From sop parliament to republic?

Anne Murphy interviewed Sean Clerkin, Scottish Socialist Alliance candidate in Paisley South about the campaign against the cuts there and his views on the national question

What has been happening in Paisley around the council cuts?

We have been urging a ‘no cuts’ budget. On the night of the council meeting the Alliance and Renfrewshire Anti-Cuts Campaign entered the council chamber and occupied the councillors’ chairs. The police were called immediately and moved us to the public gallery.

The leader of the Labour Council Hugh Henry accused us of being hooligans. With that I stood up and emphasised that we were merely people from community organisations and the SSA who were protesting against the £10 million worth of cuts across Renfrewshire.

We are using the general election to say to people in Paisley that every vote the SSA gets is a protest vote against those cuts and will put pressure on the Labour Party when they get to power to reverse them.

What are your links like with the council workers?

It is different here to Glasgow. In Glasgow a lot of compulsory redundancies are due to take place. That is why the union leadership there have balloted for strike action. But here in Paisley there are no redundancies and therefore the local unions - mostly because of not wanting to challenge the Labour Party - have backed away from taking action against the cuts.

Rank and file members of the union do oppose the cuts but the Unison leadership refused to join the lobby. They said that the problem was with the Tories, not Labour despite the fact that Labour are imposing Tory cuts.

Have you found a connection between the anger against the cuts and the national question?

I think many people see the cuts primarily in terms of their own community. Ordinary people don’t always see the connection in the same way as political activists. But what people do feel is betrayed by the Labour Party.

We in the Paisley Socialist Alliance are making the connection between the cuts and the wider arguments for socialism. The Alliance is the only socialist organisation standing in the election with the only socialist programme being put forward. The other parties are all arguing free market orthodoxy and we are saying that these cuts are a result of this.

What is your personal view on the national question?

I support the position of the SSA nationally which is for a modern democratic republic. That means, in real life, independence, a democratic society and a nation which makes a complete break from the monarchy. But we must make a connection to Europe and to socialists and socialist organisations there and in England and Wales, so that together we can make progress towards socialism in Europe.

I believe that people in Scotland are more egalitarian by tradition and history than people in some other parts of the UK. This will tend to come to the fore in a Scottish parliament which will be dominated by the left parties with a real chance to establish a socialist republic. People in Scotland see a Scottish parliament as a way to change things - although it won’t in and of itself, it is a step in the right direction.

But what about England and Wales?

I think we have been witnessing historically the break-up of the UK for a number of years with economic decline and political disintegration. I think the ditching of the monarchy in Scotland will be a clear encouragement to people in other parts of the country to go for socialism and to get rid of the traditional ruling elite, and the class based system we currently have in the UK.

Socialism comes from trying to totally change society - so that we have equality and working class people have control of their own lives and destiny. That can only be achieved by us controlling the economy.