Hope filled the streets of Glasgow last Saturday. At two separate events a combined total of up to 10,000 people pursued a common purpose—building the Scottish National Party (SNP) vote.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon addressed 2,000 in the centre of Glasgow. The event was stage managed for the press, but an enthusiastic crowd of shoppers gathered round too.
They listened intently to Sturgeon’s popular “end austerity” message. She also argued for gender equality and equal pay, surrounded by hundreds of women of all ages. Many held “I’m with Nicola” signs.
Around the corner in George Square, socialist politician Tommy Sheridan was addressing a mass Hope Over Fear rally.
The message there was to lend your vote to the SNP, which Sheridan called “the anti-austerity, anti-Trident, anti-establishment party”. Though when you lend something, you’re never sure of getting it back.
Around 5,000 people filled the square at any one time during most of the six hours of music and speeches.
Many of the “Yes” badges seen at the Hope Over Fear rally after last year’s independence referendum were now accompanied by SNP badges.
Supporters told Socialist Worker why they’d joined the SNP.
Some, like Pamela Wilson from Falkirk, were part of the initial angry wave that joined the day after the referendum. She was looking for change after the way the Tories treated her disabled son.
“I have to fight to get scraps of money for him while they’re giving the bankers bonuses—that’s ridiculous,” she said. “I always thought politics was beyond me. But now we know we don’t have to put up with it any more and we can get our voice across.”
Paul Muir from Fife said Sturgeon will deliver and is “not just in it for the fame and glory”. But he also felt “limited” to voting SNP, and would probably vote differently given other options.
Scotland’s political shift can’t be overstated.
The SNP is reaping huge rewards from posing to the left of Labour, a party many working class people feel has betrayed them.
Victoria from Glasgow said Labour has “lost its way and its roots as a party for working people.”
She voted Lib Dem in 2010 “but no more—they sided with the Tories”. This time she intends to vote SNP.
One may disagree with the politics or record of Sturgeon or indeed Sheridan. But they are connecting with a popular mood to break with “Westminster”.
Fuad Alakbarov is another new SNP member and anti-racist and refugee rights activist. He lives in Glasgow North and is voting for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
“It’s important to have socialists standing,” he said. “We need that alternative.”
Don't waste opportunity
Old political certainties are crumbling across Britain. In Scotland they barely exist any more.
Many believe they are witnessing the death of Labour in Scotland.
The latest poll of polls this week put the SNP on 50 percent of the vote—a landslide. But the left could do well too.
Hope over Fear rally organiser John Park told Socialist Worker, “After 7 May there needs to be discussions between all groups on the left—to build our influence, hold the SNP to account and defend working class interests.”
Hope Over Fear is a focal point for the movement unleashed by the referendum.
Others include the Radical Independence Campaign and protests against Trident, racism and fascism, and for Palestine and refugee rights. The all-out strikes in Glasgow and Dundee are also key struggles.
These are where a new left can be forged.
Talk about left unity means little without corresponding practice.
The thousands of people who have a political fire sparked in them expect something better. We must fight to offer that alternative.