the target, it wont even be part of a united Unionist package before the referendum, adding to the sense of confusion and lack of commitment they offer. I am a relieved man today.