An unprecedented tsunami of support for the SNP swept all before it. Labour plunged to its worst election result in Scotland since 1918, ending 50 years of remote, corrupt dominance. The treacherous Lib Dems were wiped out, with the loss of 4 million votes, in punishment for their collaboration with the Tories.
But the results at UK level could not have been more profoundly different. Literally within hours, £40billion was added to FTSE 100 share values. One brazen City Investor told The Guardian: “Euphoria returns to the City! Lobster Thermidor is back on the menu! Buy shares in lap dancing bars! The City is safe for five years!”
Black despair at the prospect of escalated reliance on food banks, child poverty, slashed jobs and wages was the more typical response in working class households. The Tories did not win any landslide mandate for their plan of brutality against the working class, benefits and basic human rights; 63 per cent voted against them. Their share of the vote crept up a minuscule 0.4 per cent, to 24.4 per cent of the total electorate.
It was their claim to be ‘anti-austerity’ that was key to the SNP’s historically incomparable landslide. The SNP’s was both an anti-Tory and anti-Labour vote, a continuation of the Referendum momentum, but especially a vote for change, for an end to austerity.
After the euphoria of crushing Labour comes the reality check for all those who’ve invested their hopes of change in the SNP and ‘Nicola’. What will the 56 ‘Strong Voices for Scotland’ do about the class war unleashed by Cameron’s capitalist cabal?
Despite 63 per cent voting against them, Cameron’s Tories feel immensely emboldened in their mission to destroy the remnants of the welfare state, which they ideologically detest. They plan to fast-track crucifying austerity cuts, with an immediate 100-day blitz. Before the election the Tories feared their plans would need to be diluted under a Coalition deal. But now they can unleash the dogs of class war.
Within the £30billion overall butchery is £12billion cuts to welfare benefits, clobbering some for the poorest to satiate the appetites of the new influx of Tory MPs. But if anyone imagines it’s only those unfortunate enough to fall sick, be disabled or simply unemployed that are in the Tories’ gunsights, think again; they plan to rob £3.8billion off Tax Credits, which low-paid workers rely on to survive.
While squandering £100billion on Trident renewal, the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts the Tories’ public sector plans will wipe out 1.3 million public sector jobs by 2019. Zero Hours Contracts and insecure temporary jobs will let rip. Pivotal to this plan to rob millions on behalf of the millionaires, the Tories are determined to effectively wipe out trade unions. They see the unions as the first and last line of defence for working people.
New Tory Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced the Queens Speech will include laws to make it virtually impossible to take strike action on jobs, wages or workplace victimisation; requiring a 50 per cent turnout in any union ballot for action, plus a threshold of at least 40 per cent of all members voting for it. So says a Tory regime with 24.4 per cent of all eligible voters!
To enforce even harsher dictatorship of big business over workers, they will also lift the current ban on use of Agency workers to scab on strikes, to dragoon workers suffering terrible job insecurity to undermine other workers’ wages and conditions. So what will the 56 SNP MPs do in the face of such wholesale butchery, which flies in the teeth of everything Scottish voters gave the SNP a mandate to pursue?
They’ve spoken about how they are there to be constructive, not to destroy. Of course they should use every parliamentary committee, Westminster debate, and Prime Minister’s Question Time to expose and oppose the scorched earth policies of the Tories towards benefits, jobs, public services, workers’ rights, civil liberties, and against Trident renewal.
But they face a stark, simple choice: even if they convince some or all of the other opposition MPs to vote with them against Tory measures, they will still lose the parliamentary vote, and then either mobilise ‘extra-parliamentary’ mass movements, or end up impotent as a minority at Westminster.
When Labour had 50 Scottish MPs in the 1980s/90s, they were dubbed the ‘Feeble 50’ for their refusal to lead a movement of mass non-payment of the Tory poll tax, imposed by Thatcher’s parliamentary majority. The same fate awaits the SNP 56 if they repeat that failure to use their elected authority to spearhead mass movements on the streets, in workplaces and communities against what is an even more savage package of attacks than those of Thatcher.
The SNP have made the welcome demand for far more powers to be devolved to Scotland, including welfare, income tax, the minimum wage, employment law, business tax. Cameron is likely to make concessions on powers in the face of the SNP tidal wave, in the hope of not becoming ‘the last Prime Minister of the UK’. But he’ll make no concessions on austerity.
