|Socialism Today Socialist Party magazine|
THE GENERAL ELECTION in Scotland was a non-event for many people. As in England and Wales, turnout fell dramatically as many people were turned off by the main parties who desperately tried and failed to show how different they were from one another. None of the four main parties addressed the issues facing millions of working-class people. Apart from trying to dazzle people with meaningless statistics, there was no debate over the issues of low pay, poverty, the NHS and public services.
The beginnings of the economic downturn has recently seen over 3,000 workers lose their jobs at Motorola in West Lothian. The treacherous role of local MPs, Robin Cook and Tam Dalyell, who did little to save jobs, was exposed by the local Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) candidates. Although this was not translated into massive votes, it is a foretaste of what is to come as the downturn worsens.
There was only one change of seat. The Scottish National Party (SNP) lost Galloway and Upper Nithsdale to the Tories. That was the sum total of the Tory revival in Scotland where they were wiped out at the last general election. They failed to take any of their other target seats of Eastwood, Edinburgh Pentlands or Stirling. They narrowly lost in Perth after a recount. Across Scotland they took 15.5% of the vote. What is likely to happen now is that the Scottish Tories will attempt to paint themselves as a distinct ‘Scottish’ party which brings forward its own agenda that differs from the Tories in England and Wales.
The experience of the Tories should give a warning to New Labour of what happens when you are held responsible for attacks on the working class and public services, as well as being associated with the rich elite in our society.
The Liberal Democrats held onto all ten of their seats but made no inroads anywhere else. The Lib-Dems took just over 16% of the vote. Ironically, the first-past-the-post electoral system benefits the Lib-Dems in Scotland. Their campaign consisted of showing their leader, Charles Kennedy, as a ‘national leader and nice person’. Particularly in urban areas they have very few activists but benefit from having a national profile and media coverage.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) did not achieve their hopes of winning more seats for ‘Scotland’s Party’. In the seats they held, their share of the vote and majorities were slashed, in Perth just scraping through after a recount to fend off the Tories by just 48 votes. They again failed to make gains in any of Scotland’s cities and working-class areas. Overall, their share of the vote fell to 20%.
This result will add to the tensions within the SNP. The SNP used to be seen by some as a radical alternative to New Labour but over the last few years they have moved to the right dropping, for example, their previous policy commitment to public ownership. The SNP may still make electoral gains and could be pushed to the left by the growing anti-capitalist mood and movements. They will certainly be a major challenger in the Scottish parliament elections in two years’ time, in no small part due to Labour’s continuation and expansion of privatisation schemes in the public sector.
On the face of it, New Labour is in a strong position. It won 56 out of 72 seats and nearly 44% of the total vote, comfortably holding off challenges in marginal seats from both the Tories and SNP.
But New Labour faces a number of serious problems. Its activist base has shrunk dramatically. It can no longer mobilise in any real numbers young people, trade unionists or community activists to come out and campaign in elections. New Labour faces hostility in working-class housing schemes over the issues of benefits, poverty and crumbling public services. Most of its activists are now made up of councillors, MPs and MSPs and those who aspire to a career in those arenas. Most of the active membership no longer live in working-class areas. New Labour will face increasing opposition from workers, magnified during any economic downturn or recession.
The SSP made a very creditable electoral intervention, winning over 3% of the vote across Scotland, nearly 73,000 votes in total. In nine out of the ten Glasgow seats the SSP held its deposits. The best result was in Glasgow Pollok where the SSP won 2,522 votes (9.98%). The SSP also held its deposit in Coatbridge & Chryston just outside Glasgow. Other good results were won in Cumbernauld & Kilsyth (4.33%), Cunninghame South (4.40%), Edinburgh East (4.32%), Edinburgh North and Leith (4.01%), Greenock & Inverclyde (4.23%), and Hamilton South (4.44%).
The other encouraging sign for the SSP was the votes won in the more rural areas, such as the tremendous 4.64% of the vote in Orkney & Shetland and 4.04% in Argyll & Bute. Credible votes in Perth, as well as many other areas of the Highlands and North East, shows the potential for the SSP to grow in the coming period. SSP voters were the only people to show any enthusiasm on election day.
The International Socialists (CWI Scotland) made up eight of the SSP candidates. Excellent results were achieved by Ronnie Stevenson in Glasgow Cathcart, who got 1,730 votes (6.32%), and Stephen Smellie in Motherwell & Wishaw (1,260 votes, 4.25%), who in the process saw off Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) in a seat where they had polled 800 votes in the last election. Other International Socialists members who stood were Jim McFarlane in Dundee West, 1192 votes (4.08%); Jim Halfpenny in Paisley North, 982 votes (3.62%); Harvey Duke in Dundee East, 879 votes (2.72%); Bruce Wallace in Angus, 732 votes (2.1%); Rosie Adams in Tayside North, 620 votes (1.61%); and Alan Manley in Aberdeenshire West, 418 votes (1.1%). The CWI in Scotland has proven its ability to campaign and build the SSP while at the same time building our own Marxist organisation within it .
