Hundreds of thousands of voters in Scotland last week took their revenge on the Labour Party for years of betrayals and its alliance with the Tories in September’s independence referendum.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) took 56 out of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland—up from just six in 2010. Nearly half of its MPs now have majorities of more than 10,000.
It was Scottish Labour’s worst electoral defeat since 1918. Half a century of electoral dominance has been turned on its head.
Labour’s Blairite leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, has faced several calls to resign from senior trade union and party figures.
The SNP took half of all votes cast—almost 1.5 million. That’s one million more than 2010, half of which came from Labour and the Lib Dems.
But it was a bittersweet result as people still ended up with a Tory government.
Bob Thomson, a Labour Party member for over 50 years, told Socialist Worker, “We thought we’d see SNP MPs giving some steel to a minority Labour government.
“But we’re going to see a lot of anti-working class legislation now. That’s the trajectory the Tories are on.”
But the Tories have no mandate to govern in Scotland. They got 14.9 percent of the vote, and one MP—a new record low for a Westminster election.
There are now huge expectations on the SNP to deliver its central campaign message to “end austerity”.
But it is not going to follow through. The SNP will be a tiny minority in a parliament controlled by a Tory majority.
And its record in councils and the Scottish government has shown it is more than willing to make cuts. This is not lost on people and many are looking to see what the left do.
Outside one Dundee polling station an active SNP member of just eight months told Socialist Worker, “I’ll be cancelling my subscription tomorrow—that’s the job done.”
The SNP became a vehicle for those who want to continue the fight for independence and a more socially just society. And for those whose main desire was to punish Labour, the SNP seemed like the only show in town.
Some in Labour argue that what is happening in Scotland is just a wave of nationalism. But this fails to understand the shift in the political landscape—and the potential for the left to grow.
Sharon Anderson is a left pro-independence activist in Lanarkshire. She was a SNP member in the 1980s but isn’t now, although she voted for it last week and is hopeful it will stick to its promises.
She told Socialist Worker that Labour couldn’t blame the SNP for its defeat. “It was the Labour Party that crushed the Labour Party,” she said.
“And if they don’t stop blaming Scots for their failure they will lose their MSPs as well.”
Although Sharon wants to see Labour punished in the 2016 Scottish elections too she is also “looking for a left party to vote for” in the seats elected on proportional representation.
Bob agreed, “The SNP is just as neoliberal as Labour was.” He thinks the left needs to gets its act together and be “snapping at their heels”.
Successful battles can boost left
“I’d hate to see the general election result mirrored next year,” Jordan Daly told Socialist Worker. He is a Glasgow student and an executive member of left wing independence campaign Hope Over Fear.
Jordan left the SNP last weekend. He said, “A lot of people clung to the SNP because there was nothing else there but it is not the working class party people think.”
He added, “We need to hold it to account and build a genuine left anti-austerity movement. Anyone with a sensible head on them wants the whole left to get together.
“There will be people in Labour who are wondering where they now go. We need to create a new home for them and those who don’t think the SNP is good enough.”
With the Tories set to renew their assault on the working class resistance is crucial.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate for Glasgow North Angela McCormick said, “The success of the left in 2016 and beyond will be measured by how we strengthen resistance to the cuts. We must work to offer a united electoral challenge next year and also understand the frontline is opposing Tory austerity in the here and now—successful battles against austerity will boost the left.”