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Trade unions have been demanding councils set no cuts budgets

Scottish budget: Stop making Tory cuts! Build mass trade union action to defeat austerity

Text of Socialist Party Scotland leaflet for the STUC protest at the Scottish parliament 

The austerity agenda goes on and on. November’s Tory budget has locked in years of further cuts to public services, benefits and pay. The Scottish government’s budget this week will offer little, if any, respite. Scottish councils are currently drawing up plans to make huge cuts in the new year. Despite the SNP’s claims the NHS is underfunded and massively overworked, and below inflation pay rises will continue.

The pass-the-parcel policy whereby Holyrood implements Tory austerity on councils and elected councillors pass it on to workers and communities has to end. A fighting and determined refusal to pass on another penny of cuts by politicians would gain mass support. Moreover, it can be done and would kick-start a mass campaign to win back the approaching £3 billion stolen from jobs and services by the Tories in Scotland since 2010.

failed approach

Let’s be clear, the alternative is to carry on with a policy in which SNP and Labour politicians vote through cuts. This is a failed approach and has to end. For example, the new powers over tax should mean that the Scottish government adopts a policy of taxing the richest to raise hundreds of millions for public services. In all likelihood, paltry increases in tax will all that the SNP are prepared to offer. Both the Scottish government and councils across Scotland could build form a real “anti-austerity” front against further cuts. After all, both the SNP and Labour claim to be anti-austerity. The welcome election of Richard Leonard to the leadership of Scottish Labour should be followed by an insistence that Labour councillors stop voting through cuts budgets. If not the reputation of Labour can be damaged.

no cuts budgets

A mass campaign involving the trade unions, communities and elected politicians would have a huge effect. A key first step in building that resistance would be for Holyrood and local councils to set no-cuts budgets using the powers they currently have. For councils for example borrowing powers, reserves and capitalisation could be used to set a legal no-cuts budget. As of 31st March 2017, useable reserves in Scottish councils stood at £1.9 billion. No cuts budgets are the policy of unions like Unison, Unite and the GMB. 

Such a stand, alongside a programme of sustained and coordinated strike action by the trade unions on pay, workload and cuts, could force this weak Tory government to retreat. May’s government is hanging by a thread and mass action can win significant concessions and even ensure the removal of the government itself.

The Liverpool socialist council in the 1980s was hugely influenced by the policies, tactics and strategy of Militant – the forerunner of the Socialist Party. That council refused to make Thatcher’s cuts, built a mass campaign alongside the working class of the city that included a city-wide general strike and mass demonstrations and won extra money to build thousands of council houses, nurseries, sports centres etc. In order to fight cuts effectively, it’s also necessary to stand against the economic system that is driving austerity and to fight for socialist change. 

trade union action needed

If SNP and Labour MSPs and councillors refuse to make a stand, the mass mobilisation of public sector workers and local communities can still have a huge impact. The 1% pay cap may be lifted but with inflation rising way beyond 3%, below inflation rises – pay cuts by another name – are set to continue. Ballots for strike action in local government, the NHS, the civil services as well as in the private sector should be organised to build a united front on pay and cuts. Decisive action by the organised working class would turn the tide against the austerity agenda. It could even force some councillors and MSPs into taking a real anti-austerity stand and refusing to make cuts. What is clear is that the mass mobilisation of the trade union movement will be crucial in the months ahead.

political alternative

The SNP leaders have failed to fight Tory austerity, despite their rhetoric. While we welcome both Jeremy Corbyn’s and Richard Leonard’s victories over the Labour right wing, they need to use these steps forward to call on all Labour councillors to stop implementing Tory cuts as a step to building a real left and anti-austerity Labour Party. Socialist Party Scotland is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. We are prepared to stand against SNP and right wing Labour politicians who are voting for cuts. We stand for election on a no-cuts and socialist platform.


Capitalism today has austerity locked into its DNA. While opposing every cut today we also need to fight to change the system. It is a broken system that benefits only the rich elite, the 1%. Being a socialist means fighting tooth-and-nail against all the attacks the working class face today. But also standing for a new, socialist society where the wealth and resources squandered under capitalism are collectively owned and controlled by the 99%.

Demand no more cuts. Protest outside the Scottish parliament on budget day Thursday 14th December 11.30am