THIS past couple of weeks, we all witnessed a deluge. A drubbing. A downpour of unprecedented level.

But this isn’t the weather I’m talking about.

A flood of votes for Labour in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election was too much for the SNP to fight against the rising red tide.

If the SNP wishes to hold back the river and make sure the banks don’t burst on their staggering electoral dominance in Scotland, they must reflect deeply on last Thursday. As such, this weekend’s SNP conference has come at either the best or the worst time for their members.

On the one hand, it can have all the atmosphere of a funeral. A bleak and public beatdown in Rutherglen and Hamilton West combined with the bizarre defection of Lisa Cameron isn’t exactly the buoyant tone one would imagine rallies the troops. However expected the defeat might have been, the stark margin of victory for the Labour Party will have sent alarm bells ringing inside SNP HQ.

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On the other hand, perhaps this is the ideal moment? After a defeat, no matter the margin, you should want to rectify; to learn from mistakes and ensure that they’re never to be repeated.

The STUC is not affiliated to any political party. The aim of all our campaigning and lobbying is to ensure that each and every political party reflects in policy the needs of our members – fair work, taxes on wealth, decent pay, properly funded public services, a not-for-profit National Care Service and a just transition for workers. The parties who contested the recent by-election all have some way to go to achieve that vision.

The turnout in the by-election was not great. It may not have been the worst we have witnessed in a by-election.

However, given the scandal that brought it about; given that we are a year or so away from a General Election; and despite literal months of campaigning and door-knocking, the turnout suggests there is serious doubt over whether any party managed to enthuse people with a coherent vision to vote for.

For the SNP, blaming the weather won’t cut it and it would be far too simplistic to blame it on their core vote not turning out.

Enough folk who did turn out switched to Labour to cause the SNP a serious headache.

The bare truth is that, despite their electoral dominance for well over a decade now, the SNP has yet to convince a consistent majority in the country, never mind the voters of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, that constitutional change is the road to a progressive Scotland.

For most of that time, the SNP have been able to rely on a majority belief that they are the most competent party to run Scotland under the current devolved settlement. If they continue to lose votes around competence, trouble lies ahead.

No matter how they voted in the referendum, the workers who I represent, 550,000 strong, aren’t talking about independence or Unionism, per se. They’re not talking about Yes or No. They’re not talking about referenda.

They’re talking about their mortgages, their energy costs, their wages and their cost of living. They’re talking about their jobs, their pay packets and their conditions.

They’re talking about injustice and inequality and how that manifests itself in their lives. How, time after time, those at the upper echelons of our society horde and pillage the profits of ordinary workers while those nearer the bottom pay the price.

That’s what is scunnering folk: the blatant rigging of our economic system that our political class either reinforce or are too powerless to change.

How many more examples do we need to live through before those in power take action? A devastating pandemic in which a select few managed to create more wealth for themselves followed by a debilitating cost of living crisis where, you guessed it, a select few accumulated even more wealth.

Social unrest and the clear inequality within our country channels itself through mass mobilisation or electoral change. Sometimes both. And we certainly got an electoral change last week.

Despite their victory – and I’m not sure many would have predicted the staggering margin – as things stand the Labour Party will be hard-pushed to repeat that feat at the General Election.

Not being the Tories at Westminster and not being the SNP in Scotland can only take the party so far. The promise of further years of austerity across the UK, the watering down of key commitments like abolishing the two-child cap and tone deafness to further developing the devolution settlement would not make a compelling manifesto for a Scottish election.

We need unequivocal commitments to redistributing wealth through progressive taxation, including properly funding our local authorities and standing by our public sector workers, in addition to bringing forward an unashamedly progressive agenda for change.

What Labour need to project for the UK, the SNP must do for Scotland.

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Of course, for the SNP, part of that must be presenting a bold vision for independence. Will it eliminate inequality or build a progressive Scotland? Will it create radical, bold proposals, more like the Scottish Child Payment for example, which has a demonstrable impact on people’s lives?

But also, how will it use the powers it has in the here and now to create a public energy company? (as they did last week in Wales) or an integrated public transport system? When will it abolish the Council Tax in favour of proportionate property and wealth taxes?

We’ve been invited to speak at the SNP Conference Fringe this weekend and we will be making that case. Trade unions are central to building a progressive country whether independent or part of the Union. The opportunity is there for both parties. If they’re willing to give the electorate a reason for voting, they’ll turn out.

For the SNP, they cannot let last week’s downpour turn into a thunderous storm that lays wreckage to their electoral dominance. For the Labour Party, they cannot allow last week’s storming success to turn into a damp squib through a lack of vision. Caught in the middle are workers just trying to keep their heads above water.

Give workers hope. Give them a vision and a set of ideals that take them from apathetic to agitated.

If they do, the clouds will subside, and it’ll lead to brighter days for all involved.