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Scottish Labour bow to the rich

Jonathon Shafi responds to Johann Lamont's lurch to the right today, where the Scottish Labour leader outlined a series of attacks on the fundamental rights of working class people.

Who advises the Scottish Labour Party on policy? This is a question being asked by thousands of people across Scotland today as Johann Lamont falls in line, not just with tory policy, but with the language of Conservatism.

We must end a ‘something for nothing culture’ she says. But she is not talking about the bail out of the banks or the tax evasion of the super rich. Instead she is talking about the majority of people who are suffering as a result of the economic crisis.

Consider the ramifications of Lamont’s new policy agenda: an end to free university education, the abolition of free prescriptions and halting the council tax freeze. Fundamental rights are once again under attack from Scottish Labour. Her proposals almost beggars belief. Shocking not because the Labour Party have been the defenders of working people for the last ten years – they patently haven’t. But because an opposition party claiming that independence is nothing more than narrow nationalism (and hence that we’d be better off in the union) can sink to such depths. There is a difference between rhetoric and policy in mainstream politics – often Labour will add left gloss to their rhetoric. But now the gloves are off.

Lamont’s statements are nothing less than contemptuous of the people that would be affected by such proposals. For a party unrelenting in the language of ‘better together’, Lamont is trying to divide us in the most despicable way:

“What price your free prescription (sic) when an elderly relative spends five hours on a trolley in A&E, or the life saving drug they need isn’t available at all. What price free tuition fees when your neighbor can’t get a place at college at all, or when university standards are now lower than when they went to uni?”

Is it too much to ask to live in a society where we have free prescriptions and our elderly relatives don’t spend five hours on a hospital trolly? Wouldn’t it be possible for us to have free university education and have high educational standards and access to further learning? Not in the world of the Scottish Labour party – who now think political expediency lies with putting the interests of working people in conflict with other workers, students and pensioners.

It makes you feel like screaming: what about the rich? The tax avoiders? The bailout of the banks? The billions spent on trident nuclear weapons? Indeed, how many Labour party members must be doing that right now?

The ordinary members are of little concern to the Labour party hierarchy, that much has been obvious for years. But this is an explicit attack on those suffering poverty and the consequences of a crisis they didn’t create. It’s all part of a calculation that real down to earth ‘honesty’ about the economic situation will dilute the idea of a milk and honey Scottish independence.

“The idea that Scotland is a land where everything is free is a lie” says Lamont. How dishonest, how deplorable, that a Labour party forged by the trade unions of yesteryear should use point-scoring with Alex Salmond to advance an agenda so robustly right-wing that it would make George Osborne proud.

The truth is uncomfortable for many. But at the demonstration for independence last weekend, every single speaker focused on delivering a more socially just Scotland. Better Together is now explicitly a campaign of toryism and reaction. Its major constituent – the Labour Party – have taken a position that will turn stomachs.

In broad terms: No is regressive internationally and socially. Yes is the opposite. That is the way the debate is currently being framed.

The Left have a job to do in this situation: to build for a Yes vote on a radical, progressive basis, and to expose the Labour Party for their years of neglect. In the future we will need our own party to fight back against this rot. One that can provide an opposition to the interests of the rich and powerful and present a serious alternative agenda.

In the coming years the panel debates and discussions on the streets will polarise the Yes and No campaigns further towards left and right. But nothing can be taken for granted when we win independence. We have a duty to ensure that an independent Scotland is shaped by the forces of progress rather than those of big business, war and privatisation.

8 Responses to “Scottish Labour bow to the rich”

  1. Liam says:

    agree with everything the article says but the council tax freeze issue is a key point and something the left needs an answer to. The freeze IS directly impacting on council services and jobs – which is why the unions (and Labour) are calling for it to be dropped.
    But there’s no solution, certainly not a just one, through the council tax which is deeply regressive – the difference between a bedsit and mansion is only 3-1. Need to push for income-based local taxation, something which the SNP were in favour of at one point but seem to have stopped talking about since they got a majority… This is what the unions and the left should be pushing for, not for rises in council tax.

    • Bob says:

      If I remember right, the “local income tax” option was explored thoroughly, back when they were a minority government, and the SNP had to drop it when it was shown to be unworkable. I think it was the means testing required for such a scheme; it would raise council taxes for everyone while bringing in less money to the councils. Something like that.

  2. steven luby says:

    Spot on!
    Now it’s time for other political parties/movements within Scotland to be encouraged in stepping forward and fill the void that U.K financial institutions appear to be sucking the others!

  3. MajorBloodnok says:

    Excellent analysis. One wonders what the hell is going on in the Labour party and how it can stay in one piece now. And you are right – the main theme of the rally on Saturday was social justice, from whatever party angle, and I was heartened by that.

  4. AB says:

    … re the comment about the freezing of the Council Tax, did not not SLAB make a Local Election manifesto committment in May to continue it?

  5. jim monaghan says:

    astounded that the council tax freez has become a left issue, in my day it was called rate-capping, and, rightly, the left opposed central govt setting local taxes from above, the scottish left are fast becoming a toll for snp propaganda

  6. jim monaghan says:

    another article from the scottish left that has adopted the SNP spin machine’s lie that Lamont talked about ending a something for nothing culture, she doesnt say that in her speech, that was the SNP spin version. Her speech is about the irch paying more, and launches a review on how to do that, either by tax or by ending the election bribes that the SNP have used. I remember the days when the left fought against ratecapping, now they doff ther caps to the SNP because it has the nicer sounding name “council tax feeze”

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