Land ownership in Scotland: a question of power

Scotland land ownership

Scotland continues to have the most unequal land ownership in the western world. The concentration of land in the hands of a wealthy few has been the established norm for hundreds of years and, despite all the window dressing, there has been no serious challenge made to this by the Scottish National Party (SNP) since they took political power in 2007. The SNP are first and foremost a capitalist party, as is demonstrated by their hostility towards land reform. Any claims to ‘nationalism’ come second to this. Turning the tide on this inequality and injustice will require the working class to challenge those who hold the land and the power, the parasitic capitalist class, along with all their political servants.


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GMB union seeks to expel anti-Zionist

FRFI supporters, Pete Gregson and anti-Zionist Rabbi Ahron Cohen demonstrate outside the GMB building in Glasgow

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

In a demonstration of how the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is being used by the official labour movement to suppress any opposition to Zionism,  Peter Gregson, the only GMB trade union shop steward for a staff of 24,000 NHS Lothian workers, has been suspended with a recommendation that he be ‘permanently excluded from the union’. This follows a disciplinary hearing in Glasgow on 19 December 2018 for actions breaching the IHRA definition. Scotland GMB has accused Gregson of being an anti-Semite and a holocaust denier for launching a petition which confronts Labour and the trade unions’ adoption of IHRA, calling Israel a racist endeavour and stating that Israel uses the Holocaust for its own political ends. The GMB, like Britain’s largest trade unions Unison and Unite, has adopted the IHRA definition.


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Equal pay in Glasgow: under attack, women fight back!

Thousands of low-paid women council workers and their supporters brought Glasgow to a halt in a historic walk-out over unequal pay

On 23 and 24 October, thousands of low-paid women council workers and their supporters brought Glasgow to a halt in a historic walk-out over unequal pay. They were cheerily welcomed by enthusiastic crowds.  Representing what one striker described as those who do 'the invisible jobs', thousands of school cleaners, home support workers, classroom and nursery assistants struck solidly for two days. This was a real blow for equality.


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SNP in Scotland: no place for the poor

A homeless man in Glasgow

In July the homelessness charity Shelter took to the streets to picket the Scottish National Party (SNP)-controlled Glasgow city council, accusing it of breaking homelessness laws over 3,000 times last year by turning away homeless applicants who are legally entitled to temporary accommodation and support. At the same time Glasgow’s SNP council has been working in partnership with Police Scotland, businesses, property groups and social enterprises, to socially cleanse the city centre and its surrounding areas of beggars and homeless hostels. The council has threatened to use Criminal Anti-Social Behaviour Orders to ban any beggar caught drinking alcohol or taking drugs from Glasgow city centre. Clyde Place, which provides emergency homeless accommodation for up to 54 people a night, is being closed in order to make way for the new multimillion pound site called ‘Buchanan Wharf’, which will house Barclays Bank headquarters and other services. This process of pushing out the poor while welcoming in the rich, placing private interests before public interests, must be opposed as part of a wider fight for decent housing for all in Scotland.


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Celtic fans defend Hands Off Ireland!

Hands Off Ireland! carries out regular sales at Glasgow Celtic Football ground. These sales get an enthusiastic response from the fans.

On 15 December we were selling Hands Off Ireland! as usual. After a few minutes two uniformed police arrived and tried to stop us selling. A crowd of Celtic fans quickly gathered round the police. Discretion being the better part of valour the police withdrew. Hands Off Ireland! 1, Glasgow Police 0.


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Glasgow RCG: fighting for democracy to defend Palestine

RCG and supporters hold a sit-down protest in front of a Glasgow Friends of Israel stall

In a victory for democratic and militant protest, dozens of demonstrators led by the RCG surrounded a Zionist stall for an hour in the centre of Glasgow on 19 May in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The demonstrators had ignored attempts by opportunists to prevent such an action, and those present agreed to do it again the following week. It followed on the successful grassroots mobilisation to prevent the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS) from joining the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration in Glasgow on 17 March (see FRFI 263).


