Scottish National Party /Green spending review is Thatcherism on steroids

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and First Minister (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Scottish National Party/Scottish Green government’s spending review for the next five years has set in stone a regime of brutal cuts to jobs and public services. It is also a declaration of war on the trade unions in Scotland, which should be met with determined and coordinated national strike action.
In setting out the spending review to parliament SNP finance minister Kate Forbes said: “We do need to reshape and refocus the public sector post-Covid and the spending review calls upon all of the public sector to look creatively at ways to sustainably address that challenge.”

Pulling a lie from the Thatcherite playbook, she claimed that the public sector had grown for years but now needed to “reset” and become more efficient.

The plan is to axe tens of thousands of public sector jobs to “return the total size of the devolved public sector workforce to around pre-Covid-19 levels by 2026/27”. Yet the pre-Covid job count came after more than a decade of austerity and the loss of around 40,000 public sector jobs.

While the Scottish government estimate the planned cuts will mean 17,000 full-time job losses, the reality is much worse. The Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University estimated the total losses could be around 25,000. Scottish Unison has said the likely impact will be 40,000 jobs going. Either way, if implemented, the cuts to spending will have a devastating effect on essential services.

Indeed, the experience of Covid showed just how vital but also how under-resourced the NHS, local government, and civil services were. The idea that axing up to 10% of the workforce in councils, education, and the devolved parts of the civil service can lead to anything other than a crisis is living in a neoliberal dreamland.

SNP – no shame

Without a hint of shame, the SNP have boasted they intend to tackle an estimated £3.5 billion budget deficit through a wholesale assault on the public sector. Claims that teacher numbers and NHS spending will not be affected are unbelievable, given the current shortages and workload pressures in both these sectors.

The ambition of the Scottish government is to ‘balance the books’ amidst stagnant economic growth and therefore falling income tax revenues. For them, that means a wholesale assault on the public sector and below-inflation pay deals for years.

It also clearly points, yet again, to the regime of austerity that would dominate in an independent capitalist Scotland led by the pro-market SNP.

Predictably, the Scottish Greens have signed off on this anti-working class onslaught. Scottish Green finance spokesperson Ross Greer commented: “A totally misguided UK Government squeeze on Scotland’s budget, combined with the financial straitjacket placed around the Scottish Government, has forced some tough decisions on how budgets will be shaped over the coming years.”

Only decisive socialist policies, including nationalisation under workers’ control and management of the major sectors of the economy in an independent socialist Scotland, could release the resources to end all cuts and deliver for the needs of the working class.

The trade unions must take up the gauntlet. Many are currently balloting on pay, for example in local government where an insulting 2% pay rise has been offered by the employers. It’s vital that unions call an emergency summit to coordinate action on pay and the threat to jobs.

The Scottish government’s spending review also underlines the need to build a new, trade union-led mass workers’ party that will fight jobs cuts, and demand pay rises that fully cover inflation and that will help lead the fight for socialism.

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June 2022
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