Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon presented the Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto in Glasgow on Wednesday.
She said the general election is an opportunity to kick the Tories out and strengthen the SNP’s position in Scotland.
Sturgeon got one of the biggest ovations when she said that, unlike the Lib Dems, the SNP would never prop up a Tory government.
But, contrary to what many of their working class voters would want, the issue the SNP placed front and centre was not independence or austerity but Brexit. Sturgeon spoke in front of a huge sign reading “Stop Brexit”.
The manifesto supports the idea of revoking Brexit altogether across the UK without a popular vote—placing Sturgeon in the same anti-democratic camp as the Lib Dems. Neither is this going to aid the cause of independence—a third of independence supporters voted Leave in 2016.
Worst of all were the vicious attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.
Sturgeon repeatedly equated Corbyn and Boris Johnson. She lined up with the right by saying that she deplored “Corbyn’s lack of leadership” to eradicate antisemitism.
But this turned against Sturgeon when right-wing journalists asked her how she could be willing to support a Labour government led by an antisemite.
Sturgeon has contributed to give credibility to the smears used to undermine Corbyn for the last two years. She may think the SNP will benefit from this.
But if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister with SNP support, the SNP won’t be exempt from the fire that bosses and their media will direct at such a government.
By feeding into these attacks for short term electoral gains, Sturgeon is undermining all those fighting to end Tory rule and stocking up problems for the future.
The rest was a mixed bag at best.
Anti-racists will celebrate that the manifesto states that, “We will stand firm against the UK’s hostile immigration system and the demonisation of migrants.”
It also calls for Britain to be a place of safety for asylum seekers—overlooking the fact that the SNP-run Glasgow council has failed to do more to use its powers to prevent the disgraceful evictions of refugees by private firm Serco.
On climate, the manifesto rightly acknowledges that, “We have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change” and says Scotland “will lead the way in showing how our society can transition to zero net carbon emissions”. But the target the SNP sets for net zero carbon emissions is 2045—far too late to avert catastrophic climate change.
It also reiterates funding for a “greener, sustainable future” would come from oil and gas revenues.
Sturgeon attacked Corbyn’s left-wing policy to tax fossil fuel bosses on a nationalist basis, arguing it would risk “Scottish jobs”.
A pledge to scrap Trident nuclear weapons should be wholeheartedly supported. But it is preceded in the manifesto by a commitment to “retain bases and regiments” and spend on “conventional defence”.
Sturgeon said “there must be a real end to austerity” and the manifesto contains many promises that go in that direction.
But for each one the manifesto argues that in order to implement them, more devolution or independence are needed. In other words, short of this the SNP will continue implementing Westminster cuts to the NHS and other public services.
For all its weaknesses, Labour’s programme is far clearer on opposition to austerity.
Even when it comes to a second referendum on independence, the manifesto is characteristically ambiguous.
Sturgeon insisted on her intention to hold indyref2 in 2020. She reminded the audience that in spite of the SNP having a mandate for it, her request for a Section 30 order that triggers a referendum was refused by Westminster in 2017.
Yet she’s asking independence supporters to vote for her again to pursue exactly the same strategy, which in the event of a Johnson victory would certainly be a dead end.
Unlike Johnson, Corbyn says he would allow indyref2—but not during the early years of a Labour government.
But above all the SNP’s lack of a realistic strategy underlines that the push for Indyref2 will have to come from the mass grassroots movement.
And in the choice between Johnson or Corbyn in Number 10, socialists have to back Corbyn.
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