For months now, the rest of the UK has had to put up with incessant Scottish Nationalist complaints that their country has been betrayed over the independence referendum.
If it’s not Gordon Brown lying to them about pensions (he didn’t), it was Labour being in cahoots with the Tories (it isn’t) or all of the unionist parties bribing the voters with a big lie now known as The Vow – except, after the Smith Commission reported back, we now know that The Vow is being kept.
The Vow, made on the eve of the Scottish independence referendum, promised that the Scottish Parliament would be permanent, that it will have extensive new powers including tax-raising powers, NHS funding in Scotland would be decided by the Scottish Parliament, and Scotland would continue to benefit from the Barnett formula (which governs the distribution of tax revenue).
The Smith Commission recommended that the Scottish Parliament would be permanent with powers on how it is elected and run, that it should be given the power to set income tax rates and bands on earned income and will retain all of the income tax raised in Scotland, that 10 per cent of VAT raised in Scotland should be assigned to the Parliament, and Air Passenger Duty fully devolved, that the Parliament should be given powers to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish elections, that the Barnett formula would continue (taking into account the changes necessitated by other measures granted to the Scottish Parliament). NHS funding does not appear to be mentioned, but the level of its funding in Scotland is decided by Holyrood anyway.
Any right-thinking person would take the Smith Commission report as indicating the fulfilment of The Vow.
How did Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) react? “It’s not so much the home rule that was promised – in so many respects, it’s continued Westminster rule.” Bizarre!
Did she not realise that Scotland voted against “home rule” and for remaining with the United Kingdom? Nobody promised home rule by the back door. Yet Scottish nationalists are leaping up to claim that this means The Vow has been broken, when in fact it is being kept.
Perhaps the reason for this has been best defined by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland’s political editor: “The SNP strategy was to seek to maximise the gain from Smith – while simultaneously preparing to declare that the ultimate package is insufficient.”
That’s exactly it; the SNP has been so determined to convince the Scottish people that Westminster has been lying to them that, faced with incontrovertible proof of the opposite, leaders like Nicola Sturgeon have had no choice other than to lie about what it means.
If you are Scottish, think very carefully about what the nationalists are telling you. Check the facts for yourself, if you have to.
If you voted for independence, don’t let yourself be deceived by the nationalists, just because you didn’t get the result you wanted, and if you voted against it but had your head turned by all the anti-Westminster propaganda that has been aired since, maybe it’s time to think again.
Do any of them give two hoots about what’s best for Scotland?
Postscript: Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction leaps from bizarre to hypocritical when you read the Smith Report and discover that all five main political parties in Scotland – including the SNP – have agreed its recommendations.
Political movements are not defeated by violence. Brutality sends them underground and helps them gain support. If UKIP is to be defeated, it must be defeated by the use of reason, and the exercise of democracy.
There were heated scenes as protesters staged a demonstration outside a newly-opened UK Independence Party shop and cafe.
Around 30 people gathered outside the shop on Glebe Street in Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Cardiff South and Penarth constituency, which has been held by Labour for decades, is said to be one of Ukip’s target seats.
Members of Ukip and protesters exchanged frank views in the doorway to the shop.
Posting on Twitter, one of the organisers of the protest, deputy leader of the Green Party in Wales, Anthony Slaughter said: “Good turnout for @standuptoUKIP picket of UKIP Penarth shop. Strong support from passing public.”
The Green Party – supporting violent protest? What next…
The BBC’s lead political story today (Sunday) is George 0sborne’s announcement of a £2 billion boost for the English NHS, to get it through the winter crisis period. The Boy, looking much healthier than he did on Wednesday, wanted us to believe the money was available because the economy is strong.
Take a look at the graph (above). Income tax has not increased by even a fraction of a percentage point since he became Chancellor and in fact takings have been lower than in 2008 for much of his period in office.
Corporation tax is lagging well behind its 2008 figure, and in a “strong” economy, this must be because Gideon has cut it in order to help his rich business friends (by which we mean donors to the Conservative Party) get richer.
VAT receipts are up. You’ll remember of course that Mr Zero’s pal David Cameron spent the entire 2010 election campaign promising not to increase the rate of VAT, and almost the first thing he did when he achieved office was – of course – increase the rate of VAT. That is why VAT income has increased.
