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Devolution leaves power in same hands

The Scottish people have first hand experience of what it is to have greater devolution without any real power over their lives and communities.

For example, the Scottish National Party-led government is colluding with privatised rail companies to break the RMT union and introduce cuts that threaten rail safety soon after the election.

The Edinburgh government agreed to indemnify Scotrail against losses resulting from the company going all-out to win a dispute over driver-only operation (DOO) on the Airdrie to Bathgate route. By defeating RMT members on this route, they hope to force in driver-only trains across the Scottish network.

Letters between Transport Scotland and Scotrail show clearly that:

And since Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson admitted to the RMT that there was no economic case for scrapping guards on this route, this is clearly a union-busting exercise and nothing more.

During the Westminster elections, SNP leader Alex Salmond’s only policy has been low level pork-barrel politics, where he prays for a hung parliament so that Scottish Nationalist MPs can play the same role as Ulster Unionists in propping up the Major Tory government of 1992-97. This might keep a few more jobs for the élite in Scotland, but it won’t stop wholesale cuts in public spending.

The SNP offers fine rhetoric about cancelling Trident, but knows it is entirely dependent on the Westminster government, which over the next three years will wipe out whole swathes of public services in Scotland.

In fact, last year they drew up plans for cuts of up to 5%, and transport is likely to be a key target. Regional transport bodies set up to work for integrated transport, have lost their funding and the SNP government plans to put transport back into central management.

This combination of cost-cutting, constant failed restructuring, and decisions that have more to do with ensuring the jobs of senior officials than providing better services, is about as much as the Scottish people have got from the long struggle for devolution.

Between August 2007 and August 2009, the numbers of young people on Jobseeker's Allowance rose by more than 100% in six local authority areas: Borders (109%), East Dunbartonshire (116%), East Lothian (158%), East Renfrewshire (143%), Midlothian (144%) and South Lanarkshire (114%).

The SNP and the other leading parties are as silent about the extent of the cuts coming in Scotland as the main parties in England. Labour MSPs are even claiming there will be an INCREASE in public spending if New Labour is re-elected nationally!

Almost 100,000 jobs are threatened by the cuts, but the Scottish banks at the centre of the financial collapse are about to post much-improved profits. The oil corporations, have done better than expected in the North Sea this year – but none of this will improve the lot of jobless youth or halt the cuts.

There is no mechanism for transferring increased private profits to improve the lives of ordinary people. And this would still be true if Scotland were entirely independent, but still ruled by the same corporate interests as it is today.

Nowhere more than in Scotland does AWTW’s policy of “Hang on to your vote – Build People’s Assemblies” have greater resonance because there is no way that a real transfer of economic and financial power to ordinary people will be achieved through the Edinburgh Parliament.

Penny Cole
4 May 2010

* The RMT is holding a lobby outside the Scottish Parliament from 12.30 tomorrow as MSPs debate the rail dispute.

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