The appearance of the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on the Andrew Marr Show at the weekend signalled the end of his kiddy-on-honeymoon with nationalist bloggers and commentators, many of whom seem to have been impatiently waiting for their opportunity to declare him another evil unionist/Red Tory before tossing him into the sea.
The media furore around Corbyn has been relentless and depressing: he supports terrorism, he’s probably a homophobe despite his spotless record on LGBT rights, he wants the world to end in a flurry of beards and pigeons, HE DOESN’T BUTTON UP HIS SHIRT! I’m remiss to join in on the Corbyn bashing because I know the only reason he’s being attacked is that he dares to occupy a political space somewhere to the left of Hitler. That’s inexcusable in the eyes of the media and they will doubtless continue to go out of their way to discredit him, in a manner eerily reminiscent of their treatment of the Yes campaign.
I don’t deny having a soft spot for Jezza, he’s an old commie at the end of the day. Whether he succeeds or fails, it’s a positive development that a Labour leader opposes austerity, supports workers in struggle and puts forward an alternative to continuing on the rightwards lurch which has taken his party to the brink of extinction. But his performance on Sunday demonstrated a fundamental problem for a party seeking to win back Scottish seats – Corbyn doesn’t have a scooby about Scotland.
The kindest thing I can say is that he appears to have been very badly briefed, he certainly came out with a few howlers about the SNP’s record including declaring they were, “…also privatising CalMac, also were behind the privatisation of Scotrail” before concluding that, “flags don’t build houses.” Except, the SNP didn’t privatise CalMac or the railways – and neither union jacks nor Scottish Labour have built many houses lately.
On the CalMac issue, it’s a total riddy for Scottish Labour, who went through exactly the same tendering process when they were in power (at the alleged behest of the EU) to now be criticising the SNP. It’s certainly the case that the SNP could have more fully explored the Teckal Exemption which allows publicly run companies to operate services without the need for a tendering process and Scotland’s ferry services do run the risk of being privatised, even if CalMac will remain a publicly owned operation. The SNP could be making a much bigger noise, stating their belief that our public services should remain public, yet the only noise we’ll hear is “RED TORIES OUT” because Corbyn got his facts wrong.
Far from it all being the SNP’s fault, the railways were privatised in 1993 by the Tories, prior to the existence of the Scottish Parliament. What the SNP chose to do was not delay the recent tendering process for Scotrail, which the RMT asked be put back until after the full extent of the powers (or lack thereof) which would be contained in the Scotland Bill were finalised. This allowed Dutch firm Abellio to win a 10 year contract despite the fact Holyrood may be given powers to renationalise the railways in a few years time. Our rail network may be privately owned for longer than otherwise would have been the case had the SNP made different political choices. We could and should be asking why this happened but instead Corbyn sprattled shite which was very easy for the SNP to rebuke.If Jezza wants to get a taste of what’s he’s missed out on these last few years, I’d suggest he takes a gander at the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence, particularly the section on Transport. It doesn’t even contain a firm commitment to bring Scotland’s rail network back into public ownership, preferring a wooly reference to being able to decide, “the best ownership model for rail and track for the benefit of the people of Scotland.” He could simply have asked the SNP to match his commitment to a publicly owned rail network.
Or perhaps Corbyn could be trying to figure out what’s going on in relation to one area of transport policy which is already devolved – bus services. It’s a small wonder the SNP have been allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories when it comes to opposing the regulation of the busses for so long. The SNP membership voted for a resolution which committed them to re-regulating the bus network at their 2007 Conference yet the pledge didn’t appear in the 2007 manifesto published a few months later. What happened in between? Brian Souter (who just so happens to own loads of busses) donated £500,000 to the party.
On a similar note, the main transport priority for the SNP these days seems to be the devolution of Air Passenger Duty, a nice bung for the airline bosses who made vaguely positive noises about independence during the referendum campaign. Will Scottish Labour oppose this tax cut? Not likely when Kezia Dugdale has already declared the next Holyrood manifesto will be their most pro-business ever.
Jeremy Corbyn could have had so much ammunition if his aim was to hold the SNP to account for their transport polices – but instead, he just lied and made himself look like a dafty. That he was clearly briefed by Scottish Labour’s leadership is beyond infuriating; I’m rarely surprised when an English lefty doesn’t have a fucking clue about Scotland but Scottish Labour are running out of excuses. Given that Corbyn won’t be getting the Scottish leadership on board his soon-to-be renationalised train any time soon, he would be well advised to steer clear of their ongoing train wreck.
As Labour in Scotland continue to tumble further and further off the rails, there’s a danger the SNP will continue to be given a free ride.