Home » News/Views » Britain-wide view gaining ground in Scotland

Britain-wide view gaining ground in Scotland

May Day 2023 march, Glasgow. Photo Workers.

With the SNP administration in crisis, Scots can see that many of the strikes for better wages and conditions are Britain-wide – as is the financial crisis…

As a revitalised May Day march wound its way through Glasgow earlier this year there was a palpable feeling of solidarity and optimism in the air among the two thousand trade unionists.

One buzz of conversation to be heard was of younger marchers being told that this route – from Glasgow’s central George Square to its southside Queen’s Park – was traversing the same roads that the famous African American singer Paul Robeson had walked when he led the march on 1 May 1960.

At the rally Robeson addressed the crowd of several thousand and sang a selection of his songs. This year music was again on display, with local groups singing, following speeches from various trade union representatives.

The energy shown on May Day had built up over several months of solidarity actions that had seen fellow trade unionists, students and community groups out on picket lines in support of striking workers. With most of the major British unions involved, the sense of a nation in struggle had grown and has not diminished.

A remarkable feature of both the picket lines and the May Day rally, organised by Glasgow Trade Union Council, was the large percentage of younger people involved and fully committed.

A large contingent of students were highlighting their own problems and were part of the Living Rent campaign, fighting against corporate landlords and unaffordable rent increases.

National campaigns

In all cases a firm UK perspective was gaining traction. Many of the strikes for better wages and conditions are Britain-wide, as is the financial crisis.

When interviewed by Workers back in March at the end of a large PCS and UCU strike solidarity rally in Glasgow, the Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, Dave Moxham also showed this approach. He commented:

“We’ve been joined by a whole range of supportive trade unions – and the message here today, and it’s a message right across the UK, is that no worker who is currently on industrial action will be giving up until they receive pay justice and no part of the trade union movement will be leaving them behind. We’re in it for the long haul.”

Recent disputes have brought workers into direct confrontation with the troubled Scottish National Party-Scottish Greens coalition at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

The disarray of these separatist forces continues apace, with the arrest of the former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. For example, they were accused by Unison, Britain’s largest union, of a privatisation agenda which would remove powers from local councils and the NHS, transferring them to quangos with members appointed by ministers.

At its recent annual conference in Liverpool, Unison called upon the Scottish Government to withdraw the Bill that would enable this.

Kate Ramsden, a social worker in Aberdeenshire and member of Unison’s National Executive, told the conference that this Bill “offers nothing at all to our social care members but, if passed, will devastate local government by taking staff, functions and services out of councils and give them to unelected quangos.”

She warned that the plans would be “an outsourcer’s charter which would expand rather than remove the market in care and would re-create the purchaser/ provider split in the NHS.” This campaign continues and will build – the Bill is not due to be voted on in the Scottish Parliament until January 2024.


Another bone of contention with the Scottish Government is over energy. With bans in place on any new nuclear power development in Scotland, oil and gas production and exploration is also to be wound down by them in the North Sea.

Now the Labour Party has jumped on the virtue-signalling ship with its own version of bans, one of also stopping new oil and gas production or exploration licences in the North Sea (presumably applying to a larger area, as it speaks for a Britain-wide policy).

This has not stopped workers becoming fully involved in ongoing disputes over jobs, pay and conditions in the offshore sector (see News, page 4). Over 1,600 contractors were involved in rounds of 48-hour strikes in May and June.

These trades cover a wide range of skills such as technicians, deck crew, scaffolders, crane operators, platers and riggers working for companies such as Bilfinger, Stork Technical and Sparrow Offshore Services. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“With the support of their union Unite, an army of 1650 offshore workers are taking the fight to multibillion pound oil and gas corporations. The latest rounds of strike action in June will see the biggest group of offshore workers to date taking strike action. Unfettered corporate profiteering at the expense of our members will not go unchallenged. Unite is determined to deliver better jobs, pay and conditions in the offshore sector – and deliver we will.”

A statement by Unite pointed to BP’s and Shell’s historically high profits of £11.7 billion in the first quarter of 2023, that could have saved each household £1,800 on their energy bills.

Reverse cuts

In the midst of a difficult forest fire season in the Scottish Highlands, the Fire Brigades Union have demanded of the Scottish Government and various local authorities in Scotland that any cuts to the fire service be reversed.

‘The disarray of the separatist forces continues apace…’

FBU Scottish Regional Secretary John McKenzie told a rally in Dundee against the cuts that the service requires “modern workplaces with fit-for-purpose decontamination facilities, the equipment required to resolve these incidents and an end to the last decade of savage cuts”. This echoes campaigns in other areas of Britain.

The record of the SNP/Scottish Greens administration remains woeful in many areas: the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe, a collapse of public transport (especially on the “lifeline” sea routes to the islands), record NHS waiting times and crises in education and policing. Their much-touted Gender Recognition Act did not even get over 50 per cent of SNP members supporting it in polls.

The state of the roads also shows their failure – in 2022, 13 people died on the dangerous A9 stretch linking Perth and Inverness. The upgrading of this and other routes has been delayed for years and both communities and construction companies are at loggerheads with Holyrood over it.

And another record has been broken: a report from the BBC’s Shared Data Unit has found that businesses in Scotland have the highest rate of insolvencies in Britain. 248 liquidations jumped by 150 per cent to 608 in 2022.

Enough of SNP failure

Many workers feel they have had enough SNP failure and put their energies into a united struggle. Many also reject the Labour Party’s announced panacea, A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy, launched by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown last December, but increasingly tipped as Labour Party policy for their next election campaign.

This is nothing but a rehash of federalism, a recipe for another way to weaken and break up Britain and return to the embrace of the European Union. Workers should fight for a Britain as their own unitary state and reject division, as is beginning to happen now in Scotland.