The general election in Scotland is likely to revolve around constitutional questions.
Deep cuts to further education and local councils have provoked national industrial disputes. But Scotland’s relationship to the rest of Britain and the European Union (EU) look set to dominate.
This suits the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Tories. It allows them to focus on a second independence referendum that may or may not happen for several years, not on austerity.
But for a Labour Party divided over independence and Brexit it can do it no good.
When its sole MP in Scotland backed “tactical voting” against the SNP last week it only served as a reminder of Labour’s anti-independence alliance with the Tories in 2014.
It will do nothing to restore the party’s working class support.
Labour lost 40 of its 41 Westminster MPs in Scottish constituencies in 2015 and 13 of its 37 Holyrood MSPs in 2016, when it slumped to third position behind the Tories.
Next week’s Scottish council elections won’t buck the trend. But it will be no referendum on British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—it’s a verdict on years of Labour cuts, privatisation and war.
If anything Corbyn may allow some people to feel they can vote Labour again in Scotland.
Many had deserted it in 2015 for the SNP, which talked up its “anti-austerity” image.
Labour might hope to pick up seats as a beneficiary of an anti-independence vote—but all the evidence suggests this vote is going to the Tories.
On 33 percent in some polls the Tories have successfully pitched themselves as the defenders of the union.
Not since 1983 has the party polled at such a level in Scotland—and not since 1974 have people voted Tory in such numbers.
There is no doubt the SNP will remain the dominant party.
Leader Nicola Sturgeon has the backing of the Scottish parliament for another independence vote and has used the Scottish vote to remain in the EU as justification for a second referendum.
But the Tories hope to make a dent in SNP seats at Westminster by feeding off support for Brexit and the union in traditionally conservative areas.
Socialists have to focus on the struggle and urge people to vote for the most left wing candidate in their constituency.
On 5 May we will still face local councils implementing austerity.
And on 9 June we will still need to build forces to fight racism and austerity—and to mobilise for independence.
Labour and the SNP play the blame game in local elections
the SNP and Labour have pushed through massive council cuts dictated by the Tories.
Each blames the other when they do it—and then do exactly the same themselves.
The SNP is challenging Scottish Labour to rule out council coalitions with the Tories after council elections on 4 May.
Co-convenor of the SNP’s council campaign Susan Aitken said, “The SNP will not put austerity-obsessed Tories into power in councils across Scotland. The public deserve to know whether a vote for Labour is a vote to put Tories in charge of our local services.”
But people also deserve to know that the SNP has previously been in coalition with the Tories in Dumfries and Galloway and in East Ayrshire.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister and SNP leader, refused to rule out SNP-Conservative coalitions in local government when she launched the SNP campaign last week.
But she seems to have been overruled after an SNP national executive meeting last Saturday.