Socialist Worker

Main parties will face major problems after elections

Issue No. 2049

Thursday's elections took place before Socialist Worker went to press but look likely to mark a sea change in Scotland. Labour is set to lose ground to the Scottish National Party (SNP).

The new system of proportional representation threatens to break Labour's dominance of Scotland's local authorities. This will have an impact in England and Wales too.

New Labour is so disliked in Scotland because of its disastrous foreign policy, its record at both Westminster and Holyrood, and the right wing, negative campaign it directed at the SNP in these elections.

Discontent with Tony Blair led a majority of Scottish MPs at Westminster to vote against the replacement of Trident missiles. Blair has tried to frighten voters by saying, 'There is a risk to the economy, there is a risk to the family, from separation and from the policies of the SNP.'

When Gordon Brown took charge of Labour's campaign he claimed it was his 'duty' to save the Union from the SNP.

First minister Jack McConnell followed suit by claiming the SNP was out to create 'chaos designed to win an independence referendum'.

Many Labour voters will stay at home and others will vote SNP in protest at Blair, the war in Iraq and other New Labour policies. SNP leader Alex Salmond took a stand against the Iraq war, and sometimes advocates Old Labour policies.

It is significant that the SNP vote is growing while support for independence remains below 30 percent and is falling. Salmond and the SNP have played down independence in a direct appeal to working class voters.

But the SNP has a neoliberal anti-working class agenda too. Salmond cites the 'Celtic Tiger' capitalism of Ireland as his business model for Scotland.

The leaders of the SNP want a low wage, free market economy where deregulation and lower business taxation attracts investment.

The SNP has nothing to offer working people. But its promise to scrap Trident, its opposition to Blair's war and its condemnation of PFI will raise peoples' hopes and expectations.

By connecting with these hopes, the left in Scotland can grow and build a movement for real change from below.

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