Scotland: Labour annihilated

SNP sweeps to victory by posing as an anti-austerity alternative

Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI in Scotland)

  • Build a mass movement of strikes, demonstrations and protest to defeat the new Tory government’s austerity offensive
  • SNP must refuse to make another penny in cuts
  • Trade Unions help build a new mass party for the working class

The UK general election produced the much anticipated “political revolution” in Scotland. Its convulsions and consequences have only just begun to be felt. The victory of the Tories at Westminster, committed to a savage austerity programme, will open-up a period of unprecedented class conflict, and not just in Scotland. In the immediate aftermath the UK leaders of Labour and the LibDem’s, Miliband and Clegg, have resigned while Farage has stepped down as leader of Ukip, at least temporarily.

In addition, unless huge concessions are made to the SNP in the form of wide-ranging and extensive powers for Scotland, a new referendum on independence is inevitable. As are further moves towards a more federal arrangement for the UK as a whole after Cameron used the election to whip-up an English nationalist mood to under-cut Ukip and defeat Labour in England.

The SNP won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats by polling 1.45 million votes – 50% of the national vote. Scottish Labour was annihilated as their vote collapsed from 42% in 2010 to less than 25%. This was Labour’s lowest vote in Scotland since 1918 and they lost 40 of their 41 MPs. With a single seat in Scotland the two Giant Panda’s in Edinburgh zoo also now outnumber Labour MPs in Scotland.

Alongside Labour’s desperate failure to defeat the Tories in England, a result of their pro-business and pro-austerity policies, this will usher in the probable end of Labour in Scotland. A death that the trade union movement must respond to by preparing to build a new mass party for the working class.

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Labour’s Jim Murphy during a TV debate

Round two

The parties of the capitalist establishment have been dealt a decisive blow by round two of the electoral uprising against austerity in Scotland following last years independence referendum. Indeed the “Better Together” parties collectively now hold only 5% of the seats in Scotland. The LibDems lost 10 of their 11 seats including Con-Dem hatchet man Danny Alexander.

The SNP’s share of the vote was even higher than the 45% who voted Yes in the indyref. This was achieved by the SNP posing as an anti-austerity alternative. While insisting that the election was not about independence and another referendum, they promised SNP MPs would oppose anymore Westminster cuts and would “lock the Tories out of power.”

In addition the SNP stood to the left of Labour on opposition to Trident renewal and a higher minimum wage of £8.70 – although not until 2020 – opposition to privatisation and any further attacks on welfare. At the same time Labour and Miliband continued to insist that cuts would be necessary under a Labour government. And that there would be “no deals, no pacts and no coalitions with the SNP”, giving the impression that they would prefer the return of a Cameron government than an electoral arrangement with the SNP to keep the Tories out.

This allowed the SNP to appeal to a layer of working class people who had voted No in the referendum and the surge to the SNP by working-class voters was nothing short of spectacular.

In Glasgow Labour lost all their MPs with swings of up to 35% to the SNP who won an average of 55% across the city. It was the same story in Dundee where the SNP polled 60% of the vote and over 50% in working-class dominated areas across Scotland.

Scottish leader and arch-Blairite Jim Murphy was routed. Alongside Ed Miliband, Murphy is likely to resign at a certain stage. Yet, who would want to lead the party of the “walking dead” now? Douglas Alexander, Labour’s campaign coordinator, also lost his seat as traditional Labour seats tumbled across Scotland.

Labour, the former party of the majority of the working class in Scotland, has been completely eclipsed by the surge to the SNP. The hatred of austerity and Labour’s criminal role in the Better Together campaign in last years independence referendum has obliterated Labour’s already shrunken support base. Decades of right wing policies, the triumph of Blairism and pro-war, pro-big business policies created the fissures. The national question has been the catalyst for the shattering of Scottish Labour, which will have profound and long-lasting consequences.

SNP must refuse to make cuts

The grim reality of another Tory government and tens of billions more in brutal austerity aimed at the working and middle classes will create mass anger in Scotland and across the rest of the UK. Cameron and co will be largely seen as an illegitimate government of the elite 1% in Scotland. With a huge mandate to oppose further austerity, the SNP will be under growing pressure to take a fighting stance against a cascade of planned cuts by the Tories.

Socialist Party Scotland and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – as the trade union movement should also do – are demanding that the SNP refuse to make another penny in Tory cuts. A refusal to do so would be a betrayal of hundreds of thousands who voted SNP seeking an end to savage austerity. Nevertheless, there is no realistic prospect of the SNP taking such a stand. Indeed, they have implemented every penny of Con-Dem austerity since 2010 rather than using their dominant position in the Scottish parliament to oppose all the cuts.

Instead the trade union movement must respond to the re-election of a Tory government with a huge industrial and political offensive of its own. To mobilise it’s own power, superior power to that of Cameron and co, to take them head-on and confront the austerity establishment that has been so decisively defeated in Scotland.

TUSC’s challenge

TUSC in Scotland mounted an important challenge by putting up ten candidates in 17% of the Scottish seats. Against the backdrop of the huge swing to the SNP among the working class inevitably TUSC’s votes were squeezed. Across the 10 seats TUSC polled 1,841 votes.

Socialist Party Scotland member Jim McFarlane achieved the highest TUSC vote with 304 in Dundee West, closely followed by SPS member Brian Smith with 299 votes in Glasgow South. Jamie Cocozza won 218 votes in Glasgow North East and there was 194 votes for Jim Halfpenny in Paisley and Renfrewshire North.

In addition other TUSC candidates in Scotland were 204 votes for Tyrinne Rutherford in Aberdeen North, 160 for Angela McCormick in Glasgow North, 119 for Andrew Elliott in Glasgow Central, 117 for Ayesha Saleem in Edinburgh East and 104 votes for Carlo Morelli in Dundee East. In addition Left Unity member Bruce Whitehead polled 122 votes in Edinburgh North and Leith.

These modest but important votes did not reflect the very sympathetic and supportive response our campaigns received among many working class people. In Dundee West the support TUSC built among many of the striking porters and the parents fighting against the closure of their local High School by the SNP council was reflective of this. (see quotes below)

Socialist Party Scotland will be encouraging TUSC to hold a special conference following the election to build further on our campaign and strengthen the 100% anti-austerity alternative for the Scottish parliament elections in 2016.

There will also be an unprecedented period of debate and discussion in the trade unions in Scotland following Labour’s routing. We’ll be calling for unions to play a key role in the forging of a real working class political alternative to the cuts politicians, including the SNP.

A completely unprecedented political situation has opened up in Scotland and for the UK. There will be colossal anger as the Tories attempt to carry through their austerity programme, which will provoke a huge reaction among the working class. Mass struggle and the emergence of socialist ideas as a powerful force will mark this new period.

Why we backed Scottish TUSC

“Not one Labour, SNP or any other candidate apart from TUSC have taken the time and effort to visit our picket lines. Why would I support someone who can’t show any support for me. My X went proudly in the TUSC box. Nuff said.” Ronnie Heeney – Unite senior steward and striking hospital porter

“I will be voting TUSC tomorrow too. Only people out there willing to help people & that goes by attending meetings, 6am starts to show support & much more!! Real people who get involved in real life struggles. Not people out to line their own pockets!! #VOTETUSC“ Ashley McDonald – Parent who is campaigning against threatened closure of Menzieshill High School in Dundee.

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May 2015