Thursday, 9 February 2017

Sneaking Out

Who do we really care about?

Family, friends, vulnerable people, children...?

Let's start with the children. The most vulnerable children. Kids without parents, living as refugees just across the 'hard border' that separates England from France.

Last year Lord Alf Dubs negotiated an agreement with the UK Government that would allow a number - he had pitched for 3,000 but this was diluted in the final version -  of lone children from the Calais refugee camps to be allowed into the UK.

It was a huge battle for a very small victory.

And then yesterday The Minister for Immigration, Robert Goodwell (Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby) shuffled out a written statement declaring that just 150 kids will be allowed into mighty Britain. The statement is designed to baffle with waffle. It is hard to spot just the numbers, but read paragraphs four and five carefully and you'll see the maths. 'We've let in 200, and we are going to let in 150 more.'

Mr Goodwell happened to release his statement on the same day that Westminster voted for the Tories' Hard-Dream Brexit. This is not an accident. He knew that no-one would notice.

This is sneaky politics. In other words, it's business as usual at Westminster.

It uses a technique known as a 'Shock Event.' Professor Heather Cox Richardson has written a clear guide over on Facebook. Brexit is a Shock Event. We are hypnotised by Brexit, we talk about it all the time, and we divide along traditional fault lines over Brexit, with racism or at least anti-immigrant sentiments being the guideline. While we are staring into the darkness of Brexit, the government pushes forward with its real agenda, led by the Minister Against Immigration, Robert Goodwell.

The sneaky Tories have abandoned hundreds of orphan refugees to their fate. One NGO says that it cannot trace one third of the 179 children it was tracking, and Save the Children Fund has reported in its blog that more lone kids are going missing as they hear the rumours about changes in the UK laws. There are 5,100 child refugees and asylum seekers detained in France, according to the well-researched data at the Global Detention Project.

What is to be done? Lobbying, pressure, writing to MPs, donating to the tiny volunteer-led NGOs that are working with child refugees in France. 

But finally the people of Scotland will have to decide. Do we want to be bound to this Parliament of sneaks and rogues, for ever more?

Finally, a selection of organisations you might like to help:

Save the Children Fund
Dunkirk Legal Support Team
Help Refugees
Refugee Youth Service
Calais Migrant Solidarity
Global Detention Project



Friday, 3 February 2017

Scotland, for £8 a week

The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood passed its budget yesterday. Thanks to the Scottish Greens, the SNP was able to make a coalition majority in favour.

To do so, the SNP agreed a Green Party amendment, meaning that the 360,000 people in Scotland who pay the highest income tax rate (40%), would pay £400 more per year than people on the same wage in England.

That's just under £8 a week.

£8 a week, to live in Scotland.

You'd pay that, wouldn't you?

The argument against this tiny tax-hike is that people with money will move away, taking their businesses with them.

Really? Is there any evidence of that?

In France, around the same number of tax payers (342,942) pay a much heavier tax, the ISF (Impôt Solidaire sur la Fortune). It's based on wealth, not income, and aims to tax the 1% wealthiest in the land. The rate is variable, depending on the amount of wealth you hold, but the average payment is just over €15,000. The French government earns €5.22 billion from this tax. Much more than the £29 million that the tiny shift in Scotland's taxation will raise.

Wealthy people in France don't leave the country because of this tax. In 2015 around 10,000 more people paid the ISF tax than the year before. French business is not collapsing. Entrepreneurs are not leaving the country in droves.


Er, because France is a good place to live. It's worth staying there because the food is better, the social services are better, the TGV (largely) runs on time and the sun never stops shining in Cannes.

Raising tax does not drive people out of the country, if the country is a good place to be.

So yes, as Scotland will show, people on higher incomes will stay in Scotland, pay the £8 a week and contribute a wee bit more to making Scotland a better, fairer, place to live.