Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon made her biggest pitch yet for the Labour vote in Scotland at the SNP’s spring conference last weekend.
Addressing up to 3,000 mostly new members in Glasgow, Sturgeon said, “If there is a hung parliament the SNP will vote to stop a Tory government getting off the ground.”
She called on the Labour Party to join them and “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street”.
It was also announced that the SNP would back Labour’s pledges to restore the 50p top rate of income tax and scrap zero hours contracts and the bedroom tax.
The SNP now claims a membership over 102,000. The old certainties of Scottish politics are crumbling. Labour could lose dozens of its MPs to the SNP.
Bitterness at Labour’s years of failure to fight for working class interests and offer real alternative to Tory austerity has helped fuel the SNP surge. Eileen and Stella are two new members from West Dunbartonshire who were at the conference. Both are 100 percent against the cuts.
“I joined because I hate Westminster and what it is doing,” Stella told Socialist Worker. “Austerity has been a nightmare.
“I helped out with a soup kitchen last weekend in Glasgow. Hundreds came to get fed and clothed. Many people are just one step away from being homeless.”
The SNP is seen as the anti-austerity party that will put an end to the disgrace of food banks and attacks on the most vulnerable people in society. It’s an image Nicola Sturgeon does nothing to dispel.
“I’m absolutely confident she’ll eradicate austerity in an independent Scotland,” Eileen told Socialist Worker.
But there is a mismatch between the anti-austerity image and the reality of the SNP in government or in control of a local council. Eileen seemed bemused that trade unionists and socialists were lobbying the conference arguing for no cuts. “I’ve not heard anything inside that contradicts what they are calling for,” she said.
SNP-run Dundee Council’s £17 million cuts this year was news to Eileen. “That can’t be true,” she said.
But it is true. And that is not the only uncomfortable fact for anti-cuts activists who have joined the SNP looking for an alternative to austerity. SNP leaders admit they are only calling for a “modest rise in real terms spending”, which means continuing cuts.
They may be less than Labour or the Tories but we deserve better than that. That’s why it’s right to fight for an alternative now and not wait for the 2016 Scottish elections.
The anti-austerity left needs to be as strong as possible—we should start that fight now.