Will unionist woes open door to real change?

CM-edinburgh council budget-Fight the cutsby Ken Ferguson Nick Clegg makes a desperate bid to rally about to be eclipsed Scottish Lib Dems and makes fantasy world claims about his party defeating the SNP. In the heart of Red Clydeside in Clydebank Ed Miliband twists and turns in what looks like a desperate attempt to stem the SNP tide engulfing Scottish Labour and ignore the likelihood that he will need their support to form a government after May. Nobody bothers to factor in the Tories and UKIP’s sole elected representative is universally condemned for his ugly racist attacks on Scottish minister Humza Yousaf.

Welcome to the reality of Scottish politics with only weeks to go until a UK general election. Bemused unionists who, just last September, were hugging and kissing under the Union Jack as Project Fear paid off and delivered a No vote are now counting down to defeat in what will seen by many as the second half of the independence match.

The smell of panic from the smug London pundits is overpowering whether its Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell increasingly shrill efforts or any one of a dozen “grown up” Westminster scribblers and politicians unsure whether to portray Scots voters as fools or lunatics.

Tories have a cartoon Salmond bogey man, supposedly serious journalists queue up to parody and misrepresent any alternative posed by the Scots electorate to their dismal austerity consensus while comic duo Danny Alexander and Paddy Ashdown dip into the insults book as they beg for Tory voters to save them.

Two questions arise for the Left in this unprecedented confusion and disarray besetting the beleaguered band of former Better Together comrades in arms.

First, how did we get here and secondly what to we need to do next? There is no question that the drama now unfolding is firmly based on the fact that the recent indyref campaign not only fought for a Yes vote but in doing so built a process of mass engagement which went beyond the democratic issue to look at what kind of Scotland might flow from it.

While the mainstream politicians debated currency union, EU membership, oil and so on, in village halls, town meeting up and down Scotland a much more deep discussion developed in which a view of what was possible was forged and that view—on poverty, equality and peace—developed a growing conviction that another world is possible.

What has resulted is a growing understanding that, despite the dismal drumbeat from the Westminster elite that austerity is the only way, an alternative is not only possible but essential. This underpins the membership surge for the Scottish Socialist Party, the Greens and most spectacularly the SNP, and at the same time is dire news for the business-as-usual unionists.

Of course the demise of Lib Dems has been long predicted, and the Tories dismissed years ago, but for Labour, so long top dog, the outlook is doubly grim: wipeout in Scotland and failure to win in Westminster leaving them facing a meltdown in their former stronghold.

Labour’s plight has been worsened by the fact that, since they lost power at Holyrood in 2007 they have moved rightward as Scotland moved left, and far from solving the problem, the anointment of arch Blairite Murphy as leader has simply made things worse.

No amount of noisy left-sounding policy pronouncements look like altering the fact that Labour is tied into a policy of austerity and nuclear weapons increasingly rejected by Scottish voters, and that their 50 year grip on Scottish politics is increasingly endangered.

The likely winners, the SNP, by contrast have occupied the social democratic ground deserted by Labour of universal benefits, a public NHS, free prescriptions and opposition to Trident and a droves of former Labour voters are set to back them in May.

Certainly, the demise of Labour may be exaggerated but there seems little doubt that after 7 May, the political terrain in Scotland will be transformed and looks likely to be open to a policy direction informed by the vision of the Yes campaign and ultimately a fresh look at the independence issue.

For Scotland’s left there is much to welcome in these developments with the SNP demanding an end to austerity and opposing Trident renewal as a part of any type of deal it could do with a minority Labour Westminster administration.

However welcome as such a policy shift is, it leaves much to be addressed if Scotland is to take a course which advances the interests of people and planet.

Key to this is a break with the blind faith in market economics and privatisation which has dominated UK politics sine 1979 and is the ruling dogma of the EU’s unelected ruling commission.

It is this dogma which keeps railways private, power firms in the hands of profiteers and has seen the demise of large swathes of manufacturing industry. Along with legal shackles on trade unions and the low wage/zero hours culture this approach has seen a massive shift of wealth and power from the many to the wealthy few.

The task of the SSP and the wider left is to develop and popularise policies which address issues such as pay, scarce housing, fuel poverty, free public transport and many others to construct a policy offering distinctive socialist answers to Scotland’s challenges.

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