Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Sun and The Tartan Tories

It came as no surprise that the Sun came out in support of the Tories in England and Wales. The Sun is the closest you can get to the official Tory Party propaganda sheet. But, for anyone with a brain, who has not been taken in by the superficialities, and the demagogy, it should have come as no surprise that the Sun in Scotland has come out in favour of the Tartan Tories of the SNP. For workers in Scotland, if they have been in any doubt about the real nature of the SNP, and what a vote for them would mean, in terms of ensuring the return of a Tory government, in the whole of Britain, the support for the SNP, from the Sun, should have made it clear. This is the same Sun that supported Maggie Thatcher and the Tories through all of the attacks on workers, during the Miners Strike that destroyed Scottish communities, along with their other attacks on basic industries in steel, shipbuilding and so on, along with the introduction of the Poll Tax. The Sun has good reasons for supporting the Tartan Tories of the SNP today.

After all, remember that in 1979, it was the SNP that put Thatcher in power, by voting down Jim Callaghan's Labour government. Today, the SNP want to be in the same position. No Labour government could allow them to do that again, no Scottish worker that wants to avoid another Tory government should lend the SNP their vote, and allow them to do that again. After all, for all their demagogy, this is the same SNP that has done deals with the Scottish Tories too. And why wouldn't they. The SNP share a basic ideology with the Tories, and with UKIP. It is the ideology of nationalism, an ideology that is inherently conservative. It is why the SNP's core constituency has always come from Scottish conservatism.

In 1955, the Tories won a majority of Scottish seats, with 50.1% of the vote; in 1970, they still had 38% of the vote; as late as 1992, they had 26% of the vote. The SNP itself, although it is currently characterised as left-leaning, were termed “Tartan Tories” by Willie Ross, and in the 1970's, as with the nationalists of UKIP today, most of the SNP's seats were won from the Tories. That continues to be the core support for the SNP

What is more those on the left who misguidedly give their support to the SNP, do so on the basis of simply being prepared to allow themselves to be taken in by superficiality and rhetoric that is not justified in practice. Its rather like the support that the same people on the left were prepared to give to Nick Clegg in 2010, because he spouted meaningless rhetoric to place himself electorally to the left of Labour. In practice, it meant nothing, as he abandoned all of his promises, and got into bed with the Tories.

The same is true of the Greens. The Greens are essentially a Peasant Movement, whose emphasis, again despite radical rhetoric, is inherently reactionary. It is essentially individualist, and backward looking to some previous, non-existent golden age, rather than forward looking. Yet again, despite their rhetoric and posturing, in practice, where they have joined up with other parties in government, they have carried out attacks on workers, and where they have been in office like in Brighton, they have done the same. For much of the left, hitching your wagon to some demagogue with a radical line in rhetoric always seems to be the easier option than actually working in a large workers party, like Labour, for all its defects, and trying to win people to your ideas.

The relation between the English Tories and the Tartan Tories of the SNP has been clear throughout the election campaign. For all of their ridiculous scare stories about a Labour government being held hostage by the SNP, the English Tories have done everything they can to big up the SNP, which is also why the Sun is supporting the SNP. The English Tories have tried to whip up English nationalism against the Scots, which even caused them to be criticised by some of their own grandees, as a means at the same time, of whipping up additional support for the SNP. For all their own rhetoric about the danger of the SNP, and the break up of Britain, the Tories have played directly into that momentum, by their own conservative English nationalism. But, also, for all that rhetoric about the danger of the SNP, the Tories will not even advise their remaining supporters in Scotland, who have not already gone over to the SNP, to vote tactically for other non-SNP candidates, to keep them out. With the Scottish Tories having no hope of winning a single seat, the Tories position can only be seen as tacit support for the SNP.

In just the same way, the SNP say they want to put Labour into government, and yet the SNP call on people in the rest of Britain to vote for anyone other than Labour! By calling for a vote for parties that have no hope of winning any significant number of seats, like the Greens, or Plaid Cymru, the SNP are in effect telling English and Welsh workers to waste their votes, which again amounts to tacit support for the Tories.

And no wonder, because again, for all the rhetoric and demagogy, just as with Clegg's Liberals, the SNP have talked left and acted right. The SNP leaders have not ruled out introducing austerity measures themselves in Scotland. In fact, had they actually won independence in the referendum, they would now be having to introduce massive austerity on the Scottish people to fill the hole in their budget caused by the collapse in the oil price. If, the SNP were to obtain fiscal autonomy for Scotland, it would be economically disastrous for Scottish workers, for the same reason.

In public and for the purposes of trying to win over superficial elements of the Left, the SNP talk left, but just as the Liberals have always done, when they speak to another audience, they adopt a different language.

“We want more millionaires, and any notion that an independent Scotland would be left-wing is delusional nonsense,” said Jim Mather, the SNP’s Enterprise Minister in the 2007-11 SNP government. 

And, former SNP Leader, Alex Salmond's attitude to the banks and business was no different to that of the Tories either. He is previously reported as saying that it was only the social conservatism of Thatcher that the Scottish people disliked, 

“It didn’t mind the economic side so much.”

