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So what's left wing about the SNP?

Perhaps Len McCluskey, leader of the UK's largest trades union Unite, should look at the facts before he uses the referendum in Scotland as another stick with which to beat Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

Speaking to journalists in London this week he talked of Alex Salmond charging up Labour's left wing, posing a threat to Labour's hegemony in Scotland and Mr Miliband's chances of reaching No 10. In fairness to Mr McCluskey, he's not the only one who believes Mr Salmond is more appealing to the Left. The only problem is that the facts don't match the rhetoric.

The redistribution of wealth in Scotland has been from the less well-off to the better-off. It is hard, nay impossible, to find one policy redistributing wealth from rich to poor.

There is nothing left-wing or progressive about the SNP's tax policy. They have not backed a 50p additional tax rate and they're committed to a 3p reduction in corporation tax. If the tax take is reduced there is less money to spend on public services vital to the wellbeing of workers wherever they are.

What is left wing about funding free prescriptions while the NHS is crying out for nurses; or spending money on subsidised bus travel for rich and poor alike, when potholes deepen and road improvements are put on the back burner; or freezing council tax rates so the people who benefit most are those living in the most highly valued property, while cutting council funding?

These policies are regressive. Also, they are unaffordable and, therefore, unsustainable. Robert Black, Scotland's former auditor general, has questioned the sustainability of the range of free public services.

Mr Black, whose views are shared by many public sector leaders whose posts preclude them from speaking out, is clear that every pound spent on free benefits is a pound not available elsewhere.

Free personal care is appealing but, with costs rising at 15% each year, it will be unsustainable without a massive tax hike. And what is left wing about a policy that does not differentiate between those dependent on their 15-minute visit and those who can afford to look after themselves?

Nowhere is the redistribution of wealth from the less well-off to the better-off more evident than in the funding of higher and further education. The number of students from homes with the lowest incomes has dropped in the past 10 years, and later this year lower-income students will need to borrow more to cover their day-to-day costs.

Poorer students will be eligible for more student loans but a very large proportion will go to making up the loss of grant so they will not have more money for their living expenses.

Student numbers in Scotland are already falling (the only part of the UK where they're going into reverse) and this year acceptances through Ucas stand at 10% in England and Northern Ireland, 5% in Wales and 2% in Scotland.

All this is absolutely fine if that is the democratic choice, but progressive it is not. An interesting question is why the First Minister is thirled to the universal benefits skewed in favour of the better-off while opting for means testing and targeted programmes in other areas.

He will not be the first politician, or the last, to play the populist card but populism should not rule.

Mr McCluskey calls on the Scottish Labour Party to demonstrate they are on the side of ordinary Scottish workers (why is ordinary ever an acceptable description?).

Had he read the recent Devolution Commission report he would have discovered a progressive agenda on employment and skills, on health and safety; demands to increase the higher and additional tax band; empowerment of local authorities and local communities; and democratising the Crown Estates commission for the first time.

Devolution, delivered by a Labour Government, has empowered the Scottish Parliament to establish its priorities on many of the issues that matter to Scottish workers.

Mr McCluskey's influence could be brought to bear in the interests of meaningful change. Grandstanding will do little for the workers, wherever they are.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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