After a budget speech that might as well have ended with Alistair Darling announcing to the speaker of the house that it was goodnight and goodbye from the Labour government it seems that the way is being paved for a Tory government and a bosses’ offensive. In Scotland the repercussions from the budget are already having an accentuated effect due to the different political set up of the country; namely the impact of this budget on that of the SNP administration’s at Holyrood.
Alex Salmond got his foot in the day before the proposals were even formally announced, lambasting the so called ‘efficiency savings’ at the STUC annual conference saying, “It’s not efficiency savings, it’s cuts that are being proposed.” He went onto argue that the billions of pounds being spent on the Trident nuclear weapons, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ludicrous Identity Cards scheme could be better used via investment in public services. Who could disagree with him?
The double act was completed when the Scottish Finance Minister, John Swinney, attacked the proposals shortly after they were unveiled. He argued that they amounted to a £500million cut in public expenditure in Scotland. It would seem hard to see how this sum of money, amounting to approximately £100 per person in Scotland, could possibly be found in ‘efficiency savings’ – unless perhaps all the various highly paid consultants, bureaucrats, MPs and MSPs are going to be made more efficient and perhaps even be employed on wages comparable to those that the rest of us are paid. We all know this will never happen. The rich and powerful will always look after their own and these savings will only come at the expense of the users of public services, i.e. all those who can’t afford to go private, and more specifically the workers responsible for the provision of these services.
This austerity budget, on the day Scotland was officially announced to be in recession, is only the beginning – with further savings, allegedly amounting to £9bn a year until 2013-14. With this in mind what was the view of the Scottish Secretary at Westminster? Perhaps some regret at these cuts and sorrow for those who may lose their jobs as a result? Far from it! Apparently the working class in Scotland, along with the rest of Britain, should be glad for the efforts of their government. Mr Murphy explained that in Scotland we had already benefited from the government’s decisions to use £50 billion of our money to bail out ‘our’ banks. I sincerely doubt I am the only one of our readers that feels otherwise!
As in the rest of Britain this budget will only leave the workers and youth of Scotland angry and asking where their bail-out is. However, we also have to contend with the added danger of this mood being opportunistically seized upon by the nationalist administration. As most of their funding comes directly from Westminster, they can quite easily pass the blame for any cuts onto the British government. This situation could change somewhat as the Calvin commission has recently concluded, arguing in favour of borrowing powers for the Scottish Government. However, the SNP are not from the same class struggle tradition as the militant Labour Council in Liverpool in the 1980s which stood up to the Thatcher government and inaugurated an extensive program of social spending. We have no faith in this gang of big business backed opportunists. They won’t defy Westminster and press ahead with a program of investment and job creation. No matter how much the SNP bleat on about Scotland running its own economy, the fact is that Scotland is tied hand and foot to the budget decisions made in 11 Downing Street and boardrooms in the city of London.
Capitalism cannot even provide us with the most basic of services or jobs and a living wage for all yet trillions has been found to bail out the bankers who caused this crisis. The nationalists hold no answers, as their opportunist maneuvering from one issue to the next only reveals all the more starkly on each occasion. Clearly it is only through ending the anarchy of this crisis ridden system that any way forward can be found.