He doesn’t have the money. He said it was available due to the strength of the economy and economic indicators are instead showing weakness.
According to BBC political correspondent Louise Stewart, the money is – in fact – nothing to do with the strength of the economy. “Of the £2bn, around £1.3bn of it is new money,” she wrote, inaccurately. “The Treasury said it would be found from savings in other government departments.” Not new money, then. “The remaining £700m will come from the existing Department of Health budget and will be put into front line.”
Have you spotted the problem with that? The national deficit is increasing at this time. Government departments are not making savings; they are overspending. They will not have the money to spare. And 0sborne seems to be asking us to count money that is in the existing health budget twice.
This is unfunded spending. Imagine the uproar if a Labour government had announced it!
Here’s an interesting snippet, from the BBC News report: “The Conservatives’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, had called for an emergency injection of £1.5bn and a party spokesman said they had ‘fought to make sure that extra funding for the NHS next year is in the Autumn Statement’.” So it seems Mr 0sborne would not have put up any money at all if not for the Liberal Democrats forcing his hand.
Perhaps we should be blaming Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander for making unfunded spending commitment and George 0sborne, David Cameron, Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt for the gross mismanagement that has made it necessary?
Ed Balls has made several sensible points that you can be sure will be ignored by the mainstream media and anyone else who has been taken in by the Tory Nonsense Narrative. The Conservatives have already announced £7 billion in unfunded spending, he said. He warned that VAT could rise again – pointing out that the Tories lied about raising it before the last general election.
“Pretty much everything George has said… falls apart under scrutiny,” he told Andrew Marr.
That has been true since the moment the Coalition was formed in March – yes, March – 2010.
The first sentence is “Whoever wins the election, more cuts are on their way.” Cuts are inevitable, end of discussion. The article then goes on to list all the areas of public spending that could be under threat, and whether the public will stand for what’s coming.
While it’s certainly true that all the main parties agree they need to “balance the budget”, and think they need to cut spending by roughly the same amount in order to do so… whether we actually need to balance the budget or to achieve this through cuts to expenditure is far from a settled question.
The BBC can argue it is being impartial by saying that all parties agree cuts are coming [but] by unquestioningly accepting the need for cuts, it’s not really providing readers with a complete picture.
The deficit has not been eliminated. Depressed living standards are barely rising. This is not ‘job done’, but a record of failure, writes William Keegan.
The austerity panic propelled the economy back into depression; and, far from using public spending as a countervailing force against the cutbacks in private sector investment, the coalition’s budget cuts served to aggravate the crisis.
This year’s Reith lecturer, Dr Atul Gawande, speaks of the twin problems of ignorance and ineptitude that can beset medical practice. This applies also to economic policy.
Osborne, on the verge of his last autumn statement before next May’s election, has ended up with the worst of both worlds: he is being widely criticised, indeed derided, for having failed lamentably to achieve his target of eliminating the budget deficit during the lifetime of this parliament. Yet the austerity that he introduced so dramatically, epitomised by the emphasis on premature deficit reduction, has brought us the slowest economic recovery on record, and deep dissatisfaction all round with the depressed state of living standards.
There are commentators who place their faith in the Bank of England’s growth forecasts, and the belief that average earnings will finally take off after a long period of falling and then stagnating. Yet, even if they do, the starting level is so low that Osborne is hardly going to be in a position to repeat that dreadful phrase “job done”.
And what does our imperturbable chancellor promise if the government is re-elected? More of the same: austerity for the poor and public services, and tax cuts for the better off. But austerity fatigue is setting in: even the man responsible for control of public spending, Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander, has made it plain that enough is enough, and the Conservative plans are “eye-wateringly unfair on the working poor, who will pay the highest price.”
The coalition has led this country into an austerity trap. No wonder the Conservatives are worried that UKIP may unseat them.
Here’s a great site, flagged up by our good friend, the angry Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice.
It’s an interactive graph showing the differences between public opinion and the policies of the different (main) political parties. The example above shows UKIP’s performance (not very good, is it?) but if you visit the site you can see visual accounts of all parties’ performance, based on opinion polls (for the public) and party literature.
The graph is on the We Own Itsite. Please bookmark it and use it when you consider how to vote next year.
What follows is excerpted from an absolutely storming article by kittysjones, which not only goes into detail on why trade unions are so vitally important for working people but also features many of the most important arguments against the current Conservative-led government and its ideology, all in one place. You need to read this article.
As a taster, to draw you in, here’s kittysjones on trade unionism:
The Coalition have introduced trade union laws which inhibit trade union recruitment, activity and collective bargaining. Employment rights are being removed, at a time when policies have reduced access to unfair dismissal protection and access to employment tribunals.
Trade unions are most effective when all workers are represented and therefore trade unionism encourages social inclusion. Collective bargaining and representational support will not work in the long term if some workers have substantially less to gain from the process than others.
For this reason, trade unions and the Labour Party have worked at eliminating sex, race and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. This has taken time, given how deeply ingrained inequalities have been in our society. We know that where trade unions are active, employers are more likely to have equal opportunities policies.
But for proper support of economic equality, trade unions need legal protection for their activities so they may operate freely and build effective social solidarity and promote egalitarianism. Trade unions seek increased participation by working people in the decisions that influence their lives and a fairer distribution of the nation’s wealth. That is the antithesis of Conservatism.
Freedom to speak out against injustice, to campaign for economic equality and to work together through trade unions are underpinned by rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It’s no surprise that Cameron has pledged to exit the ECHR and to scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act.
To tackle economic inequality and build a fairer society, it is essential that trade-unions can operate freely and that collective bargaining is renewed. The impoverishment and exploitation of any one group of workers is a threat to the well-being and livelihood of everyone.
Building a future economy where the benefits of work and profit are shared requires legal reform in support of effective trade unions.
None of this will happen under a Tory-led government, because Conservatism is in diametric opposition to trade-unionism, equality, human rights and egalitarianism.
The death of Jacqueline Harris is another suicide we can lay firmly at the door of the Department for Work and Pensions.
This poor woman, a former nurse who suffered chronic pain in her back after an accident at work, in her hand after a dog bite, and partial blindness due to a head injury, took her life after the DWP axed her incapacity benefit after a one-question work capability assessment. The question? “Can you get on a bus?”
The coroner’s verdict was suicide but we should all know that she would not have taken her life if her Atos assessor and the DWP had recognised the seriousness of her condition. They may well suggest that Ms Harris had mental instability that led her to suicide – shouldn’t the assessor have identified that?
Responsibility clearly lies with the Atos assessor, with the company that employed this person, with the DWP for distributing the (clearly inadequate) rules they followed and with the government ministers who approved and enforced those rules.
A half-blind widow racked with pain took a fatal cocktail of drugs after a controversial fitness test ruled her OK to work and her incapacity benefit was axed.
Former nurse Jacqueline Harris, 53, pinned a suicide note to her pyjamas and left post-it notes on her belongings saying who should get them after her death.
Despite being in constant agony she was declared fit to work after a cursory check by ATOS, the Government-appointed benefits assessors.
Speaking at the time of her death, her sister Christine [Norman] said during this ‘two-minute’ hearing in August 2012 she was asked only one question – whether she could catch a bus – and her incapacity benefit was scrapped.
Devastated Jacqueline pleaded with the government workers, explaining she was waiting for a complex operation, but she was ignored.
Her sister added: “She knew she wasn’t going to get any help. She was waiting for a review date for an appeal. I knew she wasn’t going to wait till this date.”
Christine said: “Her life really had no meaning. She just could not cope with the pain.
“Everything was an effort and she was in serious pain.
“She detested her existence. Disempowered, she wanted to die.”
A statement from Atos passed the buck onto the DWP. Responsibility lies with everybody involved in the chain of events that led to Ms Harris’s death.
Perhaps someone should organise a funeral parade past Caxton House, with coffins representing all the known DWP-related suicides since 2010, one of them might get the point. But even this is doubtful.
Remembrance: Former servicemen and women took part in the formal Remembrance Day parades across the UK earlier this month – but many of them, and many more of their colleagues, are being threatened with the loss of the benefits the country owes to them, thanks to the heartlessness of an ungrateful government [Image: Associated Press].
