The need for an Anti-Austerity Covenant

SUWN activists joined this morning’s anti-cuts march in Dundee. The statement below is from our leaflet:

IMG_1304Tory cuts have decimated local authority services, and the next two years are set to see a further £40 million cut from Dundee City Council funding. It appears that all we can expect from Cameron and the current Eton set who dominate British establishment politics is perpetual Austerity. We therefore applaud and support the call, made by Dundee City Council shop stewards committee, that councillors should vote against further cuts at the upcoming budget, and that, instead, councillors should draw on reserves and borrowing in order to guarantee a ‘no cuts’ budget in the short term. We do, however, realise that such a tactic is not, by itself, enough, and may only delay the implementation of further cuts. In order to protect Scottish, and British, society from  further swingeing cuts, a broad based movement encompassing Scottish civil and political society has to be mobilised, comprising the trade unions, political parties, community and welfare groups, local councils and the Scottish government. Such a broad based alliance could act as ‘rod of iron up the back’ of the Scottish government in opposing, by every means necessary, any further attempts to impose Austerity on communities that are already reeling as a result of thirty to forty years of neo-liberalism and de-industrialisation.

Divisions still exist within the Scottish left in the wake of the 2014 Indyref, particularly within the trade union movement, which is why be believe it is necessary to build a new Scottish Covenant on the basis of a minimum programme of demands that all sections of Scottish progressive and left opinion  can unite around.

Our fundamental – and minimum – demand is that all aspects of Scottish welfare provision and employment law should be under the control of Holyrood, because we cannot trust Westminster to look after the interests of the most vulnerable elements within Scottish society. We understand fully the very real barriers to the success of such a strategy, but we also understand the urgent necessity of fighting back against the present Tory attempt to bring the Thatcherite revolution to full fruition. If those at the sharp end of Austerity, representing the majority of working people as well as the unemployed and disabled, do not unite and fight then this generation surely deserves the terrible consequences that will follow – a hollowed out welfare state, a low wage, and even no wage, low skill economy and an increasingly authoritarian British state.

The reluctance of the current Tory government to further devolve welfare provision derives from the fact that a fully devolved Scottish welfare state would provide the ‘threat of a good example’, which would lead to mounting demands for an abandonment of Austerity throughout the rest of the (dis)UK. Further than this, to stand any chance of success, the Scottish anti-austerity Covenant would need to look outwards and forge links with progressive, left and civic groups and movements in the other nations and regions of the British Isles, including the TUC, Corbyn’s Labour Party, the Greens and Plaid Cymru.

When politicians make serious progressive change it is in response to pressure from below that makes it impossible for them to continue to compromise everyone’s future. If such a broad alliance could be constructed, the Scottish government, bolstered by a mobilised anti-austerity movement, could well be pushed into a major face-off with Westminster over their refusal to implement the Tory Austerity programme, thereby laying the basis for a serious and unprecedented British constitutional and political crisis that could pave the way for positive political and economic transformation.


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