Scotland: SNP and Labour share out austerity

‘This idea that the SNP are going to put an end to austerity is just nonsense.’
David May, independent councillor

Pensioners in Angus have learned the reality of that statement. Service users and their families in the small towns have confronted the SNP-run rural council. Iain Gaul, council leader, argued on BBC Radio Scotland that privatisation was the most effective means of providing care services. The SNP council is seeking £0.5m cuts, and the vulnerable are to bear the cost. So much for the SNP’s claim to be anti-austerity.

Angus Against the Cuts led the opposition. A wee pensioners’ army mounted protests outside council meetings. Supporters from Dundee Against Austerity and the Revolutionary Communist Group joined them. Elderly citizens braved the Scottish winter to demand: ‘Angus Council Hear Us Say – Service Cuts – No Way!’ A 93-year-old woman spoke of this country being a ‘dictatorship’ and recalled the suffering of the last World War after which promises were made about security and welfare.

Despite public assurances that decisions would be reviewed, 28 Tenant Support Officers who help older folks in their homes and in sheltered housing were given formal redundancy notices. Laundry charges, essential for dealing with issues of continence, have been raised and the frequency of critical support services reduced.

A week later protests took place outside Dundee SNP Council’s own budget meeting. As the only SNP full majority council in Scotland, it has cut £27m from the 2016/17 budget. 200 job losses and service cuts will follow. The Labour Party opposition abstained as per Corbyn’s instructions. A verbal battle erupted on the protest. The predominantly women Social Care Workers, who now face onerous split shifts due to the cuts, rejected Labour Party claims that a penny income tax rise would solve the problem. Low-paid workers facing longer hours were not about to buy into a scheme that would further hit their poverty wages.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had the brass neck to castigate the Labour Party for its cuts: ‘Labour’s credentials on this are no more convincing because, while they claim to have policies which are anti-austerity, there is nothing progressive about forcing average and low-paid workers to carry the burden of Tory cuts.’ (Sunday Herald 27 March 2016) She is correct in pointing out Labour’s record – in the instance of Edinburgh City Council, with the support of her own SNP. There, the Labour/ SNP coalition voted through a budget that will mean cuts of £78m and 2,000 job losses. Labour-run Glasgow City Council has approved £133m cuts with the loss of 1,500 jobs.

Following the resignation of an SNP councillor for racist and Islamophobic messages, a campaign has emerged in Dundee’s Maryfield area for a candidate pledged to oppose all council cuts. Supported by the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and Dundee Against Austerity, activists are reporting that the pro-austerity record of the SNP is being raised frequently. Those engaged in the battle against austerity in Scotland are directly confronting a nationalist party which has no intention of opposing the cuts.

Michael MacGregor

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 250 April/May 2016