On the other hand, Ed Miliband having failed to mobilise the widespread anger at the ConDem Coalition, and despite his ‘pre-election denials’ that he will not work with Alex Salmond, seems the most likely to form a government involving Labour, the ever-available Lib Dems and the SNP.
Labour’s ‘triumph’ however will be bittersweet in Scotland where their political collapse means the end of the one party state that has dominated this country for 50 years. No one who favours progressive political advance will mourn it’s passing. Labour has been a socially conservative and politically corrupt force in Scotland for decades.
On another important level however this election will change very little. Working class people will continue to suffer regardless of who wins.
Low wages and Zero Hour Contracts will not disappear. The chronic shortage of affordable, social housing will remain. Inequalities will continue to widen. Opportunities denied working class people will not suddenly appear from Nicola Sturgeon’s handbag.
The neoliberal economic policies these pro-capitalist parties share will continue to dominate our lives. None of them are about to challenge the corporate elite who run UK PLC and control its political institutions.
The most common experience SSP canvassers face on the doorstep is listening as people vent their contempt for Jim Murphy and the Labour Party. And because the mood is so anti-Labour most will simply not hear any criticism of the SNP.
They almost put their hands over their ears when we point out the nationalists’ own record of austerity at local government and Holyrood these past few years.
The situation reminds me of 1997. New Labour and Tony Blair were seeking election and the dominant view was ‘we need to get rid of the Tories. Nothing else matters’. Ironically many of the same Scottish cheerleaders for Tony Blair then now advocate a ‘SNP landslide to shake up Westminster’. They appear to have forgotten what they said in 1997.
That is because Tony Blair—their great messiah—attacked the benefits of single parents, introduced tuition fees and PFI, restricted trade union rights and launched an unforgivable war on Iraq based on lies and naked warmongering. But the SNP are different it is claimed, they don’t support privatisation of the NHS, they don’t make cuts.
In Edinburgh, construction workers have just begun laying the foundations for the city’s new Sick Children’s Hospital. It will stand alongside the Royal Infirmary Labour built in 2005 using their infamous Private Finance Initiative. Whilst Labour’s privatisation was condemned by the SNP, the nationalists are not so keen to tell voters the Sick Kids they commissioned is also privately-owned.
The SNP’s record in government is not something we believe that should be hidden from voters. And neither are their cuts to pay and conditions of government staff! Last week, PCS members at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh went on strike over management plans to cut thousands of pounds from their wages by withdrawing a long-standing weekend allowance for anti-social hours. NMS management argued the move was unavoidable after their budget was cut by the SNP government.
So, for all Nicola Sturgeon’s opposition to austerity, the SNP make cuts all the time. Edinburgh City Council, run by a Labour/SNP coalition, last month voted to cut £30million from frontline services.
And their promise to increase public spending by 0.5 per cent looks ‘progressive’ only because the other parties want cuts. But a 0.5 per cent increase is paltry. It means accepting 13.5 per cent of cuts implemented since 2010 and will do little to grow the economy.
This is the same SNP who voted for Scotland to join NATO in 2013. They also promised to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland by 2015 (in its 2007 manifesto) but that pledge was abandoned just when it was most needed. Now Nicola Sturgeon suggests only that she would restore the Winter Fuel Allowance.
And in response to the widespread financial corruption at Westminster SNP candidates refuse to match the SSP’s commitment to live on the same wage as those they represent. They also favour the monarchy over a modern, democratic, republic.
So whilst we rightly celebrate the end of Labour’s hegemony in Scotland, socialists ought not to get carried away with SNP propaganda. Nor should they build illusions in another corporate party armed with a neoliberal economic programme similar to New Labour. That message may not be popular in Scotland today but it is important to understand if progress is to be made towards the goal of an independent socialist Scotland.