There are a large number of people who have been attracted to the SSP during this election campaign. Thousands have attended public meetings and over a thousand people have applied to join. The key tasks are now to integrate them into the SSP and win them to a clear Marxist programme.
Jim McFarlane & Harvey Duke
International Socialists (CWI Scotland)
Election 2001: The Scottish Socialist Party results
Glasgow Pollock Keith Baldassara 2,522 (9.98%)
Glasgow Maryhill Gordon Scott 1,745 (7.85%)
Glasgow Springburn Carolyn Leckle 1,879 (7.80%)
Glasgow Kelvin Heather Ritchie 1,847 (6.89%)
Glasgow Shettleston Rosie Kane 1,396 (6.82%)
Glasgow Ballieston Jim McVicar 1,569 (6.75%)
Glasgow Cathcart Ronnie Stevenson 1,730 (6.32%)
Glasgow Govan Willie McGartland 1,531 (6.06%)
Glasgow Anniesland Charlie McCarthy 1,486 (5.56%)
Coatbridge & Cryston Lynne Sheridan 1,547 (5.10%)
Orkney & Shetland Peter Andrews 776 (4.64%)
Glasgow Rutherglen Bill Bonnar 1,328 (4.55%)
Hamilton South Gena Mitchell 1,187 (4.44%)
Cunninghame South Rosemary Byrne 1,233 (4.40%)
Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Kenny McEwan 1,287 (4.33%)
Edinburgh East & Musselburgh Derek Durkin 1,487 (4.32%)
Motherwell & Wishaw Stephen Smellie 1,260 (4.25%)
Greenock & Inverclyde Davey Landels 1,203 (4.23%)
Dundee West Jim McFarlane 1,192 (4.08%)
Argyll & Bute Des Divers 1,251 (4.04%)
Edinburgh North & Leith Catriona Grant 1,334 (4.01%)
Dumbarton Les Robertson 1,354 (3.98%)
Clydebank & Milngavie Dawn Brennan 1,294 (3.98%)
Hamilton North & Bellshill Shareen Blackall 1,189 (3.91%)
Airdrie & Shotts Kenny McGuigan 1,171 (3.69%)
Edinburgh Central Kevin Williamson 1,258 (3.66%)
East Kilbride David Stevenson 1,519 (3.64%)
Paisley North Jim Halfpenny 982 (3.62%)
Strathkelvin & Bearsden Willie Telfer 1,393 (3.36%)
Livingston Wendy Milne 1,110 (3.08%)
Midlothian Bob Goupillot 837 (2.91%)
Kirkcaldy Dougle Kinnear 804 (2.86%)
Cunninghame North Sean Scott 964 (2.85%)
Stirling Clark Mullen 1,012 (2.82%)
Renfrewshire West Arlene Nunnery 925 (2.76%)
Kilmarnock & Loudoun Jason Muir 1,027 (2.73%)
Paisley South Frances Curran 835 (2.73%)
Dundee East Harvey Duke 879 (2.72%)
Aberdeen Central Andy Cumbers 717 (2.71%)
Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley Amanda McFarlane 1,058 (2.64%)
Fife Central Morag Balfour 841 (2.59%)
Dunfermline East Andy Jackson 770 (2.56%)
Clydesdale Paul Cocksholt 974 (2.55%)
Edinburgh South Colin Fox 933 (2.51%)
Moray Norma Anderson 821 (2.47%)
Dunfermline West Kate Stewart 746 (2.41%)
Perth Frank Byrne 899 (2.38%)
Falkirk West Mhairi McAlpine 707 (2.29%)
Linlithgow Eddie Cornoch 695 (2.20%)
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross Karn Mabon 544 (2.19%)
Western Isles Joanne Telfer 286 (2.17%)
Falkirk East Tony Weir 725 (2.15%)
Ochil Pauline Thompson 751 (2.13%)
Inverness East Steve Arnott 894 (2.11%)
Angus Bruce Wallace 732 (2.09%)
Tweedale, Ettrick & Lauderdale Norman Lockhart 695 (2.09%)
Ross, Skye & Inverness West Stuart Topp 683 (2.00%)
Ayr James Stewart 692 (1.79%)
Fife North East Keith White 610 (1.76%)
Edinburgh West Bill Scott 688 (1.74%)
East Lothian Derrick Whyte 624 (1.69%)
Eastwood Peter Murrey 814 (1.68%)
Dumfries John Dennis 702 (1.65%)
Galloway & Upper NithsdaleAndy Harvey 588 (1.64%)
Tayside North Rosie Adams 620 (1.61%)
Roxburgh & Berwickshire Amanda Millar 463 (1.61%)
Gordon John Sangster 534 (1.53%)
Aberdeen North Shona Forman 454 (1.50%)
Banff & Buchan Alice Rowan 447 (1.45%)
Edinburgh Pentlands Jimmy Mearns 555 (1.43%)
Aberdeen South David Watt 495 (1.34%)
Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine Alan Manley 418 (1.10%)
Average vote per seat:1,007 (3.32%)
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