Socialist Worker

The SNP did not deliver a radical decade in office

by Bob Fotheringham
Issue No. 2556

Current Scottish current minister Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond forming their cabinet in 2007

Current Scottish current minister Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond forming their cabinet in 2007 (Pic: Scottish government)


The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been in control of the Scottish government for just over ten years. Since the 2014 independence referendum it has been the dominant political party in Scotland.

Its support comes largely from working class voters looking for a radical alternative to the main UK parties. Now is a fitting time to assess its record.

There can be no denying that the SNP has made a positive impact on the lives of many people in Scotland with a range of policies.

The limits of Scottish nationalism
The limits of Scottish nationalism
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These include refusing to follow the Westminster tuition fees policy, free prescriptions, removing tolls from Scottish bridges and giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in Scottish elections.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has shown her commitment to social justice and women’s rights by asking the NHS to see if it can offer free abortion to women from Northern Ireland.

The anti-racist and pro-immigration contribution of the SNP stands in stark contrast to most mainstream British politicians, who have pandered to an agenda of scapegoating refugees and migrants.

Calls to scrap Trident are also crucial.

The SNP’s main pitch to voters in Scotland is its verbal rejection of the austerity and cuts agenda, central to the politics of past Labour and Tory governments.

Rhetoric

But for all the rhetoric, the SNP has proved incapable of mounting any serious practical opposition to the Tories. The SNP government and SNP-led councils have passed on, even if grudgingly, vicious cuts demanded by the Tories.

The SNP faces two ways. It seeks to solidify its support from former Labour voters by putting forward broadly social democratic policies in some areas.

But it also wants to stand up for “Scottish business” and therefore refuses to implement any serious measures that would, for example, tax the rich or confront privatisation.

The end result of this is that the levels of poverty and inequality in Scotland have increased over the last decade.

A major report last year found that more than one in five children were living in poverty—and that the number was climbing.

The Scottish government has always had an element of tax raising powers at its disposal, and it now controls all of Scotland’s income tax.

Yet you will have to look in vain to find any attempt by the SNP to introduce a genuinely progressive taxation policy that would target the wealthy with a view to investing in public services or improving the level of social care.

The timid approach to economic change is also seen over independence.

The recent bill that passed through the Scottish parliament calling for a second independence referendum specifically stated that it must have the “agreement” of the British parliament.

Defiance

There is no sense of defiance of the Tories’ refusal to grant a new referendum, no call for action in the streets.

SNP activists are involved in building the 3 June demonstration for independence, called by All under One Banner.

But they have been told by SNP officials that this is a distraction from the general election. The SNP has refused to support the demonstration.

The results for the SNP in May’s council elections proved to be a bit of a disappointment.

While the party emerged with the biggest number of seats, it did not take outright control of any single council. And it took less than a third of first preference votes.

The general election on 8 June will be another test for the level of SNP popularity.

Whatever the results, all those involved in the independence movement in Scotland cannot simply sit back and allow the SNP to dictate when a referendum takes place, based on the electoral priorities of the SNP.

A radical campaigning movement needs to be built that has fighting for an end to austerity, racism and war as its central objectives.

The last ten years have shown that the Scottish National Party has fallen well short of the mark when it comes to this.


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