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Stand Up To Racism sit down to Zionism! Report of Lobby of SUTR, 10/03/2018


On 10 March, a Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) steering committee meeting in Glasgow overwhelmingly voted down a motion calling on SUTR to tell the Confederation of Friends of Israel – Scotland (CoFIS) that they are not welcome to join the SUTR march in Glasgow on 17 March. CoFIS had been allowed to take part in the 2017 SUTR march, complete with a banner and Israeli flags, despite the opposition of Palestine supporters present at the time.

The Revolutionary Communist Group in Glasgow mobilised supporters of Palestine for a lobby of the SUTR meeting. In torrential rain, around 20 people lobbied SUTR with lively chants of ‘Stand Up To Racism – Stand Up To Zionism!’ and ‘Free, Free, Palestine!’. The lobby was called to put pressure on SUTR to publicly state that CoFIS, and all Zionist organisations, would not be welcome on the march. Over 1,000 people had supported our open letter to SUTR online and on street stalls and protests. Despite aggressive hostility from SUTR representatives, lobbyists invaded the building and continued their chants in the lobby.


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Scottish National Party – outdoing 'I, Daniel Blake'

snp cuts

Recent successful court judgments against the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have drawn attention to the onerous process of mandatory reconsideration before a claimant who has received a benefit sanction can go to a Social Security Tribunal. Mandatory reconsideration applies to any DWP decision not just to sanction those on Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, but also to decisions on Personal Independence Payments. Introduced in 2013, the purpose of mandatory reconsideration is to make life as difficult as possible for a claimant. The decision under appeal remains until the mandatory reconsideration process is complete; it may take weeks and the target is to uphold 80% of original decisions. Social Security Tribunals, on the other hand, grant more than 50% of appeals. Some welfare powers are now being devolved to Scotland, and it is apparent that despite many declarations to the contrary, the SNP government is determined to retain the same two-stage system.


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Scotland: Fighting Labour and the SNP

Glasgow Stand Up Demo

The urgency of the fight for socialism has become apparent with the result of the general election in Scotland. A reshuffle of seats between the parties implementing austerity, racism and war saw the Scottish National Party (SNP) lose 21 seats, the Scottish Tories gain 12 and Scottish Labour gain six. In affluent rural constituencies, leading SNP MPs including deputy leader Angus Robertson lost to Conservative candidates while Labour regained some of its old territory in working class constituencies in and around Glasgow.

In the weeks before the election Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! comrades urged people to break from this parliamentary sham, arguing ‘Don’t vote – fight for socialism!’ On 27 May, we confronted the local Labour Party in Govanhill. Its supporters abandoned their stall after they failed to stop us exposing their record of cuts, racism and war to the passing public. We said that Labour and the SNP should be treated as class enemies, and many people agreed.


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Scotland: No vote for SNP or Labour!

labscotland frfi glasgow

As the general election campaign gets underway, sections of the left are calling either for a vote for Corbyn’s Labour Party, or for the Scottish National Party (SNP) on the grounds that one or the other is the only ‘progressive’ alternative to the Tories. Both, however, are completely reactionary, and the only progressive alternative is a boycott of this election sham and a fight for socialism.

No to the SNP!

The SNP is a reactionary, bourgeois party. Scotland currently has around 43,000 millionaires while also being home to some of the worst inequality and poverty in Western Europe. But the decade-old SNP Scottish Government has repeatedly refused to raise taxes on the wealthy in Scotland to alleviate the worst of these problems while decrying the lack of money from Westminster. It pays lip service to social justice but in education, health and child care, policing, courts and prisons it oversees inequality and injustice daily while implementing further cuts to legal aid, schools, colleges, jobs and services across the country. Its push for a second independence referendum is to dampen any resistance to its austerity programme and does not reflect anything progressive for the working class.


