Surge in Support for Scottish Socialists

Scottish Parliament and Calton Hill, from Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh. (Photo: Lee Kindness/Wikipedia)

An authoritative opinion poll for the Scotsman newspaper indicates a strong increase in support for the Scottish Socialist Party (S.S.P.) in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections on May 3. The April 6 Scottish Socialist Voice reported that "in both the constituency and regional list vote, 5 percent of Scots voters plan to vote Scottish Socialist," according to the ICM poll. This represents a 3 percent rise in the regional vote and a 4 percent increase in the constituency ballot — the biggest increase in support in the previous month for any political party in Scotland.

The S.S.P. currently has four representatives in the Scottish Parliament, and the opinion poll suggests that the party is within striking distance of winning a parliamentary seat in all eight regions.

S.S.P. convener Colin Fox commented in the Voice: "The S.S.P.'s campaign is off to a flying start. For months, the party has been active on the streets. We've distributed over 300,000 election newspapers door-to-door, held scores of public meetings across Scotland and spoke to tens of thousands of people on the streets and doorsteps. Our call for free public transport, independence, and wealth redistribution is going down a storm."

The S.S.P.'s election manifesto, People Not Profit, was launched in Glasgow on April 10. It outlines six flagship policies that would help radically transform Scotland for the benefit of ordinary working people. A key policy is the provision of a Scotland-wide free public transport network. With pollution and congestion on the increase and global warming spiraling almost out of control, "Dramatic and radical action is needed to move hundreds of thousands from private cars to public Transport." The S.S.P. is proposing to establish a nationwide free public transport system.

The S.S.P. has already initiated the first phase of establishing such a system, by putting a bill to the Scottish Parliament proposing to re-regulate the buses. The second phase would establish a publicly owned bus group; the third phase would remove all bus, train, and ferry fares; and phase four "will transfer the Scotrail franchise, when it expires in 2011, to a new publicly owned Scottish National Rail company — and remove fares for all rail journeys within Scotland."

In response to the accusation that the free public transport proposal is pie in the sky, the manifesto argues that the same claim was made in the 1930's and 1940's about the creation of a free National Health Service. Yet following six years of war and destruction on a massive scale, the N.H.S. was brought into being by the Labor government three years after it was elected in 1945. The manifesto also points out that the estimated cost of the free public transport system (£500 million — $1 billion) is less than one-sixth of Scotland's share of British military spending, and half the amount the Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) plans to hand out to big business in proposed cuts to the Corporation Tax. Even the ruling Scottish Executive and the employers' organization CBI estimate that traffic congestion, road accidents and road repairs currently cost the Scottish economy over £4 billion a year. The manifesto describes the policy as "an idea whose time has come … the biggest pro-environment and pro-social inclusion measure proposed in Scotland in generations."

Other major policies in the manifesto include a referendum on Scottish independence within a year of the election; building 100,000 new council houses; the replacement of the Council Tax with a progressive income tax; the introduction of carbon rationing as a fair alternative to green taxes; and free, nutritious daily meals for all schoolchildren in Scottish schools.

The Labor Party in Scotland has been trailing the S.N.P. in the opinion polls, which suggest that the S.N.P. will emerge from the elections as the single biggest party in the Scottish Parliament. The crisis facing the Scottish Labor Party was highlighted on April 16 when the general council of the Scottish Trade Union Council (S.T.U.C.) voted by a majority of just one to call on its members to vote Labor. In a statement issued on the S.S.P. election Web site, Fox commented that this "wafer thin" vote "spotlights the depth of the crisis facing New Labor's Scottish campaign. Throughout the worst years of Thatcherism and beyond the S.T.U.C. stood firmly with Labor, but I believe the vote reflects the deep concern of trade unionists at their policies."

On the Web

Scotsman Poll

S.S.P. — Scottish Elections 2007

Fox believes the vote "reflects a rejection of New Labor's attacks on trade unionists" and a "deep concern about the direction [New Labor] would travel if returned to power in May." Fox said he would urge S.T.U.C. delegates "to face the facts and recognize that by bankrolling New Labor they are supporting a government hostile to their aims and needs."

Fox called on unionists to vote for the S.S.P., which in contrast to New Labor, "has stood alongside workers in struggle with M.S.P.'s and activists joining picket lines, raising questions in parliament, and extending the hand of support to them."

From Green Left Weekly.