The following article by disability researcher Mo Stewart was intended for publication in tandem with a story on the same subject in a national newspaper, to coincide with Remembrance Day – but the newspaper concerned got cold feet at the last minute. Don’t all leap up and shout “What else can we expect from the right-wing media?” at once.
Mo has agreed to let Vox Political publish it here. Over to her:
The hypocrisy is breath-taking…
At the annual Conservative Party Conference in October, the Prime Minister offered a very warm and welcome salute to the British Armed Forces.(1) This included the veterans from both WW1 and WW2, an acknowledgement of outstanding efforts 70 years ago when they had fought on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and a tribute to modern British forces who fought in the Gulf.
Prior to the PM’s conference speech, contact had been made with approximately 80,000 disabled older veterans, advising the annual increase in their monthly Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but warning that this vital benefit was about to be withdrawn. Yet there is no information about this unexpected threat to British War Pensioners on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) website, or on the MOD or Veterans-UK websites. The DWP’s threat to the financial survival of these older disabled veterans included a suggestion that working age War Pensioners may wish to apply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA. This suggestion was accompanied with a stark warning that the award of PIP is not guaranteed, regardless of previous payments of DLA awarded to British military forces who were disabled for life in the service of the nation with a permanent disability that can’t possibly improve.
PIP has a 10-12 month waiting list for new applicants (2) and the government’s own figures predict that 600,000 people with permanent disabilities will lose their entitlement to financial support when they lose DLA and attempt to make a claim for PIP.(3) Many experts have already identified the risk to disabled people as the new PIP benefit is rolled out and DLA claimants are reassessed. Richard Hawkes, the Chief Executive for the charity SCOPE remains concerned:
For months now we have been saying the Government’s assessment
for the new Personal Independence Payment is deeply flawed. It looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Work Capability Assessment.(4)
The removal of DLA guarantees that thousands of War Pensioners, permanently disabled whilst in military service, risk the possible loss of their homes and access to their home carers. This significant risk to older disabled veterans is also in breach of the principles of the much-hallowed Armed Forces Covenant.(5) Working age War Pensioners will now live in fear of the loss of this essential benefit, originally guaranteed for life, as their personal sacrifices when serving this nation are totally disregarded by the DWP, despite the PM’s constant public claim of admiration for British forces and disabled veterans.(6)(7)(8)
The unconditional support for British disabled veterans was exclusively reported by The Sun in May 2012 when Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn ran with the headline: Wounded heroes beat MOD in benefits battle. His strong piece expressed concern that disabled veterans had been expected to subject themselves to the same [bogus] assessments as civilians: (6)
Wounded war heroes are to keep their disability benefits for life after the PM stepped in to halt a bid to cut them… Incredibly, MOD bureaucrats were insisting that wounded heroes get the same grilling as suspected cheats and scroungers – because they feared their cash-strapped department would be left to pick up the bill for administering the pay-outs. (6)
When visiting Camp Bastion in July 2012 the PM made a very public promise, as reported by the BBC News and the national press (7)(8). David Cameron claimed that ‘disabled veterans’ would not be adversely affected by the welfare reforms and could retain access to DLA for life, without the need for any reassessment, in recognition of their ‘service to the nation.’ Yet, the PM forgot to mention that this decision only applied to modern disabled veterans (9) and the DWP have now covertly threatened the financial survival of a minimum of 80,000 disabled older British veterans by the planned removal of DLA from this nation’s working-age War Pensioners.(10)
This disturbing threat to the welfare of older disabled veterans is despite the fact that this researcher received a personal telecom from the Cabinet Office last year, as witnessed by care staff, confirming that ‘…the Cabinet has just agreed that all War Pensioners can retain access to DLA and will not be reassessed as an acknowledgement of their service to the nation’. During the same conversation, the caller asked what this decision would mean for the research.
