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Desperate for an alternative

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Issue 1745

Scotland’s disenchanted

Desperate for an alternative

By Charlie Kimber

THE SCOTTISH Socialist Party (SSP) will be a strong player in the general election. DEREK DURKIN is the SSP’s candidate for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh. He is branch secretary of the Scotland No 2 branch of the postal workers’ CWU union. He has led strikes, both official and unofficial, in defence of his members and is a respected militant in the union.

Derek has lived in the area where he is standing for election all his life and knows the issues that matter to workers. Derek went round the constituency with Socialist Worker and talked about the election. “I’m really looking forward to the election, to having a go at Blair and his candidate here, Gavin Strang. “The potential for the SSP to grow is tremendous. There was a study recently by some academics from Edinburgh University. It showed that 45 percent of Scots describe themselves as ‘to the left of Labour’. That’s up from 32 percent in 1997. Now, if nearly half of people in Scotland are to the left of Labour across the whole country, imagine what the figure is in working class areas! When I look round the constituency I can see that people are desperate for an alternative to New Labour. There is total disenchantment and anger with what the government has done-and what it has not done-for working people. There has been a big debate in Scotland about devolution and independence. There has been much less discussion about what sort of Scotland we want. That’s the key issue. Are we going to have a Scotland that listens to the people who live on the housing schemes round here, people who need jobs and affordable housing, and a lift out of poverty pay? Or are we going to have a Scotland that is run by the rich for the rich? New Labour has changed nothing for the better. Peffermill School is in this constituency. It looks like a combination of a bombsite and a prison. People in the Morningside district of Edinburgh, where the rich live, simply wouldn’t accept these conditions, but of course it’s good enough for working people in New Labour’s Britain. Support for the SSP is growing strongly in my union branch. We now have four SSP members on the branch committee and just one member of the Labour Party. He is the branch political officer who, according to the union rules, has to be a Labour Party member. Craigmillar and other areas in the constituency are full of decent people looking for some hope and a future. The problems with drugs and crime are a direct result of the way that communities have been ploughed up and people have had their lives crushed. I want to shatter the way these debates go on at the moment and get class politics and socialism back on the agenda. I used to be in the Scottish National Party (SNP), but I was never happy there as a socialist. The SNP has now moved a long way to the right. It has abandoned its support for renationalisation of the privatised industries, for example. I want a big, lively campaign in the area, one that delivers a challenge to New Labour and lays the basis for an even bigger push in the future.”

Industry is not replaced

CRAIGMILLAR IS a vast housing scheme at the centre of the Edinburgh East and Musselburgh constituency. It is a world away from the slick image of the finance houses, banks and corporate headquarters which glisten in the centre of Edinburgh.

Craigmillar was a rural area in 1900, but then grew rapidly in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s as people were employed in the brewing and creamery industries and the coal mines. All the traditional industries have now gone and there is very little to replace them.

The Craigmillar “Social Inclusion Partnership” area covers 11,500 people. The latest statistics for this area show:

  • Official unemployment is 10 percent, four times the Edinburgh average.
  • Just 40 percent of people under 60 are in paid work or self employed. More than one in five of the adult population under 60 are permanently unable to work due to illness or injury.
  • Despite all the claims about the expansion of higher education, less than one in 50 of Craigmillar’s population has a university degree.
  • One in five households have at least one person receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • Craigmillar’s people are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease or stroke as the average person in Edinburgh. They are five times as likely to be admitted to hospital with a self inflicted injury, and three times as likely to have an accident requiring hospital admission.
  • A Craigmillar baby is twice as likely to be of low birth weight as the Edinburgh average and seven times more likely to be of low birth weight than a baby from the richest part of the city.

Authentic voice

THE SCOTTISH Socialist Party will be standing in all 72 constituencies in Scotland at the general election. The aim is to win 100,000 votes.

In Glasgow the SSP could defeat the Liberal Democrats, which are Labour’s coalition government partners in the Scottish Parliament. In the 1999 Scottish elections the SSP won 18,581 votes in the ten parliamentary constituencies, 7.25 percent of the total. The Liberal Democrats got 7.21 percent.

In Glasgow Pollok Tommy Sheridan achieved 5,611 votes, 21.5 percent of the total. In the 1997 general election he took 3,639 votes (11.09 percent). We need the strongest, most active campaign possible to build the SSP vote. There is a powerful current for socialists to tap.

Tim Luckhurst, former editor of the Scotsman, wrote recently, “Sheridan and his comrades are a product of New Labour’s alienation from its heartlands-and they know it. “To excluded populations, the Labour machine politicians are indistinguishable from Tories. Scottish socialists in contrast sound authentic.”

Why I’m voting socialist

“I’M VOTING for the Scottish Socialist Party because I don’t want my family’s democratic rights handed over to multinational corporations and big business as is happening at the present time. Local councils are increasingly in the pockets of business, ordinary people count for less and less, and we need to fight for change on every issue.”

  • CATH SINCLAIR, campaign to save Govanhill pool, Glasgow

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