For the week of the 26th of June, the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) branch at Edinburgh College were on strike. They were out in solidarity with one of their comrades, Kevin Scally, who has been subject to a brutal campaign of bullying from college management, resulting in him being made redundant.
Humza Yousaf has been elected leader of the SNP, and will be Scotland’s next First Minister after securing a narrow victory in the party’s messy leadership election.
Yousaf narrowly beat Kate Forbes in the final vote, 52% to 48%. Despite the controversy surrounding Forbes’ socially conservative views, and the de facto ‘continuity candidate’ status of Yousaf, the race was much closer than anticipated.
This leadership contest sparked turmoil in the party after Sturgeon’s sudden exit. The idea that the party would then democratically decide its future backfired immensely, revealing the divisions within the SNP and the bankruptcy of its leading politicians.
Throughout the short two-week campaign, a palpable anxiety among SNP members was rising. A trio of mediocre politicians had stepped forwards to offer platitudes and hollow promises to the public, while sniping at each other and recklessly raising criticisms of their own government.
Then the party HQ was engulfed in the scandal, as the party boss Peter Murrell resigned over his attempt to conceal the party membership figure. Murrell has been responsible for several irregularities while heading the party bureaucracy. His interim replacement Mike Russell candidly described the situation in the party as a “mess”.
Sturgeon was compelled to deny this was the case, calling the crisis “growing pains”. As the membership figures finally revealed, however, quite the opposite is true! Since the last Westminster General Election in 2019, the SNP membership has declined by 43%.
This represents a significant drop from the party’s peak popularity, and a possible hollowing out of the party ranks. The SNP may still be the largest party in Scotland by a big margin, but there is clearly a rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for the party.
Overall, the contest has underlined the crisis in Scottish nationalism. The cause of independence has been led into a dead end by Sturgeon and the previous leadership clique that is now departing. The SNP leaders’ ‘strategy’ — if you could call it that — to pressure the Tories in Westminster into granting a second independence referendum has failed.
These constitutional methods were always bound to fail, dependent as they were on the consent of the ruling class and their Tory representatives.
This impasse has demoralised many in the movement. Local groups such as Airdrie for Independence have withered over the years despite continued SNP election victories. They now see an independent Scotland as far away as it was in 2014, and see pressing issues like the cost of living cutting across the independence question.
Humza Yousaf does not offer much hope. While in his victory speech he appealed to ‘no more hollow promises’, he still felt obliged to claim “we will be the generation” to achieve independence for Scotland. His only proposal to make this happen, however, is to continue on the same path that has led nowhere.
This cynicism and dishonesty is just the start. As well as claiming the mantle of leading the independence movement, Yousaf will also have to wield the austerity axe. Already the Scottish Government has announced over £1.2 billion in cuts at Holyrood, while local councils across the country follow suit with cuts to budgets and jobs.
In the past period, the SNP could afford to hide their austerity measures to a certain degree by pushing minor reforms like the baby box scheme, increases to certain benefits, eliminating prescription fees etc. This policy is no longer possible, as the economy shrinks and the narrow margins of Holyrood’s budget get even narrower.
The SNP is coming up against the limits of its reformism, which are the very real limits of capitalism in an epoch of crisis. Tory-style austerity cuts, counter-reforms and battles with the working class are on the horizon. Already the Scottish Government has been beset by strikes and potential industrial action, as it imposes derisory pay offers on some of the lowest paid.
The SNP’s petty-bourgeois leaders will not be able to govern as before, channelling a certain amount of discontent against the status quo into their own support base as they did in the past with Tory austerity, Brexit, and of course independence. Increasingly the class anger rising in Scotland will be directed against them, and they will have to contend with it.
More and more workers and young people are realising that they should not put any trust in the likes of Nicola Sturgeon or Humza Yousaf — either to fight for the democratic right of self-determination, or for the interests of the working class in Scotland.
Instead, we must fight on our own terms and with our own programme: for a Scottish Workers’ Republic and world socialist revolution!
As a primary school teacher and a rep, I have had the honour of standing shoulder to shoulder with teachers across Scotland these past months, fighting for a fair wage and proper funding for education.
The picket lines outside schools grew in number and in size with every strike day, as the majority of teachers like me took part in their first strike action. I have seen our union branches come together, not only to discuss the current struggle for fair wages, but to begin thinking about the underfunding and workload issues which plague our schools and the changes needed so that we have an education system which is fit for purpose for our students.
