19 Days Remaining

Thursday 27th
posted by Morning Star in Features

Progressive policies are required to boost campaigning for next year’s Holyrood elections in opposition to SNP neoliberalism, says COLIN FOX

I spent this week on the picket line where 200 staff at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh have been on strike over management plans to cut their wages by £46 per week.

PCS members face losing a weekend shift allowance worth £2,300 after management claimed the SNP government at Holyrood had cut their budget by £2 million.

Almost 200 men and women, who can ill afford it, face losing 15 per cent of their income. The management insist the allowance is no longer appropriate when so many other people routinely work weekends.

The strike is important for many reasons, not least because strikes themselves are so rare nowadays. It is a sign that some people at least are prepared to resist management attacks on their pay and conditions.

It is to be hoped that it encourages others to stand up for themselves. But it is also important because the SNP says it is against austerity and yet make cuts at every level of government.

The party says it is against privatisation but has sold off Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital and may also sell off Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries.

It promised to replace council tax with an income-based alternative 10 years ago and has done no such thing.

The SNP claims to oppose fracking and yet provides blank cheques to frackers like Ineos.

It has presided over the deterioration in further education provision in Scotland.

They have failed to arrest widening inequality despite having significant extra funds and powers at their disposal at Holyrood.

The conclusion that “at least the SNP is better than Labour” is no longer enough in times like these.

Fortunately for working people in Scotland not everyone has been convinced by the SNP. This weekend sees the launch of Rise — Scotland’s Left Alliance — at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow. It is the most important project for uniting the left in Scotland for a generation. It aims to strengthen and promote left-wing ideas and improve their effectiveness by bringing together activists much as the Scottish Socialist Alliance did in 1998.

Who is involved? As well as the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) it counts many individual members of the Radical Independence Campaign and the wider Yes movement. Those involved recognise they have many views and aims in common.

The SSP is very much its main component. We look forward to working with others to tap into the huge potential we believe there is for progressive campaigns and left-wing ideas.

In pooling our resources and talents we intend to offer a pro-independence left alternative to the SNP — a party full of contradictions.

Rise will be launched against the background of apparent SNP ascendancy and “Corbynmania.”

While Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader will be astonishing if it happens, the right wing remains in complete control of the party.

Labour’s “existential crisis” will deepen whether Corbyn wins or not. It simply doesn’t know what it stands for anymore and the gulf between Corbyn and the other three candidates simply illustrates how little they have in common.

Both these issues — of the SNP’s apparent hegemony and “Corbynmania” — will be discussed in detail this weekend. But posing a left alternative to the SNP is central to our strategy.

More significantly Rise will be launched amid another stock market crash. With a slowdown in the world economy now imminent Scotland will not escape its consequences. Exports will suffer and jobs will be lost with pay and conditions generally forced down further by neoliberal market forces.

The SSP wants the left to present the strongest possible challenge in Holyrood elections next year and get some MSPs elected. Party members already play a significant role in it and this will be clear both on Saturday and in the crucial months before the elections.

We are convinced the prospects for Scotland’s Left Alliance are good.

And they will be boosted further as the shine comes off the SNP as Nicola Sturgeon’s ambiguous comments on austerity, cuts, privatisation, fracking, a second referendum, neoliberalism and much else are not a sign of strength but of weakness.

Rise will be exposing this weakness more and more in the months to come because working class people in Scotland need an effective left alliance more than ever.

  • Colin Fox is the national co-spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party and a former Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothians.