AMID heady optimism the SNP conference has set out on its march to Westminster – and with high expectations of an epochal victory over Labour.
However, this is the same Labour Party with which the SNP intends to deal immediately after the election. Nicola Sturgeon, the party leader, and deputy Stewart Hosie gave important indications of the specific policies the SNP intends to pursue in a post-election deal should Ed Miliband emerge as Prime Minister on 8 May.
These include a 50p tax rate on high earners, a minimum wage of £8.70 an hour by 2020, an expansion of the living wage, a pledge to vote for a tough new tax dodgers’ Bill and an end to the use of “unfair” zero hours contracts.
Mr Hosie pledged that the SNP would push for an “end to austerity and cuts” and said the party would want advance sight of a minority Labour government’s Queen’s speech. The party would also expect to be given places in Westminster’s influential select committees, including those covering areas like health and education which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
It is an unambiguously Left-leaning list that would please many Labour activists south of the Border. And there can be no doubting its appeal to many former Old Labour supporters in Scotland. New polling shows the SNP retains a massive lead in the polls over Labour in Scotland and is on course to make sweeping gains on 7 May. And with Labour edging ahead of the Conservatives in UK-wide polls, a deal of some sort between the two parties starts to look plausible.
However, opinion polls are no substitute for the actual result. The formal election campaigns are only just getting under way. There are five weeks of intense campaigning ahead. And it remains to be seen how the prospect of such a suite of policies would affect voters in the rest of the UK. Labour has traditionally tacked to the Right to win support outwith its traditional areas of strength. And the prospect of an Ed Miliband premiership dependent on SNP support with unambiguously Left-wing policies as the price may have an adverse impact on uncommitted voters down south.
What might the prospects be for such policies were the Conservatives to secure a majority of votes cast and possibly even more seats than Labour? Declarations by Alex Salmond that the SNP would not do any deal with them and indeed would work to “lock out” the Conservatives from office may work not only to rile voters in England but also deny the SNP the possibility of securing “more powers” concessions from David Cameron’s party.
Ms Sturgeon did not repeat this assertion but insisted that she will be in charge of negotiations with Labour over a new government. Whatever the high rhetoric at the SNP conference, it is the reality of a post-election Westminster with which the SNP will have to deal. It is a reality that demands all options be kept open.
Anti-obesity drive a worthy cause
‘MY CHILDREN aren’t fat. They’re just big boned.” So runs the typical response of parents when challenged that their offspring may be overweight. Admission of the problem often tends not to kick in until extreme levels of obesity are reached.
New research reveals that parents may not recognise the problem until the danger signs are glaring – but by this stage much damage will have been done and corrective action becomes all the more difficult.
Convenience foods with high sugar and starch levels have become commonplace for millions of families. And the temptation of sugary food for children is evident in every supermarket.
The research found just under a third of the parents that took part in the study underestimated their child’s body mass index (BMI). Just four parents described their child as being very overweight despite 369 children being officially identified as such.
This cannot but raise searching questions about the effectiveness of public health interventions.
The research coincides with news that popular chef Jamie Oliver is launching a global petition calling for all children to be given food education.
That worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980 he describes as “shocking” and his petition urges governments of the G20 countries including the UK to take action to give youngsters practical food education in schools. He writes that there are now 42 million children under the age of five either overweight or obese across the world. The petition has been launched ahead of Food Revolution Day, an initiative being spearheaded by the TV chef, on 15 May. It deserves support.
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