Wednesday, 19 February 2014



 It's been a good week for those of us campaigning as trade unionists for independence. Huge numbers of trade unionists have voted for Scottish independence after thorough, well-informed debate.  

And even those union leaders who unceremoniously imposed their union's support for the anti-independence camp with no - or entirely sham - consultation of Scottish members, are now desperately scrambling to distance themselves from the toxic, Tory-funded Better Together campaign. 

 Workers hold the key to Scotland's future - both on and beyond September 18th. We make up the vast majority population. We have most to gain from escaping the brutality of Westminster rule. 

We have the potential power to shape an independent Scotland's policies by forging a force for radical redistribution of power and wealth, for socialist change. And we have most to lose if workers continue to be ruled over and dictated to by the three factions of Thatcherism that dominate Westminster politics.  


On 13th February George Osborne sallied forth to Edinburgh like a colonial governor to tell the uppity natives that if we dare vote for self-government he will take away the pounds in our pockets. 

Workers could be forgiven for thinking Osborne and his millionaire razor gang had done that already, considering the savage pay cuts we've 'enjoyed' at the hands of various stripes of Tory, Labour and Coalition Westminster regimes in recent decades!  

Leaving aside for now the whole issue of the currency - which I strongly believe Scotland should own and control as part of genuine democratic self-determination - working people are furious at this dictatorship by the Tories. And if anything, trade unionists are even more incensed at Labour's carefully orchestrated support for Osborne's anti-democratic threats.  


This assault on the right of the Scottish people to share the assets we have helped create over generations is a timely reminder of just how much is at stake. A confirmation of the fear of British capitalist politicians at losing Scotland's vast natural resources; huge financial assets; highly educated workers' talents and skills; nuclear bases for housing their USA puppet-masters' weaponry; and not least their power and prestige on the global stage of competing imperialist overlords.


It is a timely reminder to working people that Tory, LibDem and Labour all piss in the same pot, in defence of the profits, power and prestige of capitalist dictators whose wealth depends on low pay, restricted workplace rights, and stoked-up divisions within the working class.  

We can't rely on any of them to rescue the working class majority population from obscene levels of poverty and inequality in this fabulously rich nation. Switching from Tory to Labour at Westminster is about as useful as switching energy suppliers so as to be ripped off and still left in fuel poverty under a different logo!  

The three factions of Thatcherism have proven the need for democratically electing our own Scottish governments with their carefully choreographed chorus of threats on the currency issue.


And on the day after Osborne, Balls and Alexander played their roles as schoolyard bullies, workers employed by the Westminster government replied! 
The members' meeting of the 1,000-strong Glasgow DWP branch of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) voted by about 2:1 for their national union to recommend a Yes vote in the Referendum. And the one-third minority were NOT calling for a NO vote; they were personally for Yes, but wanted the PCS union to make no recommendation on it, to be 'neutral' as a national union. 

Days later, on 18th February, 570 members of the giant 2,200-strong branch of the same PCS union at East Kilbride Revenue and Taxes met and debated the same three options. After thorough and democratic debate the vote was 60% for PCS to recommend a Yes vote; 20% to remain neutral; 20% to call for a No vote.
Other PCS branches in the DWP, HMRC, Scottish Government and Driving Examiners also voted for Yes. 


However, in several PCS branches the members openly and overwhelmingly declared they would be voting Yes, but then by (a sometimes slim) majority called on their national union to make no recommendation one way or the other.
Two distinct types of arguments were advanced for this. 

Tiny handfuls of Labour hacks and anti-independence campaigners argued for PCS neutrality because they knew there is a better chance of snow surviving Hell than of them winning members to a No vote; an entirely bogus stance.  

On the other hand some genuine members who actually intend to vote Yes have sincere fears that if PCS calls for a Yes vote it could divide the union and shed members; genuine worries, but entirely misplaced. 

PCS has a proud history of debating and deciding policies on a wide range of progressive policies, and have never seen a split in the union nor a mass exodus of members despite strongly held opposing views on issues such as abortion rights, apartheid, wars, Trident, etc.  

PCS members who see the merit of being in a union do not treat this as merely a private preference; they would never advocate 'neutrality' on whether the union should seek to openly convince non-members of joining PCS.  

Likewise when they are convinced of the need to take industrial action, even though a minority vote against it; the odd handful might leave the union in protest, but larger numbers have joined, impressed by a union with the courage of its convictions, standing up for its members and its democratic majority decisions. 


In reality there is no such thing as 'neutrality' available to the trade unions on this vital issue. Day and daily the government impose attacks on civil servants, with closure of HMRC Contact Centres, attacks on facility time for PCS reps to represent their members, and removal of the check-off system of union subs payments as a means of trying to cripple and crush the union as government agencies wade through jobs and services like a marauding army of occupation.  

Day and daily the millionaire media pummel PCS and other trade union members with lies, distortion and fantasy fears to cow them into voting No, into accepting Westminster's butchery of jobs, pay, services and workplace rights. To remain 'neutral' in this context would be to leave the Fear Factory unanswered. 


In the specific case of PCS, repeated annual conferences have called for far-reaching progressive policies such as a decent living wage for all over 16; public ownership of the energy giants to combat fuel poverty; a free, publicly owned and integrated transport system to challenge poverty and pollution; abolition of all the anti-union laws; opposition to wars and nuclear weapons of mass destruction; democratic public ownership of the entire banking and financial sector; progressive taxation of big business and the rich elite to create jobs, fund public services and dismantle the gross inequalities suffered under the current system. 

These are precisely the policies pursued by the likes of the Scottish Socialist Party and the broad-based Trade Unionists for Independence. They are policies with precisely zero chance of being implemented by any of the three Thatcherite factions dominating Westminster. 

So in order to pursue these clean, admirable principles, first in Scotland, then in the neighboring nations, the PCS nationally should not pretend to be neutral, but forcefully campaign for independence. 

Of course that is what their Scottish conference of branches will debate on Saturday 22nd February. Hopefully delegates will see that calling for a Yes vote is entirely consistent with the emerging intentions of most members, but also the best route to implementing the PCS unions' own democratically agreed policies and principles. 

But regardless of how they vote on 22nd, one thing is starkly clear: NO is nowhere within PCS! 

Members see no sense in giving a vote of confidence to successive Westminster governments which have slaughtered their jobs, slashed their services, plundered their pay packets and now robbed their rights at work.  

The anti-independence parties can salvage no comfort whatsoever even if the PCS union decides to make no recommendation for Yes/No, because members attending the debates have shown a decisive tide is running in favour of a Yes vote by individual members. 

For instance, in one big branch where a 58% majority opted for 'neutrality' on the part of their union collectively, just three members out of the 266 who voted favoured PCS calling for a No vote!! 


To their credit the SNP government has declared continued adherence to 'no compulsory redundancies' in the civil service and refused to implement the Westminster assault on the check-off system of collecting union membership fees. 

The SNP White Paper has pledged Commissions on pay and workplace rights that kick the door open to the unions demanding an entirely different set of rights at work and pay levels under an independent Scotland.  

 But the key thing also confirmed by recent debates and votes at union meetings is that trade union members are increasingly taking on board the point consistently made by the SSP and Trade Unionists for Independence, and by the more recent growth of Labour for Independence: voting Yes is NOT a vote for Alex Salmond nor indefinite SNP governments.  

It is not a vote for the SNP implementation of a 1% pay cap, nor for their failure to defy all Westminster public sector budget cuts with a clarion call for mass rebellion to win back some of the billions stolen from Scotland's budget. It is certainly not a vote to cut Corporation Tax by up to 3% whilst promising very welcome social reforms. 


It is a vote for democracy. For the actual right to choose and elect your preferred government. To then fight for measures like a decent living minimum wage for all at 16, with equal pay for women. For repeal of the anti-union laws devised by Thatcher, kept by New Labour, added to by the current Coalition, and with no prospect of being removed by any future Labour government. 
For public ownership of not only Royal Mail - as pledged by the SNP White Paper - but also of energy, transport and banking as demanded by the likes of the SSP and TUFI.  

 In other words, voting Yes is a means to a very desirable end: it opens the path to vast improvements in the rights and living standards of the working class of Scotland - which have absolutely no prospect of being achieved under a Miliband government let alone some computation of the Tories, LibDems or UKIP.
The Yes supporters within the Society of Radiographers have captured the choices facing workers perfectly in their graphic (see at top of this article). 


As Shakespeare wrote, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune." And in the affairs of women, of course!
The tide is turning in the trade union ranks towards the gains to be made and organised for by winning a Yes vote in September.  

That's why trade union leaders like those of the GMB - who foisted their union's support for the No camp on members - are now desperately seeking distance from the Tory-funded but Labour-fronted Better Together campaign. 

For instance, when several union branches have approached Better Together for a speaker to debate the issues at members' meetings they are often offered people like Richard Leonard, GMB Scottish political officer (and member of the so-called Red Paper Collective, which makes grandiose claims to put class before nationality) who then insists he is no part of Better Together! 

That's also why the Scottish UNISON leadership have firmly resisted offers of UK UNISON funds from fake-left general secretary Dave Prentis to join the Better Together cabal.
And it's also the fundamental reason the giant UNITE union has pointedly refused to join Better Together. 


Every trade unionist who supports independence should redouble their efforts to push this tide forward. 
The Yes Scotland campaign should go beyond the limits of the SNP White Paper and forcefully broadcast - as a bare minimum - the opportunity to repeal the anti-union laws; ensure the best workplace rights in Europe; achieve a living minimum wage for all over 16; and win democratic public ownership of Royal Mail, transport, energy and banking in order to create well-paid and secure jobs for all.  

Workers have suffered too many privations at the hands of the capitalist overlords of Whitehall and Westminster. We need to fight for the hearts and minds of the 630,000 Scottish trade unionists - and those workers too terrified by anti-union laws and anti-union employers to become members - with a vision of the "fortune" available to the working class, provided we organise not only for a Yes vote but also for radical changes in favour of the millions rather than the millionaires.

Thursday, 6 February 2014


The Scottish Socialist Party is joining thousands of tenants and workers hammered by the Bedroom Tax in celebrating it's effective burial in Scotland.

We warmly welcome the decision by the Scottish government to increase funding to the full £50m required to pay for every tenant's bedroom tax, either through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) or some similar mechanism, should the Westminster government's Department for Work and Pensions carry out their threat of blocking the additional £15m top-up of DHP funds.
This will lift a heavy rock from the shoulders of 85,000 Scottish families directly hit, as they will no longer have to fork out an average £14 a week, usually from a pitiful £71 a week benefit, with the dread of eviction haunting them.


For the past 15 months the SSP has been at the heart and head of the anti-bedroom tax movement, alongside tenants in the No2BedroomTax campaign, trade unionists hit by cuts to wages and jobs passed on by local Housing Association chiefs, and thousands of ordinary people desperate to bin this abomination of a tax on the poorest.
We've conducted countless street stalls every week all over Scotland; held numerous SSP public meetings; spoken alongside others in No2BedroomTax campaign meetings; helped build networks of local people to prevent any threat of evictions; helped build the mighty No2BedroomTax demos last March and later outside the LibDem UK Conference in Glasgow.


Since late 2012 we consistently argued on the streets for its immediate abolition - at a time when most people at first didn't know what we were talking about! - as a vicious and totally unjustified attack on the poorest, which caused family upheaval, hunger, poverty and stress in dread of evictions, and even drove several people to suicide. The Tory-LibDem Coalition MPs who imposed this have blood on their hands!

Whilst fighting for its abolition, the SSP were the first to also broadcast a package of immediate steps that should be taken by those in power at council, local housing association and Scottish parliament levels - to mitigate the impact, whilst calling on the Labour and SNP politicians to join and build a mass rebellion of working class people for its immediate abolition.
We organized demonstrations and lobbies of councils and housing associations demanding 'No Evictions' and for reclassification of rooms so as to remove people from bedroom tax liability.
Our persistence and repeated street protests led to North Ayrshire being the first council in Scotland to pledge both these steps, at least partially, to mitigate the impact.
We lobbied and convinced some local housing associations to adopt the same policies.
We fought alongside others for the Scottish government to ban all evictions nationally, thereby also protecting local housing association tenants.


Since Christmas 2012 the SSP simultaneously argued and campaigned - later in tandem with NO2BedroomTax campaigners - for the Scottish government to fund the shortfall, the estimated £50m this year, to remove all fear of evictions or excuses for cuts to jobs, pay and services by cash-starved social landlords.
And it was the SSP, through the online petition I launched on behalf of the party, accompanied by thousands of petitions collected at SSP street stalls, that helped put Ed Miliband and his Labour MPs at Westminster on the spot, demanding they move an immediate emergency Motion to abolish the Bedroom Tax. 
To their eternal shame, when they were pressurized into doing this by the growing rebellion of working class people against the Tax, 47 Labour MPs (ten of them from Scottish seats) didn't bother turning up to vote for Labour's own Motion for its abolition. Presumably because these Labour Bedroom Tax deserters regard the issue as far too trivial ("wee things" as Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont might phrase it!) to bother attending parliament to vote on!


In all the day and daily battling by the SSP, No2BedroomTax campaign, and ordinary tenants organised in local anti-bedroom tax groups, two of the most frequently asked questions were: "Will this do any good?" and "Do you think we can ever get rid of it?".
The short, proven answer to both is a resounding Yes!
Organized 'people power' has pounded the politicians into action - eventually.
Everyone who signed a petition, attended a public meeting, joined a protest lobby or march, and especially those who gave up much of their personal time to hold meetings, deliver leaflets, advise people - this selfless army of volunteers forced the politicians in Holyrood to sit up and listen. They should be proud of themselves.
Protests work - so don't be defeatist!


To their credit the SNP never favored the bedroom tax. But their initial response, a year ago, was to say nothing could be done about it this side of winning independence. 
In some Labour-run councils the SNP moved motions for no evictions, but initially did not do the same in SNP-led councils, until the growing pressure of tenants and the likes of the SSP on the ground shifted them into a declaration by Alex Salmond at the SNP conference that no SNP council would evict.
At Scottish government level the SNP never agreed to ban evictions, limiting their position to 'encouraging' councils to find other solutions.


Labour's overall record is frankly shameful, inexcusable. They did nothing to denounce, resist and mobilize against the Bedroom Tax when it was passed as law in Westminster - in fact it was the previous Labour government that themselves introduced a diluted version of the same punishment towards private sector tenants, through the Local Housing Allowance, whilst refusing to cap the obscenely high private landlords' rents.
Labour councillors refused to pledge 'no evictions'; they defeated the first ever motion lodged in any Scottish council with that and other demands to mitigate the impact, moved by SSP councillor Jim Bollan in West Dunbartonshire. 
In fact, in Labour-run North Lanarkshire council they tried to evict a severely disabled mother for arrears, only halting the procedure after uproar from local anti-bedroom tax campaigners. 
And in South Ayrshire council, where Labour is in coalition with the Tories, they issued letters threatening not only eviction for bedroom tax arrears but also the snatching of children (by social services) from the families unable to pay up!


It took the Labour leadership up until their September 2013 UK conference before they dropped and reversed their talk of keeping an amended Bedroom Tax if elected to government in 2015.
And even their latter-day conversion to calling for the Scottish government to fund the £50m shortfall seems driven by tribal party politics, an attempt to embarrass the SNP, rather than a genuine commitment to standing up for tenants and workers - especially given their track record on benefit cuts in government, and their attempts to evict bedroom tax victims.


In contrast to Labour, the SSP has not only consistently argued and publicly campaigned for the SNP government to cough up the £50m to remove all the effects of the bedroom tax, but we've also always argued this should not be at the expense of other services. We have persistently argued Holyrood should pay up the £50m AND mount a mass campaign demanding the money back off Westminster -  mobilising tenants, trade unionists and the vast army of Scots who hate a tax they are not even directly affected by. As we've put it, "Give us back our stolen billions".


And that is the down side of the decision by the Scottish government to fund all tenants' bedroom tax payments through DHP (or a homelessness prevention fund if Westminster blocks the £15m breach of the cap they imposed on DHP payments).
It is a totally welcome, almighty victory for those affected by it and those who fought it. But the money has to come from the block grant issued to Scotland by Westminster under the current devolution set-up. From a block grant slashed already by at least £10billion over the past 4 years - with another £4billion of cuts threatened by Westminster via dismantling of the so-called Barnett Formula should we vote No to independence in September.
So the straitjacket of devolution means the Scottish government robbing 'Peter to pay Paul' - which is why the SSP has always demanded the £50m to underwrite the bedroom tax bills facing tenants who simply don't have the money to pay it, but also advocated a mass campaign to win back that funding off the thieves in Westminster who have stolen not just £50m, but £billions off Scottish services, jobs and wages through their control of the purse strings. 


Furthermore, that's why the SSP has openly linked the battle to bin the bedroom tax with the need for independence. Free of the Westminster Old-Etonian millionaires' government, Scotland would never have introduced such an obnoxious tax. After all, 91 per cent of Scotland's MPs - for all their other manifold shortcomings! - voted against it's introduction, but Westminster's unelected majority imposed it.

An independent Scotland opens the door to reshaping the entire benefits and welfare system in a fashion that supports people in need - the sick, disabled, elderly, children or unemployed - with a decent living income and comprehensive support services - funded by taxation of the rich and big business.
It would allow the Scottish working class majority the opportunity to elect a government of the genuine left that could initiate a programme of house-building and renovation, creating jobs and apprenticeships as well as tackling the real causes of housing crises, rather than the entirely bogus claims made for the bedroom tax. 
Top-notch, environmentally-sound and affordable public sector housing has to be one of the many central objectives of an independent Scotland, one of the many concrete, compelling reasons for working class people to vote Yes in September.


This is a victory, and it's important to recognize one, as they are not two-a-penny! 
It's a victory for 85,000 families victimized and impoverished by the bedroom tax; for hundreds of social housing staff hammered by cuts to their livelihoods; for the thousands who took to the streets against the Tory Tax; for the army of volunteers who formed into anti-bedroom tax groups and the No2BedroomTax campaign; for the SSP, as the one party that most persistently fought its impact with a package of immediate and long term solutions which we popularized on the streets and in meeting halls throughout 2013.

This is a serious blow to the Westminster government, it's twin Tory parties, and consequently the entire Better Together cabal - Tory-funded, Labour-fronted - that wants to keep us imprisoned in the Westminster jailhouse that still keeps alive this vicious bedroom tax south of the border. 
It is a tremendous boost to all those fighting for its abolition in England and Wales - a living proof that fighting to advance the interests of the Scottish people is a help, not a hindrance, to the betterment of the English and Welsh working class.


Those who won this victory should celebrate, but also demand back the £50m off Westminster, and indeed build up the campaign for the return of the billions of stolen money to save all jobs and public services. 
The simplest and most immediate way to win back the £50m allocated to Bedroom Tax bills by the Scottish government - and to use that money for other, worthwhile services - is to build on this victory and demand the immediate abolition of the Bedroom Tax at Westminster. 
If the same Labour party currently making false claims of credit for this victory are serious, they should force Miliband and his band to propose immediate abolition - and turn up to vote this time! The decision by the Scottish government puts the LibDem partners in Tory crimes even more behind the eight-ball, boosting the chances of getting the bedroom tax scrapped by the only place currently holding that power - Westminster.


Those extraordinary 'ordinary people' who won this victory should register the advantages of having a Scottish government - by definition more susceptible to the pressure and demands of the Scottish people than the remote, aloof Westminster - and join the fray for full-blown self-government.
No more bedroom taxes, no more mass poverty and cuts to services, no more rule by the millionaires in mansions!

Join the SSP in fighting for an independent socialist Scotland that permanently evicts the Tories, not tenants; defends the millions, not the millionaires; the people, not profit.