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SNP’s latest exploits should ring alarm bells for the left

This article is over 6 years, 7 months old
Many have understandably looked to the Scottish National Party as an alternative to Tory austerity. But as Raymie Kiernan shows, its leaders are cosying up to bosses and making cuts
Issue 2458
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (Pic: The SNP)

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish first minister, tried to bolster the party’s left wing image last week.

She appeared on US satirical news programme The Daily Show and quipped how unlikely it would be to hear the US “asking permission to invade an oil-producing country”. 

But Sturgeon’s visit to the US wasn’t just to talk about “independence, oil and haggis”. 

She used her trip to make clear economic plans which should ring alarm bells for everyone on the left.

In a less publicised interview with Bloomberg TV, her “very clear message” was that “Scotland is open for business”.

When asked if the SNP favoured lowering corporation tax, her response was that “we’ve argued that for quite some time”. 

An audience in New York was told Scotland is a “very good” place to make money. This is true—for some. 

Some eight years of SNP rule has seen no shift in wealth from rich to poor. Scotland now has a record nine billionaires and is as unequal as ever.

The 100 richest people have seen their combined wealth rise by 13 percent in the past year to over £28 billion. That’s over double the increase enjoyed by Britain’s wealthiest 1,000. 


The SNP has attracted huge support after the Labour Party disgracefully lined up with Tories to push a No vote during the independence referendum. 

And the SNP’s left wing rhetoric has appealed to many who are sick of Tory austerity. But despite the soundbites the SNP is thoroughly pro-business. 

In November last year Sturgeon gave her first interview as leader to the Financial Times newspaper to reassure bosses they had “nothing to fear” from the SNP.

In another speech made in the US, this time at the World Bank, she stressed her intention to emulate “Rhine capitalism”. 

This is allegedly a more efficient and humane version of the market.But it ignores the fundamentally opposed interests of workers and bosses. 

It has obvious attractions to a politician eager to offer reforms without confronting capitalism.

When given opportunities to buck the market the SNP has time and again passed them up in favour of being a friend to the bosses. 

The way it has managed key devolved powers, such as health, education and transport, show this to be the case (see below). 

On The Daily Show Sturgeon said the referendum showed people “want to get their politicians on the spot and make sure that we are delivering for them”. 

It’s time we started doing that.

Cuts and huge workloads while bosses rake in profit

The SNP says it rejects the Tories’ new “accelerated” cuts and claims it wants to “end austerity”. 

But it has implemented austerity and slashed council budgets. Some 40,000 council jobs have gone under its rule.

The NHS is also under attack. Spending on the NHS in Scotland is lower than spending on health in England. And profiteering from Scotland’s health service is happening under the SNP’s watch.

The Unite union has slammed “privatisation through the back door” at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. 

A private contractor is to appoint its own maintenance staff for the next 25 years. This follows a £120 million redevelopment partnership deal with the SNP.

Teachers are also furious at intolerable workloads. A new curriculum has been introduced without new resources to fund its implementation. 

Some 4,000 teachers have gone. And the SNP’s reorganisation of further education colleges has been a disaster. 

There are now a third fewer students, thousands fewer staff and budgets are £69 million lower than they were four years ago.

The SNP declined to use powers it has to change the Scotrail franchise. 

It could have made it a not-for-profit contract and brought the railways under public control.

Instead the SNP handed a deal worth over £7 billion to Abellio. Profiteer Serco was also handed an £800 million contract to run sleeper train services. And controversially, Serco was given the NorthLink ferry contract even though the state-owned operator made a cheaper bid. 

The bid was returned unopened. Rather than explain its decision the SNP cites “commercial confidentially” and says nothing. 

Now the bulk of ferry services, run by state-owned operator Calmac, are out to tender. 

RMT union members at Calmac have voted by 92 percent to strike to defend their pensions.

Scotland is ‘key ally’ of the US 

The SNP’s vision of an independent Scotland is not one the left should share. 

This was made clear in a speech Sturgeon made to the US Council on Foreign Relations last week.

Socialists argued for a Yes vote in last year’s referendum on the basis that it could break the imperialist British state and weaken its ability to cooperate in US wars. 

Many backed independence from a left, anti-war perspective and voted SNP for those reasons. 

But Sturgeon’s comments undermine those credentials.

She said, “Do not think that the SNP and the Scottish government takes a markedly different position from the UK government on the vast majority of international issues. We don’t.”

She added that an independent Scotland would be “a key ally” of the US and be “a continuing member of the Nato alliance to play our part in collective security”. 

US imperialism would have “nothing whatsoever” to fear from the SNP.

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