Scotland: Scottish by-elections

Workers reject political establishment

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) contested two by-elections last week. In the Glasgow Cathcart Scottish parliament election CWI member Ronnie Stevenson scored a creditable 5.3% – 819 votes – saving the deposit and coming fifth out of nine candidates.

This was an improvement on the result in May’s general election where the SSP got 3.4% but still significantly less than the high water mark for the party in the 2003 Scottish parliament election, when they got over 13%.

Ronnie’s campaign focused on the SSP’s campaign to scrap the council tax, which has soared by over 100% since its introduction, as part of the fight to end poverty. Tommy Sheridan is currently putting a bill through parliament to replace the council tax with a Scottish Service Tax.

The party also concentrated on the fight to save jobs within the constituency, where multinationals are threatening job cuts, the fight to defend and extend public services and the arguments for a socialist Scotland. The fact that Ronnie is well known in the area and is the senior steward for UNISON representing over 4,000 council workers in Glasgow were also important factors in securing the vote that he did.

Although Labour won the seat, which was called as a result of the former Labour MSP Mike Watson being convicted for fire-raising, the turn out was a dire 32%.

This meant that only one voter in eight actually voted for the New Labour candidate. It was the lowest turn-out ever in a parliamentary election in Scotland, underlining the rejection of the political establishment by big sections of the working class.

The big four parties who got all the publicity had identical campaigns on law and order and privatisation and this only heightened the rejection.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) came second but could only increase their share of the vote by 3%. The pro-business SNP, who stand for big cuts in business tax and have recently come out in support of the ’market’ in the NHS to cut waiting lists, are still failing to make an impact.

In the Livingston election, following the death of Robin Cook, Labour held the seat with the SNP second but again there was a low turnout of 38%. The SSP vote fell, compared to May’s election, to 1.4%.

Tragically, the SSP’s election agent, Bill Leburn a retired firefighter, died suddenly while out campaigning.

The CWI sends its condolences to Bill’s family.

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October 2005