Biggest cuts in history of Scottish parliament announced by SNP-Green government

Trade unions protest at the Scottish parliament calling for a no cuts budget

The Scottish National Party-led Scottish government – with the support of their Scottish Green ministers – have announced the biggest cuts package in the history of Scottish devolution. Coming in the wake of more than £500 million sliced from the current year’s budget in September, yesterday (November 2), stand-in finance secretary John Swinney wielded the axe to slice off another £615 million.

The £1.2 billion in cuts in just 8 weeks will devastate the likes of NHS spending, including mental health as well as social care. For workers fighting for pay rises that at least match soaring inflation, they are being told there will be no more money on top of the current offers. Indeed, while the Scottish government has been forced by strike action and threatened strikes to give more to workers, no group has had anywhere near the cost of living. On average, pay rises forced from the Scottish government have been around 7.5%. With current RPI inflation at 12.6% that equates to a 5% cut in pay.

Workers not to blame 

Swinney took aim at the likes of NHS staff, teachers and firefighters who are currently balloting for strike action, telling them there would be no more money. A wave of anti-union propaganda from the right wing media and politicians is preparing to blame workers’ pay rises for the budget cuts. In reality, its the devastating capitalist economic crisis coupled with Tory, SNP and Labour underfunding of public services for 15 years that has created this catastrophe.

Trade unions fighting for pay rises must reject the bogus argument that there is no money. The very least workers need are pay rises that are inflation-proofed.

Soaring inflation has meant the Scottish budget of around £56 billion set at the beginning of 2022 is now worth £1.7 billion less in real terms than is was in March. Rather than fight for the money from Westminster to fully fund public services and pay rises, the SNP leaders have capitulated yet again to the argument that the working class must pay for the crisis.

“I must balance the books”, Swinney announced to the parliament. Every single political party agreed with him. The Scottish Labour response was pitiful, assuring Swinney that they understood he was in a difficult position. While Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Tories etc. may disagree on detail, they all accept the need to make cuts.

Socialist policy 

A socialist majority in the Scottish parliament would take the opposite approach. Never has the Tory-led government at Westminster been so weak and divided. They can be forced back when faced with mass struggle by the working class. Socialist Party Scotland calls for the building of such a mass campaign involving the trade unions, working-class communities, anti-poverty campaigns and those elected politicians prepared to fight. Why should we pay for the crisis of capitalism?

We demand a fully funded needs budget that would resolve the NHS crisis, fund proper pay rises ensure a reversal of the cuts to local government and introduce a massive programme of council house building. With the energy giants, food multinationals and big business raking it in, its clear the money is there. Nationalisation of the major monopolies under democratic workers’ control would release billions to fund a socialist recovery for the working class.

Workers’ party 

As it is, a mass movement in Scotland that linked up with similar struggles of the working class in the devolved areas and councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have a huge impact. However, that also requires the building of a new workers’ party to fight for such policies.

Workers and the trade unions have shown to be the real opposition power in society to the Tories and cuts politicians over the last few months. Imagine if the unions launched a new party that refused to implement cuts and stood for public ownership and planning of the economy. It would electrify society and recruit tens and hundreds of thousands of fighters to its ranks. In the meantime, we are helping to build the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition as a vehicle for workers to stand in elections.

Moreover, the cuts are going to continue. The new Scottish draft budget for next year is due to be announced in December. It will do nothing to resolve the underfunding crisis in the NHS. Waiting lists for operations are soaring. Waits at A&E departments are off the scale. NHS staff are reporting ambulances queuing for up to five hours to get patients into hospitals such is the lack of staff.

It’s the same in local government. Glasgow City council are claiming a £120 million shortfall for 2023/24. This will be replicated across local councils in Scotland as costs continue to rocket. The only solution is to refuse to make cuts and build a mass movement to demand the money to fund the essential services that working-class communities need. We say councillors should take the Liverpool road and adopt the policy of the socialist-led council between 1983-1987 that won tens of millions of pounds for the working class in the city.

What is clear is that a political alternative to cuts and capitalism needs to be built. Join with Socialist Party Scotland and help build that alternative.

  • Stop the cuts – set needs budgets at Holyrood and in councils and fight for the money to fully fund jobs and services
  • Workers are not to blame – Pay rises must be inflation-proof – build coordinated strike action 
  • Build a new mass workers’ party based on the trade unions to fight for the money working-class communities need 
  • Bring the banks and big business into public ownership under workers’ control and management and plan the economy for socialist needs, not capitalist greed
  • For an independent socialist Scotland and a voluntary socialist confederation with the working class in England, Wales and Ireland as a step toward a socialist Europe. 

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November 2022