To save you the trouble, dear reader, I’ve perused the Glasgow and Edinburgh SNP manifestos (the Latin scholar in me wants to spell it “manifestoes”) cover to cover. They contain a lot of words.
Which is not necessarily to put you off. But nonetheless there are a lot of words. I’m not all that keen at the block capitals in the Edinburgh vision statement either: makes me feel like I’m being lectured or worse, shouted at.
A lot of these words are good ones and fortunately, neither document smacks (too much) of having been written by committee. Both suffer, however, from a lack of a summary of key pledges. You have to unearth them. From in amongst all the words.
It’s not easy writing a manifesto for our two largest cities when your party is running the government nationally. Harder still, when there isn’t a lot of money to throw around. Edinburgh knows this from its last five years in shared power; Glasgow knows it or at least suspects it because councillors have had some difficulty persuading Labour, still clinging to the last vestiges of power, to open up the books.
Because of this, and also because there is a big chance of actually having to deliver on its manifesto pledges, there is a lot of hedge-betting in Glasgow SNP’s manifesto. Lots of “we will encourage”, “we would enter into dialogue”, “greater use could be made” feature throughout the document.
So, what we get really is a retread of things we have heard before. The council tax freeze; the living wage; no compulsory redundancies for council workers; at least 600 hours of nursery education for 3 and 4 year olds; jobs and training for young people – all the big pledges are present and correct. This is not a grumble: the links in the chain running from national to local government have often been missing. This connectivity, of joining up from national to local and back again is actually very welcome: it should ensure that things get done and that voters know exactly what to expect.
These aside, both manifestos lack a really big idea. Something unique to their cities that captures the imagination. That gives us all something to get excited about.
Edinburgh SNP decided its big headline was the promise to “take forward vital roadworks at points of key strategic importance in the City, in order to make Edinburgh as attractive a place to invest as possible, backed by an increased Road Maintenance fund of £20m“. Vote SNP, get roadworks, more of them. i’m not sure that this is actually a vote winner, speaking as a commuter who has seen bus journeys to and from work increase from 40 minutes to an hour and a half and more (on a bad night), largely because half the city is currently being dug up.
There is a sense abroad that SNP candidates across the country just need to turn up in order to sweep the board. Certainly, the party is not taking anything for granted. All across Glasgow, Edinburgh and everywhere else, there are thousands of hopefuls and activists out pounding pavements, knocking on doors and delivering forest-fuls of leaflets. The STV system makes these elections hard to call, but there is no doubt that the party is in the ascendancy, still. There is no sign of a dip in form for the SNP in these elections.
The fact that it can scent power in both cities has resulted in cautious, yet sturdy manifestos. Where both score highly is in judging the public mood. Change is in the air, with people in these austerity times opting for something different. No swagger please, we’re Scottish.
In Glasgow in particular, there is a real sense of Labour’s time being up and of a quiet determination (as there was in the 2007 Holyrood elections) from the electorate of throwing them out. Folk have had enough of the monolithic, municipal approach – it’s a tradition Edinburgh Labour dumped a long time ago. Now it’s Glasgow’s turn. For sure, STV and the existence of a bedrock vote that can be strongarmed to the polls still exists. It will be enough to ensure that Labour still has a presence in the City Chambers.
While there is a candidness about what can and cannot be delivered, there is still a real sense of positivity about the future in the SNP’s manifestos for both cities. Neither are promising the people rose gardens but they are making solemn and steadfast commitments.
In Edinburgh, the pledge amounts to this: “if the SNP forms the Administration after the election, we will be guided in what we do by our ambition and sense of responsibility to this great city and its people. They are entitled to effective and efficient services from a financially secure Council that plays a full part in building a more prosperous future in which everyone benefits. That is what the SNP stands for in this election.”
In Glasgow, Cllr Allison Hunter in her introduction to the manifesto, states: “… our manifesto wasn’t drawn up on the basis of the priorities that we want to see. It is based on the priorities that you have told us you want to see… Our manifesto also sets out our commitment to be open and upfront with you abour our plans…. We all know that Glasgow has its problems and I’m not going to make any false promises… But we can create a more successful future working constructively with the people of Glasgow and with our colleagues in the Council and in the Scottish Government. Together, we can let Glasgow flourish.”
At these local elections, the SNP is offering Scotland’s two biggest cities no quick or big fixes, no big bangs, no smash n grab for votes.
It’s offering something much more precious, something voters have been seeking in local government for a while.
Trust and transparency. Here’s hoping the party and its councillors can deliver.