On Monday, in a speech in St Andrews, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made much of the SNP policy of free childcare in an independent Scotland.
She emphasised the feminist argument since looking after children affects both women’s earning capacity and career progression.
Although her audience contained many professional and highly educated women, there was no cheering. Might this be because what stops many women working now – whether they are mothers or not – is the lack of jobs?
Finance secretary John Swinney’s projection that free childcare will create 2,000 jobs begs the same question. Free childcare is supposed to be funded by all the extra tax that will pour into Scottish coffers from working mothers, but from where will all these new jobs for women come?
Ms Sturgeon could not answer this question. Doubtless, the massive bureaucracy an independent Scotland will require will create new employment opportunities, as will increasing public spending, but all this ultimately depends on private sector investment to sustain it.
A working mother I know, whose Scottish-registered business turns over £3 million a year in England, is making contingency plans to transfer her company and head office entirely to England in case of independence.
The reason isn’t just all the uncertainty about tax and the economy in a newly independent Scotland, but the undoubted additional costs that running a business across two separate jurisdictions will bring.
I doubt her Scottish employees will be mollified by free childcare when they receive their P45s.
William Ballantine (Letters, 9 January) asks who gives the money for childcare. Since the revenue from Scotland which goes to Westminster is only about half of what is given back in the block grant, it is indeed the Scottish Government which pays for childcare, including free school meals for young children.
If we retained all of the revenues raised on income taxes, VAT, national insurance, whisky, oil, the shores, beaches and waters around Scotland, and monies raised on the 600 square miles of Scotland’s sea transferred to England, we would be able to put twice as much into such valuable activities. And those parents who save a little on food will be able to spend more on heating for their families, benefiting the economy.
It is not widely known that the first charge on the (half of the) money returned to Scotland as a direct “grant” is the entire cost of Trident – Coulport, Faslane and Aldermaston.
If this money were available, as it should be, it could be used productively for the benefit of people in Scotland.
Susan FG Forde
In 2012, Scottish Labour’s leader Johann Lamont criticised what she described as the SNP’s “something for nothing” society. The subject of her ire in that speech was the provision in Scotland of universal entitlement to free prescriptions, the abolition of tuition fees and free bus travel for over-60s.
On Tuesday the First Minister announced the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce free school meals for all Primary 1-3 children in Scotland. This policy has the full support of the Child Poverty Action Group.
Sadly, it only brought scorn and criticism from Mrs Lamont.
We now have the situation where Mrs Lamont has openly expressed opposition to free prescriptions in Scotland (despite the fact that the Labour Party introduced them in Wales) and free school meals in Scotland (despite the fact that they are going to be available to schoolchildren in England).
Added to this is her wish to introduce means testing for young people in Scotland who want to attend university and also to pensioners for their bus passes.
There is a great deal of unease within the Scottish trade union movement regarding Labour’s stance on Scottish independence and the party’s seeming willingness to do the Tories’ dirty work during the referendum.
Recent announcements of support for independence by Labour stalwarts such as John Mulvey and Charles Gray are a sign that all is not well in the Labour camp. The Scottish Labour leader’s open criticism of progressive policies is starting to sound very Tory – if not almost Thatcher-like – in its tone.
Free prescriptions are good enough for Labour in Wales. They should be good enough for the people of Scotland. Free school meals are good enough for children in England. Why does Mrs Lamont not want Scottish children to have them?
If the Tories had voiced the same opinions as Mrs Lamont on these matters they would have rightly been accused of being mean-spirited and anti-Scottish.
Larch Tree Way