Evidence from the self-funded independent research, demonstrating American corporate influence with the UK government’s welfare reforms (11), has been used in every welfare reform debate in the House of Lords and the House of Commons since 2011. The research exposed the fact that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as conducted by Atos Healthcare and used by the DWP to remove vulnerable people from long-term sickness benefit was a totally bogus assessment using a manipulated bio-psychosocial model.(11)(12) The research further exposed the enforced welfare reforms as being totally unrelated to the banking crash that had created the need for austerity measures, yet the national press refused to publish the research findings. In reality, the eventual demolition of the welfare state is the long-ago planned Thatcher legacy, inherited by her devoted disciple David Cameron. The PM waited for a plausible excuse to introduce welfare reforms as this nation moves ever closer to the removal of the welfare state with welfare and health care, eventually, to be funded by private insurance (12) as the national press help to undermine the welfare state with increasing numbers of adverts by private health insurance companies…
The same research evidence was accepted by the United Nations (UN) and it is widely believed that the UN are to investigate the UK government for the abuses of the human rights of sick and disabled people.(13) The many victims, survivors and bereaved relatives of claimants of long-term sickness benefit, who didn’t survive this government-funded medical tyranny masquerading as welfare reforms, are waiting to learn when the Coalition government will eventually be investigated for crimes against humanity.(14) Meanwhile, Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, continues to refuse to publish the annual death totals of sick and disabled people, removed from long-term sickness benefit and forced to apply for jobs their health will not permit them to tolerate as the DWP finally admit to reinvestigating 60 suspicious deaths following the WCA.… (15)
At the time of the phone call from the Cabinet Office, the caller was advised that DLA for War Pensioners was totally unrelated to the research, which would continue. However, with this recent reality that removes DLA and threatens the welfare of 80,000 working age War Pensioners, it seems that the call was an attempt to incentivise this veteran to end the research. It was an attempt to prevent more detailed research that had already exposed the authority of a notorious American healthcare insurance corporate giant, whose representatives happily boast of their influence with successive UK governments regarding the UK welfare reforms.(16)
The recent justification for the shocking and unexpected threat to this nation’s working age War Pensioners, as provided by the poorly-briefed Defence Personnel Secretariat, is that disabled War Pensioners have access to the more generous constant care allowance, which is a supplement added to the basic war pension that replaces DLA for care. This statement is not only misleading but totally incorrect. It is disregarding the fact that War Pensioners need to demonstrate an 80 per cent disability or higher to access the constant care allowance; whilst disabled veterans with less than an 80 per cent permanent disability were awarded DLA for life because they would be disabled for the rest of their life – something that the PM, Iain Duncan Smith and DWP Ministers still fail to grasp.
This latest DWP decision is a betrayal of working age disabled War Pensioners by the Coalition government as David Cameron continues to make supportive speeches and to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, knowing his government has jeopardised the future survival of 80,000 disabled veterans who willingly risked their lives for the nation in years gone by.
Many War Pensioners have the additional unemployability supplement added to the basic pension, which identifies a profound disability and confirms that they were not expected to work again, so why are they being threatened with destitution, or worse, at the same time as the Prime Minister pays tribute to the British Armed Forces in this the 100th anniversary year of WW1 and the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings?
It is unprecedented for any UK government to threaten the welfare of one generation of disabled veterans over another, yet members of the Coalition appear to do it with ease. They are no doubt confident that there is no authority in place to prevent this unacceptable reality. It remains unclear as to how many politicians are aware of this decision that will negatively impact on their constituents who were disabled when serving this nation when in uniform in years gone by. Once again the DWP has taken a decision based on costs alone, without any apparent consideration of the inevitable dire human consequences. Of greatest concern, the loss of DLA for care at the highest level will remove access to funded carers in the home as supplied by the local authorities. The award of DLA for care at the highest level is the tag used by local authorities to justify the costs of providing home carers to disabled people in the community. Without it, the care will be removed and there is no guarantee that those now in receipt of DLA for care at the highest level will be awarded the equivalent level of PIP or, indeed, any award of PIP at all. (17)
The Defence Personnel Secretariat don’t like being challenged and claim even more justification as approximately 50 per cent of the 166,000 surviving War Pensioners are now over the age of 70 years old, will retain access to DLA and, happily, this callous decision will not affect them. Modern British forces already have the Prime Minister’s guarantee of permanent access to DLA so someone, somewhere, should be asking why approximately 80,000 working age disabled War Pensioners are now being targeted by the DWP when all other disabled veterans are permitted to retain access to DLA with all the financial security attached to it.
Are they really being punished because my integrity is not for sale?
vhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgs4UjwWtow – video
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