12 Days Remaining

Thursday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

CALEDONIAN MACBRAYNE (CalMac) managing director Martin Dorchester congratulates himself for efforts made to guarantee 90 per cent of Scottish ferry sailings during the RMT work-to-rule yesterday and today.

But he knows that no end of company or ministerial talks with bus, rail and aviation operators will weaken tomorrow’s 24-hour strike.

Routes serving the Western Isles, Mull, Islay, Bute, Arran, Coll and Tiree will stop, reflecting the concern of union members and regular service users.

Scottish Transport Minister Derek Mackay wrings his hands, whining that “EU law requires the Scottish government to tender ferry services.”

His main concern is that “some” — namely Scottish Labour — “are seeking to use the current situation to score political points” because a previous Labour government first sought tenders for the new Clyde & Hebrides ferry services contract.

So it did and, in the face of pressure from the trade union movement and from users, it confirmed public company CalMac as the operator.

In other words, ferry services for western Scotland remained in the public sector.

That’s not the case for the Northern Isles routes that were privatised in 2012 by the SNP government.

Handing over these essential services to privateers three years ago does not inspire confidence that Nicola Sturgeon’s administration will resist serial predator Serco’s plan to supplant CalMac for the routes serving Scotland’s west coast.

RMT members have not hidden their fears of a behind-closed-doors privatisation stitch-up. That’s why well over 90 per cent balloted for action.

Mackay’s attempt to evade responsibility by citing European Union force majeure is despicable. Both RMT and the Scottish TUC have made a convincing case that this expensive and catastrophic process is unnecessary, even under EU law.

However, pressure from Brussels for compulsory tendering with a view to extending privatisation should also clarify matters for many on the left whose rose-tinted glasses discern internationalism and solidarity rather than the EU reality of market forces and neoliberalism.

RMT members taking action to prevent privatisation of CalMac are defending their own jobs, conditions and pensions.

They are also defending the principle of public ownership and the quality of essential services to the people of Scotland.

Times change

WHEN pro-hunting campaigners stormed the floor of the House of Commons over a decade ago, police were conspicuous by their absence even though the demonstrators had previously staged a dummy run.

No such namby-pamby policing for the ferocious desperadoes of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) who grew tired yesterday of waiting to meet MPs in the central lobby.

Dozens of officers were available for a heavy-handed response to their direct but non-violent action.

Rather than battling for their “right” to derive pleasure from seeing foxes torn apart by hounds, DPAC activists were intent on condemning the abolition in England of the independent living fund (ILF).

Around 18,000 severely disabled people will be cut adrift next week, dependent on cash-strapped local councils for discretionary payments rather than receiving ILF as a right.

The Tories have still not come clean on how they will implement £12 billion (or £15bn) of welfare cuts, but they will certainly inflict real hardships on millions of vulnerable people.

David Cameron would like people to grin and bear it, but he should get used to growing resistance.

This could be through massive protests such as last weekend’s People’s Assembly mobilisations or it could be guerilla blockades such as DPAC led yesterday in the streets of Whitehall.