Welfare butchery spells curtains for ‘Better Together’ campaign

newsnet scotland


THURSDAY, 04 APRIL 2013 20:25


By Mark McNaught 

Yes ScotlandAs an American, it’s a grim day when the UK government makes US Republicans look like philanthropists. 

Newt Gingrich once opined that poor children should clean the toilets in their schools to learn the work ethic their parents so evidently lack.  Tories don’t seem to want the UK poor to realise even that degree of upward mobility.
With the enactment this week of the savage ‘Bedroom Tax’ and other radical changes to the social welfare system, the UK government has rendered ‘better together’ an oxymoron and doomed any prospects of convincing Scots to remain within the Union.

This may take some time to be reflected in the polls, but once Scots become fully cognisant of the real effects of these changes, the poll numbers will shift dramatically, and Scotland will vote for independence in 2014.

The ‘Better Together’ campaign has based its case exclusively on the illusory perils of independence.  As the real perils of remaining in the Union become manifest, especially increased homelessness and destitution among the poor, Scots will rightly see staying in the UK as a societal death wish.

It is astonishing to reflect on the logic underlying this scheme. 

Societal well-being was obviously not a concern. 

Helping the poor find non-existent jobs is not in there, however paradoxical.  Families are not strengthened. 

What are they thinking?

They are certainly not thinking about the reaction of the Scots, and whether such barbaric measures may induce them to vote for independence. 

If they had, they would have remembered the poll tax imposed on Scotland before the rest of the UK in 1989.  Riots, and massive non-compliance ensued.

Imagine how boneheaded it would have been if they had imposed that in 1979 during the referendum for a Scottish Assembly.  The UK government is doing something at least as inane with the welfare changes, while they are purportedly trying to convince Scots that they are ‘better together’.

The bedroom tax comes in the context of the unravelling of many other arguments for staying in the union.  The premise that Scotland benefits from the UK being able to borrow more cheaply because of the AAA rating was demolished by Moody’s downgrade.

The fantasy promoted by shady think tanks – that Scotland would be worse off if it received the taxes from oil off its own shores – has been shown to be a lie even by Vince Cable.  The question of Scotland remaining in the EU has been overshadowed by the very real possibility that the UK will leave the EU. 

The notion that Scotland is subsidised by the UK has been shown to be the other way around, especially if oil revenues are counted.  Many Scots were surprised to know that their country had been ‘extinguished’ by their union with England in 1707.

The ‘better together’ campaign is rapidly being robbed of even remotely plausible scare tactics. 

With its new welfare policy, the UK government has demonstrated downright contempt for its less fortunate citizens, that will have disastrous real world consequences for many people.  In its wake, the ‘better together’ campaign is left stammering to make a positive case.

Of course, in the run up to the 2014 referendum, they will function as a campaign.  However, I believe this week will mark the moment when the unionists went from playing offence to defence. 

They will not recover.

This should not be a reason for complacency within the ‘Yes’ campaign.  All in favour of independence must continue to talk to their neighbours and the undecided to convince them that the bedroom tax is exactly why Scotland needs independence.  This issue marks the beginning of the end for the better together campaign, precisely because it amply demonstrates that they are not. 

Even the name of the campaign is now patently inaccurate.

This idea that these cuts to welfare will ‘make work pay’ and get the unemployed, destitute, and disabled to work is a dangerous fallacy. 

Ham-handed Tory social engineering has failed over the last 30 years to help the most destitute, because it is not designed to do so.

There is no better argument for independence than the opportunity to chart a course away from the slide towards neo-Dickensianism.  The ‘Yes’ campaign must seize this opportunity and not let go.

Newsnet Scotland

Mark McNaught is a member of the Constitutional Commission and an Associate Professor of US Civilisation at the University of Rennes 2 France. He also teaches US constitutional law at Sciences-Po Paris.

8 thoughts on “Welfare butchery spells curtains for ‘Better Together’ campaign

  1. Peter Morris says:

    A friend of mine has a 3 bedroom council house and is going to be charged the 14% bedroom tax. In August when her daughter turns 16, she will be entitled to a 3 bedroom house. She was told in order to escape the bedroom tax she should find a 2 bedroom house to move into. Then in August she can apply for a 3 bedroom house again. There appears to be no flexibility in the policy. She cannot afford the 14% cut in her housing benefit and will probably have to go into arrears or more arrears. It seems she should move out of her 3 bedroom house and into a 2 bedroom house and then re-apply for a 3 bedroom house in August. What a shambles of a policy.

  2. GEOFF REYNODS says:

    Surely what is happening within our social housing and bedroom tax is totally against the Human Rights Act.
    Opposition ministers should be doing somersaults to find out?

    Suffice to say, they are more than happy to go along with it and prefer to bicker and hide.

  3. jed goodright says:

    As further evidence that this country is being run by a fascist centre out of conservative central office the telegraph has closed all avenues for the public to post comments on the ‘stiff of the week’:


    Any notion that the welfare cuts and savage behaviour of the right towards disabled people the poor and unemployed are to cut the deficit go out of the window here. remember for years the tory press has been abusing the disabled poor and unemployed – which seems to be acceptable – but they will not allow ‘abuse’ of one of their own. Hypocrisy in the face of the abuse of the nation by the 1% – evil venal bastards


    Osborne has said that the welfare money applicable to this year has been capped. In essence he is saying that if unemployment figures rise in the future, the welfare funding will not be increased and the £71.00 will be reduced to make up for the shortfall………
    Therefore “the amount the law says you need to live on” will erode even further.


    Furthermore; Crisis loans/Social Funds have been moved from central government to local authority for distribution.
    It seems that money will not be paid out under the new welfare rules. You will be sent to food banks and stores of used furniture and second hand goods.

    Seems hard to believe does’nt it?

    Maggies final gift to the poorest……

  6. Humanity2012 says:

    I Know Anyone who can Vote Tory in it’s Present State is Completely Irresponsible

    It is the Rich Politicians who are the Scroungers

  7. Brian F Kirkham says:

    Here’s an Idea – Scotland can HAVE its independence – So long as it moves the border south to encompass the Northern Counties!

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