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From the cradle to the grave - Inequality and poverty in Scottish education

The first months of 2017 have been dominated by headlines of an attainment gap in education between the richest and poorest children in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged education is her top priority amidst concern at falling standards in education overall. While elitist academics and politicians eagerly discuss the riddle of inequality in education, they cannot accept that the answer is rooted in poverty itself.

According to Scottish government statistics, children from wealthier areas outperform children from poorer areas from the moment they begin primary school (The Herald 14 December 2016). Around 90% of children from richer postcodes achieved the standards of reading, writing and numeracy expected of them by teachers. This compares to around 74% of children from the poorest areas. By Primary Seven, around 80% of children from the 20% wealthiest areas achieved the expected Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) standards of writing and numeracy, while almost half of children from the 20% most deprived areas failed to meet these levels.


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SNP pushes for Scottish Referendum 2

On 13 March Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon publicly announced the intention of the Scottish government to prepare for a second independence referendum. The timescale she proposed, between August 2018 and Spring 2019, is aimed to lessen the complications of Scotland’s re-entry into EU membership as an independent state. British Conservative Prime Minister May responded by ruling out another referendum on that timetable, fearing it will undermine the government’s position during the Brexit negotiations. Dominic Mulgrew reports.

While the Scottish government demands its ‘democratic right’ to a referendum, this dispute has nothing to do with democracy. Behind this ‘constitutional crisis’ lies a crisis of the British ruling class and its imperialist position worldwide; whether to side with US or EU imperialism. Moves towards a second independence referendum express the concerns and aspirations of a section of the British ruling class based in Scotland, as Britain heads towards a ‘hard’ Brexit. Masquerading behind nationalism and the interests of ‘the people’, their solutions will come at the expense of the working class and oppressed.


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SNP and Labour unite to impose austerity

sturgeon dugdale

The Scottish National Party and the Labour Party both say they are against austerity without any evidence to support such claims. On the contrary, both parties are putting legality before supporting social services. As an SNP councillor in Angus rural council stated: 'At this stage the only assurance I can that we will deliver a legally balanced budget. I can give no further assurances about services.'


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Scotland – fighting austerity still the key!

dundee against welfare

As Scotland’s poor face another desperate winter forced to choose between heating or eating in order to live, the Scottish National Party (SNP) government’s promises of social justice are wearing thin.

Severe poverty is defined as those living with household income below 50% of UK median income. In 2014/15 this equated to £237 per week before housing costs (£12,358 per year) and £202 per week after housing costs (£10,533 per year). According to the latest statistics for 2014/15 the rates of severe poverty in Scotland stand at 12% of the population (630,000 people) after housing costs (Severe Poverty in Scotland: Communities Analysis report, August 2016). This includes 130,000 children, 10,000 more than the previous year.


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Scotland: Who owns the land?


Scotland has the ‘most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world’ (Professor James Hunter, The Guardian, 2013). Around 432 families own half the land in Scotland. The Global Justice Now report, Scotland’s land barons and their connections to global capitalism published in August 2016, has shown Scotland’s land system is not simply a ‘feudal relic’ but very much part of a global parasitic capitalism (imperialism) with ‘billionaire oilmen and Emirati princes, mineral conglomerates, London property speculators, online clothing retailers, Swiss bankers, and financiers of every sort’ claiming a stake alongside the Dukes of Buccleuch and Argyll.

Landowners in Scotland are notoriously hard to identify, with almost 750,000 acres of land held through a series of opaque offshore companies. The SNP government has been criticised by land campaigners for giving carte blanche to rich industrialists buying up vast swathes of Scotland’s countryside. Under pressure it has set a target of publicly registering all landowners by 2024. Some landowners have already been exposed by Global Justice Now as having links to colonial style racism through land grabs, exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction:


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Victory against prison brutality in Scotland

JB pic

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters were present at Greenock Sheriff Court on 24 June to see the fabricated assault charges against John Bowden finally abandoned. A not proven verdict was given by the judge after a roughly two hour trial. The case had been dragging on since 6 March 2015. 

