Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/736/15349
Scotland: Lamont throws Labour Party into crisis
Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland
On the eve of the UK Labour Party conference, Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, threw the party north of the border into a crisis after calling for an end to the "something for nothing culture" in Scotland.
Supported by Ed Miliband, in Lamont's sights were free tuition for Scottish students, free prescriptions, the council tax freeze, free personal care for the elderly and free travel for pensioners.
In other words almost every relatively progressive policy that has been introduced by the Scottish parliament, many of them by the Scottish National Party (SNP).
According to Lamont, universally available benefits have to end and a return to means testing, in these times of austerity, is vital to ensure the undeserving "don't get what they don't need".
Her announcement to establish what has been dubbed a "cuts commission" to look into unpicking these hugely popular policies is a desperate attempt to attack the SNP.
Lamont could have taken the SNP head on for their utter capitulation to the Con-Dem austerity agenda.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and finance minister John Swinney have passed on almost £4 billion in cuts to the people of Scotland over the last three years.
Cuts to local government have cost more than 30,000 jobs. Scotland's public sector workers have seen years of pay freezes under the SNP.
She could have demanded, as championed by the Socialist Party and the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition, a return of the billions stolen from working class communities to pay for the bailout of the bankers and big business.
Instead, Labour's leader has signalled her support for a vicious extension of the cuts agenda and the tearing up of those modest but important advances that still survive in Scotland.
In doing so she could also sound the death knell of Labour in Scotland, particularly if these policies were to form the basis of Labour's platform in the run up to the 2014 independence referendum.
Labour suffered a catastrophic defeat to the SNP in the 2011 elections to the Scottish parliament - their worst election result in 80 years.
This desperate embracing of right-wing, anti-working class policies, has already produced consternation among trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party and some resignations from Scottish Labour.
It has also allowed the SNP leadership to pose as defenders of progressive policies that "protect the poor and the working class".
Just days after his budget that deepened the cuts, Swinney described Lamont as "Osborne in a kilt" after he himself was rightly described as such by the PCS and other unions.
Not surprisingly, the Tories and a host of right-wing commentators have enthusiastically welcomed this huge lurch to the right.
Tory leaders in Scotland, Murdo Fraser and Ruth Davidson, welcomed Lamont's conversion to "their cause."
The Spectator magazine, a bastion of right-wing ideology, was over the moon at Lamont's declaration of war against the "something for nothing" culture.
This speech, alongside Scottish Labour's 'Faustian pact' with the Con-Dems devil in the anti-independence 'Better Together' campaign, will undermine further Labour support in Scotland, in particular among the working class.
The crying need for a mass working class party that is prepared to fight the cuts, advocate public ownership, radical wealth redistribution and socialism has never been more important.
We would appeal to all those who support these ideas to join with the Socialist Party Scotland. While building our party we have also been working consistently with anti-cuts campaigners, socialists and trade unionists as part of the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Lamont's speech underlines again the dead-end that Labour represents for those trade unions that are affiliated to the party.
The need to break from Labour and help launch a new working class party that will oppose austerity tooth and nail, whether from the Con-Dems or their SNP and Labour helpers, is now urgent.
In The Socialist 3 October 2012:
Education news & analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaigning
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party news and analysis