Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/392/4444
Scotland - general election 2005
Rebuilding SSP support under a third Labour term
IN SCOTLAND, the opposition to New Labour policies was underlined by a 4.5% fall in their vote to 39.5% compared to the election of 2001.
Philip Stott, CWI, Scotland
As in England and Wales it was the Lib-Dems posing as the main "anti-war" party who were the main beneficiaries, their support increased by more than 6% to 22.6%.
This is despite the fact that in Scotland they are part of the governing coalition with New Labour in the Scottish Executive. The Lib-Dems have championed record levels of privatisation in schools and hospitals in Scotland as well as backing the stock transfer of local authority housing away from council control.
Even their flagship policy of the abolition of tuition fees is in reality a con. In Scotland fees are effectively paid after finishing university in the form of a graduate tax rather than up-front fees.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) failed again to tap into the anti-New Labour mood that exists in Scotland and were pushed into third place by the Lib-Dems.
The SNP share of the vote fell by 2.5% to below 18%. It was the lowest share for the SNP since 1987 and was the fourth election in a row where the SNP have lost support since 1999. Despite that they did pick up two seats to end up with six MPs compared with 41 for New Labour and eleven for the Lib-Dems. The Tories flat-lined again with only one MP elected in Scotland.
The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) share of the vote fell from 3.1% to 1.9%. In last year's PR based European election the SSP won 5.2% of the national vote and 6.8% in 2003 for the Scottish parliament elections, when six SSP MSPs were elected.
While the swing to the Lib-Dems and the fact of a first-past-the post election at which the SSP had no chance of winning any seats meant that the SSP vote would have been squeezed, the scale of the drop in support for the SSP was a shock to many activists in the party.
Nationally the SSP won 43,514 votes (1.9%) of the vote compared to the 72,518 (3.1%) the party won in 2001. In Glasgow, where the SSP has two MSPs in the Scottish parliament the vote fell to 4% from 6.8% in 2001.
Unlike four years ago when the SSP held nine deposits (5% or more of the vote), out of the ten constituencies in Glasgow, this time only one deposit out of the seven Glasgow seats was secured (one of two seats nationally). In Glasgow, the Greens polled higher than the SSP candidates in the four seats that the Greens contested.
Ronnie Stevenson, a CWI member, won 1,303 votes in Glasgow South (3.4%). This was the eighth highest share of the vote for the SSP in Scotland.
In Edinburgh, where Colin Fox the SSP's national convenor is an MSP, the SSP vote fell to 1.48%. The Greens picked up an anti-establishment vote by winning 4.88% across the city.
CWI members in Scotland stood in six seats for the SSP. In Dundee the SSP polled just over 2%, with Jim McFarlane in Dundee West securing 994 votes (2.7%) and Harvey Duke polled 538 votes (1.4%) in Dundee East. Jim's vote was joint 12th highest for the SSP out of 58 seats contested. And the highest vote for the SSP in the 25 constituencies that make up the east of Scotland.
For the SSP, with a national profile and six MSPs in the Scottish parliament, this result is a setback. This is the first electoral test for the party since the events surrounding Tommy Sheridan's resignation as SSP convenor in November last year.
Without doubt this was a significant factor in the drop in support for the SSP. Alongside the swing amongst a section of voters to the Lib-Dems and to an extent the Greens (who stood in 19 seats in Scotland and polled higher than the SSP in all of them), in order to kick New Labour.
Despite our political differences with Tommy Sheridan, he has significant authority amongst the working class in Scotland. We explained, at the time, that the actions of the SSP leadership, which effectively forced his resignation, would damage the standing of the party. It could also put a question mark in the minds of workers and young people as to the future viability of the SSP.
Despite this setback the CWI believes that the SSP can recover and move forward.
There are big opportunities for the SSP around the G8 summit in July. The third-term New Labour government will see an unprecedented attack on the working class. Under these conditions the SSP can rebuild its support. However, this means there is a big responsibility on the SSP leadership to draw all the lessons from some of the mistakes of the past period.
Above all it requires the SSP to turn outwards to the working class and young people with a fighting programme to combat New Labour's assault and advance a clear international socialist alternative to capitalism.
In The Socialist 12 May 2005: