|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Issue 183 November 2014
Scotland: SNP budget’s £500 million cuts
The Scottish government’s budget for 2015/16 has been unveiled by Scottish National Party (SNP) finance secretary, John Swinney. While much of the press focussed on the modest but welcome property tax on house and commercial property sales, for millions of working-class people there will be no respite from Tory austerity and cuts to public services. The SNP delivered another £513 million in Westminster cuts, on top off the £3 billion already axed from the Scottish budget since 2010.
Socialist Party Scotland has consistently called on the SNP to refuse to implement the cuts, and to set a no-cuts budget. By standing up to the Con-Dem coalition and demanding the billions back that have been stolen from Scotland, the SNP would gain mass support. Instead, by passing on the cuts, the Scottish government has let down hundreds of thousands of working-class people who voted Yes in the independence referendum looking for an alternative.
The overwhelming majority of the 1.6 million who voted Yes did so seeking an end to austerity and falling incomes. This budget will mean more cuts to services, college places for young people, and more pay cuts for workers, job losses and unfilled vacancies in public services, piling even more pressure on workers.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress commented: "Today’s budget provides little relief for hard pressed public service workers who have seen their real terms income falling by thousands of pounds in recent years. These real terms wage cuts are a disaster for our members". It’s also a slap in the face to the tens of thousands who have flooded into the SNP since the referendum looking for a vehicle to continue the struggle for independence.
Swinney summed up his determination to implement Con-Dem cuts: "The government is obviously operating within a very constrained fiscal environment. We place a requirement on public authorities and public bodies to operate ever more efficiently, and that will lie at the heart of the budget propositions that we take forward".
Socialist Party Scotland wrote an open letter to SNP members following the referendum. We explained: "Our view is that the new members of the SNP will not find a party leadership prepared to lead a mass campaign against austerity. Indeed, the SNP in power have implemented every penny of the Tory cuts since 2010 in Scotland. Another cuts budget is planned by John Swinney and Alex Salmond in a few weeks’ time. It’s the same at a council level. Incredibly, only seven days after Dundee became a Yes city, the SNP council announced a further £8 million in cuts for next year. This is not why so many of us campaigned and fought for a Yes majority!"
We added: "Socialist Party Scotland is calling on all councils in Scotland and the Scottish government to set no-cuts budgets. Immediate cuts can be avoided through the use of reserves and borrowing powers, where appropriate, to give time to build a mass campaign to win back the more than £3 billion stolen since 2010. We shook the establishment to its foundations with the threat of a Yes majority. By making a stand against the cuts, we could bring the rotten Tory government to its knees".
We wrote: "Imagine if the Scottish government and a number of councils in Scotland stood up and said enough is enough? We saw the panicked concessions cobbled together by Project Fear when it thought the referendum might be lost. Of course we could push the Tories and Labour back again, if we fight". Such a campaign would undoubtedly spread to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where many would demand that their councils took the same stand.
Clearly, the SNP leadership intends to implement Tory austerity. That is why we need to stand candidates who will fight the cuts – and who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with workers taking action, like the 75,000 Scottish Unison members in local government due to strike on 21 October against the 1% pay cap. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference on 1 November, in Glasgow, will discuss standing anti-cuts candidates next May on a programme of real defiance.
Socialist Party Scotland (CWI)