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Voices Of Scotland: Our choice isn’t between anti-worker policies made at Holyrood or at Westminster

The Covid-19 crisis has shown the SNP is not an alternative to the Tories — we need a new working-class movement to fight them both, writes JOHNNIE HUNTER, general secretary of the Young Communist League

DESPITE being less vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus as a group, young people in Scotland — and indeed Britain as a whole — have been acutely affected by the pandemic.

Even before the scale of the threat we faced had become fully apparent and wide-ranging measures were taken, young people in Scotland faced grim and uncertain times.

For the vast majority the chance of a dignified life and an optimistic future seemed remote. One in four children in Scotland grow up in poverty.

The pandemic, as well as inflicting tens of thousands of tragedies and tearing families apart, has exposed the inhumanity of the capitalist system and its inability to protect the lives of working people.

Boris Johnson’s Tory Party are continuing the same neoliberal, anti-working class, austerity politics which we have suffered under for over a decade now.

They have been criminally negligent in failing to protect Britain’s workers during this pandemic, choosing to prioritise profit over people’s lives.

One could be forgiven, however, for thinking that by contrast Scotland’s SNP administration under Nicola Sturgeon has handled the crisis effectively.

Some of the more crass commentators have even talked about the First Minister having a “good pandemic.”

This is the line trumpeted by Sturgeon, her party and sympathetic media. The assertion, however, simply doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny.

The crux of their argument seems to be simply that because Scotland has a slightly lower rate of excess deaths associated with the virus than England under Johnson, the devolved administration must be doing an excellent job.

Scotland still has one of the worst death rates in the world — worse than in Wales and the North of Ireland

It is dangerous territory when anything shy of Tory class war and criminal negligence is seen as the acceptable standard, and for too long this is where the SNP has been allowed to flourish.

The Scottish youth and the Scottish people can, should and must demand so much more.

The SNP has tailed Tory Party policy at every turn during this pandemic, the only real difference being more effective messaging and presentation.

It has transpired that the Scottish government knew back in February that there had been a potentially major coronavirus spreading incident at a Nike conference in Edinburgh.

Instead of sounding the alarm bells and implementing a lockdown as advised by the World Health Organisation, they covered up the incident.

It’s now estimated that this could have led to thousands needlessly contracting and dying from Covid-19.

When the SNP eventually agreed to implement a lockdown in conjunction with the British government — which trade unions, civil society and health organisations had already been demanding for weeks — it was on the terms and timescale set down by Johnson’s Cabinet.

The Scottish government now retrospectively argues that it may have liked to have implemented a swifter lockdown but that it simply didn’t have the relevant devolved powers or resources.

Many don’t accept that argument as a matter of fact. It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t an argument made by the SNP at the time.

There hasn’t been any clear explanation of what changes would need to be made to avoid a similar situation arising in future.

It’s another clear example of the SNP using devolution to implement Tory-lite policies and hiding behind the constitutional set-up to displace any blame.

Why? The SNP has the same objectives and the same interests as the Tories at Westminster — not public health but private wealth. What it prioritised was protecting private-sector profits and the value of shares in large Scottish and British firms.

If the lockdown and anti-pandemic measures were a priority for the SNP, we can be assured that it would have been very vocal in making that clear and in identifying how the Westminster government or a lack of powers was restricting it.

It could have been assured of mass and broad-based support if it had set about lobbying the British government to take the necessary steps or to empower the Scottish government to do so. But that wasn’t the case.

This crisis has highlighted lessons for the left in Scotland which we should have learned by now.

The Scottish government can’t be allowed to hide behind the constitutional setup to avoid taking action, essentially picking and choosing when it will act based on ideological grounds but dressed up as a question of law.

The Scottish government has a duty to use devolved powers for the benefit of the Scottish people.

Our standard for acceptable governance in Scotland, or anywhere else in Britain, simply cannot be anything slightly less bad than what the Tories are up to.

If we place ourselves in that box then the right wing and the ruling class have already won.

Scottish government policy should be based on the needs of the Scottish people, not potential scope for media spin, the interests of banks and big business and EU diktat.

Scotland’s communists call for a broad, democratic mass movement based in our trade unions, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and other progressive campaigning groups.

We need a “popular front” against SNP and Tory policies that put the interests of monopoly capital above those of working people.

This alliance can be the basis for winning a radical left-wing programme for public ownership, democratic economic planning and progressive taxation.

Radical change and policies for Scotland are needed as we emerge from this crisis.

Young people in Scotland are weighed down by a decade of Tory and SNP austerity. The pandemic has interrupted educations, careers and lives.

Extensive support for young people must be put in place if we aren’t to have a generation that bears the cost of this pandemic and the coming economic crisis for years to come.

The opportunity is here for the left if we are bold and unified. We can’t afford a return to “normal.” Their normal wasn’t working for working people.

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