Since his imprisonment over 30 years ago, John has been a regular contributor to FRFI’s Prisoners Fightback page, as well as to other progressive publications, and has been a consistent organiser for prisoners’ rights. Eager to get their own back and silence John, the prison authorities in England and Scotland have repeatedly targeted him with brutality and isolation. This was but the latest attempt to pin fresh charges on John in order to delay his long overdue release. However, due to John’s uncompromising stand and the bravery of another prisoner who witnessed the incident and gave evidence in court, a further injustice was not allowed to happen.


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Lochee protests against exploitation and austerity. 'SNP! Hear Us Say – Budget Cuts – No Way!'

On Saturday 7 May history came alive at the protest in Lochee. Dundee against Workfare. Dundee Against Austerity (DAA), the Revolutionary Communist Group, Class War, Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Trades Union Council, Dundee Trades Union and Socialist Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party stood united to condemn workfare exploitation at the Range store.

We were standing on the site of what was once the largest jute mill in the world where Scottish and Irish immigrant workers toiled to make the Baxter, Caird and Cox mill owning families fabulously wealthy. At one point in the 19th Century the densest proportion of millionaires in Europe could be found in the richest suburb of Dundee, Broughty Ferry, many miles from the filth and heat of their factories.


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Scotland: SNP and Labour share out austerity

‘This idea that the SNP are going to put an end to austerity is just nonsense.’
David May, independent councillor

Pensioners in Angus have learned the reality of that statement. Service users and their families in the small towns have confronted the SNP-run rural council. Iain Gaul, council leader, argued on BBC Radio Scotland that privatisation was the most effective means of providing care services. The SNP council is seeking £0.5m cuts, and the vulnerable are to bear the cost. So much for the SNP’s claim to be anti-austerity.


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Fighting deportation: exposing the SNP

The Scottish government’s White Paper, published in 2013, proposed that in the event of independence the SNP would end dawn raids, close Dungavel Detention Centre and grant people seeking asylum access to the mainstream welfare system. As it is, immigration law remains a ‘reserved issue’ for Westminster, over which, according to the rules of bourgeois democracy, the Scottish government has ‘no power’. SNP politicians and ministers have repeatedly raised their opposition to inhumane UK immigration policy and proclaimed ‘refugees are welcome here’. However, the reality is that devolved Scottish institutions and public bodies, above all the police, are deeply involved in colluding with the racism of the British state and its associated violence. The apparent outrage of the Scottish government is worthless in the face of Police Scotland’s direct role in carrying out dawn raids and brutalising those who are actually opposing Britain’s racist immigration system.

This collaboration was starkly exposed by recent events in Glasgow. On 21 March, Police Scotland officers and local social workers assisted a Home Office Enforcement Team in carrying out a brutal early morning raid against Beverley Vaanda Kanjii and her 14-year-old son. In the course of the raid, in front of her terrified child, Beverley was handcuffed, dragged across the ground and repeatedly kicked, sustaining serious injuries. After her son refused to board a flight from Glasgow Airport, they were transferred to the Home Office’s Immigration Reporting Centre on Brand Street.


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How SNP government votes for cuts and austerity

On Wednesday 16 December, the Scottish National Party’s John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy, delivered his budget statement to the Scottish parliament. He described it as a ‘Scottish alternative to austerity’. The following week, 7,000 people in the country sought emergency food parcels in the run-up to Christmas Day.

The SNP has positioned itself as a progressive anti-austerity force in Scotland and the United Kingdom. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon proclaimed when she was elected leader in 2015 that her central aim was to tackle poverty. Swinney has now reconfigured the priorities: ‘Critical pillars of Scottish life – our schools, hospitals and police – will not be sacrificed to the Chancellor’s austerity obsession.’ As a consequence, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has estimated that cuts of up to £500 million per year will fall on other areas of spending up to the end of the decade. Cuts to unprotected departments of 2.9% in 2016-17 will rise to 10.7% by 2020.


