Hold the front page – “Labour rule out coalition with the SNP” – even though nobody ever thought for a minute that one would have happened! Besides, we in the SNP described it as highly unlikely anyway. In the increasingly silly debate about who is ‘getting into bed with whom’, it is getting increasingly difficult to determine what exactly is going to happen in the next Parliament. If you listened only to the more siren voices, you would think we were heading for a Parliament which would operate on nothing more than a wing and a prayer.
In the world of hung Parliaments there is a sliding scale of ‘arrangements’ starting with a full blown coalition like the one currently in place between the Conservatives and Liberals (the one that is now ruled out). Next in line there is ‘confidence and supply’- a negotiated deal for the duration of the Parliament where the smaller party secures concessions for a guarantee not to bring down the minority Government and help them get their legislative programme through. Further down there is a deal on an ‘issue by issue’ basis, where parties will meet to hammer out a deal on each piece of legislation, hoping to strike a deal to get that legislation through on a negotiated basis. In the Commons there is one more arrangement and that is the informal ‘usual channels’, where discussions are arranged on an ad-hoc basis to discuss legislation and its progress through the House. At the bottom, there is ‘no arrangement’, where there are absolutely no discussions at all.
Listening to Scottish Labour, their language of ‘nothing must be offered’ and ‘no deal with the SNP’ would seem to suggest that it is the absolute rock bottom of ‘no arrangement’ where they are headed.
Let’s be clear, where Labour did the right thing we would support them. Where they did the wrong thing we wouldn’t. Labour are currently an austerity party committed to further departmental spending cuts. They are also committed to spending £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction. Historically, they introduced the bedroom tax in the private sector, tuition fees and foundation hospitals. Let’s also never forget that it was the last Labour Government that whipped its members to go into an illegal war in Iraq. Some of Labour’s austerity and Trident ambitions might secure support from the Tories.
We have set our stall in the next Parliament to use our influence to challenge austerity, end Trident renewal and deliver the powers to the Scottish Parliament that the Scottish people seem to want and believed they’d secure. We want to work with the Labour Party to keep the Tories out of Government and reverse their failed agenda. Surely the Labour Party would work with us to keep a Tory Government out of power? Wouldn’t they rather work with us on an anti-austerity programme rather than with the Tories? If they thought for a minute about keeping a minority Tory Government in power, when our combined numbers would deny them, they would be all but finished in Scotland.
Labour have absolutely no experience of minority Government and if it is to be the ‘wing and a prayer’ approach, it could be potentially disastrous for them- particularly when they are so poorly led. The SNP want to be a force for good across the UK with an agenda that we believe will benefit the whole of the UK, particularly the most marginal and vulnerable in the communities we serve.
Will Scottish Labour’s hatred of the SNP infect the ranks of the whole UK party, leaving the Tories in power, with dodgy deals on austerity? It really is up to them….