Scotland: SNP budget sees another £500 million cuts

For a ’no-cuts budget’ and mass campaign to win back billions stolen by ConDem government!

The Scottish Government’s budget for 2015/16 was unveiled yesterday by Scottish National Party (SNP) Finance Secretary John Swinney. For millions of working-class people in Scotland there will be no respite from continuing Tory austerity and cuts to public services. The SNP’s budget delivered another £513 million in Westminster cuts, on top-off the already £3 billion already axed from the Scottish budget since 2010.

While much of the press reporting of the budget has centered on the modest but welcome property tax on house and commercial property sales, the budget represents a continuation of the cuts agenda by the Scottish Government.

Socialist Party Scotland has consistently called on the SNP to refuse to implement the Tory cuts in Scotland and set a No Cuts budget. By standing up to the ConDem coalition and demanding the billions back that have been stolen from Scotland the SNP would gain mass support. Instead, by passing on the cuts the Scottish Government have let down hundreds of thousands of working class people who voted Yes looking for an alternative.

The overwhelming majority of the 1.6 million of us who voted Yes in the referendum did so seeking an end to cuts, austerity and falling incomes. The result of this budget will mean more cuts to services, college places for young people, more effective pay cuts for workers, more job losses and unfilled vacancies in public services piling more pressure on hard-pressed workers.

As the Scottish Trades Union Congress commented, “Today’s budget provides little relief for hard pressed public service workers who have seen their real terms income falling by thousands of pounds in recent years. These real terms wage cuts are a disaster for our members”.

It’s also a slap in the face to the tens of thousands who have flooded into the SNP since the referendum looking for a vehicle to continue the struggle for independence.

John Swinney’s determination to implement the ConDem cuts was summed up by his comments: “The government’s obviously operating within a very constrained fiscal environment. We place a requirement on public authorities and public bodies to operate ever more efficiently, and that will lie at the heart of the budget propositions that we take forward.”

But “lying at the heart” of the SNP’s approach should be a refusal to implement the Tory cuts, not implementing Tory cuts.

What could the SNP have done?

Socialist Party Scotland has written an open letter to SNP members following the referendum. We explained: “Our view is that the new members of the SNP will not find a party leadership prepared to lead a mass campaign against austerity. Indeed, the SNP in power have implemented every penny of the Tory cuts since 2010 in Scotland. Another cuts budget is planned by John Swinney and Alex Salmond in a few weeks’ time.

“It’s the same at a council level. Incredibly, only 7 days after Dundee became a Yes city, the SNP council announced a further £8 million in cuts for next year. This is not why so many of us campaigned and fought for a Yes majority!”

We explained what SNP and Labour politicians could do: “Socialist Party Scotland is calling on all councils in Scotland and the Scottish Government to set no-cuts budgets. Immediate cuts can be avoided through the use of reserves and borrowing powers, where appropriate, to give time to build a mass campaign to win back the more than £3 billion stolen since 2010. We shook the establishment to its foundations with the threat of a Yes majority. By making a stand against the cuts, we could bring the rotten Tory government to its knees.”

By setting a No Cuts budget this would: “give time for mass campaigning in the trade unions and communities for mass mobilisations, which would be a direct political challenge to the Westminster government.

“Such a challenge would create a huge political crisis and would, without doubt, spread to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where many would demand that their councils took the same stand.

And we went on to say: “Imagine if the Scottish Government and a number of councils in Scotland stood up and said enough is enough? We saw the panicked concessions cobbled together by Project Fear when it thought the referendum might be lost. Of course we could push the Tories and Labour back again, if we fight.”

Anti-cuts candidates

What is clear from this cuts budget is that the SNP leadership do not intend to refuse to implement Tory austerity. That is why we need to stand candidates who will fight the cuts, not implement the cuts. Candidates who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with workers taking strike action, like the 75,000 Scottish Unison members in local government who are due to strike on 21st October against the 1% pay cap.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference on 1 November, in Glasgow, will see socialists and trade unionists discuss standing anti-cuts candidates next May.

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