Polls opened this morning and votes are currently being cast in the Scottish Parliamentary election. As #2 candidate on the Scottish Socialist Party‘s Glasgow Regional List, I should be out at the polling stations, desperately trying to convince voters to put an ‘X’ beside Scotland’s only party of independence, socialism and internationalism. The bogging weather has driven me indoors, where the only way to ease my inactivity-related guilt is to blog about how all parties are bastards except the SSP.
The campaign has been characterised by Labour imploding under the laughable ‘leadership’ of the embarassingly shit Mr Gray; the main parties refusing to lay out resistance to cuts, while squabbling about such red-hot issues as whether or not to rejig emergency services’ management boards; and the public’s interest in Holyrood plummeting to an all-time low.
Gray gunning for power
Analysts are predicting victory for the pro-independence Scottish National Party, with an increase in their number of seats. This seemed highly unlikely at the start of the campaign, with Labour riding high in the polls, independence unpopular and Alex Salmond’s “arc of prosperity” reduced to rubble. So confident was I that Labour would romp it, I bet SSP Glasgow top-of-the-list candidate Frances Curran a hefty fiver that Iain Gray would be the next First Minister. Though I will weep at the loss of 10% of my weekly giro, I am mighty relieved that Elmer Fudd will not be leading my country for the next 5 years. (Dinnae fret about the cash either, ah’m gonnae pull a fly wan n dingy payin her).
If Scottish Labour’s beleaguered leader has done nothing else in this campaign, he has at least provided us with plenty of laughs – at his expense. As well as allegedly shiting out of being in the same ASDA as Salmond while they were both visiting the seaside paradise of Ardrossan, the aptly-named Gray made headlines by running away from anti-cuts activists in Glasgow, seeking refuge in a local Subway branch. It’s not known whether he went for a 6-inch or a footlong, but if anything like his speeches, it would have been full of cheese and lacking substance with a nasty aftertaste. Many of the protesters wanted to speak to him about the planned closure of the Accord Centre in the East End, a vital resource for disabled people and their families, which the Labour Council are demolishing in favour of a car park for the Commonwealth Games. Check their facebook page here.
I’ve been out and voted already. And I will now undermine the principle of the secret ballot by telling you what I did. Firstly, I voted SSP (obv lol) on the regional ballot paper. The SSP look set to receive an increase in votes compared to the disastrous 2007 election, but we are likely to fall short of the numbers needed to return a socialist MSP. Oh wellz.
Then, I held my nose and voted for Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP in my constituency, just as I did in 2007. The way I see it, there have been many issues on which socialists would challenge the SNP-led Scottish Government of 2007-2011; not least dropping their policy of regulating the buses after receiving a substantial donation from Stagecoach millionaire Brian Soutar, or overruling Aberdeenshire Council and helping evil tycoon Donald Trump to ruin the world. But they are also head and shoulders above the rest – including Labour – from a progressive viewpoint. Their regime began with the Scottish Govt stepping in to save hospitals from closure in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.
SAVE CRICHTON CAMPUS!
In the first few months of government, keen to avoid triggering clashes with popular resistance movements, they intervened to prevent damaging school mergers in Edinburgh (following a campaign led by SSY organiser Sarah, among others) and stopped the closure of Glasgow Uni’s Crichton Campus – another campaign with a high level of input from our members. They nicked socialist policy and got rid of Prescription Charges, even if they did unnecessarily stagger it over 4 years, costing thousands of people money in “sick tax”, but making them look good just before this election. Shame they didn’t stick to their word when they (again borrowing from the SSP manifesto) said they’d scrap Council Tax. But they did destroy a key component of Thatcher’s legacy by abolishing “right to buy” on council housing. Sometimes politics comes down to a choice between 2 undesirable options, making the SNP & Salmond an easy choice compared to New Labour & Gray. Speaking of undesirable options…
There was the referendum on changing the electoral system to use Alternative Vote. I am in favour of real electoral reform, to break the stranglehold of the big-money mainstream parties and stop the crime of huge chunks of the population effectively being disenfranchised because they live in a local Labour/Tory/whoever dictatorship.
Props to Stefan
But AV will not change anything. The LibDems know it, the Yes campaign knows it, everyone knows it. And no-one even supports AV! However, I didn’t wanna vote to preserve FPTP. Also, I consider this an illegitimate plebiscite as it abuses the people’s wish for proportionality by offering 2 systems which aren’t proportional. Therefore I fulfilled a lifelong ambition, drawing a giant willy on the ballot paper. I also wrote “DO YOU THINK WE’RE STUPID? THIS REFERENDUM IS A FARCE” and “Clegg, Cameron, both are dicks”. Yas.
Thankfully in Scotland we have a slightly better electoral system (AMS), so there’s a chance a few Greens will get in. Some sources say there’s a chance that SNP+Greens+Margo McDonald could equal a pro-independence majority. Here’s hoping. From that point of view (and for several other reasons) it is to be hoped that arch-Unionist and sham-socialist George Galloway is not succesful in his self-serving effort to grab a seat in the Parly.
As time has gone on, the shine has somewhat faded from the once bright and hopeful Scottish Parliament. Certainly it was sad that the ‘Rainbow Parliament’ turned grey in 2007, with the SSP presence wiped out along with many other smaller parties and independents. The relatively low levels of interest in this campaign show that the Parliament is in danger of becoming irrelevant to most working-class people. There is only one way for Holyrood to prevent that: by representing the wishes of the vast majority of the Scottish people, and resisting the program of cuts and austerity which has been led by the ConDem coalition at Westminster.
Some career politicians may lie that the cuts are necessary, others that their Parliament can’t do anything. The social movements will pressurise them all. We must tell them: you may not have the constitutional capacity to defy the cuts, but there is certainly the political capacity, and it must be used. The people of Scotland would fully support a Parliament which offered an alternative, where public services are protected and expanded, and the rich are taxed more to pay for that. A defiant, anti-cuts Parliament would be a major act of Scottish self-determination and a key step towards an independent socialist republic.
The likelihood is, no matter who wins, we’ll get another crop of careerist bastards. But those in authority are vulnerable. I am optimistic about the capacity for struggle and change in Scotland, and I’m cheered by the recent emergence of a nascent grassroots anti-capitalist movement based on direct action and direct democracy. Whether the politicians respond or not, there is a new world to be built.