At Holyrood and Westminster, crisis is the new normal

KEZ IS GONE: debate continues as to whether it was the anti-indy case of ex-leader Dugdale or Corbyn’s left turn which saved Scottish Labour from going the way of the Dodo (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Ken Ferguson • As autumn draws on, crisis is the new normal across UK and Scottish politics. Scottish Labour faces a fresh leadership crisis, Scotland’s Tories face scandals over trolling and anti-traveller racism while the long dominance of the SNP wobbles under the twin blows of election losses and the receding prospect of Indyref 2.

At Westminster, and dominating all, the Brexit saga continues to poison politics and threatens the very survival of an already weakened Premier May and the Tories grip on power while the power struggle in Labour simmers on.

All this is, of course, conducted against a background of economic and social crisis based on the very real pressures and problems confronting millions of people who both need and want real answers backed by action.

Falling pay and rising prices, hundreds of thousands on housing lists exploited by greedy landlords, insecure work the reality of so called “full employment” based on insecure low paid jobs and the multiple misery of austerity driven benefits and service cuts all demand urgent action.

The Voice aims to both reflect the struggles of those fighting for immediate demands such as £10 an hour wages and opposing zero hours work while at the same time working to develop a politics based on the need not just for reform but for long term change.

It is this latter debate that urgently needs to be at the heart of the work of the pro-independence left if it is to be in a position both to help break what increasingly looks like a deadlocked politics in Scotland.

This deadlock was reinforced by the result of the June election. Centrally the defensive posture struck by the SNP’s refusal to advance or even defend the independence case left an open goal for unionism and has resulted in Scotland sending enough Tory MPs to Westminster to keep May in power.

Debate continues as to whether it was the anti-indy case of ex-leader Dugdale or Corbyn’s left turn which saved Scottish Labour from going the way of the Dodo.

However assuming that the modest gains in Scotland and less than total defeat for Labour at UK level are an endorsement for Corbynism it is still necessary to seriously examine what this means for the Yes supporting left.

For the Voice and the SSP this is not simply a tactical question but a matter of strategic importance for any socialist serious about opening the way to long term radical change.

Of course all on the left welcome the space opened up for a break with market madness by Corbyn but this cannot cancel out the reality that the vast majority of Labour MPs now, praising Jeremy through clenched teeth, will oppose him on many key issues.

More seriously though is the fact that the pro-independence socialist case rests on the reality that relying on an unreformed Westminster with its semi democratic House of Commons to deliver is surely a gamble with loaded dice.

It is central to the case of the independence left that a Yes vote opens the best available route to socialist change and a society based on meeting the needs of people and planet.

The fact that Scotland has long bitter experience of suffering Tory rule based on English votes and that Corbyn’s Labour gives no sign of changing the undemocratic voting system which delivered that result is a major flaw in any British-based ‘wait for PM Corbyn’ approach for change.

In turn however, this then poses the other question facing left Yes supporters that, if following its electoral rebuffs and a more confident unionism, the SNP has put independence firmly on the back burner how is the independence case to be made?

For those who seek independence as a route to change the answer must be to accept that while an immediate referendum is now clearly off the agenda, that does not mean campaigning for that demand needs to be shelved.

Rather what is needed is vigorous activity on the issues of immediate concern to working class people which also makes the link between winning such advances and the wider need to win independence and justice.

Today’s—unionist controlled—Scotland is deeply scarred with social and economic injustice. 200,000 people languish on housing lists while the means to launch a major housebuilding programme are, as we indicate elsewhere in this Voice—at hand.

The means to transition from today’s carbon-based economy as the role of oil diminishes are here today in Scotland’s potential for wind, wave and expanded hydro power which could, in public ownership, make a major contribution to combating both climate change and fuel poverty.

Indeed, as trade union climate change campaigners have demonstrated, this can also spark new technologies and created thousands of skilled, well paid jobs.

And at the heart of such campaigns sit the urgent need to end poverty pay and insecure work and sweep away anti-trade union laws preventing workers from defending their rights.

One avenue for doing this could be campaigning to introduce member’s bills at Holyrood, as was done by the SSP on free school meals and abolishing prescription charges.

Although more difficult in the absence of socialist MSPs, public pressure to raise the very real issues facing working class Scotland could convince MSPs to pick up the demands turning Holyrood into a “Peoples’ Parliament.”

What is absolutely clear is that confidence in the case for independence’s ability to deliver real change must be built if success is to be won.

Using the current devolved set up to tackle the real problems facing voters was always a key reason for devolution. It can also be a key bridge to making Holyrood an independent national parliament.

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  1. Paper: Developing a coherent national strategy – Connor Beaton's Blog

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