Sunday, 26 April 2009

Chamber of Commerce mourns 'THE DEATH OF NEW LABOUR'

I found myself at a 'Budget Breakfast' hosted by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. [Don't ask!]
Sitting in the up market Balmoral Hotel at 8am surrounded by 'Chamber men' I was 'treated' to two examinations of Alistair Darlings proposals.The first, delivered by a Mr David Collier of Tax Consultancy firm Chiene and Tait, addressed amongst other topics the increase in top rate tax for the rich. Clearly among friends David felt he could speak his mind. He was outraged at the plan to raise the taxes of those on salaries above £150,000 per annum from 45p to 50p.'Lots of people will be appalled at this move' said our tax Partner.
As I looked around the room I realized I was sitting among the 'people' he had in mind. Around me were gathered Edinburgh's accountants, lawyers,businessmen and sundry Executives all obviously about to pay more tax.'Are we witnessing the end of New Labour' asked Mr Collier mournfully to a sea of nodding heads.
How out of touch can these people get? I thought. In Scotland today some 850,000 workers live on or around the minimum wage of £7 per hour! Average wages are, according to the governments latest figures, £24,800 per annum. So my fellow diners were earning at least seven times as much and yet clearly resent paying 5p extra tax on their earnings above £150,000! The second of our 'seekers after the truth' was none other than Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of The Scotsman, a man seldom off Newsnight Scotland when grave matters economics are scrutinised. Bill was not best pleased by the current economic situation. He was perplexed to say the least.'We are moving from one era to another' he warned in an ominous tone, reminding me strangely of Trotsky of all people. Repeating himself in case anyone failed to notice it the first time he stressed 'The world has moved from one epoch to another'. Trotsky was fond of his 'epochs' too. Our 'Scotsman' told how he could barely watch the Budget statement as he was still in a state of shock from a year which had seen a revolution in Edinburgh's financial world. 'Who could have predicted last April' asked Bill genuinely perplexed 'that we would meet a year later with the Bank of Scotland gone altogether and RBS nationalized? How on earth did we get to this position? 'The Scotsman's font of all wisdom was plainly at a loss to explain the enormity and the rapidity of the collapse. But there was more than ignorance in Bills delivery there was fear too. 'The £750bn New Labour has borrowed ''scares the life out of me'' he confessed, as well he might. No one he knew had any confidence in Labours' ability to pay it back, nor, he told us, in the likelihood other capitalists would extend the credit.
Alistair Darlings forecasts for future economic growth were laughable he warned. And his audience agreed. This seemed to set him onto a favourite Chamber of Commerce theme 'the bloated public sector and the unprotected plucky 'enterprise' sector.' Now in familiar territory, he insisted there had to be severe cuts in the public sector with its final salary pension schemes, job security and 0.7% guaranteed income growth if the country was to rise from the ashes again. These demands had his audience in raptures. Despite the obvious allegiance of those gathered I couldn't resist the chance to put a [rhetorical] question to Bill during the Q. and A.'s. 'Why' I asked 'is UK national borrowing at the level it is, if it isn't to bail out the banks and 'detox' the debts they have left us? Isn't it true that we are borrowing £750bn not to bail out the public sector but rather to clear up the mess left by the so called 'golden goose', his precious 'enterprise sector'? 'Good question' replied Bill perplexed and reverting to earlier type.....

Friday, 24 April 2009

Letter from Olivier Besancenot, NPA

Dear comrades,
What is happening in Scotland confirms the fact that in all countries in Europe workers are suffering under the same blows from the bourgeoisie. The attacks against public services as a whole in a view to their privatization are just an example among many. The project to privatise the Royal Mail,which is taking place at the same time as that of privatising La Poste in France, proves it. We are, therefore, in complete solidarity with the struggle you are carrying out to prevent it.In France, resistance to this privatisation plan has been organised around a large front of trade union, political and social organisations. Such a gathering of forces, which is absolutely exceptional, has resulted in the creation of local or regional committees around the country. The purpose of these committees is to carry out an information campaign to mobilise the whole of the population, not just the workers of La Poste. We will not hide from you the difficulties we have encountered. As the government is for ever setting back the date to concretes this project, many people are under the impression that the privatisation of La Poste is something to happen sometime in the far future. However, we all know how important it is to start the mobilisation from now, and not to wait.At the same time, the series of wild strikes that have been taking place at La Poste show that the mood might change very quickly. I have myself taken part in a strike which lasted several weeks in my section. We demanded better pay and better working conditions. This is but one concrete way of fighting against privatisation!So, comrades, we all wish you good luck in your struggle: when faced with a world economic crisis without precedent, it is urgent for all workers to unite and resist together.Long life to a Europe in which workers fight back together!Brotherly anticapitalist greetings,
Olivier Besancenot
Postier Porte parole du NPA

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

SSP to Contest European Parliament Elections 4th June

The European Parliament elections on June 4th will be the first real opportunity voters have had to register how angry they are about the deterioration in their living standards and the way the political classes first of all denied the recession was happening and then bailed out their friends in the city but ignoring the pain felt by working families. The bankers have walked away with billions yet workers at Woolworths and Prisme Packaging in Dundee for example got nothing. For this reason the June 4th poll will be dominated by this one issue beyond all others and will in effect become a referendum on Gordon Brown and New Labour.
I very much suspect that people will turn out in unprecedented numbers for a Euro election to hammer Labour at the polls, holding them responsible for the recession, the steep rise in unemployment, house repossessions and the outrage that is Sir Fred Goodwins pension and the reckless bank bail outs. Those who bleat that the European Elections are about 'other issues' know nothing about how class politics in this country works.
The Scottish Socialist Party will again offer our unique socialist alternative, distinct from all the bosses and bankers parties, just as we have done in every such election since 1999.
We pledged then to offer working people in Scotland a distinct, incorruptible socialist voice and we have kept our promises throughout. We will again put forward our unique programme and candidates and I look forward to bringing you all the details of our campaign in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Prescription charge is a disease in NHS

Letter printed in Edinburgh Evening News Sat 4th April
YOUR article on prescription charges (Free prescriptions: 'The SNP may have underestimated the cost of its plan', News, April 1) seems not to see the wood for the trees.
I encountered this argument that scrapping charges would lead to an unsustainable increase in demand for medicines many times when I presented my Bill to abolish them to the Scottish Parliament.
For me the conclusion to draw from rising requests for medicines is that there is significant unmet demand from patients who previously could not afford their prescription.
Indeed as the evidence from the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Kings Fund amongst others shows again and again tens of thousands of Scots are in just such a situation, going without the medicines their GP prescribes for them because they cannot afford to pay (the charge is now more than £7 per item in England).
Furthermore, it is worth remembering that since our NHS prides itself on providing universal FREE health care to patients, prescription charges are therefore a perversion, some may say a disease, at the heart of our health care system. Once you start charging people for a service it stands to reason those who cannot afford that charge will go without.
Those who defend prescription charges argue that the sick should pay for their medicines. I would point out that we all pay for our medicines. We all pay for our health services through our taxes and that is as it should be. To charge the sick a second time because they are ill was a view the country rejected out of hand in 1947 and continues to oppose today.
The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all voted to abolish the charges leaving the NHS in England lagging behind. I hope this is soon rectified.