The European Elections in Britain were overwhelmingly dominated by the financial swindling of Westminster MP's in London. Voters vented their anger at the corruption of the political establishment and this led to a collapse in support for the Westminster parties, although the Euro seats themselves remained in largely in their hands.
In common with the much of the rest of Europe Britain witnessed sizeable gains by parties of the centre right and the extreme right.
This peculiar election campaign somewhat masked the biting impact of the worst economic recession in 80 years, which is certainly the most important political issue in Britain today. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the recession will be deeper and longer lasting here than in virtually any other European country. Several influential economic studies suggest that, for example, it may be a decade before unemployment figures return to 2008 levels.
The response of voters across Europe to this recession appears to have been to vote for the right. Certainly that is true in England and Wales, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Ireland. Why is this? Is it because they see the pro-capitalist parties as more likely to solve the capitalist crisis? Or could it be that the consciousness of the population lags behind events, as yet unprepared for the savage assaults on living standards the right wing have in mind in 'solving' the crisis?
In England the right certainly benefited with the Conservatives, United Kingdom Independence Party [UKIP] and fascist BNP all advancing at the expense of Labour.
In Scotland however the country seems to be seeking answers to the twin crisis of Westminster corruption and a crashing economy from the left.The collapse in support for Labour here gathered significant further pace. Labour suffered their first defeat in 50 years of UK wide elections at the hands of the left leaning Scottish National Party. The SNP won the biggest share of the popular vote - 28% to Labour’s 20%. The Greens also made headway. This outcome is significant as the SNP is the traditional working class protest vote in Scotland and it sits to the left of Labour not its right.
Indeed it has adopted policies pioneered by the Scottish Socialist Party such as the abolition of health charges for medicines, providing free school meals for all youngsters, opposition to nuclear weapons and scrapping the unfair local Council taxes which has placed the SNP in such a strong position. Their leader Alex Salmond has thoroughly outmaneuvered Labour for the past two years and is the country’s most popular and populist politician by far.
Yet the SNP in the last analysis presents its social democratic social model within a pro business, neo liberal economic policy. It is wedded to ‘market’ solutions and will dance to the same neo liberal economic tunes imposed upon it in due course.
It is in this context that the somewhat disappointing - if expected - 1% vote the Scottish Socialist Party achieved has to be seen. Left voters in Scotland rejected a discredited New Labour Party but see the SNP at this stage as the most credible left alternative.
The SSP is still living under a cloud following a highly damaging and yet utterly avoidable spilt three years ago which has heavily diminished the purchase of socialist ideas among the public.
Yet the SSP Euro election campaign for all it’s lack of support at the polls was very important for us. Through it we maintained our profile as a party and marked out our unique political terrain. Unique because we rejected the separatist position adopted by the right and some on the left in Britain. A new left formation 'No2 EU - Yes to Democracy' backed by the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of England and Wales and the railway workers union RMT with its sizeable financial resources was constructed for this contest and campaigned for British withdrawal from the EU and a shift of power towards London. They made no impact and will probably not continue.
Our campaigning, as part of the wider European Anti-capitalist Left, was rather more internationalist in programme demanded those who created the crisis, the bankers and neo liberal bosses should be made to pay for it. Our 'Make Greed History' campaign included calls for a 10% “Greed Tax” on Europe’s millionaires and billionaires to provide the funds necessary to create jobs, expand public services and build desperately needed housing. This demand places the blame for the crisis where it belongs and proposes measures which not only reject the austerity promised by the pro capitalist parties but actually raises the prospect of more jobs and improved services.
On the face of it electoral support for this idea appears extremely limited but the fact remains that Scotland is looking at ten years of high unemployment, cuts in public services and crippling taxes on working people as the neo liberals attempt to 'solve' their crisis.It is also clear that consciousness here lags behind the economic and political realities.
Since it is virtually certain now that a right wing Tory Government will be elected in Britain within the year, there can be no doubt that such an outcome will usher in a era of savage cuts to public services as bad if not worse than that of the Thatcher era.
In Scottish terms, where the public sector is a more significant part of the economy, that can only mean a rising tempo of attacks and resistance in which the role of the SSP in both campaigning against cuts and sackings and proposing alternatives will increase in importance. The election of a Conservative government at Westminster will heighten considerably the unresolved contradictions within the national question and sharpen demands for Independence for Scotland. The SSP supports an Independent socialist Scotland. We see independence as a progressive step forward and recognise that it is overwhelmingly supported by workers and young Scots.
With the next UK General election now less than a year away and Scotland due, in 2011, to elect a new Scottish Parliament the question of Scottish Independence from the UK is sure to be centre stage. The SSP stands firmly in the camp seeking to break up the reactionary British state and usher in a Scottish Republic.
Despite our disappointing vote in the Euro elections the SSP remains the key socialist force in Scottish politics. We offer a coherent socialist solution to the economic crisis and support the fight for national independence and democracy. We continue to rebuild the party as the economic crisis deepens.
We look forward to working with our allies in the Anti-capitalist Left across Europe and in solidarity with those fighting for policies which can tackle the gathering economic and ecological crisis we all face.