Saturday, 24 April 2010

No concessions over concessionary travel confusion


It seems that both the SNP and Labour have got themselves into a bit of a tangle over the latter's election leaflets, with the Scotsman continuing the Thursday night leaders' debate stushie, when an irate David Cameron challenged Gordon Brown on misleading claims about Tory policies. The paper also examines several claims on leaflets specific to Scotland.

Meanwhile, the Times focuses on the spat between the SNP and Labour regarding a claim made in Gordon Brown's election literature distributed in his Fife constituency, which Alex Salmond described on television as a "lie". The leaflet (above) states that Labour will "respect Scottish pensioners" by "fighting against SNP cuts to concessionary travel".

The SNP is claiming that the Scottish Government's concessionary bus scheme is in fact being extended. But Labour are countering that the claim related to a subsidised train travel scheme operated by Fife Council, but which has recently been slimmed down by the ruling SNP/Lib Dem administration.

Indeed, the leaflet clearly refers merely to "concessionary travel", therefore can legitimately be construed as referring to Fife Council's scheme, the curtailment of which has in fact been a live issue in Fife for a couple of years now. Thus it seems that Mr Salmond, Angus Robertson and John Mason et al have a little egg on their face, but Iain Gray's accusations of "low, dirty politics", "desperation" and "fantasy and smears" are a tad over the top, and he's perhaps on surer ground when saying: “It was Labour councillors who opposed that cut. ....the First Minister doesn’t know what his own councillors are doing in Fife.” And the SNP's candidate to fight Gordon Brown said, ironically: "It is not surprising that Gordon Brown doesn’t know what’s going out from Labour in this constituency as he is never here."

The SNP politicians are very probably genuinely confused over the issue, but perhaps at least part of the blame can be attributed to Labour for including a local authority issue in a Westminster election leaflet, but looking at Jim Barrie's leaflet in Dundee West the SNP are clearly guilty of similarly confusing municipal, devolved and reserved issues during the campaign.

However, the SNP is doing itself no favours by now claiming that the confusion was due to Gordon Brown referring to bus rather than rail travel. It was David Cameron who raised the bus travel issue (inter alia) in relation to the Tories, and Labour do seem to have a case to answer in that regard, but Alex Salmond subsequently brought the Fife leaflet into play, but clearly this doesn't specifically refer to bus travel, despite the SNP's claim. Thus the first minister seemed to jump the gun a bit.

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