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Wednesday 3 December 2014

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Scottish TUSC sets out plans for 2015 elections

The Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) steering committee is meeting in early December to get down to details on plans for the 2015 Westminster elections. This follows a successful 70-strong conference in November of Scottish TUSC to discuss the way forward following the independence referendum.

Despite the huge working class vote in the referendum for Yes, which was a revolt against austerity and the political establishment, the cuts juggernaut has continued. That's why the conference voted unanimously to stand candidates in the 2015 Westminster elections on an uncompromising anti-cuts platform

In the days running up to the conference a series of shocking reports emerged about the scale of the planned cuts to public services in Scotland.

Local government services will be decimated if these cuts go ahead. Platform speaker Brian Smith, secretary of Glasgow City Unison and a Socialist Party Scotland member, commented "Glasgow's Labour council is planning for £100 million in cuts between now and 2017. This is reflected across all Scottish councils. In total 50,000 jobs have been lost since 2010 in public services in Scotland, and another 60,000 job cuts are planned. We must be able to support politicians who will refuse to make these cuts, set needs budgets, and stand-up for working class communities".

RMT fully on board

Gordon Martin, Scottish organiser of the RMT union who are one of the supporting organisations of TUSC, also spoke from the platform. Gordon pointed out that the late Bob Crow helped to establish TUSC in 2010 and that the RMT had for the last three years voted to be part of the TUSC project. The newly elected general secretary of the RMT Mick Cash has also pledged to continue with the industrial and political strategy pioneered by Bob Crow. Gordon said; "All the politicians in Scotland, whether Labour, the SNP or the Tories have failed us. That's why standing our own candidates is so important".

John McInally, vice president of the PCS civil service union and who sits on the TUSC steering committee, explained that austerity was a political choice by politicians and all the parties who were defending capitalism. "Labour are in a long-term crisis in Scotland as we see by the resignation of Johann Lamont. If Blairite Jim Murphy is the answer to this crisis, we're asking the wrong question". "A Labour government led by Ed Miliband will continue with Tory austerity. TUSC is planning to stand 100 candidates in the general election next May to offer a pro public ownership, anti-cuts alternative to the establishment parties".

The theme of whether socialists and trade unionists should support the SNP was taken up by a number of speakers. Jim McFarlane, secretary of Dundee City Unison, reminded the conference that Dundee delivered the biggest Yes majority in Scotland in the referendum. Yet within a week the SNP-led council announced a further £8 million in cuts. "This week has seen that figure become the tip of the iceberg. Now cuts of four times that, a full £30 million plus, are being prepared between now and 2017. They will decimate public services in Scotland's Yes city. This cannot go unchallenged".

A leading Unison health trade unionist pointed out that the cuts in the NHS in Scotland were having a devastating impact. Thousands of shifts are being worked in Scottish hospitals with lower than the guideline minimum numbers of staff. So-called 'efficiency savings' have led to record numbers of non-filling of vacancies.

Angela McCormick, a college lecturer and a member of the Socialist Workers Party, pointed out the reality of the cuts to colleges in Scotland by the SNP government. Thousands of college places for part-time courses have been axed, particularly impacting on working class women seeking to return to education.

No support for cuts candidates

Because they are passing on the cuts a vote for the SNP or a so-called Yes Alliance in May next year, an idea put forward by a number of left organisations and individuals in Scotland, cannot be supported. While all the organisations that take part in TUSC in Scotland, including the RMT, called for a Yes vote in the referendum, there can be no support given to candidates who are not prepared to call for non-implementation of Tory cuts. Instead a resolution was passed committing TUSC to standing candidates in the 2015 elections.

TUSC candidates would stand on a pledge of "refusing to carry through cuts by setting no cuts needs based budgets", as well as socialist policies like public ownership, an end to anti-union laws and a living wage.

Significantly, leaders of the most combative and fighting trade union organisations in Scotland attended Saturday's conference. Not only is TUSC supported by the RMT as a national union but a number of leading members of the PCS Scottish Committee also took part, with the conference being chaired by Cheryl Gedling, a PCS NEC member. In addition the leadership of left wing Unison branches including Glasgow and Dundee also support TUSC and attended the conference. Also taking part were community and anti-cuts activists, including from the successful anti-bedroom tax campaign in areas like Castlemilk and Easterhouse.

TUSC will be holding a conference in late February to finalise its manifesto and list of candidates for the general election in Scotland. In the meantime the expanded steering committee will be writing to trade union organisation, socialist groups and others to invite them to take part in building a principled electoral challenge to austerity in May 2015.