The independence referendum last September showed that people in Scotland want to see radical change. While the left has grown out of that movement, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has quadrupled in size. Its membership has just passed 100,000, which means one person in 50 in Scotland is now a member. The latest polls show an 18 point SNP lead over Labour and predict they’ll win 47 seats to Labour’s ten.
Instead of mounting a socialist electoral challenge, some on the left are lending — and encouraging others to lend — their votes to the SNP on 7 May. They argue the left should prepare instead for the Holyrood election in 2016. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Tusc) in Scotland welcomes the initiatives to launch a new left project but we don’t agree that this can wait until 2016.
Labour in Scotland is disintegrating fast and this is not the time to leave the field open to the business-friendly SNP. Tusc is standing candidates in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen because the left needs to start building an anti-austerity alternative now.
We are standing in four of the seven Glasgow seats. In Glasgow North the candidate is local socialist Angela McCormick. In 2010 Labour won the seat with 44.5 percent of the vote and the SNP came third with less than 12 percent. Latest polls predict the SNP will take 42 percent of the vote with Labour second on 27 percent. Angela’s campaign has been up and running since late January. We held a successful fundraiser in a local community centre, which helped establish a united, confident, outward-looking approach. We have an election team which at the start of each week produces a plan of action.
Tusc aims to have a presence at every local meeting, conference and protest. Our direct involvement in the Glasgow Care Crisis campaign and the prominence of Tusc supporters at the protest inside Glasgow City Chambers made front page news. So did our support for 50 French workers, who last month came from the Weir factory in Toulouse to protest about its closure at their employer’s HQ in Glasgow. They were overjoyed at the presence of our Tusc banner and the other Scottish trade unionists we’d brought along to support them — and our banner made the French news!
Our presence at various Freedom for Palestine events; on the local benefit justice protests; at the Solidarity with Greek workers demo; and at the National Rank and File Construction Workers’ AGM in Glasgow, has raised Tusc’s profile. Angela has been invited to speak at various election hustings and to local community groups and campaigns. She has issued a campaign letter to every local community group and every local workplace and union branch.
Anti-racism is a key feature of the campaign. We’ve leafleted the local mosques and for the two months preceding the M21 Stand Up to Racism protest every election leaflet we handed out or delivered was accompanied by a Stand up to Racism flyer. Our Tusc banner was at the Dungavel detention centre protest last month. On the M21 demo Angela was a keynote speaker and we had banners, posters and a Tusc stall. This aspect of Angela’s campaign has won respect and support. Even people who’ve said they’ll vote SNP have helped with Angela’s campaign and donated money to it.
To date we have organised 30 separate street stalls at the key shopping centres and have weekly Tusc election stalls at the local FE colleges, where we talk to hundreds of enthusiastic young students and workers. Lots of them are on zero hours contracts. A big feature of our election activity has been petitioning around the Fast Food Rights Campaign and building towards the “Hungry for Justice” global day of action in April.
We are fighting for every vote. We’ve already leafleted 12,000 houses with Angela’s election flyer and have had our official election communiqué approved by the post office, which will deliver it to every household in the constituency.