Standing up for Scotland needs more than parliamentary soundbites

Ken Ferguson: 'anti-austerity words need to be translated into anti-austerity deeds'

by Ken Ferguson The hopes raised by May’s stunning election result are set to come under increasing pressure as the Tories scent the blood of majority power and move decisively to act in the class interests of the wealthy and powerful they represent. The shape of the coming assault is ever more clear with massive spending cuts set to be reinforced in the July budget, an ever more shrill campaign to demonise claimants and further shackles for trade unions restricting further their ability to defend workers rights.

For the all-conquering SNP, swept to power to a large extent by the progressive energy generated by a mass Yes movement and its vision of a socially just Scotland—currently soaring even higher in the polls—the collision with Tory arrogance cannot long be delayed.

The SNP claim to the mantle of the anti-austerity party—already dented by their record of council cuts—will have to meet the challenge of the Osborne budget axe which, outside Holyrood and Westminster means sackings, pegged pay and more benefit misery.

Despite the oceans of printer’s ink spilt in cuddly profiles of the new MPs and the parliamentary jousting with Mr Speaker, the SNP slogan of Standing up For Scotland must soon answer the hard question—which Scotland?

Its was Labour legend Nye Bevan who said that the Tories didn’t preach class war as they were too busy practising it and this is the reality facing the progressive opponents of austerity—cuts for the majority, megabucks for the rich.

Faced with this prospect, the impressive STUC Scotland United Against Austerity event must be taken both as a pointer to the need to campaign across society for a changed direction and for the event to be the first step in such a campaign.

For the SNP, the pitch of being ‘Scotland’s party’ must confront the reality that, if it is to be translated into reality, that needs to mean siding with Scotland’s working class majority against the cuts and not accepting Tory diktats and implementing them.

For the pro-independence left, this means building the anti-austerity movement, working for socialist ideas in and out of the Holyrood parliament and keeping the reality that independence remains a key and necessary aim before the public.

The energy generated by the progressive left and a range of mass organisation which produced the progressive vision of an independent Scotland was the underpinning mood that produced May’s result and it must be built on.

That’s why anti-austerity words need to be translated into anti-austerity deeds, and the link made between the defence of existing jobs, wages and benefits and the need to transform Scotland with concrete demands for change.

In this Voice, we outline the case, for example, for scrapping the Council Tax and replacing it with an income based Scottish Service Tax which makes the wealthy pay most, cuts bills and generates extra cash for services.

It’s workable, redistributive and within Holyrood’s current powers—and stands up for Scotland’s majority. The key need is for the austerity fight to go beyond defence and to paint a vision of how demands for decent affordable rented homes, fair pay and public ownership of Scotland’s natural resources and key services can be won.

That way opens the road to a socially just, sustainable people before profit society which certainly would be standing up for Scotland.

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