Voters have another option for the Scottish elections next year after a new left organisation launched last Saturday at a 500-strong conference in Glasgow.
It’s unclear if it is a movement, an alliance or a party. But Rise—Respect, Independence, Socialism, Environmentalism—is a positive development.
The strength of the launch was in attracting people who found their voice during last year’s independence referendum and are new to politics.
They want to discuss what sort of left we need, and they can bring new ideas and energy to the project.
Unfortunately the Scottish left remains divided. There is no united electoral challenge to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Labour Party.
Tommy Sheridan, who was prominent in the Yes campaign, has already declared that Solidarity (which he heads) will contest the 2016 elections itself. Rise won’t work with him.
Socialist Worker supporters contested the general election as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and remain part of TUSC. But we have always sought broader alliances.
If Rise is to fulfil its ambition of becoming the “main opposition to the SNP”, its attitude to the rest of the left will be key to determining its success.
Socialist Worker thinks Rise should be open to all on the left. It will be a disaster if left groups compete for the same votes in 2016.
For now the SNP is dominant in opinion polls.
Despite the mismatch between its “anti-austerity” image and a record of cuts the party is likely to take the vast majority of votes in the first past the post constituency seats in 2016.
Scottish Labour has elected an uninspiring new leader in Kezia Dugdale. Corbynmania hasn’t passed it by, but it looks set to suffer another crushing defeat next May.
The Lib Dems’ irrelevance increases and the Tories remain as unpopular as ever.
But there won’t be a repeat of the rout last May when the SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 MPs.
Next May Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems—and the Greens— will get regional seats (elected by proportional representation) even if the SNP hoovers up most constituency seats (elected by first past the post).
The electoral battle that most of the left focuses on is winning votes on the regional lists.
The additional member system in the Scottish parliament is designed so the more constituency seats a party wins the harder it is to gain regional seats.
An argument among independence supporters is whether giving the SNP your second vote is or isn’t a wasted vote.
The left is arguing to give second votes to pro independence, anti-austerity parties. But this could be ineffective without a single unified left option to vote for.
Elections matter, but it is crucial to focus on struggle, including fighting an SNP government and councils that have been only too willing to pass on Tory spending cuts.
Any new left project must also think seriously about working with supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the fight against austerity.
Dismissing them because they might not support independence won’t help build a united movement that can stop cuts. Yes we want more anti-cuts MSPs and more socialists in parliament.
But we need a mass movement rooted in struggle, not in parliament.