Scotland: Countdown to independence referendum

For an independent socialist Scotland

Intense discussion and debate are developing over the independence referendum in Scotland on 18 September. The vote will not be the end of this process.

The latest "poll of polls", excluding ’don’t knows’, says 57% are likely to vote No and 43% back a Yes vote. This reflects a certain stalling in support for Yes over the last two months, after support increased beyond 40% in the spring.

But it is still too close for comfort for the Better Together ’No’ campaign and the British political establishment. There are still a large number of undecided voters. There is also an element of unpredictability with the turnout likely to be much higher than recent elections, with over one million extra voters participating, including 16 and 17 year olds.

The next few weeks could be decisive, with Project Fear, led by big business, expected to go into overdrive. In a profit report on 30 July the RBS banking group joined insurance giant Standard Life in raising the possibility of moving its business operations in the event of a Yes vote. Babcock Marine has also raised the prospect of Royal Navy contracts disappearing from the Clyde shipyards.

Both official campaigns claim to have benefited from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – in reality the polls show no impact. While working class people enjoyed the world class sport, the atmosphere was not able to overcome the anger against austerity and inequality. Transport and public sector workers in the city were involved in industrial disputes for overtime pay to keep the games running.

On 5 August a televised debate will take place between Scottish Government First Minister Alec Salmond and Better Together’s ex-New Labour chancellor Alistair Darling. Both official campaigns are also posting leaflets to every household in Scotland with "key reasons" to vote either way.

Neither campaign offers an alternative to endless austerity and falling incomes. Nor do they represent the interests of the working class. However, the bedrock of the Yes vote is desire for change. But genuine doubts exist about whether an independent capitalist Scotland would deliver for the majority – polls consistently show a majority believe Scotland would be worse off economically under independence.

The Scottish National Party’s pro-big business policies, such as promising to cut taxes for the largest corporations under independencem, and record of implementing austerity are a significant obstacle to achieving a Yes vote.

End austerity

Socialist Party Scotland is campaigning for a Yes vote while putting forward a programme for the powers of independence to be used to end austerity, tax the rich and big business and for public ownership and democratic control of the major parts of the economy. There is overwhelming support for public ownership of gas, electricity, transport and oil and the idea of a new party to fight for workers and young people.

This has been reflected in large public meetings across Scotland, as part of the ’Hope Over Fear – Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland’ tour which we have been involved in organising alongside Tommy Sheridan and others. Major rallies are planned in all the main cities in the weeks leading up to the referendum.

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August 2014