If there is no struggle, there is no progress
“We are up against an ideology that sees Scotland as an irritant and the state as their play thing.” Kicking off our General Election series of #newvoices where we’ll hear from candidates across the country, Stewart McDonald, the sole nominee for the SNP in the Glasgow South constituency
With wealth concentrated in fewer hands, legislation drafted to suit the interests of those at the top and a revolving door of access between big corporations and the top tiers of government, it’s clear that Westminster only works for a few. The rest of us get zero hours contracts, lower living standards, longer working hours for less money and less job security. Not to mention the eye-watering increase in those relying on food banks. Now, more than ever, it is obvious to see that the UK government, public institutions and elements of our media exist to serve one constituency and it’s not ordinary working people.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that a Yes vote would have solved all of these problems over night. In creating a new country a new, self-interested establishment would undoubtedly have sought to be born. However there can be no doubt that the architects of the new Scotland that I and many others want to create – including many of those who voted No – were almost always progressive by nature.
The UK establishment may have got the result that they wanted in September, but May is our chance to come back fighting – and fight we must.
Those at the very top of society; financiers; corporations and bankers, have managed to get their feet well and truly under the table over these last five years. Not only has the Coalition Government been their vanguard and cheerleader – illustrated perfectly by George Osborne campaigning across Europe against a financial transactions tax, and threatening to take the European Commission to court if it introduced a tax on banker’s bonuses – but Labour, with very few exceptions, have been a weak opposition allowing them to get away with it. Worse, Labour has accepted elements of establishment dogma which state that we must have austerity, in some form, forever.
Then there is the Conservative-led government’s own ideological battle against the unions. Moves by the Cabinet Office to change the way in which civil service staff pay their union membership – ending check off payments which are deducted alongside your tax and national insurance, and instead making tens of thousands of staff sign up to direct debits – are designed to do one thing: to reduce the influence of ordinary workers and distract unions from their campaign against government cuts to front line services.
The Coalition Government have made it more difficult for working people to get a fair deal in the workplace and more difficult to get justice if unfairly dismissed, with new laws charging people hundreds of pounds to challenge unfair dismissal, sexual or racial harassment in the workplace. The result has been a huge drop in these types of cases being brought forward, and the justice system being turned in to a market that has priced out ordinary people. This is the powerful using their power to make working people voiceless.
Compare this with the approach taken in countries such as Germany, where many boardrooms have directly elected workers and consumer representatives sitting on their boards. This leads to better workplace relations, better productivity and a more democratic economy. Not for us Brits.
I go in to this election with a clear idea of what we are up against and what kind of change we have to offer. We are up against an ideology that sees Scotland as an irritant and the state as their play thing. The SNP will put forward the case for a more democratic economy, a state that works for the many and not the few, and a Scottish Parliament that is genuinely empowered to take forward the interests of the Scottish people on issues such as the environment, youth unemployment and health inequality.
To those who wish to see their country run in the interests of ordinary working people, I ask you to think outside the boundaries that are applied to us by the Westminster parties and the UK media. This is not about a straight up fight between Labour and the Tories. It never has been. That is the palest stitch up game that none of us can win. This election is a battle of ideas about where power lies and who with. Should it lie in the hands of the few who make up the Westminster bubble, or should it lie in the hands of care workers, call centre staff, nurses, train drivers and ordinary working people here in Scotland? That’s the straightforward choice in this election, and we in the SNP stand on the side of the latter rather than the former.
Our ideas to effect a change of how we are governed won’t win solely on the basis of being good ideas. We must take them to every doorstep that we pass. We must campaign even harder than we did in September. We must become enthusiastic and impatient, and take our message to every voter.
We did not get the result that we wanted in September. The Westminster parties won a temporary reprieve. However we must ensure, with hard work and door to door campaigning, that we fill Scotland’s benches in the House of Commons with people who want to challenge Westminster dogma, not accommodate it. Frederick Douglas, the great African-American social reformer, said that “if there is no struggle, there is no progress.” We would do well to invoke that spirit over these next four months.