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Scotland: SNP progressive claims to be tested

‘Both Labour and SNP point left in rhetoric but neither do in action or deeds’

(Gerry Hassan, Scottish Sunday Mail 8 November 2015)

On the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum of September 2014, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Trussell Trust and Oxfam Scotland drew attention to the continuing rise in foodbank usage linked directly to problems with welfare benefits and tax credits. The Scottish government’- that is the Scottish National Party - were urged to do more to address the situation.

A further report in early October by the Child Poverty Action Group showed that 210,000 children across Scotland live in poverty. Each of Edinburgh’s 17 council wards has child poverty rates of more than 10%. Across Edinburgh 21% of children – 15,000 – live in poverty as defined by being in households where income is less than 60% of median household income. In Glasgow’s Easterhouse 40% of children grow up in poverty while 27% of people live with a disability. 940,000 families were living in fuel poverty in 2013, 39% of households.


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Fighting sanctions in Scotland

One year on from the Scottish independence referendum the need for an organised working class movement remains the key to smashing the Tories’ brutal benefit sanctions regime. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released in August show that almost half of all benefit sanction decisions against JSA and ESA claimants across the UK have been overturned under challenge. Between 22 October 2012 and 31 March 2015 there were 1,824,877 adverse sanctions against claimants. 575,901 of these decisions were challenged, with 285,327 being overturned, a staggering 49.5%. This shows the importance of appealing against benefit sanction decisions.

In Scotland during this period, 7,668 sanctions were applied at Dundee’s Wellgate Jobcentre making it the worst jobcentre for sanctions in Scotland. In Glasgow, Springburn Jobcentre recorded the highest number, 3,997, with Govan second highest at 3,108. Alongside Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network and Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters have maintained regular pickets outside both Wellgate and Govan Jobcentres over the last year against this brutal policy.


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Making a noise for Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy

Supporters from Fight Racism Fight Imperialism went up to Kirkcaldy on 8 August to join others collecting signatures and handing out hundreds of leaflets demanding justice for Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody on 3 May earlier this year. Nine Police officers were involved in his restraint, using pepper spray, CS gas, batons, handcuffs, ankle and leg restraints. Sheku died from positional asphyxiation. This has been a cover-up from the start!The family was given 5 different stories on the same day by the police about how he died and in one version the police were not even present. It took 32 days for the officers to give a statement on his death and the 9 officers involved were able to meet immediately after the death to corroborate their stories and it has emerged that Stephen House, Police Scotland's chief constable, has secretly met each of the police officers involved in Sheku's death.
No Justice! No Peace!
Join the march for justice for Sheku Bayoh
6 September 2015, Kirkcaldy,  2pm at Kirkcaldy town house.
Support the campaign: Facebook Justice-For-Sheku-Ahmed-Tejan-Bayoh

Donate to the campaign through YouCaring


Scotland: fighting the SNP and Labour

George square 20 June

In Scotland, fighting austerity means taking on both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Labour Party.

Whatever the anti-austerity rhetoric of SNP MPs in Westminster, on the ground it is a different story. In Dundee, it took 13 weeks of all-out strike action by117 hospital porters in Dundee, Unite union members, before they won their fight against low pay with demands for pay re-grading and back pay. They were up against the SNP Scottish government which backed down only after the porters began pickets of the office of Dundee East MSP and Health Minister Shona Robison. Caledonian MacBrayne ferry workers, members of the RMT and TSSA unions, are also calling strike action as the Scottish government moves to privatise the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service with no guarantee over jobs, wages and conditions. On the same day as the 20 June anti-austerity rally in Glasgow, the SNP’s trade union group met in Stirling but did not extend an invitation to the striking Dundee porters.


