A survey of public opinion in Scotland carried out at the start of the election campaign found that 79% of people believed that wealth should be redistributed in society.
The BBC survey also found that 61% wanted an increase in pensions while 51% supported the removal of troops from Iraq by the end of the year even if the security situation was still bad.
More spending on health, education and pensions were the top priorities.
These findings indicate just how far to the left the majority of people in Scotland are compared to the main big-business parties. And how big a vacuum there is in which to build a socialist alternative.
Against this background the Scottish Socialist Party is standing in 58 of the 59 Scottish Westminster seats. The SSP has stood down in East Kilbride where Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, is challenging Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram.
The SSP’s manifesto, "Make Capitalism History", has put forward a radical alternative to the neo-liberal consensus. Tax increases on the rich and big business, public ownership of the privatised industries and services, an £8 an hour minimum wage, £160 a week minimum pension and the removal of troops from Iraq have formed the core of the SSP’s election programme.
The huge gulf between the aspirations of the working class in Scotland and the policies of the main parties has meant that the SSP’s alternative has built up a base of support in Scotland. At the 2003 Scottish elections the SSP polled 6.8%, or 130 000, votes winning six MSP’s through the PR list vote.
It remains to be seen what effect the resignation of Tommy Sheridan, who was the best known national figure, as SSP national convener has on the SSP’s vote at this election. The target set by the party is to emulate the 2001 Westminster election when the SSP polled 72,000 votes, 3.1% of the Scottish vote. There has been very little coverage for the SSP in the media.
Whatever the vote for the SSP it is certain that there will also be an increase in those not voting at all in protest at the political establishment.
The SNP, who have tried to put forward a left face in this election while promising to cut the taxes of big business, would be happy if they could increase their representation from five to six MP’s.
Members of the Committee for a Workers International in Scotland are standing as SSP candidates in six seats – which is 10% of the total number the SSP are contesting.
These include two in Dundee, one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh.
In Dundee, the SSP, within which the CWI has a major influence, has run an energetic campaign of canvassing, leafleting and street stalls. Given the attacks by New Labour on pensions public sector workplaces in particular have been targeted.
Dundee Nursery nurses who were on strike for nine weeks last year took part in the public launch of the campaign pledging support for Jim McFarlane and Harvey Duke.
We have also taken the campaign to multinationals like the Royal Bank of Scotland who are Scotland’s biggest company making £7 billion last year. A campaign of press releases and public actions has meant that there has been regular press coverage for the campaign in the local media.