Scotland - Home rule or independence?

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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.

Home rule

It is necessary to remind ourselves of the actual terms of the September referendum and to cut through the deliberately fostered confusions of the campaign and which persist in the present debate as monopolised by the ruling class media. Independence, Home Rule, ‘Devo-Max’, the Westminster ‘Vow’ and Federalism are deployed as variable democratic solutions to the constitutional crisis facing the unitary British state. Voters were in fact asked to vote on the simple question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The Scottish National Party, the governing party in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, had sought to define national independence in the most craven bourgeois terms: support for the monarchy, support for the pound sterling, support for NATO and the EU.

Now the SNP has retreated even further: fiscal, defence and foreign policy can remain with Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon and former leader Alex Salmond have made it clear that their SNP will be pursuing Home Rule. The money and the guns upon which British imperialism is founded will remain safe in a united ruling class’s bloody hands. This is a future that those who voted for independence rejected.

Opposition within the SNP

Since the narrow defeat of the Yes movement, the SNP has grown to become the third largest political party in Britain with over 92,000 members. With such numbers, the suspension for two months of three SNP councillors in Renfrew who filmed themselves burning a copy of the Smith Commission Report at the beginning of December is politically instructive. While the SNP and Labour Party leadership welcomed the Smith Report on devolving further powers for Scotland, the councillors rejected it for the ruling class stitch-up that it was. Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘It is essential that ... conduct does not fall short of the high standard that is rightly expected by the public. My clear view is that setting fire to something because you don’t agree with it is not acceptable behaviour.’ In her striving for respectability, Sturgeon ignores the fact that the assembled mob of ruling class stooges that formed the Commission – an unelected Lord, Tory and Labour MPs and senior civil servants – are far more experienced in the use of fire and have no concern for pretty words like ‘standards’. This violent lot burn countries and people for money!

Craig Murray would recognise and share this direct characterisation of how the United Kingdom actually operates (see FRFI 242). As an SNP member he has now been disqualified as a parliamentary candidate by the party hierarchy for stating, in answer to a vetting question, that he would not vote for the Bedroom Tax if that were the price of supporting a hypothetical parliamentary coalition. Most recently he stated:

‘I worry that the downplaying of the independence goal for the General Election may drain the fire from those 80,000 Yes-oriented new members. I worry even more that this may not be an accident’. The SNP is trying to control or demobilise the electoral forces mobilised by the Yes movement and undermine the progressive aspirations of the working class that came out from the housing estates and closes of urban Scotland.

Radical independence

The opportunist left in Scotland, as in the rest of Britain, are masters of setting themselves at the head of campaigns and emerging movements before leading them off safely to nowhere. The gathering of the Radical Independence Campaign (see FRFI 242) in November 2014 attracted thousands. Yet in a circus which constantly acclaimed the 1.6 million votes for Yes, not a single vote was taken. Instead we were asked to pay for the editing and production of video footage which the leadership assured us would be studied for our views. We are still awaiting the outcome. Now there are reports of local RIC groups winding up everywhere, squandering the possibilities of linking up independence and socialism with the struggles against welfare sanctions, zero hours contracts, low wages and nuclear weapons.

The General Election

In preparation for the General Election the SNP has been engaged in a sordid social democratic waltz with the Labour Party. The election of the monstrous Blairite Jim Murphy as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party in December 2014 has not affected this stance at all. Popular disgust with the Labour Party’s reactionary unionist stance suggests a disintegration of its parliamentary presence in Scotland at the election in May. However the SNP is now projecting the possibility of supporting Labour in the event of a hung parliament. It claims its price is an end to Trident and austerity. Radical it may sound, but its local councils and councillors are happily cutting vital public services and jobs as efficiently as the Labour Party.

The Scottish independence referendum represented the opening of a front of raw working class opposition to the mass poverty and brute inequality that has accompanied austerity. Socialism is the answer, and smashing the Union unlocks this possibility. No longer would the Scottish working class be fettered in its fight against austerity by a reactionary British labour movement. Now is the time to make the demand for an independent socialist Scotland central to our resistance.  

Michael MacGregor

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 243 February/March 2015