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SNP – pay the porters now!

In Dundee, the all-out strike of 117 hospital porters is moving into its ninth week. The porters, members of Unite and Unison, have been in dispute over their pay grading which is set at the lowest level in the NHS. They are seeking regrading and the payment of back money owed over years. Years of poverty pay and getting nowhere with intransigent management and dishonest negotiation has forced the workers to withdraw their labour. The picket lines have been solidly maintained at Ninewells and Royal Victoria Hospitals. Donations have poured in to support the low-paid staff and they have marched in solidarity with striking council care workers in Glasgow.


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What next for the Scottish National Party?

‘Labour gained 142 seats and Glasgow sent off 10 ‘Red Clydesiders’ to Parliament to abolish poverty. It is recorded that on the train down these MPs were concerned chiefly to discover if being thrown out of the House of Commons meant a loss of salary. Abolishing poverty was one thing but joining the ranks of the poor was not their intention.’

(1922 General Election, quoted in John Maclean, Battlepost of the Poor)

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has styled itself as the new party of progressive social democracy in Scotland and campaigned for a parliamentary anti-austerity alliance with the Labour Party. This strategy unravelled with the Tory victory. The September 2014 referendum posed the question: who will represent the working class? Our answer then was neither the Scottish Labour Party nor the SNP. That has not changed today.


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Scotland - No vote for austerity!

As we approach the general election, polls suggest that Labour could lose all but five of its 41 seats in Scotland – a historic defeat. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy insults the electorate with populist policies such as reintroducing alcohol to football grounds. The ‘Red Tories’ are a ruling class party and must be buried.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is swallowing up the ground lost by Labour. Its membership, now over 100,000, has more than quadrupled since the referendum. It is proclaiming itself to be an anti-cuts party and has implemented measures to increase free childcare to 16 hours a week for three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds, grant free school meals to children up to Primary 3 and continue to meet the cost of the bedroom tax with discretionary housing payments.


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Scotland - Home rule or independence?

In FRFI 242 we stated that: ‘Home Rule will represent the limit of the aspirations of the middle class and better-off sections of the working class: the SNP is a bourgeois party and it will implement whatever cuts are necessary to preserve economic stability.’ The historic referendum on Scottish independence saw the mass of the working class, the youth and progressive people vote overwhelmingly to secede from the imperialist United Kingdom. 1.6 million people in predominantly urban and poor working class constituencies voted Yes. However, the working class has reached the limits of what can be achieved by voting at this moment. Now is the time to organise across Scotland a fight against the austerity programme of the Tories, the Labour Party and the SNP. Any progress in this struggle requires an end to the reactionary Union and with it a complete break from the bankrupt British labour movement. It must become a fight for socialism.


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Who speaks for the Scottish working class?

On Saturday 22 November, FRFI supporters were among 3,000 activists who attended a conference convened by the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in Glasgow. At the same time, possibly as a spoiling tactic, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) organised a rally at an arena a hundred yards away which attracted 12,000 people. Politics in Scotland has undergone a dramatic change as a result of the referendum on 18 September. The genie is out of the bottle, and it will be very difficult for the ruling class, whether in Scotland or in Britain, to put it back. As political parties prepare for the 2015 General Election, the question is: who will speak for the Scottish working class?


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Scottish Independence Referendum - Ruling class panics as Scottish youth and oppressed show the way forward

On 19 September, the British ruling class breathed a huge sigh of relief when the results of the previous day’s referendum on Scottish independence were announced. The possibility of a Yes victory had caused widespread panic in the days beforehand. But on a massive turnout of 84.6%, 55.3% had voted against independence, with 44.7% in favour – two million as against just over 1.6 million. Within hours of the result, pledges by the three Westminster party leaders offering more powers to Scotland in an effort to bolster the No vote, were bogged down in petty party squabbles. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish First Minister, who had spearheaded the Yes campaign, announced his intention to resign his positions.


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