Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Everyone thinks David Cameron has screwed up over the EU - except for the voting public (Independent)

The main story this week for journalists has been the Conservative decision to stage a case study in disunity - but is that what most interests the public, asks John Rentoul.

2. David Cameron must not cave in to the UKIP threat (Daily Telegraph)

For his own sake and that of the country, Cameron has to make the case for staying in the EU, says Peter Mandelson.

3. History is more than one thing after another (Times)

Whether its art, books or political ideas, arranging things in strict order of time is not as logical as it looks, says Philip Collins.

4. The truth is that we can’t afford a shiny new transport system like HS2 (Daily Telegraph)

History is littered with failed projects that appealed to politicians in thrall to modernity, writes Fraser Nelson.

5. The flight paths of Britain and Poland diverge in a disunited Europe (Guardian)

Poland is eyeing a place in the group of leading EU nations just as Britain seems to be leaving, writes Timothy Garton Ash.

6. Britons want more work – let’s help them (Financial Times)

There is very substantial spare capacity in the British economy, writes Samuel Brittan.

7. Xenophobia in Italy bodes ill for migrants right across Europe (Independent)

Today's battleground is on the right to citizenship, writes Peter Popham.

8. France: waiting for Godot (Guardian)

A pressing task for Mr Hollande is to persuade a French audience he is capable of pulling his country out of its torpor, says a Guardian editorial. And on that test, he is failing

9. Brass Tax (Times)

The government must lead efforts to change cross-border tax rules that are being exploited by the multinationals, says a Times editorial.

10. Leaving Europe would be bad for British business (Guardian)

We must not lose sight of what's important – economic growth, says John Cridland. This means maintaining access to, and influence over, the EU.

 

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

How a small tax rise exposed the SNP's anti-austerity talk for just that

The SNP refuse to use their extra powers to lessen austerity, says Kezia Dugdale.

"We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity."

With those few words, Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year that the SNP were a party opposed to public spending cuts. We all remember the general election TV debates, where the First Minister built her celebrity as the leader of the anti-austerity cause.

Last week, though, she was found out. When faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future or imposing cuts to our schools, Nicola Sturgeon chose cuts. Incredible as it sounds the SNP stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to vote for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts to schools and other vital public services, rather than asking people to pay a little bit more to invest. That's not the choice of an anti-austerity pin-up. It's a sell-out.

People living outside of Scotland may not be fully aware of the significant shift that has taken place in politics north of the border in the last week. The days of grievance and blaming someone else for decisions made in Scotland appear to be coming to an end.

The SNP's budget is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament. It will impose hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local public services - including our schools. We don't know what cuts the SNP are planning for future years because they are only presenting a one year budget to get them through the election, but we know from the experts that the biggest cuts are likely to come in 2017/18 and 2018/19. For unprotected budgets like education that could mean cuts of 16 per cent.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. The Scottish Parliament has the power to stop these cuts, if only we have the political will to act. Last week I did just that.

I set out a plan, using the new powers we have today, to set a Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne. This would raise an extra half a billion pounds, giving us the chance to stop the cuts to education and other services. Labour would protect education funding in real terms over the next five years in Scotland. Faced with the choice of asking people to pay a little bit more to invest or carrying on with the SNP's cuts, the choice was pretty simple for me - I won't support cuts to our nation’s future prosperity.

Being told by commentators across the political spectrum that my plan is bold should normally set alarm bells ringing. Bold is usually code for saying something unpopular. In reality, it's pretty simple - how can I say I am against cuts but refuse to use the powers we have to stop them?

Experts - including Professors David Bell and David Eiser of the University of Stirling; the Resolution Foundation; and IPPR Scotland - have said our plan is fair because the wealthiest few would pay the most. Trade unions have backed our proposal, because they recognise the damage hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts will do to our schools and the jobs it will cost.

Council leaders have said our plan to pay £100 cashback to low income taxpayers - including pensioners - to ensure they benefit from this plan is workable.

The silliest of all the SNP's objections is that they won't back our plan because the poorest shouldn't have to pay the price of Tory austerity. The idea that imposing hundreds of millions of pounds of spending cuts on our schools and public services won't make the poorest pay is risible. It's not just the poorest who will lose out from cuts to education. Every single family and business in Scotland would benefit from having a world class education system that gives our young the skills they need to make their way in the world.

The next time we hear Nicola Sturgeon talk up her anti-austerity credentials, people should remember how she did nothing when she had the chance to end austerity. Until now it may have been acceptable to say you are opposed to spending cuts but doing nothing to stop them. Those days are rapidly coming to a close. It makes for the most important, and most interesting, election we’ve had in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale is leader of Scottish Labour.