The Tories' Massive DUP Deal Proves Austerity Is A Political Choice

27/06/2017 08:23 BST | Updated 27/06/2017 08:24 BST
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Nearly three weeks since voters went to the polls, the Prime Minister who promised 'strong and stable' leadership has finally cobbled together a deal to keep herself in power.

In return for the support of ten DUP MPs, Theresa May has found £1billion and abandoned huge swathes of her hated manifesto so that she can remain in office for a short while longer.

When the history books are written on her premiership, this shambolic final chapter will be unrivalled in modern politics.

But while Theresa May limps on, her deal throws up an immediate question: will all parts of the UK also receive similar vital additional funding, as Northern Ireland is getting as part of the deal?

For me, this is crucial. This massive cash deal with the DUP proves that austerity is a political choice made by the Tories, and when push comes to shove, money can be found.

So it is vital that Scotland, Wales and the regions of England also get extra funding to end austerity.

There are more Scottish Conservative MPs than there are DUP MPs. While Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson is being feted by her colleagues in Westminster, is she using her new influence in Downing Street to demand extra cash to reverse the spending cuts her government has inflicted on Scotland?

If she doesn't, if she can't, then it shows precisely what Theresa May thinks of her.

As for Tory Scottish Secretary David Mundell, he said he would block any 'back door funding' for Northern Ireland if it meant the other devolved nations missing out.

What is he saying now? He must break his silence and condemn this deal with the DUP. If he doesn't, it will simply show that he is more interested in holding on to his plush office in Dover House in Whitehall than he is in securing extra cash for public services in Scotland.

When she first became Prime Minister, Theresa May said the union of nations which make up the UK is 'precious' to her.

But she has undermined our Union at every turn.

With her dangerous pursuit of a hard Brexit that threatens to harm our economy, Theresa May has created the deep divisions in our society that the SNP thrives upon.

She allowed SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to focus on the constitution rather than fix the problems the Nationalist government has created in Scotland's NHS, schools and communities.

And now she is attempting to secure her future by throwing money at one part of the UK, pitting nations against each other and risking weakening the bonds that unite us all.

It shows just how empty her rhetoric is about the future of our union.

Only Labour believes in solidarity with all corners of these islands - expressed in our campaign message 'together we're stronger' - which is why we will always oppose Scottish independence.

And while the Tories are to blame for austerity, let's not kid ourselves that Nicola Sturgeon has helped. She has simply passed on Tory cuts in Scotland.

A total of £1.5billion has been axed from public services in Scotland since 2011, including £170million this year alone - the result of the SNP's own grubby deal with the Greens.

Just like the Tories, the SNP is not an anti-austerity party. Which makes the Nationalist rhetoric yesterday simply ridiculous.

Senior figures in Nicola Sturgeon's party clearly do not understand how the Barnett Formula works. Not only that, the SNP wants to abolish the Barnett Formula in its entirety through independence, which would lead to an immediate £15billion of further austerity in Scotland.

So the SNP's comments on this DUP deal should come with a health warning: Nicola Sturgeon will seek to make capital from this for one reason and one reason only - to boost her case for breaking-up Britain.

There is an alternative.

Labour's manifesto contained a raft of policies to tackle austerity across the UK, which would include a £3billion boost for Scotland's budget by the end of the parliament term.

A Labour government would invest billions in the NHS, massively increasing Scotland's health spending. This cash injection would help the Scottish government get waiting times down and invest in social care to get our elderly out of hospital faster when they're well.

A Labour government would build over a million new homes - providing resources to the Scottish government to invest in Scotland's housing stock and build the 60,000 affordable homes needed by 2021.

Labour would prioritise neighbourhood policing and our pledge to hire an extra 10,000 police officers for England and Wales would mean the Scottish government receiving £70 million to invest in policing.

And a Labour government would invest billions in education, which would see Scotland benefit by £2billion to invest in our children's futures and create an education system fit for the 21st century.

A Labour government would build a united Britain for the many, not the few.

Kezia Dugdale is the leader of Scottish Labour and MSP for Lothian