Thanks to the Labour Party, tens or hundreds of thousands of families in Scotland would be worse off as a result of the Tories’ tax credit cuts. And the Labour Party’s campaign against those cuts was “disingenuous”.
That was the line adopted by the SNP and its activists in response to the Tories’ plans — now abandoned — to slash the working tax credits introduced by the last Labour government! The SNP propaganda stunt was that the SNP had moved an amendment to the Scotland Bill under which power over tax credits would have been devolved to Holyrood. Because Labour voted against this they are to blame for the cuts going ahead in Scotland.
Yet the amendment would have been defeated even if Labour had voted for it. Flag-waving posturing is a matter of necessity for the SNP: Its nationalist scapegoating of Labour serves to divert attention away from its own sorry record. In its general election campaign the SNP promised: “The only way to lock out the Tories and force Labour back to its roots is to vote SNP.”
The electorate in Scotland did vote, in large numbers, for the SNP. But this did not result in the Tories being “locked out” of Downing Street. On the contrary, they walked back in with an absolute majority. The primary blame for that lies with the inadequacies of Labour, but the SNP gave the Tories a helping hand as well. They did everything possible to oppose the election of a majority Labour government: Vote SNP in Scotland, Plaid Cymru in Wales, and Green in England – anyone but Labour! And the nationalist nature of the SNP election campaign was used by the Tories to successfully appeal to English nationalism. Hypocritical The SNP’s vague and tired cliché about “forcing Labour back to its roots” has also turned out to be just so much hypocritical and empty verbiage.
Labour has elected Corbyn as its leader. Its policy on the Tories’ anti-union laws is well to the left of that of the SNP. And the Scottish Labour Party conference passed policy opposing TTIP and Trident renewal. So, is the SNP is now welcoming Labour “going back to its roots”? Anything but!
The vote to oppose Trident renewal was supposedly meaningless. The party at national level has not changed its policy. And even if it did, runs the SNP argument, it would not matter as the Tories are the majority in Westminster. When Corbyn rightly spoke out against a general “shoot to kill” policy, the SNP — in the form of Stewart Hosie MSP, who was once on the “left” of the SNP — attacked Corbyn from the right. The upsurge of support for Corbyn and his politics is dismissed by the SNP as Labour in-fighting. Of course there is in-fighting in the Labour Party. It could not “go back to its roots” without some in-fighting.
The truth is the SNP prefers Labour to be led by people with the politics of Jim Murphy. Those politics are disastrous for the labour movement, but a boon to the SNP. Responses “on the streets” to street-campaigning by the Scottish Labour Party — against the Trade Union Bill two months ago, against tax credit cuts last month — underline the continuing success of the SNP’s political dishonesty and its evasion of political accountability. “Labour are Red Tories” they said. And the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader? Just a con-trick to try and fool people in Scotland!
At Holyrood itself SNP MSPs and party leader Nicola Sturgeon now routinely treat First Minister’s Questions with the same contempt that Tories treat Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster.
When Labour argued that new devolved powers should be used to restore tax credit cuts and that the SNP policy of cutting Airport Passenger Duty be dumped, Sturgeon evaded the issues. Her response was that “there was little chance of Labour ever being in a position to implement them (i.e. its policy proposals).”
The truth of the matter is that the SNP has no strategy to fight the Tory government and their narrow nationalism cuts across efforts to build anti-Tory mobilisations at an all-British level – exemplified by their meaningless Westminster amendment that the Trade Union Bill should not apply to Scotland.
The same nationalism leads them to attack the Labour Party and Labour Party campaigning — backed by trade unions — against the Tories. The SNP's success in the general election has not been a success for the working class. Socialist activists need to take a lead in pushing for Scottish Labour and the trade unions to pursue a policy of confrontation, not just with the Tories but with the SNP as well.
Our answer to the Tory attacks on our class is not another referendum at some undefined point in the future. It is self-organisation, defiance and confrontation in the here and now – and not just in Scotland.