Socialist Worker

Will the SNP take on austerity? Manifesto tries to have it both ways

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2556

Stronger and stabler? Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon

Stronger and stabler? Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon


At the Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto launch on Tuesday, leader Nicola Sturgeon asked voters to “strengthen Scotland’s hand, not Theresa May’s”.

Scottish Tory MPs will simply be “a rubber stamp” for whatever May wants, she said, while “voting Labour risks letting in Tory MPs”.

In some parts of Scotland there is a real chance the Tories could take seats from the SNP.

The SNP did not deliver a radical decade in office
The SNP did not deliver a radical decade in office
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The main threat is from more rural areas where the SNP’s “Tartan Tory” support has declined, as its support has grown in working class areas.

These areas recorded higher than average votes against independence and to leave the European Union (EU). They are ripe for Tory gains on 8 June.

Sturgeon claims that supporting Labour will let the Tories in because she fears her left flank is under threat.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto is well to the left of her own.

Sturgeon argues she has a “clear plan to end Tory cuts” with an “alternative to austerity”.

In her speech Sturgeon rightly attacked the rise in inequality under the Tories—and May’s manifesto that would plunge one million more children into poverty.

She also pledged support for increasing the top rate of income tax across Britain.

This is despite refusing to use the Scottish government’s tax-raising powers to do so.

The SNP’s proposed £150,000 threshold for taxing income at top rate is far higher than Labour’s £80,000.

Pitching

The manifesto makes clear that Sturgeon isn’t just pitching for the working class vote.

We should all back increasing the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour by the end of the next parliament. But if this wasn’t in Corbyn’s manifesto, the SNP might not have pledged this at all.

Sturgeon said the 1 percent public sector pay cap is “increasingly unsustainable” and pledged that “we will not assume” it from next year.

But she said that “pay rises must be affordable”.

This language is currently used to justify holding wages down.

Similarly the SNP’s argument for an additional £118 billion of public investment is couched in terms of a “responsible and credible fiscal plan”.

Such phrases are designed to reassure the bosses—who the SNP are battling in debates over independence and Brexit.

There is clearly a difference between the SNP and the Tories around social policies.

Labours opposition to an independence vote limits its revival in Scotland
Labour's opposition to an independence vote limits its revival in Scotland
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This is neatly summed up by the SNP maintaining free personal and nursing care for the elderly compared to the Tories’ “dementia tax”.

But Sturgeon linking a second independence referendum to membership of the neoliberal EU’s single market shows whose interests she is really fighting for. She said there is “too much at stake for Brexit to be imposed on Scotland”.

Yet this is not really a democratic argument about Scotland voting to remain in the EU last June.

With Scotland’s “unrivalled energy resources”, Sturgeon argued the single market is a “huge potential economic prize” for Scotland’s bosses.

For Sturgeon and the bosses, Brexit puts all this at risk.

This is the real driving force behind the SNP leadership’s push for a second vote on independence once the details of Brexit talks are clear.

The SNP already has its Holyrood mandate.

If it takes a majority of Scottish seats Sturgeon thinks it will give her “a mandate to demand a seat at the negotiating table”.

All this is “so we can work to keep Scotland in the single market”.

March for independence, this Saturday 3 June, assemble 10.30am, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. For details go to http://bit.ly/2ky9CEu Hosted by All Under One Banner

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