Scotland: Independence referendum campaign launched

The Yes Scotland pro-independence campaign was launched mainly by the Scottish National Party, backed by big business, on Friday 25th May in Edinburgh.

While Socialist Party Scotland will support a Yes vote for independence in the referendum, it will be critical support. The SNP’s [Scottish National Party, has 67 out of 129 members of the Scottish Parliament] proposals for Scottish independence are completely insufficient based as they are on the maintenance of capitalism and the dictatorship of the profit system that has brought us the biggest economic crisis in 80 years, unprecedented cuts and savage austerity.

For many who currently back independence it’s the fundamental issues of lack of jobs, low pay and cuts to living standards that are the driving force for the overwhelming demands in Scotland for decisive constitutional change. The SNP leadership’s plans would be unable to deliver. Therefore while supporting a Yes vote Socialist Party Scotland will also campaign for an independent socialist Scotland as the only viable solution to the fundamental issues facing the working class and young people.

Alongside the SNP who will provide the leadership and vast majority of activists and resources, the Green MSP [Member of the Scottish Parliament] Patrick Harvie, former Labour MP [Member of Parliament in Britain] Denis Canavan and an array of Scottish actors, writers and musicians also attended the Yes Scotland launch. Backing for the campaign also came from former RBS [Royal Bank of Scotland] chairman George Matheson, millionaire Tom Hunter and Brian Souter, owner of Stagecoach.

The referendum is due to take place in Autumn 2014 and currently around a third of people say they intend to vote for Scottish independence.

For many of the one million plus who currently support independence – and this is especially the case among the working class and young people – the referendum will be seen as a possible escape route from mass youth unemployment, poverty and permanent cuts and austerity.

Socialist Party Scotland has consistently supported demands for a referendum on independence; we would prefer a multi-option referendum in 2014, which would also include a question on maximum devolution.

Significantly, there was virtually no trade union or labour movement representation at the Yes Scotland launch. The limited and cross-class nature of the campaign is also reflected in its vague founding principles which supporters are asked to sign up to and which states, "I believe that it is fundamentally better for us all, if decisions about Scotland’s future are taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is, by the people of Scotland.” And goes on to say, “We can build a greener, fairer and more prosperous society that is stronger and more successful than it is today.

Behind the “mom and apple pie” saccharin sweet vision of what an independent Scotland would deliver, the Yes Scotland campaign is attempting to cover a fundamental and unbridgeable fault line.

Independence to make even more profits ?

The SNP leadership openly support the slashing of corporation tax for big business in an independent Scotland. They propose a full 3% lower rate than even the current Con-Dem coalition. Alex Salmond [current First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP] has also opposed any extra taxes on the multi-billion pound oil industry – never mind his extreme hostility to the calls for oil and gas resources to be nationalised in an independent Scotland. Ironically, the SNP would keep Sterling as the official currency with interest rates set by the Bank of England. The unelected, unaccountable and privileged monarchy would also remain as Head Of State in an independent Scotland.

In other words decisions about Scotland’s future would, under the SNP’s vision, still be taken in the boardroom’s of the multi-nationals, the banks and the corporate giants that dominate the economy – not with the people of Scotland.

Salmond wants to use powers over corporation tax to reduce the ‘burden’ on big business and encourage a low-tax enclave for inward investment. If this approach were taken inevitably it would be one where the interests of the rich and powerful would predominate over those of low-paid workers, the unemployed and pensioners.

As John Swinney the SNP’s finance minister commented in a recent interview: “Whoever you are – Greece, Germany or an independent Scotland – you must have fiscal discipline”. In other words, cuts and austerity would continue to be dictated by the banks, bondholders, and the policies of the Bank of England and the EU institutions.

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented economic crisis, which is likely to last for many years, it is clear that the SNP leadership would bow to the dictates of the market. In the firing line would not be the bankers, oil companies and big business, but would be the wages, pensions, jobs and public services of the working class.

At best Salmond and Swinney call for slower cuts and a lessening emphasis on austerity. But in practice they have wasted little time in passing on the Tory cuts to communities across Scotland over the last few years.

The demand raised by the Socialist Party and the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition of refusing to implement the cuts and that the SNP government should demand a return of the £3.3 billion stolen from Scotland has never entered the heads of the timid SNP leadership.

While supporting a Yes vote in 2014 we will also put the demand for an independent socialist Scotland centre stage during the campaign.

The referendum on Scotland’s future relationship with the rest of the UK requires the voice of the working class and in particular the organised trade union movement to be heard.

We therefore support the convening of a trade union conference open to representatives of trade union branches, shop stewards committees, community groups, anti-cuts campaigns etc in late 2012.

The role of this conference should be to draw up plans to launch a campaign on how the powers, either of devo max and independence, could be used in the interests of the majority including trade unions members, their families and our communities. This should form the basis of a genuine trade union/labour movement campaign for the referendum period.

Such a campaign could demand that the powers of devo/max or independence be used to ensure

  • An end to cuts. No more attacks on jobs, wages, pensions, public services and benefits to pay for the banker’s crisis. The Scottish government should set no cuts needs budgets to protect jobs, services and communities and help build a mass campaign for a return of the stolen billions from our public services.
  • Support for increased taxes on the rich and big business to help deal with the economic crisis – including a 50% capital tax on the uninvested profits of big business to pay for an emergency programme of public investment and job creation.
  • Support for public ownership of the banks, oil and gas, transport and the renewable industry and other major corporations
  • No to workfare – for real jobs and a living wage for all.
  • For the abolition of all anti-trade union laws
  • End privatisation in our public services.
  • For a living minimum wage of at least £8 an hour
  • For free education from nursery to university. No to tuition fees, increase the EMA and for a living grant for all.

Alongside such a charter of demands socialists and the trade union movement need to urgently discuss building political representation as an alternative to the parties of cuts. We need our own party to fight for interests in the same way as the pro-big business parties defend the rich and big business.

While supporting a Yes vote in 2014 Socialist Party Scotland will explain that on the basis of this crisis-ridden capitalist system there is no way out. An independent socialist Scotland as part of a genuine, voluntary and democratic socialist confederation with England Wales and Ireland, as a step towards a socialist Europe, is the only way to end the nightmare of austerity, cuts and capitalism once and for all.

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