Tell that to the Scottish miners, steelworkers, shipbuilding workers and so on, as well as all those who rebelled against the Poll Tax. Yet, today the inheritors of the mantle of the Scottish Poll Tax opponents, want us all to fall in like sheep to the slaughter behind the Tartan Tories of the SNP.

In 2007, just before the collapse of Northern Rock, not only was Salmond opposing any kind of nationalisation of the banks, such as that which Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling themselves introduced in 2008, but he wanted an even more “light-touch” approach to the banks, as well as lavishing praise on the Scottish Banks like RBS, and those bankers like Fred Goodwin, who crashed the global financial system! Yet, when the issue of the financial meltdown was raised in the referendum debate, the SNP simply lied. They claimed that the crisis would not have happened because a Scottish government would have regulated them better, and rather than placing the blame where it lay, with the banks and the bankers, the SNP instead did what every conservative nationalist does, it blamed the government of another country.

“This is London’s boom and bust”, Salmon claimed.

And, just as with those who talk left and act right in England, like the Liberals and the Greens, the same is true of the SNP's record in government. For all of Sturgeon's left rhetoric on promoting public spending, as Scottish Health Minister she presided over a cut in Scottish Health Spending. These are the facts about Health under the SNP in Scotland.

  • Scotland spends a lower proportion of its budget on health than do the Liberal-Tories in England.
  • Since 2009 4,500 jobs in the NHS in Scotland have been cut, including 2,000 nursing posts. According to the RCN 54% of nurses in Scotland work beyond their contractual hours in order to meet demand.
  • Accident and Emergency waiting times in Scotland are worse than in England. A European-wide survey of healthcare performance placed Scotland in 16th position – lower than England. P
  • Private health spending under the SNP has increased by 47% since 2011 and is now running at £100 millions a year. Lanarkshire health board alone spent over £6 millions in 18 months, referring NHS patients to private health providers in an attempt to meet its Treatment Time Guarantee. 

And these are the facts about Education under the SNP.

  • In 2007, when the SNP came to power, Scotland proportionately spent 15% more on education than England. By 2011/12 that figure had fallen to 0.4%.
  • A survey by the EIS teachers union found that teacher numbers had fallen by 4,000 under the SNP. As local councils passed on Holyrood’s cuts, their spending on education fell in real terms by 5% between 2010 and 2013. Under the SNP, the attainment gap between schools in better-off and worse-off areas has increased.
  • Youth from working-class backgrounds are less likely to attend university in Scotland than they are in England: 28% compared with 31.5%, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
  • The SNP has cut Further Education, which is the main route for working-class youth, in Scotland, into Higher Education. It has ‘merged’ colleges, cut courses, axed 3,600 FE teaching posts, and slashed 130,000 places in FE colleges. 

In the 1980's, left-wing Labour Councils, and Labour Councillors, adopted a policy of No Cuts, No Rent Rises, and No Rate Rises. The basis of the policy was to refuse to place the burden of the crisis, and the Tory Government's austerity measures on working-class communities. It was part of a strategy of building opposition by Labour Councils, Trades Unions and working-class communities to the Tory Government. As a Labour City Councillor in 1983, I was elected on that basis, and expelled from the Labour group, along with my fellow Labour Councillor, Jason Hill, for voting in accordance with that policy, and the following year, I resigned from the Council rather than vote for budget cuts.

But, despite the fact that the SNP have control over the whole Scottish government, they have done nothing since 2010, to use that position as a lever to mobilise opposition to austerity across Britain. Why would they? They have no real interest in workers, let alone workers outside Scotland, but only in promoting some “class neutral”, amorphous concept of “national interest”, meaning, of course, only Scottish national interest.

If Syriza is to defeat the austerity that has been imposed on Greece over the last five years, it will only do so by using the lever of government that it has to mobilise an anti-austerity movement across Europe. Its quite clear that Syriza will not win support for its positions by making pleas to the existing EU governments, especially those like in Spain, Portugal and Ireland that have themselves imposed austerity, or even from those like Italy that are under pressure to do so.

It will only win support if it builds an EU wide movement, drawing in forces like Podemos, and all those who have actually suffered from the imposition of austerity, and who can be mobilised against those existing governments. But, if the SNP were truly opposed to austerity, rather than it simply being a form of convenient rhetoric, they would have been mobilising such an anti-austerity movement themselves across Britain, and across the EU over the last five years. They haven't; they have implemented austerity measures themselves.

The SNP have implemented huge cuts in the funding of local authorities which have resulted in job losses of over 39,000, since 2007, cuts in services, and increased charges for services.  Moreover, as a result of the SNP implementing a Council Tax freeze, which benefits the richer areas, the councils covering the poorest areas have been hit hardest. Between 2010 and 2013 they cut spending by an average of £90 per head more than councils covering more affluent areas.

The same hypocrisy and demagogy can be seen in almost all areas of policy for which the SNP is responsible. Whether it is its failure to oppose austerity, and willingness to implement it, its statements that it wants, what it simultaneously calls the “red Tories” of, Labour to be elected, whilst calling for wasted votes that would allow the Tories into office, its opposition to privatisation policies in Britain, whilst carrying out privatisation in Scotland, the SNP are simply duplicitous and not to be trusted, just as they could not be trusted not to put Maggie Thatcher into office in 1979.

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