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Scotland’s Future

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th September 2013.

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Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

I am sorry. I hope that Mr Mason does not mind if I make a bit more progress.

There are two types of facts coming from the Scottish Government, depending on what it is being asked. If it is asked about a popular policy, the answer to the question is, “Don’t worry. That is guaranteed under independence. We will make it so.” If the question is a bit harder, or if there is division over the answer to the question, it is suddenly a matter for the Government post independence. The Government can hardly be surprised that that inconsistency fuels a sense of cynicism in the public debate around the independence referendum.

The same argument applies to the sense that we are going to have a written constitution in an independent Scotland. On the one hand, the SNP says that it will enshrine certain things in that written constitution. On the other hand, it tells us that it is for the people to decide what will be in the constitution. That is a cynical ploy, and it is no wonder that public support for independence is falling. It is also no wonder that public support for the First Minister is falling, because he has been found out.

An excellent example of the SNP’s inconsistency lies in the issue of payday loans. For the past 18 months or so, I have been running a campaign on payday loans and, time and again, I have said that in order for us to rid our high streets of the problem we need to cap the cost of credit. That is an issue for Westminster. It took the First Minister a year to say, in the Sunday Post, that the SNP would cap the cost of credit. At that point, I started to ask hard questions about how we could do that in an independent country. If we have the same currency as England and have the Bank of England as the currency of last resort, how could an independent Scotland cap the cost of credit for payday loan companies? I was told, “Ah, the answer to that lies in the hands of the post-independence Government. It will come up with the hard answers on that.” Meanwhile, I put forward many ideas for things that the Government could do now to address the problems of payday loans in our communities, but was told, time and again, “Oh, that’s a bit difficult,” or “We don’t have the powers for that.” The political will simply is not there on the part of the Government to make change happen now.

I wondered why that should be, and John Swinney gave the game away last week. It is because it suits the Government’s agenda to keep people on the hook of debt, struggling to make ends meet. For too many families around the country, there is far too much month left at the end of the money, and this Government wants to wait until 2014 before it comes up with the answers to help them. Therefore, Presiding Officer, you will forgive me for thinking that the debate is increasingly cynical.

We need to ensure that, when people go to vote, they know what they are voting for. It is up to this Government to put forward the proposition and come up with facts that people can trust. I urge it to do that, because we will all look back and reflect on our politics at the end of the process.