CHANCELLOR'S MISSED OPPORTUNITY
The Chancellor’s recent Spring Statement was a failed opportunity to get real help for households struggling with the cost of living crisis – but instead we had a “plan” that was really an insult to everyone trying to keep their head above water.
Knocking a few pence off fuel tax and making loft insulation a few pounds cheaper isn’t going to protect families who are seeing sky-high rises in energy costs, food, and fuel.
He failed to reverse his increase in National Insurance, kicking in this week and adding to the household burden, failed to reverse his savage cuts to Universal Credit, and failed to give real help on energy costs rather than extra debt to be paid back.
It was a statement that failed million of households and left no doubt that when action was needed to help ordinary people stuck with extraordinary challenges, the Westminster Government refused to lift a finger.
The sight of the P&O Chief Executive appearing before me and other MPs on the Transport Committee and happily admitting to breaking the law will live with me for a long time.
It’s a measure of the utter arrogance of the man that he thought this was just a PR exercise, another bit of fluff and annoyance to get through before getting back to the task of humiliating P&O staff yet further.
Fortunately, thanks to the collective work of MPs across parties, trade unions, members of the public and the workers themselves, the UK Government was forced to act.
And give credit where it’s deserved – the package of measures announced by the Transport Secretary was genuinely welcomed.
However, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. As the case of P&O – and many other companies – shows, if corporations have deep enough pockets, they are happy to break the law if the cost is purely in cash terms.
If the Government are serious about tackling fire and rehire, it needs to be outlawed completely, and those responsible for it be doled out some serious punishment, not just a slap on the wrist.
Meanwhile I also got the opportunity to speak in a debate on urban transport last week.
Renfrewshire is a real mix of urban and rural, and I was happy to outline some of the ways that our part of the world has been leading the way in transition for a zero-carbon future.
On buses, Scotland has been keeping the roll out of zero emissions buses on track, the results of which can be seen every day as McGills deploy their new electric buses on more and more routes.
On electric car charging, Scotland is accelerating ahead of the rest of the UK, with the highest number of public charge points per person anywhere outside of London.
Active travel is seeing a transformational increase in funding, to the point where the Scottish Government’s total spending will get close to England – despite the huge disparity in population.
And on railways, our network and services are now where they should be, in public ownership and democratic control.
Of course, there’s so much more to do. The new Metro serving Glasgow and the West is still on the drawing board and I know bus services are always a concern for constituents, particularly in the villages. We should always be striving to do better.
But one look at down south and how their investment in cleaner and better public transport is stuck in the slow lane shows the progress we’re making here and across the country.
Like so much else, when Scotland has the power to act and invest in our future, we seize the opportunity and make real progress.
It’s time we had the powers of an independent country to extend that progress right across our society.