Scottish elections: no advance for the working class

The elections to the Scottish Parliament on 3 May saw the Labour Party defeated in Scotland for the first time since 1955. Amid electoral incompetence and confusion, which saw the largest number of rejected ballots – 142,000 – in British electoral history, the Scottish National Party (SNP) emerged as the biggest party, winning 47 seats to Labour’s 46. SNP leader Alex Salmond was appointed as First Minister to lead a minority government in coalition with the Greens.

While the defeat of this imperialist, racist Labour Party is to be welcomed, an SNP government will see no real change for the working class in Scotland or for those oppressed by Scottish-owned businesses abroad. The nationalists have received political and financial backing from millionaire capitalists such as RBS chief Sir John Matthewson and Stagecoach owner Brian Souter. The heads of some of Britain’s biggest monopolies only support the SNP because they see an independent Scotland providing better conditions for exploitation and profit-making. The SNP’s manifesto promises to cut corporation tax to just 20% and says it wishes to join the ‘Arc of Prosperity’ which includes Ireland.

 

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Uprising at Shotts prison

On 2 January at least 80 long-term prisoners at Shotts maximum security prison in Scotland staged a mass protest by seizing control of two wings of the gaol for 19 hours. A negotiated end to the ‘disturbance’ eventually took place, indicating a recognition by the authorities that the use of physical force to end the prisoners’ protest would encounter fierce resistance, although the source of the prisoners’ rage remains unresolved.

 

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Scottish prison revolt

On 10 October prisoners at Glenochil high security prison in Stirlingshire, staged what was initially a peaceful protest over repressive conditions. The over-reaction of prison staff, however, almost resulted in the death of prisoners and provoked a general mood of unrest that overwhelmed the administration and led to a total lockdown of the gaol. John Bowden reports.

Prisoners in C Hall began the protest by draping a large banner between windows and barricading themselves into a section of the cellblock. The banner read ‘This is a peaceful protest. Leave our visitors alone, Drew Rutherford.’ Rutherford, a senior security screw and hard-line opponent of prisoners’ rights, had enforced a ‘no physical contact’ policy under the guise of combating drugs. As far as prisoners were concerned, screws supervising visits were encouraged to behave in an oppressive and intimidating way and to actively discourage their family and friends from visiting.

 

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Hands off John Bowden!

On 18 April 2007, after nine months in an open prison and shortly before a parole hearing to decide his suitability for release after 25 years in prison, John Bowden was placed in solitary confinement. The next day he was moved to a closed prison. Nicki Jameson writes.

On the day of John’s transfer the Dundee Courier’s front-page headline proclaimed ‘Castle Huntly killer has terror links’. The article begins: ‘A Castle Huntly prison social worker fears a brutal killer, due for parole in two weeks, has links to terrorists. A report by the social worker claims that low-security inmate John “Ginger” Bowden is in continual contact with “eco-terrorists or paramilitary members” and has received visits from “people involved in terrorism”.’

 

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Scottish prisoner wins battle for medical treatment

On 28 October after nearly two months on hunger strike William Johnston finally won his battle for proper medical treatment. He suffers from a spinal condition and before his imprisonment had a steel support rod inserted into his back. In prison he was effectively taken off painkillers and denied contact with the doctor.

 

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Organising in Scotland

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John Major's announcement of the General Election came a week after 1,000 people in Glasgow's George Square gathered to support the occupation of the City Chambers in protest against the Labour council's cuts budget. Glasgow's Labour councillors - one of whom referred to campaigners against school closures as the great unwashed' -are pushing through cuts which will fall hardest on some of the poorest working class communities in Scotland. Glasgow will lose £80 million and 1,500 jobs; Edinburgh £34 million and 800 jobs; Dundee £8 million and 100 jobs; Aberdeen 1.15 million and 200 jobs. What these figures mean on the ground is vicious.

 

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