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Scot a hint of the Tory about them.

PRIVATISING the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries to Scotland's islands sinks the image of the SNP as the party that defends those who Labour abandoned while opposing all things Tory.

The SNP intends to sail where Maggie Thatcher and John Major didn't venture by handing Serco, a Hampshirebased devourer of public service contracts and a firm with a dubious record, the famous Western Isles routes such as Oban to Tobermory and Ullapool to Stornoway.

Privatisation is as Tory as any policy ever launched and sadly infected New Labour. So Nicola Sturgeon's party is in bad company and is no longer able to claim moral superiority over its political rivals.

The SNP government in Edinburgh sold Serco, which is its favourite private operator, the Northern Isles ferry services to Orkney and Shetland a few years ago.

And passengers complained of fare rises and fewer links.

Crews on CalMac ferries in the RMT union are preparing an overtime ban from Wednesday followed by a 24-hour strike on Friday against the next wave of SNP privatisation. The SNP wriggles by trying to insist that tendering a contract isn't privatisation.

By this ludicrous definition, argued Labour ex-minister Brian Wilson, privatised train services across Britain would still be classed as being publicly run.

Behind the slick PR of the SNP machine is a party embracing rich men and the austerity that it publicly denounces.

Bus and train baron Brian Souter is a close buddy, while the red carpet rolled out for Aussie-American media billionaire Rupert Murdoch would make Tony Blair blush.

Higher education has suffered deep cuts and privatisation, while the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated the SNP would impose austerity beyond that proposed by a Labour Party the Nats denounce.

But it is CalMac and Serco which promises to hole the SNP myth below the waterline.

Serco - already awarded the rail sleeper contract and a firm favourite of the SNP despite a past ban on bidding for contracts after overcharging for tagging English prisoners - is the epitome of Tory privatisation.

Meanwhile CalMac embodies public service, maintaining lifeline links between the mainland and islands.

The old Tartan Tory tag may yet return to haunt the SNP.

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Title Annotation:Editorial; Opinion Columns
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 22, 2015
Words:360
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