Lochee protests against exploitation and austerity. 'SNP! Hear Us Say – Budget Cuts – No Way!'

On Saturday 7 May history came alive at the protest in Lochee. Dundee against Workfare. Dundee Against Austerity (DAA), the Revolutionary Communist Group, Class War, Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Trades Union Council, Dundee Trades Union and Socialist Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party stood united to condemn workfare exploitation at the Range store.

We were standing on the site of what was once the largest jute mill in the world where Scottish and Irish immigrant workers toiled to make the Baxter, Caird and Cox mill owning families fabulously wealthy. At one point in the 19th Century the densest proportion of millionaires in Europe could be found in the richest suburb of Dundee, Broughty Ferry, many miles from the filth and heat of their factories.

A recent report has highlighted the present 10 years gap in life expectancy between Lochee and the Ferry in the seven miles between them. DAA campaigners have openly condemned the Scottish National Party council's action in setting a wreath around the bust of Sir James Caird on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Fitting then that our protest rallied on Lochee High Street at a modern memorial to Mary Brooksbank, a communist who led unions and unemployed workers in Dundee in the 1920's. In 1968 Mary had sung at the unveiling of the original plaque on the site of James Connolly's birthplace in Little Ireland in the Cowgate, Edinburgh. Her father had worked with James Connolly in organising unions in Dundee and Aberdeen in the 1890's. DAA campaigners were told by locals that a famous photograph of hundreds of predominantly women workers at the mill gates had in fact come about when news of a visit of James Connolly, Irish republican socialist and trade union organiser, reached the factory gates.  

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Scotland: SNP and Labour share out austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 250 April/May 2016

‘This idea that the SNP are going to put an end to austerity is just nonsense.’
David May, independent councillor

Pensioners in Angus have learned the reality of that statement. Service users and their families in the small towns have confronted the SNP-run rural council. Iain Gaul, council leader, argued on BBC Radio Scotland that privatisation was the most effective means of providing care services. The SNP council is seeking £0.5m cuts, and the vulnerable are to bear the cost. So much for the SNP’s claim to be anti-austerity.

Angus Against the Cuts led the opposition. A wee pensioners’ army mounted protests outside council meetings. Supporters from Dundee Against Austerity and the Revolutionary Communist Group joined them. Elderly citizens braved the Scottish winter to demand: ‘Angus Council Hear Us Say – Service Cuts – No Way!’ A 93-year-old woman spoke of this country being a ‘dictatorship’ and recalled the suffering of the last World War after which promises were made about security and welfare.

Despite public assurances that decisions would be reviewed, 28 Tenant Support Officers who help older folks in their homes and in sheltered housing were given formal redundancy notices. Laundry charges, essential for dealing with issues of continence, have been raised and the frequency of critical support services reduced.

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Fighting deportation: exposing the SNP

The Scottish government’s White Paper, published in 2013, proposed that in the event of independence the SNP would end dawn raids, close Dungavel Detention Centre and grant people seeking asylum access to the mainstream welfare system. As it is, immigration law remains a ‘reserved issue’ for Westminster, over which, according to the rules of bourgeois democracy, the Scottish government has ‘no power’. SNP politicians and ministers have repeatedly raised their opposition to inhumane UK immigration policy and proclaimed ‘refugees are welcome here’. However, the reality is that devolved Scottish institutions and public bodies, above all the police, are deeply involved in colluding with the racism of the British state and its associated violence. The apparent outrage of the Scottish government is worthless in the face of Police Scotland’s direct role in carrying out dawn raids and brutalising those who are actually opposing Britain’s racist immigration system.

This collaboration was starkly exposed by recent events in Glasgow. On 21 March, Police Scotland officers and local social workers assisted a Home Office Enforcement Team in carrying out a brutal early morning raid against Beverley Vaanda Kanjii and her 14-year-old son. In the course of the raid, in front of her terrified child, Beverley was handcuffed, dragged across the ground and repeatedly kicked, sustaining serious injuries. After her son refused to board a flight from Glasgow Airport, they were transferred to the Home Office’s Immigration Reporting Centre on Brand Street.

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How SNP government votes for cuts and austerity

On Wednesday 16 December, the Scottish National Party’s John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy, delivered his budget statement to the Scottish parliament. He described it as a ‘Scottish alternative to austerity’. The following week, 7,000 people in the country sought emergency food parcels in the run-up to Christmas Day.

The SNP has positioned itself as a progressive anti-austerity force in Scotland and the United Kingdom. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon proclaimed when she was elected leader in 2015 that her central aim was to tackle poverty. Swinney has now reconfigured the priorities: ‘Critical pillars of Scottish life – our schools, hospitals and police – will not be sacrificed to the Chancellor’s austerity obsession.’ As a consequence, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has estimated that cuts of up to £500 million per year will fall on other areas of spending up to the end of the decade. Cuts to unprotected departments of 2.9% in 2016-17 will rise to 10.7% by 2020.

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Scotland: SNP progressive claims to be tested

‘Both Labour and SNP point left in rhetoric but neither do in action or deeds’

(Gerry Hassan, Scottish Sunday Mail 8 November 2015)

On the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum of September 2014, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Trussell Trust and Oxfam Scotland drew attention to the continuing rise in foodbank usage linked directly to problems with welfare benefits and tax credits. The Scottish government’- that is the Scottish National Party - were urged to do more to address the situation.

A further report in early October by the Child Poverty Action Group showed that 210,000 children across Scotland live in poverty. Each of Edinburgh’s 17 council wards has child poverty rates of more than 10%. Across Edinburgh 21% of children – 15,000 – live in poverty as defined by being in households where income is less than 60% of median household income. In Glasgow’s Easterhouse 40% of children grow up in poverty while 27% of people live with a disability. 940,000 families were living in fuel poverty in 2013, 39% of households.

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