Scotland: fighting the SNP and Labour

George square 20 June

In Scotland, fighting austerity means taking on both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Labour Party.

Whatever the anti-austerity rhetoric of SNP MPs in Westminster, on the ground it is a different story. In Dundee, it took 13 weeks of all-out strike action by117 hospital porters in Dundee, Unite union members, before they won their fight against low pay with demands for pay re-grading and back pay. They were up against the SNP Scottish government which backed down only after the porters began pickets of the office of Dundee East MSP and Health Minister Shona Robison. Caledonian MacBrayne ferry workers, members of the RMT and TSSA unions, are also calling strike action as the Scottish government moves to privatise the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service with no guarantee over jobs, wages and conditions. On the same day as the 20 June anti-austerity rally in Glasgow, the SNP’s trade union group met in Stirling but did not extend an invitation to the striking Dundee porters.

In Glasgow, all-out strike action by 70 homelessness caseworkers, Unison members, was concluded on 21 July after 17 weeks. They forced Labour-controlled Glasgow city council, to concede pay re-grading and job guarantees which serve to protect the homelessness service from further cuts in the current period.

Revolutionary Communist Group supporters actively supported both struggles through Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions Porters Support Group and Smash Welfare Sanctions which organises regular pickets of Govan jobcentre. The unity built between the strikers in Dundee and Glasgow allowed them to see both the SNP and Labour in their true colours. In Dundee the Labour party cosied up to strikers, in Glasgow the SNP allied themselves with the caseworkers.

The credibility of the SNP government’s promises to fight ‘Westminster austerity’ and anti-trade union laws should be judged against what it has done so far. The Scottish government’s petition committee has refused to accept petitions calling on the Scottish Government to use its £200m underspend in 2014/15 to prevent hunger by supporting food banks and covering the financial losses of those facing Westminster-orchestrated welfare sanctions. Covering the sanctions is estimated to cost around £70m.

In another move, a Scottish student has launched a petition demanding theScottish governmentreinstate the 140,000 college places which have been lost since theSNPcame to power in 2007. The Scottish government has tried to justify the fall in numbers by describing many courses, predominantly part-time taken by women returning to education after having children, as ‘hobby courses’. (Daily Record, 10 July).

Serious questions have also been raised about the SNP’s relationship to Police Scotland. Since its inception in April 2013 Police Scotland, which merged the eight regional police forces into one national organisation, has been subsumed in controversy including a record-breaking number of unlawful stop and searches, the introduction of armed policing on routine patrols, the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody on 3 May and, at the beginning of July, the failure to follow up a report of a crashed car which left the two occupants dead or dying. The SNP has firmly stood by the much disgraced Police Scotland chief Stephen House on each of these issues. The family of Sheku Bayoh has now set up a campaign to fight for truth and justice following a cover-up by Police Scotland and the silence of the Scottish Government. Up to nine officers had been involved in his violent arrest, using batons, CS gas and pepper spray, leg restraints and handcuffs. As doctors and nurses struggled to revive him officers refused to remove the handcuffs and leg restraints. His was the 11th death in police custody since Police Scotland was formed.

SNP put your money where your mouth is – cover welfare sanctions losses now!

Justice for Sheku Bayoh! Break the silence!

Dominic Mulgrew