Another Scotland is possible


PEOPLE NOT PROFIT: the only war worth waging is the war against poverty and inequality

by John McAllion, Scottish Socialist Party (former Labour MP and MSP) One memento I have kept from my time as a Labour politician is a CD of the Reverend Hammer’s Freeborn John. The CD tells in song the story of John Lilburne the leader of the English Levellers in the 17th century. It was sent to me and to 46 other Labour MPs in gratitude for our rebellion against the Labour whips in December 1997 by voting against a cut of £6 a week to lone parent benefits.

The New Labour government was then keen to establish its credentials on “welfare reform” by cracking down on what The Sun and the Mail routinely described as benefit scroungers. The cut had been planned by the outgoing Tory government and was now implemented in full by the incoming Labour government. The Tories had been routed in a general election just six months previously.

New Labour now began to implement the policies that had earned the Tories that rejection. On that particular night of betrayal, Tony Blair hosted a champagne reception for media celebrities in Number 10 Downing Street. While most of his MPs trooped through the lobbies with the Tories to punish the poor, Blair and his ministers partied and quaffed champagne with the rich and famous in the home of the British establishment since 1737.

Gordon Brown, now posing as the social democratic champion of Better Together but then Chancellor of the Exchequer, swore that he would get the Labour “bastards” who had voted for the poor. Other and bigger betrayals would follow as New Labour embraced neoliberalism, privatisation and free markets at home while waging illegal and brutal wars overseas. The party that was created to electorally challenge the British elite on behalf of workers had by now been suborned into becoming the main electoral defence of that elite.

Public ownership, progressive taxation, legally strong trade unions were all ditched in favour of new business friendly policies designed to grow the private sector by cutting back on the public sector. The Scottish Parliament delivered within two years of taking power was designed as a bulwark against any further nationalist stirring north of the border.

Proportional representation, shunned at Westminster, was enthusiastically adopted in Holyrood as an insurance policy against the SNP ever forming a government. Putative Labour MSPs were rigorously selected to exclude troublemakers and to put in place loyalists who would never dream of challenging Westminster sovereignty.

Labour, of course, got that all wrong. Holyrood has had its fair share of troublemakers. The SNP did win a majority and formed a government. There will now be an independence referendum. Voters in Scotland can now see that another Scotland is possible. The first step towards turning that possibility into reality is a Yes vote. We are almost there.

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