Every day the industrial action grew in strength and momentum, despite efforts by the Scottish Government and the media to pit parents and other workers against us. We had visits from binmen, posties, parents, nurses, builders, and lecturers on my picket line — all who braved the cold early morning weather to offer their solidarity and support to our struggle. There is a strong feeling in our schools and in our communities that no worker should be forced to take a pay cut, and we all have a duty to support those on strike.
That is why it was disappointing on Friday evening to hear that strike action was cancelled in light of a new offer which is apparently only 0.5% better than the last rejected proposal. In fact, when we take into account the new deal would be over a longer time scale, it is equivalent to the last one EIS rejected: 11.5% over 24 months is 0.48% per month, while 13.5% over 28 months is also just 0.48% per month. Instead of a real pay rise, this is already a 6% pay cut, and means in the long-term teacher pay will have declined by 30% since 2008.
This doesn’t even account for the fact that this deal locks us in for 2.5 years, and in this time period we have no idea what might happen with inflation. The world economy is in an extremely volatile state at the moment, with the entire capitalist system mired in crisis. It is highly probable that inflation could spike once again, threatening many teachers with a precarious financial situation.
In the long run, if pay continues to fall this will create a massive teacher recruitment and retention crisis, leading to staff shortages and huge class sizes.
Another issue with this offer is that it moves future pay negotiations to August instead of April. The union argues that this is a positive change because it moves our pay negotiations to a different time from other public sector workers’. Does this mean we should see other workers as competitors for pay?
Instead of trying to separate ourselves we should be linking up with nurses, cleaners, social workers, and civil servants. Through uniting and taking joint strike action we can fight the government’s attempts to suppress wages and ensure that all public sector workers get at least an inflation-value pay rise, this year and in the future. This movement could combine with unions in the private sector to fight for the interests of all working class people.
The Scottish Government and COSLA have told us this is the best offer we are going to get, that there is no money left. Have they not been saying this since February last year when they offered us a measly 2%? Obviously, it was a lie. Since then more money has been magically ‘found’ and more money can and will be ‘found’ if we are willing to fight for it.
Nor should we forget that Britain is one of the richest countries in the world, and there is no reason why teachers should be underpaid or schools underfunded in Scotland. While public sector workers have come under attack, the energy companies have been given free rein to line their pockets with bumper profits. In 2022 alone BP made £23 billion and Shell made £32 billion in profit.
This fortune is almost equal to Holyrood’s entire budget! Or, about 2% of it could be used to fill the £1 billion ‘black hole’ in council budgets across Scotland. The point is, it would be more than enough money to fund a significant pay rise for all public sector workers, as well as provide a huge injection of cash that schools, hospitals, and the social care sector desperately need.
The money is there, hoarded by the rich. Yet the government have clearly shown that they would rather attack workers than expropriate the big businesses which rob us of the wealth we have created.
We shouldn’t just accept this. Teachers have shown this year that we are willing and able to fight; that we won’t see our wages cut and the quality of education driven into the ground; and that when we stand together, we are strong.
Our union needs to be led with the same determination, by class fighters prepared to unite our struggles with those of all workers against capitalist austerity — and for a socialist programme to expropriate the billionaires and put the needs of people first.
I believe that we can win a real pay rise if we continue to fight. That is why I am voting to reject the current offer.
As the Tory party continues to self-destruct and anger about the cost-of-living crisis builds, public support for striking workers has only grown. Many bourgeois commentators are attributing this to the ‘Mick Lynch effect’: the RMT leader has gone from an obscure trade union official to a household name in the matter of months.
On Friday 31st July and Monday 1st August 40,000 BT and Openreach workers in the CWU are going on strike for the first time in over 35 years. Revolution Scotland supporters joined workers on the picket line at the BT office Alexander Bain House in Glasgow to show their solidarity and talk to the workers involved in this historic strike. The workers who were interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous to protect them from repercussions by management.
The RMT has begun a major industrial ballot, involving over 40,000 rail workers across Network Rail (NR) and 15 train operating companies (TOCs). This follows on from the successful ballot of 13,000 workers at Transport for London.
If successful, this will result in “potentially the biggest rail strike in modern history”, according to the RMT.
On 11 May, the Victoria Biscuit Works, a biscuit factory in Tollcross in the east end of Glasgow, was earmarked for closure by its owners Pladis. This is a move which puts the jobs, and livelihoods, of hundreds of workers under threat, and represents a flagrant attack upon the working people of Glasgow by the capitalist class.
On 2 February, UCEA (the Universities and Colleges Employers Association) made a final pay offer to UCU members in higher education (HE) of an insulting 0% pay rise for the coming year; in other words, a real-terms pay cut.
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