Hope is in the air in Scotland - Jon Trickett
Hope is in the air in Scotland says, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett writing exclusively for the Red Robin
Hope is in the air in Scotland. Significant Labour gains in the 2017 General Election have been followed by a new leader and an ambitious new direction for the party, and with it the country.
Some people are arguing that ‘Corbynism’ is not right for Scotland. They are wrong.
The profound political and economic problems that Labour are now seeking to address are present in Scotland as much as anywhere else in the UK, and in many cases more so.
There are over 260,000 Scottish children living in poverty, an increase of 40,000 from the previous year. Meanwhile, in the last three months of 2017, Scotland’s unemployment rate rose from 4% to 4.5% — higher than the UK rate of 4.4%. And since 2008 the vast majority of those in work have experienced wage stagnation alongside a spiraling cost of living that has affected all.
I come from Yorkshire. Exactly the same problems which Scotland faces are to be found here.
These factors are the consequence of the stark inequality that runs through the heart of Scotland and continues to grow. In 2015 – 2016, the top 10 per cent of the population had 38 per cent more income than the bottom 40 per cent combined; a more than twofold increase from the previous year.
The situation that Scotland finds itself in is similar to that happening across the UK, especially Yorkshire, and much of Europe. But there a strong desire for change in Scotland, as there is elsewhere.
For a time the SNP were able to tap into this mood but they have failed to give it the radical direction required. Their vision for change offered some degree of political reform but offered little challenge to underlying economic imbalances. And what use is greater political power for the Scottish Establishment in Edinburgh if the City of London wields such disproportionate economic power?
And they sought to persuade the Scots that the English would always vote for a Tory government to be imposed in Scotland. But here in Yorkshire there is a widespread and deep dislike of the Conservatives. And now much of England voted for a Corbyn Labour Party.
Perhaps a few years ago if you were a radical and a Scot you thought that voting SNP was the only option available for those seeking a break with the status quo. This is no longer the case. Labour is carving another path, one that leads to fundamental economic transformation. Without this any challenge to the inequality that defines this decade will be futile.
Greater political and financial autonomy for the Scottish Parliament is key, and this is why Labour led the way to Holyrood, but we must be much more ambitious in our aims. We must look to reshape the old fashioned centralised Westminster state, hold accountable political elites, end the corporate capture of policy-making, and equip all the UK’s regions and nations with the institutional power that will allow them to properly meet the challenges posed by a rapidly changing economy.
As the shadow minister responsible for these matters, and as a Yorkshire MP, I feel this need more clearly than most. Yorkshire, like Scotland, has for too long suffered the effects of a political establishment unresponsive to its needs. It’s time to change that, and Labour is the only party capable of doing so.