The collapse of Carillion afforded the Labour party the chance to gain political ‘brownie points’ with the Scottish public … and they jumped in with both feet firmly placed in the mouth.
Jeremy Corbyn immediately ran to the press and said that Labour would seek an end to the ‘outsourcing racket’ and the ‘dogma of privatisation’ rife in Government procurement of services. Bold words Mr Corbyn but those assertions can be answered with three simple letters……… PFI.
PFI (Private Finance Initiative) was a scheme whereby private finance was used to build public amenities which were then paid for by way of a ‘mortgage’ over a prolonged period, usually 25 to 30 years. Sounds like a deal but it comes at a very severe cost to the public purse and saddles later administrations with huge funding difficulties.
PFI in the UK was first introduced by the Tory Party in 1992. The Labour Shadow Treasury spokesperson, Harriet Harman immediately slated the idea and called it ‘a back door to privatisation’ of public services. It looked like PFI was doomed as soon as Labour managed to get their hands on the keys to 10 Downing Street but the truth is the exact opposite. Fast forward to 1997 with arch Neo-Liberal Tony Bliar led Labour into power …
One of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new Labour administration at Westminster was the NHS (Private Finance) Act 1997. This act took the 1992 PFI initiative of the Tory party and expanded its reach and influence into the NHS across the UK. Labour did not stop there. In 2003 that dogma extended to London Underground. In 2005 it encompassed the building of schools and other public service buildings. The initial Labour opposition to PFI simply evaporated. By 2007 the cost of the projects built by Labour under the PFI schemes across the UK was £65 billion. That effectively saddled future administrations with a bill of £215 billion … three times more than the original cost of the projects and that extra money was being funnelled directly into private hands through companies exactly like Carillion. It was, indeed still is, a licence to print money for the private sector.
Scotland did not escape the menace. The first two administrations to run the new Holyrood Parliament from 1999 were Labour coalitions with the Liberal Democrats. These coalitions seized the opportunity to show that they were in charge by openly embracing the PFI initiative of Labour at Westminster and immediately launched a series of public works, all funded by private capital. Over the next few years a total of £5.2 billion was ‘spent’ on schools and other public works through the system. The current liability due by the now SNP administration at Holyrood amounts to some £22.3 billion. That debt must be serviced by the Block Grant from Westminster, a debt that was built by Labour and the Liberal Democrats between 1999 and 2007. That Block Grant is being slowly but surely eroded by the Westminster Government in the name of ‘Austerity’ and the costs are mounting, the ability to repay the Labour ‘debt’ diminishing on a regular basis. It is effectively tying the hands of the Holyrood administration as a rising percentage of the Block Grant must be set aside to pay for the decisions of a previous Labour/Liberal Democrat administration.
This leads back rather nicely to the duplicitous political opportunism displayed by Mr Corbyn in the newspapers. His claims that only Labour will end the ‘outsourcing racket’ and the ‘dogma of privatisation’ has a very hollow ring to it when the facts about PFI and the Labour party are known. Labour attacked the PFI schemes when they were introduced by the Tory party in 1992, they wholeheartedly embraced and expanded that same scheme across the UK between 1997 and 2010 and effectively saddled the current administration with £22.3 billion of debt, and now, following the collapse of Carillion, they are back to attacking the scheme and promise to end it. Really? Is there any substance to that claim or will it simply be yet another empty gesture? Another bare-faced attempt to claw back the political moral high ground? Remember that Labour have a record of saying one thing and doing another … all I have to say is ‘Zero Hours Contracts’, Mr Corbyn. Labour have been promising to end that practice since 1995 when Bliar was elected Labour leader. They did nothing about it when they were in power at Westminster between 1997 and 2010 did they? Look it up, they actually increased the use of that practice while they were ‘fighting’ to end them.
This all adds up to one conclusion and one conclusion only … NONE of the Westminster based party machines can be trusted, none of them. All Westminster based political parties are equal but Labour are more equal than the rest. This is yet another reason why we simply must take control of our own destiny by getting away from this shameful ‘Union of Equals’. Independence is now the only way we can do that … Labour cannot be trusted.