Neil Findlay: A failed state
It breaks my heart to write this piece, but I cannot with all conscience not write it. As a 54-year-old man I am rapidly heading towards old age. My youthful dreams of living in a contented, peaceful, cohesive, and sustainable community based on socialist principles appear further away than ever. Scotland is a failed state.
In every corner of our public services, we see crisis upon crisis.
For the last 40 years we have been told that public services must act like businesses and if they can’t cut it when assessed against the latest wheeze of a market-led matrix then they must go.
Take our NHS, it was in crisis long before Covid struck but the pandemic has provided convenient cover for those overseeing its further decline.
We have a waiting list catastrophe, a mental-health crisis, the worst drug deaths in Europe and social care a heartbreaking disaster.
In transport, already poor and expensive bus services are being cut. In my home area of West Lothian McGill’s buses have been withdrawn altogether, leaving villages isolated, cut-off, with no service.
Our island communities are being crippled by the slapstick management of the ferries fleet.
We have a housing tragedy and the notion of a young person ever securing access to social housing is a pipe dream.
Hunger and want stalks working-class communities.
Families with one or more person working are increasingly being forced to seek help from foodbanks which themselves are running out of supplies. Low pay, insecure work and a deregulated labour market drives an even-greater wedge between the haves and have-nots. Workers who produce the food go home to empty fridges themselves as a result of poverty pay and exploitative employers.
Social workers are drowning in case work, struggling to provide support to an ever-growing list of needy and damaged people.
In the shop doorways and back alleys of our towns and cities, street benzos take their toll as Scotland sits ashamedly at top of the European drug deaths league. Cocaine has flooded our villages, often replacing cannabis as the drug of choice for young people seeking escape from communities where youth work and leisure facilities have all but gone or are too expensive to access.
Public swimming pools, libraries and community centres are closing as councils move towards the provision of statutory services alone.
And just to pile agony on top of catastrophe, the first minister, to whoops and cheers from his diminishing party membership, imposes a council tax freeze. There is a twisted sickness at the heart of our body politic.
The streets we walk on are filthy, scattered with litter, dog shit and fly tipping, and our gullies are blocked causing floods.
Our rivers and seas are being pumped with sewage and stripped of their natural resources.
Community policing does not exist any more. Fire appliances are being withdrawn and vital jobs cut.
In our education system teachers and lecturers are losing their jobs, schools cannot afford the basics and staff are subjected to violence and abuse on a daily basis.
I love Scotland, I love my community and I love the industrial working class from which I come. We cannot sit back and allow the ambivalent politicians whose every action is geared towards delivering this state of affairs, to prevail.
But you could barely get the thickness of a food voucher between the programmes of the main political parties. Which of them is offering a credible, genuinely transformative alternative to this bin fire?
Name me a leading politician who ever utters the word ‘class’ or has any commitment to redistributing the wealth and power accumulated in the hands of a small group of the Scottish establishment to the people in communities like mine who graft every day and are barely getting by?
Many would have expected Labour to perform this role – fat chance. Keir Starmer is a man who the establishment knows will offer them little challenge. He’s a man they can ‘do business with’ and to hell with the working-class voters the party previously relied on.
The SNP has long since shed even the pretence of radicalism. Theirs is now a mission to minimise electoral disaster. Governing the country has been reduced to a series of diversionary platitudes that bear no relation to the real world.
So now I have cheered you up, what are we to do?
Well, it is increasingly my view that the broad left needs to stop licking its wounds and get back on the front foot. We need people from both sides of the constitutional debate to come together to demand an alternative. I know many who were involved in the Yes campaign feel bruised, used and marginalised, just as I know that many of us who were involved in the Corbyn project feel disenfranchised and politically homeless.
And herein lies the opportunity. I hope we can begin the process of speaking to each other instead of shouting or descending into petty diversionary tribal defence mechanisms and bring forward a set of ideas and common principles we can unite around?
Do we have it in us to build an influential movement to challenge the parties for whom the current disaster works? Are we prepared to work together in a respectful non-partisan way? Can we accept our differences and put them aside for the greater good? I hope we can or else we’re all stuffed.