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Scotland: Anti-bedroom tax federation launched
Nicola Crawford and Jim McFarlane
On Saturday 27 April over 250 delegates and visitors from across Scotland attended the conference to found the All Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation.
Delegates were sent from 70 local anti-bedroom tax campaigns, and four trade union branches representing local government and Housing Association workers also attended.
Brian Smith, secretary of Glasgow City Unison and a member of Socialist Party Scotland, chaired the conference.
The conference began with Gary Burns of Govan Law Centre. Gary talked about the Centre's petition campaign to get the Scottish government to change section 16 of the Housing Act. This would prevent evictions taking place.
Sandra White, Scottish National Party MSP, pledged to physically stand with anyone in her constituency threatened with eviction.
However, she ruled out the need for her government to change section 16 to prevent evictions.
She also opposed the demand for the Scottish government to spend just £52 million a year to ensure that no one on housing benefit would be worse off, stating "if we began down that road where would that end?"
A number of delegates were angered by her dismissal of the idea of using the Scottish government block grant to make up the shortfall lost to housing providers.
The SNP has already offset the Con-Dems' cut to council tax benefit by taking this approach.
White called for those present to vote for Scottish independence in September 2014 as the only sure way of defeating the Con-Dem cuts.
This drew criticisms from a significant number of speakers who demanded that the SNP government stand up now and fight to defend working class people.
The founding statement, unanimously agreed, included ideas Socialist Party Scotland has prominently raised in the campaign such as the building of an anti-eviction army to physically oppose any attempted evictions
The statement called for the writing-off of any debt accrued due to the bedroom tax and supported the building of new social housing; as well as the important demand to oppose all cuts and austerity measures.
Jim McFarlane from Dundee Bin the Bedroom Tax Campaign outlined how the campaign there put pressure on the local council and ensured that Dundee was the first council in the country to pledge no evictions, at least for a year. This was a welcome concession but doesn't go far enough.
There had been some debate leading up to the conference on whether politicians who oppose the bedroom tax in words but vote for cuts should be welcomed uncritically into the federation.
Accepting support from people who support other cuts or attacks on the working class damages the credibility of the campaign.
Sinead Daly from the Ardler campaign in Dundee pointed to the example of communities organising to prevent warrant sales taking place during the struggle to get rid of the poll tax.
Ian Leech, Glasgow Unison rep and delegate from Glasgow Southside talked about the need to link up communities and trade unions to oppose all cuts.
We also need a mass party that represents trade unionists and working class communities as none of the main parties oppose the cuts agenda of big business and the Tories, he said.
Luke Ivory, a delegate from the East End of Glasgow campaign and Socialist Party Scotland member, got loud applause when he declared that if the existing political representatives were not prepared to oppose the cuts then we should look to stand against them.
Luke was elected Federation secretary and Tommy Sheridan was elected chair.
The closing session heard from trade unionists and Tommy Gorman, a prominent activist involved in the fight to save Disability Day Centres from Labour party cuts in Glasgow.
Tommy Sheridan closed the conference with a call for an all Scotland demonstration against the Bedroom Tax on 1 June.
He reminded the audience of the momentous battle against the poll tax and the tactics and strategy used then that would be just as relevant today.
Full report see: www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk
In The Socialist 1 May 2013:
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Socialist Party feature
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