A clear sign of Scottish Labour’s gradual drift towards Tory type thinking was posted yesterday in Johann Lamont’s speech to mark her first anniversary as leader of the party:
Her general point is the obvious one, which Cameron and Osborne have never tired of ramming home, that the policy of free universal services is unsustainable in the current economic climate.
Perhaps that is the case, but they always omit to say that the current economic climate includes horrendous sums of money wasted every year on unnecessary and illegal wars, and the vast amounts of revenue lost by turning a blind-eye to multinational organisations choosing not to pay their share in corporation tax. Not to mention the unforgivable betrayal of Scotland’s future that occurred when the decision was taken not to set up an Oil Fund.
Lamont develops her point by arguing that persisting with the unaffordable policy of free higher education has been made possible at the expense of significant cuts to the further education sector, which has in turn created huge inequalities between Colleges and Universities.
So whereas Lamont claims that the policy of free higher education in Scotland is being paid for by the college sector, others might feel justified in countering that claim with the reminder that there would have been no need to reduce spending on education at all, had successive Conservative and Labour governments in Westminster not chosen to squander substantial sums of money elsewhere.
The most troubling part of her position is the manner in which her argument progresses from the economic sustainability concern to an attack on the fairness of free education, when graduates are said to expect higher earnings over their lifetime compared to non-graduates. Free education is either fair or it isn’t, regardless how much money self-helping politicians have thrown to the wind.
And perhaps the most baffling part of her position is the contention that the Scottish Government’s policy of free education is anti-Scottish. It is difficult to understand exactly what this is supposed to mean. How can it be anti-Scottish to promote a principle that has been distinctively Scottish for generations?
In his St Andrew’s Day message, Alex Salmond commented:
“Scotland is proud of its history of invention and discovery. We actually invented quite a bit of the modern world, from the telephone, to television to penicillin to beta blockers. However, perhaps – actually certainly – our greatest invention of all, the one that made all of the others possible, was the invention of universal free education.”