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VOICES OF SCOTLAND Socialism can reverse Scottish Labour’s decline

JOHN SINGER and ENAS MAGZOUB argue that putting forward working-class candidates committed to a national care service, rent controls and bringing key services under public ownership is the best way to rebuild the party

IN THE Scottish Labour Party we face two crucial votes over the next six weeks: no doubt the leadership election will gather the most attention, but it is our internal selection for the ranking on the regional lists which could dramatically and meaningfully change the face and fortunes of the Labour Party in Scotland.

In 1999 Labour won 53 MSPs from the constituencies and only three additional members from the regional lists.

The additional list system, where votes are subtracted according to the number of constituencies won, is supposed to balance representation.  

It has allowed small parties like the Scottish Socialist Party or independents like Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald to be elected.

So in that way it has achieved a fairer match between the number of votes gained and the number of MSPs.

The system was idealised as a way to make Holyrood very different from Westminster but it has become progressively a safety-belt for incumbents with plummeting majorities.  

The ambition for a Scottish Parliament genuinely more diverse than Westminster is still to be achieved.

It has progressively become more like Westminster as the SNP majority has increased.  

The career path from MSP/MP staff to the chamber has become too common and working-class MSPs continue to be few and far between.

In 2016 as Labour’s overall vote plummeted: only three constituency MSPs were elected and 21 from the lists.  

Even the most optimistic Labour supporter would not see any of those three constituency seats as a guaranteed victory.  

So for a Labour candidate to be ensured election you want to be in the top slots on those lists. 

This is why the Campaign for Socialism has prioritised these selections and we have endorsed, together with Momentum, six candidates across Scotland.

Committed activists, like Dundee-based shop steward Mercedes Villalba, would bring a wealth of experience to the North East if selected at the top of Labour’s list in the region. 

All of the candidates have a record in campaigning and activism and will prioritise building a grassroots, activist-led party of which they will be the representatives in Holyrood.

They are committed to defending party democracy and above all respecting the role of the conference in policy decision-making.

The new energy they will bring into Holyrood, together with their campaigning across their regions from the day they are elected, will start the work to rebuild the Labour Party into an unbeatable fighting force for socialism in Scotland. 

It is easy for list members to feel less accountable to the demands of the numerous constituency Labour parties across their region.

That has to change and our candidates’ campaigning records show them well-placed to do that. 

Any successful leader of Scottish Labour needs an energised party behind them and MSPs with a record in campaigning and trade union activism are essential.

The stakes are high if we cannot find the way to harness the anger which has driven people to support constitutional solutions to problems created by a capitalist system. 

The failure of both Holyrood and Westminster to effectively deal with the pandemic is because they could not break free from trying to keep the present economic system afloat, guaranteeing not only wages and jobs but profits as well.

They have done their best to save capitalism from itself. When we needed major state intervention to support people to isolate and to be able to afford to isolate and take sick leave without devastating economic consequences, they threw money at private companies. 

In Scotland the brutal realities of climate crisis, homelessness, child poverty and the record numbers of drug deaths were there before the pandemic and they are the fault of that same economic system which sucks out profit and gives nothing back to communities. 

This is why we need more MSPs for whom progressive policies are only the beginning of a complete transformation of Scotland.

This isn’t an empty ideological statement but a clear understanding of the task ahead and the need for collective solutions.

The Campaign for Socialism and the candidates we support with Momentum are steadfast in their commitment to the socialist policies that Scotland needs.

There can be no attempt to backtrack on Scottish Labour’s commitment to implementing a national care service, introducing badly needed rent controls, fighting homelessness and bringing key services under public ownership. 

To send MSPs to Holyrood who are committed to those collective solutions, committed to empowering communities and removing the legal obstacles to trade unions freely representing their members’ interests would be an enormous start to building a better Scotland.

But to recruit supporters to this cause, whether we like it or not, we need to have a democratic answer to the idea of any future independence referendum.

Recognising the right of the Scottish people to decide on this and not the Tories in Westminster is not an acceptance that independence is the solution. This has been said before but needs repeated. 

Enas Magzoub represents young members on Scottish Labour’s EC and John Singer is a member of the Campaign for Socialism EC from Aberdeen.

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