There’s an open goal if we offer a programme of radical change, says NEIL FINDLAY
As Scotland enters the post-referendum era with a new First Minister in waiting and a political landscape still reverberating from the decisive rejection of independence, the Scottish Labour Party now faces a number of challenges.
While the media focuses on the growth in membership of the SNP and the Greens — not without its challenges — or the creation of yet another new left party (what a novel idea that is), Labour has to respond and respond quickly to the new terrain.
For some the answer lies in the further devolution or independence for the party in Scotland or some other bureaucratic or organisational changes.
Necessary though organisational change is, the most pressing response required is a political one.
And I would argue — following the massive turnout at the referendum — that anyone who thinks that we can take on the SNP from any other position than firmly to their left needs to re-enter this world from cloud cuckoo land.
So, in setting clear red water between Scottish Labour and a Sturgeon-led SNP government, the party should consider the following policy options:
-Committing in principle to a policy of full employment. It is the most basic need of human beings to have the wherewithal to provide for themselves and their family
-Establishing a national house-building programme to build council houses and social housing on a grand scale
-Setting up a living wage unit in the Scottish government that would use grants, procurement and every lever of government to raise the minimum wage to the living wage
-Re-democratise local government, financing services and freeing councils to set their own taxes again and be held to account for doing so — and begin reversing the 40,000 job losses across our councils
-End the social care scandal by making social care a rewarding, fairly paid career and ending the indignity of short-timed care visits — following the best practice in the sector
-Create quality apprenticeships and new college places that set young people up for life — 130,000 places have been lost under the SNP
-An industrial policy that promotes manufacturing and new sustainable jobs
-A wholesale review of our NHS — recruiting enough staff and rewarding them to ensure we have an NHS for the 21st century; ending the increasing spend on the private sector
-Build a charter of workers’ rights with new legislation on the fatal accident inquiries and strict liability, devolved health and safety, new legislation on equalities, the living wage and blacklisting, and a commitment to an inquiry into the miners’ strike
These are policies that will have an impact on people across Scotland — especially those who have been victims of the Tory class war on the poor and who those who have been left behind as the SNP try yet again to be all things to all people.
We should remember that the SNP is vulnerable for that very reason.
It has not protected the NHS. It has failed to use its powers of procurement to enforce the living wage.
It has made no commitments on workers’ rights beyond talk about partnership. It has taken no action on blacklisting. It still sees economic growth in terms of cutting taxes on big business and the super-rich.
Even its most recent policy announcement on a land and buildings transaction tax trails behind that already announced by Labour.
Labour proposes an annual tax on mansions while the SNP will simply impose a tax when properties are sold.
Those on the left should remember this. The SNP is not a social-democratic party. It is a nationalist party that is at the same time populist. It seeks links with the trade union movement — but also with big business. Its economic policy documents show it to be essentially neoliberal, ultimately defending the privileges of the market.
This is the open goal for the Labour Party. Policy is the key to our future success — let’s start to build that radical policy programme now.
Neil Findlay MSP is the Scottish Labour Party’s front-bench spokesperson for health.