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.

1 comment:

  1. This is a truly historical moment for everyone in Scotland tonight. The Scottish Socialist Party can hold it's head high for leading a vigorous campaign. The people of Scotland who through individual action, joining forces in the No2Bedroom Tax movement and joining the fight with the SSP. Have delivered a blow against the Westminster's Governments pernicious tax. But, lets not forget the people who died at the hands of a government. A government in Westminster that holds Scotland and the working class in contempt. Let's build a better Scotland and go for Independence. Then the road to socialism is open to better the lives of the ordinary people of Scotland. Let us become a beacon of hope to others.


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