The Tories came second in last week’s Scottish local council elections and proclaimed themselves the sole winners.
There is no doubt that the Tories had a good election in Scotland.
But they’re still less popular in Scotland than they were under hated former leader Margaret Thatcher.
And the Scottish National Party (SNP) easily topped the poll with 431 seats. The Tories’ 276 seats came mainly at Labour’s expense, not the SNP’s.
The Tories gained by successfully posing as the party of the British union, and to a lesser extent the party of Brexit. “Only the Tories could stop another independence referendum,” was their key argument.
But was the vote the resounding rejection of independence that much of the media claimed?
If that was true, the 17 council areas with higher than average No votes in the 2014 referendum should have recorded losses for the SNP. Only ten of them did.
And the 12 above average Yes areas in 2014 should have seen big gains for the SNP. But in four of them it suffered losses.
The common thread between these losses for the SNP is that it was the majority party—or part of a coalition council—making cuts.
It is also implementing austerity as the Scottish government.
The SNP emerged as the largest party in nine councils in the 2012 council elections. Only four of these were the same this time.
The SNP is now the largest party in 16 councils, overtaking Labour in many of them.
But the big shift was from Labour to Tory. Labour lost heaviest in the big cities and working class areas. In only one out of 32 councils did Labour move forward—and it only gained one seat.
Labour lost around ten seats or more in seven councils, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. Of these, only in Glasgow did the SNP gain more than the Tories.
And only in Edinburgh, where the SNP ran the council along with Labour, did the SNP suffer a loss.
A number of socialist candidates stood for the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). The best result was in Dundee’s Maryfield ward where Stuart Fairweather won 250 votes (6.1 percent) for Dundee Against Cuts – TUSC. Socialist Worker supporter Angela McCormick received 62 votes in Glasgow’s Canal ward.
Castlemilk Against Austerity activist Cathy Milligan won 744 votes in Glasgow’s Linn ward.
Independence was a big factor in the election, and will be again on 8 June. But it’s foolish to think it is the only dynamic at play.
In truth there was not a huge change in terms of the proportion of seats held by pro or anti independence parties.
The danger is the general election in Scotland is fought purely on whether you support “nationalists” or “unionists”.
Neither represent working class interests. The more socialists can make the debate about class and rejecting Tory rule as well as independence the better it will be for the struggles after the election.
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