Socialist Worker

There is a space for the left in Scotland

Colin Fox, convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), writes on Scotland’s changing political landscape

Issue No. 1951

In Scotland Labour lost 500,000 votes, taking its lowest share of the vote since 1945. This suggests it is in terminal decline.

The sense of euphoria of 1997 has been replaced by one of foreboding in 2005, in anticipation of further privatisation, attacks on pensions, public sector job cuts and foreign wars.

The Liberal Democrats were used by workers to protest against Labour — but in Scotland, they only gained two more seats. They are now the second party in Glasgow and many of Scotland’s urban areas.

Yet this was a one-off vote — there is no realistic prospect of them becoming the party of the working class. Despite also winning two more seats, the Scottish National Party (SNP) fell back to become the third party in Scotland, with only 17 percent of the vote.

Disappointing

The SSP got squeezed by the UK-wide focus of the election, the first past the post system and the Lib Dems. We stood in all seats in Scotland (bar one, where we stood aside for Rose Gentle). But our vote fell from 72,000 (3.1 percent) in 2001 to 44,000 (1.9 percent).

This was disappointing, but not a disaster. We can still make the grade in the 2007 Scottish elections by at least re-electing our six MSPs, if not gaining more. But we must learn certain lessons.

The lower level of recent class struggle makes the SSP’s campaigning work more important. We must re-engage with our reservoir of support in the communities, workplaces and colleges by increasing our activity and dialogue.

The necessary conditions are there. The social democratic values of the majority of the Scottish population are to the left of Labour.

We now also have a much more fluid political situation. Blair is holed below the waterline and Labour is on the slide. Both the Lib Dems and SNP face major problems.

This situation provides a stimulus to extra-parliamentary action, for such action can now gain more leverage because of the more even balance of power between the parties.

Gleneagles

The G8 protest at Gleneagles means we can reach out to a varied anti-capitalist audience and get many young people involved in left wing politics for the first time ever.

And our parliamentary bills on replacing the council tax with a local income tax, introducing free school meals and abolishing prescription charges mean we can unite our work inside and outside parliament.

Finally, the SSP would like to congratulate all its candidates for their hard work. But we also want to congratulate Respect on getting George Galloway elected and making a very strong showing elsewhere.

This confirms what the SSP has long argued — there is a vibrant future for a campaigning left outside Labour.


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Sat 14 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1951
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