“The government you elect is the government you deserve.”Thomas Jefferson
Thursday May 5th is election day when all those resident and aged 16 years and older will vote for new councillors across Scotland. In 2017 , the last local government elections, less than half those eligible to vote in Scotland did so. And yet it is your local council which delivers many of the services that affect your daily life: Education, social care, rubbish collections, libraries, inter island ferries (in Orkney’s case) etc. In each area councillors decide on the council tax to be paid.
Local Government gets the bulk of its funding via the Scottish Government to provide those services and some of that funding is ring fenced on what is considered a priority by the government in Edinburgh. Extra funding is provided for supporting people in low pay and to support struggling families. In Orkney, extra funding was provided to keep the ferries running including the purchase of the Nordic Sea by Orkney Islands Council. At the last Scottish Parliament election 63.5% of those registered to vote did so. That was actually an increase on the 2016 election when only 55.8% of folk voted. The Scottish Government decides how money is to be spent on services which are devolved to it. Quite a lot of that money is now being used to lessen the effects of policies made in London by the UK Government. Policies like the Bedroom Tax, the Rape Clause, which hit the most vulnerable are ‘softened’ by money coming out of the Scottish Budget. In Scotland people do not pay for the NHS medicines they need – the NHS remains free at point of need.
Both local government and Scottish Parliament elections are conducted using a form (different for each) of proportionality. It means there is a distribution of votes to closer resemble what the voters as a body have chosen.
UK Parliamentary elections are ‘first past the post’, which means votes are not distributed according to the preferences of the voters. In many cases Members of Parliament can be elected despite most of their constituents not voting for them.
“Every country has the government it deserves.”Joseph de Maistre
In the 2019 UK General Election 67.3% of those registered to vote did so. Boris Johnson became Prime Minister with a comfortable majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons winning 365 out of a total of 650. His popular vote of 43.6% was the highest percentage for any party since 1979.
The situation in Scotland was considerably different for the Tories. The results were:
- SNP: 48 seats, 45%, 1,242,380 votes
- Tories: 6 seats, 25.1%, 692,939 votes
- Liberal Democrats: 4 seats, 9.5%, 263,417 votes
- Labour: 1 seat, 18.6%, 511,838 votes
If you only look at the Labour vote you can see how the ‘first past the post’ system does not reflect the voting choices of the electorate.
“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”Mark Twain
The UK Government has made it more difficult for people to vote: Elections Act 2022
Boris Johnson’s Government with its comfortable majority in the House of Commons can push through any legislation it likes, which its Tory voters elected it to do, without any need to worry about what people in Scotland think about those policies. It’s 67 years since the people of Scotland voted for a Tory Government in London. Labour once the dominant party in Scotland has suffered at every election since the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum where it shared platforms with Tories and LibDems. Its heartlands voted in SNP MPs the following year.
But what the UK Government decides affects every level of governance in Scotland. It has the power over energy, immigration, universal credit, international agreements and how much funding it will allocate to the Scottish Government from the Scottish tax payer.
Last week Boris Johnson’s government succeeded in getting two pieces of legislation passed. These are now Laws.
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 given Royal Assent on 28th of April 2022.
The Act means the deportation of those seeking refuge in the UK to Rwanda “there is no illegal way to arrive in a country to seek asylum.” : The UK/Rwanda Deal as part of a trade deal.
The Tory MP for South Holland and the Deepings on congratulating the Government on this becoming law said:
“Will my hon. Friend accept my congratulations on the Patel-Pursglove plan vis-à-vis Rwanda? And will he ensure that, when people arrive here, they are on a plane as quickly as possible before some dodgy activist or fat-cat human rights lawyer can get their hands on them?”
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 given Royal Assent on 28th of April 2022.
The Act will allow police to place conditions on public processions, public assemblies and one-person protests where it is reasonably believed that the noise they generated may result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation carried on in the vicinity or have a significant impact on people in the vicinity of the protest. The Home Secretary has power to further define the meaning of serious disruption and how the police can use these new powers.
Anne McLaughlin SNP MP said:
“There already exists legislation and the powers for the police to control demonstrations that are not peaceful and out of control, but we are not talking about that. The proposed legislation allows the police to make decisions according to very spurious guidance. The removal of the distinction regarding static demonstration could hand the police unfettered discretion to impose further conditions on static protests, such as the words and slogans that can be used on placards. “
The right to protest has been one that citizens in every part of the UK have striven to protect for centuries.
Whatever your views on those who flee to the shore of the UK away from war and conflict, or on those who wish to demonstrate against policies they feel are harmful: what is clear is that the only MPs in Scotland supporting the new laws are Tories with only 692,939 Scots voting for them.
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”Abraham Lincoln
Voting does matter. Elections matter. A Referendum matters.