By Paul Moorhouse, Socialist Alternative Scotland
The ruling Scottish National Party lost the 5 October Rutherglen and Hamilton West byelection with a 24% swing to Labour. If replicated in the next UK General Election, this would see Labour winning 40 or more Scottish Westminster seats and torpedo SNP First Minister Humza Yousaf’s strategy to use that election as a ‘de facto referendum’ on a mandate for independence.
But a twenty-fold increase in the Labour’s representation could prove a hollow ‘victory’ for Keir Starmer’s party. Scottish workers have no more reason to trust Labour to defend jobs, reverse the cost of living crisis or stand up to the right-wing hate agenda threatening women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community today than when Labour was wiped out following the 2014 independence referendum. Within days of the byelection, Labour-run local South Lanarkshire council announced plans to make £70 million of cuts over the next two years.
The byelection result owes far more to the collapsing support for the SNP than any confidence in Labour. The election was triggered by the suspension of the former MP for breaching covid regulations, yet another example of the SNP’s culture of corruption. That this goes right to the top is evidenced by the arrest of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband by Police Scotland as part of an investigation into the disappearance of £60 million in donations. Recently, Health Secretary Michael Matheson admitted charging £11,000 of roaming fees incurred by his sons watching football matches on holiday to parliamentary expenses!
While Scottish Labour, under pressure from the strong traditions of struggle in Scotland, has grudgingly distanced itself from Starmer over questions such as the benefit cap and a ceasefire in Gaza, its millionaire leader Anas Sarwar (whose family firm doesn’t recognise unions) is cut from the same reactionary cloth as his Westminster leader.
Scottish workers desperately need a mass party of class struggle committed to resisting austerity whether it comes from Westminster Tories, the SNP administration at Holyrood or Labour councils all of whom seek to make us pay the price of capitalism’s crisis.