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An open letter to members of the SNP: No more cuts – Let’s build a mass movement to defeat austerity

Socialist Party Scotland 

1.6 million of us voted Yes in defiance of everything Project Fear could throw at us. We showed that we could stand up to the political establishment, the bosses, the bankers and the billionaire-owned media.

From Dundee to Glasgow, North Lanarkshire to West Dunbartonshire, and many more working-class communities besides, hundreds of thousands voted Yes seeking an end to savage cuts and falling incomes.

Rightly, many want to continue the struggle for independence. But also against the politicians and the bosses system that is imposing food banks, poverty, cuts and pay caps on us. The question is what is the most effective way of achieving these aims?

Build a mass working-class party

Socialist Party Scotland called for the creation of a new mass working-class party immediately following the referendum. Had leading campaigners like Tommy Sheridan helped launch such a party, thousands would have joined it.

A party that fought the cuts and stood up for socialist policies would have captured the imagination and support of huge numbers. This was not done and an opportunity was missed.n The failure to launch a new mass party has contributed to tens of thousands of people joining the SNP, hoping in this way to continue the struggle. The SNP are also seen as the most convenient electoral weapon to hit back at the betrayal of the Labour Party. This is understandable.

Will the SNP fight cuts?

Our view is that the new members of the SNP will not find a party leadership prepared to lead a mass campaign against austerity. Indeed, the SNP in power have implemented every penny of the Tory cuts since 2010 in Scotland. Another cuts budget is planned by John Swinney and Alex Salmond in a few weeks’ time.

It’s the same at a council level. Incredibly, only 7 days after Dundee became a Yes city, the SNP council announced a further £8 million in cuts for next year.

This is not why so many of us campaigned and fought for a Yes majority!

Socialist Party Scotland is demanding that the SNP leaders make a stand and refuse to carry though any more cuts, which are destroying the lives of so many. We hope you will also support this call and apply political pressure on the party leaders to stand up and be counted. If they don’t, you should join with us and help build a mass movement against austerity.

If the SNP leaders declared here and now that they were not prepared to implement another penny of Tory cuts in Scotland, they would get mass support. Without doubt, hundreds of thousands of us would organise, demonstrate, strike and take part in a mass movement to demand a return of the billions stolen from Scotland by the ConDems. What it needs is the political will to refuse to make the cuts.

Set a no-cuts budget!

Socialist Party Scotland is calling on all councils in Scotland and the Scottish Government to set no-cuts budgets. Immediate cuts can be avoided through the use of reserves and borrowing powers, where appropriate, to give time to build a mass campaign to win back the more than £3 billion stolen since 2010.

We shook the establishment to its foundations with the threat of a Yes majority. By making a stand against the cuts, we could bring the rotten Tory government to its knees.

The SNP leadership and the Labour Party will say they have no choice. However, this is not true. It’s a political choice. A choice to stand on the side of the working class majority, or to meekly carry though the cuts demanded by the political elite and the bosses.

The first point to make is that public funding for jobs and services would continue as normal. The setting of a no-cuts budget could, in the case of a council, be offset by the use of borrowing powers and reserves as a temporary measure while a mass campaign of political pressure was built to win back the money that has been cut.

In the case of the Scottish Government, by bringing forward future spending and any under spend, a budget could be set that would avoid cuts – even if this also included a possible deficit in the budget towards the end of the year. The important point to make is that this would give time for mass campaigning in the trade unions and communities for mass mobilisations, which would be a direct political challenge to the Westminster government.

Such a challenge would create a huge political crisis and would, without doubt, spread to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where many would demand that their councils took the same stand.

One argument we hear from politicians is that setting a no-cuts budget is ‘illegal’ and we would ‘all end up in jail’. Refusing to make the cuts cannot lead to the jailing of a councillor or an MSP. At worst, they could be referred to an investigating officer and a standards body for a breach of the Code of Conduct and threatened with suspension. But this would take many months and whether civil servants would ever act depends on the scale of the movement that was built.

The working-class movement has often had to stand up in defiance of bad laws. The mass non-payment movement that defeated the poll tax in the late 1980s and early 90s was illegal. In England, non-payers could be jailed and hundreds were, including members of Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party), who helped lead the mass anti-poll tax movement. In Scotland, they threatened non-payers with Warrant Sales and other draconian measures. But we beat the poll tax and defeated Thatcher, the so-called ‘Iron Lady’.

Liverpool did it – why can’t we?

Between 1983 and 1987 the socialist Liverpool Council, again led by Militant, refused to make the cuts and demanded a return of the millions stolen from the city by the Tories. Through mass demonstrations, a general strike of the council workforce and huge support at the ballot box, Liverpool defeated Thatcher and millions of pounds was returned, which was used to build new council houses, sports centres and nurseries for the people.

The Tories removed the Liverpool councillors from office in 1987 but only after Labour leader Neil Kinnock had given them the green light while expelling Militant from Labour as part of the witch-hunt to extinguish socialism from the party. The fact remained that one council defeated Thatcher. Imagine if the Scottish Government and a number of councils in Scotland stood up and said enough is enough? We saw the panicked concessions cobbled together by Project Fear when it thought the referendum might be lost. Of course we could push the Tories and Labour back again, if we fight.

Will voting SNP next year deliver indy

No. It’s clear that the SNP won’t stand for the Westminster election on a pledge of another immediate referendum. The argument we hear, including unfortunately from prominent socialists like Tommy Sheridan, that voting for the SNP will help bring another referendum by 2020 is wrong.

Socialist Party Scotland supports the immediate transfer of the powers of genuine ‘devo max” to Scotland. If this does not happen, we believe another vote on independence can come following the 2016 elections. But we cannot call for a vote for a party that is carrying through cuts in the meantime.

The SNP leaders are also pro-business. They support cutting the taxes of big business and the oil giants, and were against raising taxes on the richest. They currently oppose public ownership of oil and even the privatised gas and electricity companies.

They also proposed a Sterling currency union with the Bank of England during the referendum that would have seen been an austerity-laden trap for an independent Scotland. These pro-business policies actually weakened the appeal of independence among a lot of working class people and left Project Fear unanswered.

By continuing to carry out cuts in the run up to a future referendum the SNP can undermine support for independence even further.

In contrast, Socialist Party Scotland campaigned during the referendum for the powers of independence to be used to publicly own our oil, gas and renewal energy sector. For a living wage of £10 an hour, an end to austerity, a reversal of the cuts and the building of an independent socialist Scotland.

anti-cuts candidates

If you want to fight the cuts then your place is with us. Certainly, demand the SNP make a stand. But if they don’t, join with us.

Come along to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference on 1st November in Glasgow where socialists and trade unionists will be discussing standing anti-cuts candidates next May. Help us turn the slogan of not a penny more of Westminster cuts in Scotland into a reality.

And join with us in the struggle for an independent socialist Scotland. Which would be a step towards a genuine voluntary and democratic socialist confederation with England, Wales and Ireland as a step to a socialist Europe and beyond. 

Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference

Standing anti-cuts and socialist candidates in 2015

Saturday 1st November 12.30

Blythswood Hall, Renfield – St Stephens Centre, Bath Street. Glasgow

Speakers include:

Gordon Martin

RMT Scotland regional organiser

John McInally

national PCS vice president (personal capacity)

Brian Smith

Glasgow City Unison branch secretary (personal capacity)

Angela McCormack

EIS-FELA (personal capacity)