SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Socialism Today 92 - June 2005

Scotlandís vote

THE SWING against New Labour across Britain was also reflected in Scotland where New Labour lost 4.5% of its 2001 vote and five MPs, with the Lib Dems being the main beneficiaries. Their vote increased by over 6% putting the Lib Dems in second place in both the number of seats and share of the vote in Scotland.

Interestingly, the anti-war protest vote went mainly to the Liberals and not the Scottish National Party (SNP) who were pushed into third place, as their share of the vote fell by 2.5% to below 18%. It was the lowest share for the SNP since 1987 and, despite hoping for a bigger impact under their newly elected leader Alex Salmond, the fourth election in a row since 1999 where they have lost support. The SNP did however win six MPs in total, defeating Labour MPs in Dundee East and the Western Isles.

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), which the CWI in Scotland is part of, stood in 58 of the 59 Scottish seats. Nationally the SSP won 42,000 votes (1.9%) of the vote compared to the 72,000 votes (3.1%) the party won in 2001.

In Glasgow, where the SSP has two members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs), the vote fell to 4% from 6.8% in 2001. Unlike four years ago when the SSP held nine deposits (5% or more of the vote) out of the then ten constituencies in Glasgow, this time only one deposit out of the seven new Glasgow seats was secured. In Glasgow, the Greens polled higher than the SSP candidates in the four seats that they contested. In Edinburgh, where the SSPís national convenor Colin Fox is an MSP, the SSP vote fell to 1.48%. The Greens picked up an anti-establishment vote by winning 4.88% across the city.

CWI members stood in six seats for the SSP. Ronnie Stevenson won 1,303 votes in Glasgow South (3.4%), the eighth highest share of the vote for the SSP. In Dundee, the SSP polled just over 2%, with Jim McFarlane in Dundee West securing 994 votes (2.7%) and Harvey Duke 538 votes (1.4%) in Dundee East. Jimís vote was joint 12th highest for the SSP out of 58 seats contested.

For the SSP, with a national profile and six MSPs in the Scottish parliament, this result is a setback. This was the first electoral test for the party since the events surrounding Tommy Sheridanís resignation as SSP convenor in November last year.

Without doubt this was a significant factor in the drop in support for the SSP, alongside the swing amongst a section of voters to the Lib Dems and to an extent the Greens (who stood in 19 seats in Scotland), in order to punish New Labour. Despite our political differences with him, the CWI has argued that Tommy Sheridan has significant authority amongst the working class in Scotland. We explained at the time that the actions of the SSP leadership, which effectively forced his resignation, would damage the standing of the party. It would also put a question mark in the minds of workers and young people as to the future viability of the SSP.

Despite this setback the CWI believes that the SSP can recover and move forward. There are big opportunities for the SSP around the G8 summit in July. The third-term New Labour government will see an unprecedented attack on the working class. Under these conditions the SSP can rebuild its support. However, this means there is a big responsibility on the SSP leadership to draw all the lessons from some of the mistakes of the past period. Above all it requires the SSP to turn outwards to the working class and young people with a fighting programme to combat New Labourís assault and advance a clear international socialist alternative to capitalism.

Philip Stott,

International Socialists, Dundee


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