Comment: We are after all just pawns in the political game

insideMoray’s contributor Tim Eagle returns to pose a few questions over the entire Council Tax drama…..

Masters of the art of politics....
Masters of the art of politics….

THE AMERICAN AUTHOR and humourist Mark Twain once wrote “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

But just when does the government deserve our loyalty? In politics it is always the hardest to defend yourself when you are the one in power, and always the easiest to suggest you can do better when you are the one in opposition.

At the end of the day politics like so many things is played as a game, sadly with us as the unwilling contestants.

Just a few days ago the SNP laid out plans for their Council Tax Reforms. Council Tax Reforms – hang on, just a few weeks ago Moray Council were making headline news when the current administration suggested the need to put up council tax to prevent further cuts to frontline services.

Not happy with this John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance ensured any breaking of the freeze in place since 2007 would be penalised with severe financial implications for the offending council.

Now who is right and who is wrong and what policy is best or not is not for me to say, but what is interesting and tells a lot about politics is the rhetoric that goes on.

When the Moray administration dared to speculate that by increasing council tax they could prevent further cuts to important services those in opposition, including the SNP, went mad – newspaper articles, twitter feeds, petitions, naming and shaming – it was all there.  This was to be terrible for Moray, bad for the people, unfair and dangerous. The Moray administration stated their reasons why, that as with all Council Tax those that can’t pay don’t with reduced rate schemes and more already in place.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the SNP release their plans, to target those in big houses. To gather new income for local councils and to allow councils to increase local tax by up to 3% a year. To a fanfare they released it saying frontline services needed to be protected.

True to word out came the opposition parties, this is terrible shouted the Conservatives, it has broken promises said Labour, this is unfair and dangerous. The SNP respond that those who can’t pay will be protected with flat rate schemes and more. Have you heard this before somewhere?

That’s the thing about politics – when someone jumps ahead of your party, when a group challenges the norm, when something is said which will give you media time, you jump on it. Spinning and turning until the attention is yours.

Then when you want to do something you pull out all the same reasons and all the same arguments that you criticised before. But am I the only one thinking this makes a mockery of democracy.

We are very fortunate to be able to have free elections in this country where we elect representatives to parliament. Representatives being the important word here. The representatives may be part of a party but they belong to the people.

For a long time now the political parties have governed our country first and foremost for themselves and then for us. Money put aside here and there, stories designed to divert our attention, all so that when the clever publicists want they can throw out the big stories to make the party look good.

Keep an eye on the papers over the next few months, I suspect you’ll find a lot of positive news stories from all parties about big plans and policies and extra funding which just so happens to appear a few months prior to an election, even when it was really needed a few years ago.

For us here in Moray, Council tax is important, our local services are important. Local councils were once a force to be reckoned with in Scotland and for good reason, they provide many of the day to day services we see in our lives and that will effect us and our families.

It should not be a political football for the benefit of a party. Moray Council said they needed to increase council tax, now the SNP say they will increase council tax.

Dive down into the detail and both plans probably effect the same people, it’s just you one party said it when it wasn’t their turn.