Socialist Worker 380

Keir McKechnie, Glasgow SWP

A political earthquake has shaken Scotland. The SNP landslide annihilated the unholy alliance of anti-independence Unionist parties with Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems clinging onto only one seat each at Westminster.

The scale of the meltdown for the Labour Party, who paid for  climbing into bed with the Tories to save the union, is best summed up by the fact that it lost all 7 of its heartland Glasgow seats to the SNP by a  margin  of 3 to 1. The SNP won 50% of the vote with Labour only taking 24.3% of the vote.

Who are the SNP?

The SNP now have 56 out of 59 Scottish MPs at Westminster. So who are the SNP?

The new batch are made up of 4 lawyers including a QC; 3 doctors; 2 journalists and 2 television producers including John Nicolson a former speech writer for New York Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. There are also 4 teachers and one Human Resources professional. Their youngest MP is 20 year old Mhairi Black who trounced Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander.  18 of the new crop served as former councillors in Scottish local authorities including two former labour councillors and one former MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).

The SNP are a nationalist party but of the 1.5million people who voted SNP the overwhelming majority are not nationalists. The campaign for a YES vote in the referendum last year was characterised predominantly by opposition to austerity, war and racism, not a narrow nationalism.

The electrifying mood during the referendum campaign was shaped by a new grass roots social movement that was dominated by left wing ideas. It was this mood for real change and the hope of an alternative to neoliberalism and the politics of austerity that rolled over into the election and found its expression in the historic victory for the SNP. This was a vote to end zero hours contracts. It was a vote to defend the NHS, protect trade union rights and challenge racist scapegoating.

SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon was extremely astute at positioning the SNP to the left of Labour as the anti-austerity party and the best place for old labour voters to turn to protect them from the ravages of Tory rule.

High Expectations

Expectations of the SNP are running very high amongst workers and in its swollen membership of over 100,000. People are expecting the SNP to lead a serious fight against Tory austerity and many are rightly saying that there is no mandate for Tory rule in Scotland and that the SNP must refuse to implement a penny of Tory cuts in councils, at Holyrood or from Westminster.

However, they are most likely to be disappointed. In reality the SNP, despite its rhetoric, has a policy of austerity lite – with a commitment during the election campaign to increase public spending by a paltry 0.5%.

The key thing that Nicola Sturgeon has been emphasising since the election is the need for what she calls “primary devolution” powers to cut taxes for businesses to make them more competitive.

The SNP are supporters of NATO and leading the campaign to remain part of the European Union – the bosses club that is currently trying to strangle the people of Greece and wreck the new Syriza government.

The SNP are going to be confronted with sharp choices over the next year or so. Either they lead and mobilise millions of ordinary people against Tory austerity and the savage onslaught on the trade unions, low paid, the weak and the vulnerable or they do the Tories dirty work by implementing their cuts.

The warning signs are already present. SNP councils in Dundee and Edinburgh have voted to implement millions of pounds worth of Tory cuts. The left in Scotland must test the SNP and raise concrete demands on them like intervening to settle the all-out strike of porters at Ninewells hospital in Dundee. Health is a devolved matter and the Scottish health secretary happens to be the local MP in Dundee. This dispute is a key litmus test for the SNP.

The left in Scotland needs to rise to the challenge of uniting to offer an effective alternative to both Labour and the SNP. That unity can best be served by preparing to confront the Tory war on the poor and the working class head on.

We need to make Scotland ungovernable for Tory rule through strikes, protests and civil disobedience.. We can’t afford to wait  for another referendum somewhere down the line. The fight starts now.

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