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By Jason Michael
Austerity resulted in Grenfell. This is the same austerity that is every day being imposed on Scotland by a Westminster government that cares as little for us as it did for the former residents of Grenfell. We have a decision to make.
Apparently, according to the apologists for the great and the good of south Kensington and Chelsea, it is shameful to politicise the deaths of those who died in the Grenfell tower fire. It is all the more shameful, apparently, to “hijack” Grenfell for the purposes of discussing and understanding the questions around Scottish independence. Everything about this truly horrifying event is political. Many residents of the tower, many of whom have no doubt perished, were highlighting since 2013 the political nature of their social housing and their campaign for change. Ultimately they were the victims of British state indifference and class war.
British state indifference towards Scotland and the class war successive British governments have waged against us is what – at least for me – much of what the Scottish independence movement is all about. This class war, under the guise of austerity, was singularly responsible for the catastrophe of Grenfell tower. It led to this massive and still-growing number of fatalities. How many have died as a consequence of austerity across the United Kingdom? That number is still growing too. Of course Grenfell and Scottish independence are two very different things, but they are to a large extent the product of the same thing – British state violence.
Given what we know of what the Grenfell Action Group was campaigning for in the years prior to the fire, we have to ask – given where they placed the blame for their predicament – if, given the choice, they too would have considered voting for independence from Westminster. They knew without a shadow of a doubt that their very survival depended on a government that knowingly and wilfully put them in danger. Good and interested government was their only hope of survival, and that never came from Westminster. Just how is this different from the conditions in which we are forced to live in Scotland? Grenfell was fitted with toxic and flammable cladding. In Scotland we are made to live right next to the toxic and explosive nuclear weapons of Britain’s vanity project.
Grenfell is not Scotland, and we in Scotland mourn with the people of north Kensington who have suffered and lost so much. Yet the blackened husk of Grenfell tower is the perfect and harrowing symbol of life under a British administration that puts privilege and profit before the wellbeing of ordinary working class people. This political reality is felt as much in Scotland as it is by the people in the neighbourhood of what has become Britain’s worst peacetime disaster. When we ask if those people would have happily voted for their own independence we know that answer would have been yes. This is certainly the mood of the protestors seeking justice right now.
Westminster forces us in Scotland to live in the shadow of impending disaster – be that of a nuclear accident or a similar catastrophic event rooted in the programme of austerity. We have a government in Edinburgh that has worked small miracles in mitigating the effects of austerity in our country, but even it is held hostage by the budget constraints imposed by the London government. Sure, it can shift money from one place to another to protect the vulnerable, but that money – that ever diminishing pot – is always being taken from somewhere else. Over time the entire situation deteriorates. We too are warning that austerity will lead to something bad, but, unlike the people of Grenfell tower, we can change this. The symbol that that burnt out shell now is must be a warning to us that we cannot afford to do nothing about protecting Scotland from Westminster.
UK devastated by austerity