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Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Scotland: ‘My Community Can’t Eat A Flag Or Pay Their Bills With A Slogan’
Labour MSP Neil Findlay writes below a very informative and heartfelt call for unity and socialism in the
In the wake of devastating results for Scottish Labour, NEIL FINDLAY MSP makes a plea for solidarity and public services to trump petty nationalism. The results of last Thursday’s Scottish election for the Labour Party are, I would suggest, pretty clear. We lost the election and we lost it catastrophically. As we say in Scotland, we were well and truly gubbed.
It was our worst result in over 100 years, losing all but three constituency MSPs. In my area we worked at the seat for five years prior to the campaign. We put out 100,000 pieces of election material, campaigned hard on local and national issues and worked our arses off. But, we still lost by 8,000 votes.
Over the coming weeks and months there will be numerous critical assessments of Thursday’s result but let me be clear: we fought the election on one of the most progressive manifestos in many, many years. It was a manifesto I was proud to stand on.
We fought on a platform of redistribution to tackle health and wealth inequality, of investing in public services and protecting local government. We were committed to taxing the richest 1 per cent who earn over £150,000, we proposed scrapping the council tax and investing in education.
This was not, as the increasingly embittered and irrational Michael Dugher said, a manifesto that was a “hideous, Momentum hard-left experience.” I would invite the bold Michael to come to Scotland and explain his whacky theories to the Scottish party. However, I would caution him that, given his track record in running an utterly inept leadership campaign for good comrade Andy Burnham, he may find his audience somewhat sceptical.
The reality is that it wouldn’t matter if Keir Hardie himself had handed out a million-pound notes to every voter who promised to vote Labour. I think we would still have experienced the same result. It appears that no matter how much Labour tried to move the debate onto the issues of health, education and public services, it was the referendum and the national question that concentrated the minds of voters.
The reality is the rot started to set in for Labour long before the referendum. Over the years we lost the trust of too many of the Scottish people. Increasingly they saw a Labour Party they did not recognise. Too many saw a party that had stopped radically challenging inequality, that had accepted privatisation rather than seeking to revitalise public ownership, and that went along with market logic while ingratiating itself into the Establishment.
Unfortunately, these Scottish people who lost faith, or who were on a journey of losing faith, had many of their concerns confirmed by the catastrophe of Iraq. The final cherry on the cake was the involvement in the Better Together campaign.
This is a decision that I will never understand or come to grips with. Whatever the campaign is, you can’t as a party decry the Tories every day only to then link arms with them.
So last week, following a period of steep decline, we were squeezed between two competing forms of nationalism. Rule Britannia Tory British nationalism complete with Union Jacks being waved from a tank by Ruth Davidson on one side,
and Braveheart Scottish nationalism on the other. In this constitutional din schools, hospitals and the future of our economy hadn’t a chance of a look in.
In most constituencies there were only four parties standing; therefore Yes voters had only one candidate to coalesce around while No voters were split between three parties. There were many big swings away from Labour but also away from the SNP is some areas — Aberdeenshire and Perthshire being good examples.
Many Yes voters see independence as being the only route to solving the problems they face. Yet since the referendum and the oil price fall, independence would have left Scotland facing extremely serious economic problems.
All of this is set against the background of major public service failure across the board. Health and wealth inequality are increasing, local government is in deep trouble with 70,000 jobs gone and services hollowed out, we see a crisis in our GP surgeries and the educational attainment gap widening not narrowing. In all the key areas where governments are normally judged, the SNP have failed and failed miserably.
How can a government that refuses to raise tax on the wealthiest in case they take flight from this country (a favourite Tory argument) be considered progressive?
How can a party that wants to cut corporation tax for the big corporations be considered progressive?
How can a government that has frozen the council tax while decimating local government be considered progressive?
And how can a government that renames PFI to NPD and promotes it with great enthusiasm to some pretty dodgy people across the globe be considered progressive?
But the most chilling element of all of this is the revival of the Tories in Scotland.
As someone who grew up in, and lives in, a mining community, I am truly appalled.
Despite the unprecedented Tory attacks on working people, the legacy of Thatcherism and attacks on all the gains that we have won as a movement, many people in Scotland have turned to the enemy of our class. They saw the Tories wrapped in the Union Jack and unequivocal on another referendum. In a Scotland still dominated by that debate, people voted Tory because they felt they would fight the SNP hardest on the constitution.
Labour lost out to Yes voters who have not forgiven us for not voting with them in the referendum and to No voters who think the Tories will be harder on the SNP in that constitutional debate.
Labour’s progressive message was starved of oxygen in a constitutional headlock. The focus on nation and flag rather than class and community has ultimately moved the Scottish Parliament firmly to the right.
This new political landscape is thoroughly depressing. My community can’t eat a flag or pay the bills with a slogan that cries Yes or No.
But with these really tough times also comes opportunity. We have to push the SNP government to use the powers of Parliament and to stop following the Tory austerity agenda. This, as we all know, is a political, not an economic, choice.
There has never been a greater need for a Labour Party that represents the interests of working people as there is now.
In the next five years we have to challenge the tax and public spending cuts that will result from this election. We need to expose the SNP for what they are saying and doing — anti-austerity last year and de-facto pro-austerity this year by refusing to tax the wealthiest to invest in services. And we need to fight for the funding of the public services that civilise our society.
Now is the not the time to abandon our values. Now, more than ever, is the time to argue for them.
I represent Ward 4 Paisley North West. I'm a Socialist who believes in equality, peace and the redistribution of wealth, I opposeRacism, Sexism, Sectarianism, Nationalism and any kind of discrimination. Best wishes for a Socialist future. What appears on this website are my personal views and opinions. Not those of the Labour Party, Renfrewshire Council or anyone else, mine only.
Readers will note the contradiction of having Amazon books here and the more ethical Housman's books above. I have decided to keep it here and continue to pass the renumeration from them to a good Socialist cause.