The Point
Last updated: 07 December 2018. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Is There Hope For The Left In Scotland?


There are plenty of campaigns and plenty of left groups fighting them. It seems that identifying a common enemy is one thing but unity of purpose is another. Shirley Gibb asks the question, “Is there hope for the left in Scotland?”




Not even the most evangelical socialist could deny that the left in Scotland is in a mess.

Since the implosion of the Scottish Socialist Party in 2006 there has been a return to the unfortunate tendency of people on the left to form a multitude of small disparate groups which are at best dismissive of, and at worst antagonistic to, each other.

In its glory days, the SSP managed the astonishing feat of uniting such groups, and also attracted many previously non-political people who liked its ideals and policies. With six MSPs in Holyrood, and a string of successful campaigns and events, anyone involved at that time has cherished memories of being part of something very special.

The split that occurred was upsetting for all concerned and resulted in a dispersal of members.   Some remained in the SSP, some moved to Solidarity, some went their own way, no longer wanting to be part of any official political group.

There are however a lot of people out there whose vision of an Independent Scotland is one of a progressive, centre left country, and to achieve this will require them working together.

At the moment the SSP, Solidarity (and its component parts the SWP and the Socialist Party of Scotland) and the International Socialist Group (ISG) are the main players. They all have their strengths but as separate organisations are not going to be big enough to present themselves as a credible electoral option in an Independent Scotland.

Some of their current policies are good. Solidarity is running a campaign against the Bedroom Tax, which hopefully might attract people not yet involved in politics to take an interest in the awful policies being implemented by the UK Government. The campaign is fronted by Tommy Sheridan, who I still think is one of the best politicians Scotland has seen for a long time.

But no individual or small party will be enough to form a government of the left after the referendum. We need a coming together of many groups and individuals.

One very encouraging initiative is the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) which does seem to be attracting large numbers of people from different organisations, and none. Their Conference last year saw hundreds attending.

Of course some think the SNP itself could be the answer. It is however a strange mixture of left and right, which will not appeal to all, if many, socialists.

A newspaper called Scots Independent, whose contributors are SNP members, reads like a leftwing publication. In its most recent issue, the front page is a strong objection to David Cameron's plans to celebrate the start of World War 1. On page 2 Richard Thomson has a good article on welfare cuts and says:

A country which sees growing inequality as a price worth paying for the prosperity of the very few, which makes a fetish of corporate interests -------- and which sees the least well off as fair game when it comes to paying for the sins of bankers and regulators , is no country for me.

That's why I’m voting for something better next year.”

Stuart Maxwell on Education is also interesting..

A read of this paper would make anyone on the left think the SNP might be a good home for them.

The trouble is the membership seem to be further to the left than the leadership. For in amongst such views as the above, one has to consider the SNPs desire to cultivate big business, and to remain in NATO.   Other issues are worrying, like their association with ATOS, the company tasked with assessing claimants of disability benefit, which has been roundly condemned by disability organisations and others for forcing people back to work who are not able to cope. A huge number of appeals have been upheld.

So where does this leave us? With a clear need for one organisation that can unite the left. Not easy, given the mistrust and rancour that still exists between those who lived through the SSP split.

Perhaps the RIC will come to the rescue. Let's hope someone or something does. The vast majority of people I know who are going to vote Yes want a fairer, more equal, caring society, not a richer more powerful one. We need a Party in waiting which will aim to create such a nation.


External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books