The Scottish Committee of the Young Communist League has released the following statement in response to the announcement of the SNP-Green Coalition’s Programme for Government.
The Programme for Government released by Nicola Sturgeon last week is a shamefully weak and hollow plan for the coming year, which reveals the class character of the current Scottish Government. It is a limited list of concessions that the bourgeois state is willing to make. They offer treatment to a few of the symptoms of capitalism, without addressing the root cause of these issues, which is an unjust economic system.
In her speech to Parliament, Sturgeon immediately highlighted where her true loyalties lie when she talks about combating the climate emergency “in a way that captures maximum economic benefit”. This telling turn of phrase is a euphemism for only implementing green policies that don’t threaten the interests of capital. Trying to soften the blow of this climate disaster using only policies that will continue to line the pockets of bankers and business owners is purely superficial, and will never deliver the radical steps needed to protect working people from the effects of climate change.
Sturgeon has attempted to frame this Programme using her own rhetoric of victimhood regarding Brexit. She says they will “mitigate, as far as [they] can, the damaging consequences of Brexit”. This mentality is not the optimism that Scotland needs, and it wilfully ignores the opportunities offered by Brexit. It is unsurprising, given the SNP’s own record in government, that they fail to mention in this Programme the need for nationalisation of public services and key industries that can be pursued with following a break with the anti-democratic and anti-socialist European Union. This goes hand in hand with the SNP’s key policy plank of fully re-entering the EU, and surrendering more powers than ever before to Brussels in the process.
Sturgeon talks of “working with businesses to ensure safe environments for workers and customers”, here again, she reveals from whom it is she takes her lead – she will ask the business owners what they think is best for the workers, but does not mention consulting trade unions. The interests of trade unions are the interests of the workers, the interest of business owners is profit – who would you rather be consulted when it comes to your health, your safety, and your life?
While the YCL welcome the SNP’s commitment to invest more money in Mental Health Services, such investment is of little impact if not used correctly. The current mental health services available to people in Scotland are not only underfunded, but not fit for purpose. As young people ourselves, we know all too well that the response we receive when we seek help for mental health issues is almost always drugs and long waiting lists for treatment. More money to fund ineffective programmes will be fruitless in fighting the epidemic of our generation’s mental health crisis. This Programme also fails to address the material cause of the mental health crisis, and indeed other issues like addiction, and alcohol misuse. The prevalence of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse among young and old people alike, is an inevitability in a society that cannot offer us fairly paid work and affordable homes – a dignified life.
By promising to invest £500 million into the prison estate, the SNP once again fail to tackle the root of the issue, which is what causes crime, and in turn necessitates investment in prisons. Policies to improve the living standards and lives of working people are what is needed in Scotland. Rather than spending vast sums on policing and the justice system to criminalise the victims of poverty and circumstances, progressive policies would also save money by reducing crime and offer a safer community to all.
Instead the SNP plan to expand the prison system, and in fact in this same Programme offer more powers to the police to harass (stop and search) working class people, via the Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill which will allow police to search anyone (realistically, working class football fans) on the street, as long as they have probable cause. In practice the police can find supposed “probable cause” to search anyone, which means this bill gives the police the power to stop and search whomever they please, whenever they please.
Over a quarter of children in Scotland grow up in poverty. The SNP promises to increase the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week. Not only is this far too little in the face of the catastrophic levels of poverty in Scotland, it once again fails to tackle the cause of child poverty. It treats the symptoms, not the cause. Children in Scotland are hungry because their households are afflicted by unemployment, poverty wages, insecure work and unaffordable homes. £20 a week will not change the fact that these children are hungry because the SNP refuses to support workers. The promised “Minimum Income Guarantee” will inevitably not go far enough, and will leave Scottish workers and their children hungry.
This government is promising to build 110,000 “affordable homes” across Scotland. Aside from the fact that the fine print which defines “affordable” leaves a lot to be desired, the SNP have characteristically failed to address the true issue. Today, in Scotland, there exist enough houses to put every family in Scotland a home. We do not need hundreds of thousands of homes built, we need an effective opposition to landlordism – something a party of landlords will never truly offer. The SNP have also failed to commit to a programme of mass council house building and improvement which could address the issues, provide genuinely affordable housing and create tens of thousands of jobs in the process.
The SNP promises to offer support to the tourism industry in the wake of the pandemic. While this may sound progressive, this will manifest itself in such a way that more homes lie empty for months on end, in the form of AirBnBs, while people lie cold in the streets. While tourism is of course and important industry, the SNP seem content to allow the Scottish economy to become more dependent on a narrow rande of industries, rather than investing in jobs, public services and productive industry. In the midst of the COVID19 pandemic we have seen how important it is for our country to have the capacity to be self-sufficient and to actively intervene to guarantee work and livelihood for working people without serving the whims of foreign investment. The over reliance on tourism and other industries is also contradicts their promises to combat the climate emergency, given that air travel is a leading source of carbon emissions. There is no clear explanation in the programme of how the resulting increase would be off set.
A single statement can only scratch the surface of the problems with the SNP-Green Coalition’s Programme for Government, but overall it is clear to us that the SNP will only ever be willing to offer concessions to working people when forced to do so – and when it does not come at too much of an expense (whether it’s long or short term) to the ruling class. Such is the nature of any liberal party. Liberalism is a system opposed to the interests of the workers. True support for the working class can only be delivered by a party of the working class; a socialist party. The SNP and their agenda are hurting Scottish people. and we must become active in our community organisations in order to protect ourselves from them.
This Programme for Government won’t make Scotland “Fairer” or “Greener”. And the reality is that, beyond the warm words of the First Minister, it doesn’t even actually attempt to.
Scotland’s Young Communists are fighting for real change for working people and the youth, including the demands of our Youth Charter:
1. A real living wage and an end to casualisation and age discrimination in pay
2. A new apprenticeship system and real jobs with trade union and employment rights
3. More council housing and private sector rent controls
4. Public transport network cards for young people with capped, affordable prices
5. Free college and university education
6. Free access to government and council cultural, leisure and sports facilities
7. Free access to all NHS Healthcare and improved mental and sexual health services
8. The right to vote at 16
9. An end to all forms of discrimination
10. Fight to prevent climate change
The hope for working people lies in our unity and in our organisation – the trade union, student, tenants and progressive movements.
To achieve real change working people across Scotland must come together to build a mass movement in our communities, workplaces and campuses against austerity, poverty and unemployment and for jobs, housing, healthcare, education and public services.
Young Communist League
17 September 2021