THE NEW WORKER

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 28th April 2017


Scottish TUC

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

GIVEN THE unseasonal snowy weather it was appropriate for the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) to choose the upmarket ski resort of Aviemore as the venue for their 120th annual conference. No doubt the promise of a bar stocked with 60 varieties of local malt whiskies did not influence the organisers’ choice of venue.

The STUC was once a great power in the land but now its proceedings generally go unreported in the Scottish press, except when political grandees drop in.

On Monday both Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon addressed the conference. First Corbyn used the venue to announce that if elected one of the very first things he would do will be to scrap the Trade Union Act and introduce industry-wide sectoral collective bargaining. Having earlier ruled out any so-called ‘progressive alliance’ with the Liberals, Greens or Nationalists he declared: “the only real progressive alliance is the Labour and trade union movement working together.”

He also promised to create a Scottish National Bank under “Scottish control”, backed by the National Investment Bank with £20bn of lending power for Scotland’s small businesses — which only highlights the fact that a left-wing social democracy is not the socialism Corbyn is often accused of. He repeated his promise to set up inquiries into blacklisting and Orgreave, additionally urging the Scottish National Party (SNP) Government to set up an inquiry into the actions of the Scottish police during the Miners’ strike, something the SNP have refused to do despite making concerned noises.

Later, Ms Sturgeon, who clearly took her lead from last week’s New Worker editorial, made a last minute addition to her speech by saying that Theresa May called the General Election because the police were investigating several Tory MPs over their 2015 election expenses. This is skating on thin ice because two of her former MPs (and personal friends) have been forced to stand down because of fraud investigations. Generally speaking, SNP MPs tend to favour excessive expenses whilst claiming to understate how much of their own money is spent at election time.

two-horse

Ms Sturgeon claimed that the election in Scotland is a “two-horse race” between the SNP and “hard-line Tories”. This is a polite way of saying that she is concerned about the polls that suggest that the Tories will capture a number of nationalist seats, and overlooks the fact that in the general election the only choice is between a Labour and Tory government.

Later in the day, in a speech to Labour activists in Fife, Corbyn devoted more time to attacking the SNP. First of all he accused them of having “forgotten the day job and the basic requirements to look after people” while they “obsess over another unwanted referendum”. In a reversal of his previous thoughts on the subject, Corbyn firmly came out against a second referendum, mocking nationalist voters who “want to vote for the SNP, who want to fight for another unwanted and unnecessary referendum, but who have failed abysmally in the fight against poverty and inequality,” before adding that the SNP in power in Scotland has “passed on Tory cuts without even a whimper.”

Utterly abhorrent, but...

It is normal for politicians to go on demonstrations or be the target of them. It is virtually unheard of however, for a government leader to take part in a protest against that very same government. But such an event took place last week when Nicola Sturgeon, other SNP and opposition politicians took part in a public protest outside the Scottish Parliament.

This bizarre state of affairs was a protest against the ‘rape clause’, a nickname by critics given to a measure by the Tory Government to limit the payment of cash benefits in the form of tax credits to only two children. There are exceptions for multiple births, adopted children and for “non-consensual” pregnancies. Even the Tories’ deputy Scottish leader says the clause is “awkward” whilst saying it is financially responsible.

Inside the chamber at First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon challenged the Scottish Tory leader: “Do you support the rape clause in principle, or do you, like me, think it is utterly abhorrent?”

On Tuesday she returned to the topic with a parliamentary a motion vigorously denouncing the “disgraceful and repugnant...rape clause”, saying that the policy is “a fundamental violation of women’s human rights.”

All well and good — but if Ms Sturgeon really objects to the clause she could speedily use the powers recently transferred to the Scottish Parliament to modify the regulations as they apply in Scotland in order to ensure that tax credits are paid out for any number of children. She could also introduce a Bill to amend the regulation in Scotland and increase taxes on the well-heeled to raise the £200 million required for a more generous measure.

Council Elections

The SNP may be in two minds about the Conservative and Unionist Party. Launching her local council election campaign, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t want to see the Tories in council chambers. I don’t want to see the Tories with their hands on local services,” adding that deals with them are “highly unlikely” — which is far from ruling them out.

Labour’s deputy Scottish leader Alex Rowley has helpfully reminded us that: “Since 2011, the SNP have cut £1.5 billion from local services,” highlighting East Ayrshire where “the SNP and the Tories are in coalition here and are imposing cuts on local services such as schools and care of the elderly.”

The council elections also throw up some minor delights. In the Shetland ward of Lerwick North the intended Tory candidate, Thomas Williamson, has announced that he hopes to lose the election. He claims to be surprised about actually being on the ballot paper at all, claiming it was all a misunderstanding caused by a conversation on a crackling phone line with two “buggers doon sooth”. The local Conservative Association deny this version of events and assert they collected the completed nomination papers from Williamson’s home.

In Glasgow Gisela Allen, the UKIP candidate for the Garscadden and Scotstounhill ward, wants to bring back the death penalty but she is opposed to hanging. She prefers using the guillotine, which sounds rather un-British. She is also opposed to plastic bags and golf courses, which she sees as environmental disasters, so there is a chance the Green voters will rally to her cause. To show her soft caring side she calls for riding lessons for children.