So serious questions confront those who entrusted the SNP to oppose austerity – especially the 80,000 new members who stampeded into the SNP to fight austerity and win full independence: are the SNP leadership going to lead a mass movement to defy and defeat the Tory butchery, or just make fine speeches in parliament and then pass on the cuts whilst blaming the Tories?
Will the SNP Holyrood government refuse to pass down Westminster cuts to the Scottish budget, and mobilise the newly awakened masses in a huge movement to win back our stolen £billions in defence of every job, service and pay packet? Or will they continue what they’ve done for the last four years, devolving about £4billion of Tory/Lib Dem Coalition cuts to colleges, councils, and public sector workers?
Will the SNP demand powers over employment law so as to repeal every single anti-union law on the statute books? And replace them with a Charter of Workers’ Rights, including the right to strike, and to take solidarity action with fellow-workers, even when the strike is deemed ‘political’? Certainly they’ve never promised to do so up until now. Yet that is the minimum required in the face of Cameron’s onslaught.
The looming juggernaut of cuts and effective ban on trade unionism by Cameron spells disaster unless a mass movement is mobilised to resist, defy and defeat the Tory mission to destroy.
As STUC general secretary Grahame Smith rightly wrote in the Sunday Herald, “Democracy is about more than politicians and parliaments…the unions are well placed to provide a legitimate and effective voice if the Tories’ cruel plans are to be thwarted.” He also wrote: “New anti-union laws will be fiercely resisted and, if they remove our democratic right to organise, broken.”
That’s precisely the spirit that needs to become real and decisive action, and without delay or prevarication. Mass demos to garner public opposition to the cuts by a Tory government with absolutely no mandate in Scotland should be called by the STUC, with or without the active support of the SNP 56. These could build confidence for more decisive action, including coordinated strike days and civil disobedience, such as community occupations of threatened facilities.
Such mobilisations outside parliament should be used to pound the MPs, MSPs and councillors – whether SNP or what remains of Labour – to defy Westminster’s cuts, set No Cuts Defiance budgets when the time comes at Scottish and local authority levels, and mount a struggle of the increasingly expectant Scottish working class to win back the funding off Westminster, rather than simply make parliamentary opposition speeches and then surrender to the inbuilt Tory majority.
Politically, the unions in Scotland need to stop propping up the bankrupt project that is Labour. We were told to reject independence last year and get ‘social justice with a Labour government’ in 2015. That’s failed, utterly.
We’ve seen attempts by the biggest of all unions, UNITE, to drag Labour back to the left. That’s proven utterly futile.
We now see a rising chorus of demands for Labour to return to undiluted Blairism, to appeal to ‘the aspiring middle class’. The same Blairism that retained Thatcher’s vicious anti-union laws.
It’s about time the union leaderships broke from these failed attempts to reclaim a party that is a shell, dominated by pro-capitalist place-seekers, with a Scottish Labour leader about as popular as herpes. They should instead combine with the SSP and all genuine socialists to build a mass, working class, socialist party to stand up for Scotland’s working class majority population.
There’s been an electoral mass uprising for change, sweeping change. But to tackle the underlying causes of austerity cuts, we need not only taxation powers, but the powers and political will to take the banks, energy giants, transport companies, construction and big business into democratic public ownership. That’s why the socialist vision and socialist policies of the SSP are more indispensable than ever.
Rather than succumb to another five years of escalated class war from a Tory dictatorship with absolutely no mandate in Scotland, we need to call for a mandate in the 2016 Scottish parliament elections for a second Referendum – and demand that the SNP leadership do likewise.
The political landscape has been transformed by an incredible movement through the ballot box. But to implement and achieve the aspirations of those who swept the SNP into the hallowed chambers of Westminster, we need a mass movement on the streets, in the workplaces and communities against Tory class-driven atrocities.
It’s mass movements that bring about real change. Witness the defeat of anti-union laws and imprisonment of workers through mass strikes in the 1970s. Or the downfall of the hated Poll Tax and its architect Maggie Thatcher, which founders of the SSP helped spearhead.
The unprecedented mass movement for change through the ballot box lays the foundations for a campaign of mass defiance on the streets against Tory dictatorship. The alternative is unthinkable.