Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Coming to a manifesto near you

Survation have just released the results of a survey on behalf of Progressive Polling which asked 1002 SNP voters what policies would be more likely to make them vote Labour.  The respondents were people resident in Scotland aged 16 or over who had declared an intention within the last year to vote for SNP at the next General Election or Scottish General Election.  The headline results were
  • A policy of a mandatory living wage would make 37% more likely to vote Labour

  • A commitment to permanently abolishing tuition fees for university education in Scotland would make 30% more likely to vote Labour

  • Promising to decommission the Trident nuclear weapons system would make 30% more likely to vote Labour

  • A policy to re-nationalise Scottish rail services would make 27% more likely to vote Labour

  • Promising free nursery places for children from the age of 12 months would make 21% more likely to vote Labour

Let's take a look at these policies.

Decommissioning of Trident
A bone of contention within the Labour party in Scotland.  Neil Findlay this week talked of his intention to get rid of Trident, which was fine until it was pointed that Ed Milliband is in favour of retaining it and would therefore overrule this.  Jim Murphy is known to be in favour of retaining it, while Sarah Boyack is supports a similar position to Neil Findlay.
Verdict: highly unlikely to be on the Labour manifesto.

Mandatory living wage
The Scottish government are currently paying all staff working directly for them the living wage.  However, a proposal by Labour to ensure that paying the living wage be made a condition of all public sector contracts was defeated, citing concerns that this would breach EU law and leave public bodies open to legal action.  The Scottish government did agree that companies bidding for public sector contracts should be assessed on their willingness to pay a living wage.
Verdict: A possible area of weakness for the SNP, so a good candidate to be on the Labour manifesto

Permanent abolition of tuition fees
Scottish students currently pay no tuition fees, and Nicola Sturgeon has declared that she will never support bringing them in.  Labour's policy in Scotland was, until recently, that free tuition was not economically viable and tended to favour the economically privileged.  However, Kezia Dugdale is apparently hopeful that Labour can change their 'direction of travel' on this one, providing that there is 'sufficient funding was also available to widen access and to reduce the student drop-out rate in the country'.
Verdict: A possibility for the Labour manifesto, depending on the outcome of the leadership election

Re-nationalise the Scottish rail services
This surfaced over the recent award of the franchise held by ScotRail to the Dutch company Abellio.  To be fair to the Scottish government, they don't have a choice on this, as the 1993 Railways Act specifically rules out awarding the franchise to any company directly owned by the UK taxpayer.  This would therefore require the Labour party to promise to amend the law at UK level to allow this.  I suspect this wouldn't play well with the shareholders in the Home Counties, whose preferences seem to play a large part in Labour's policies.
Verdict: Probably not a candidate for the Labour manifesto

Free nursery places for children from 12 months
The most recent statement I can find on this was a speech by Johann Lamont in early October in which she ruled out making all childcare free, although she did announce plans to make it more affordable by capping the cost and offering free childcare for women who want to go to college to gain job-related skills.  Kezia Dugdale's name pops up again in relation to a visit to Finland to see their system of childcare, which apparently enthused her.  The policy could, of course, change depending on the outcome of the leadership election.
Verdict: Something around childcare likely to be included, but unlikely to be quite this radical.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, influence this has as we get closer to the General Election.

(The underlying data tables for the survey can be found here)

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