Scottish independence referendum: Yes now in a majority

'May He sedition hush, And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush.' - 1745.

Sixth Verse of the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen.

The emergence of the Scottish working class, particularly its poorest sections, into the campaign for Scottish independence has been a very recent phenomenon. A YouGov poll published on Saturday 6 September showed for the first time that a majority of people intended to vote Yes. With ‘Don’t Knows’ stripped out, 51% are supporting independence while 49% are for remaining in the UK. The next day saw falls in the value of the pound and billions of pounds were wiped off the value of Scottish firms. The skies are darkening for the loyal Labour, Tory and Liberal No campaign.

Estimates of an 80% turnout for the referendum vote on Thursday 18 September are now being made and considered credible. This is the complete opposite to the declining rate of voter turnout for general, local and European elections across the present United Kingdom. In some working class areas only 15% of voters turned out for the May EU poll. While bourgeois politicians pretend to be unsettled by this widespread and historical situation of very low participation in the usual electoral charade, the opposite is happening in Scotland. This new situation is causing an unprecedented problem for the British ruling class. The working class here are proving to be increasingly disloyal in increasing numbers as regards support for the continuation of the United Kingdom.

In FRFI 237 (see index.php/britain/scotland/3306-yt140214)

we argued that the plight of the poorest sections of the working class barely figured in the SNP government's White Paper on Independence. The poorest sections of the working class are now pushing their way into the battle. Support for independence among working class voters has risen from 41% to 56%; among women from 33% to 47%; among Labour voters from 18% to 35%, and among the under-40s from 39% to 60%. Those suffering most acutely from the economic crisis precipitatedby the imperialist banks have seized on the moment of democracy offered by the independence vote to go for real radical change. James Connolly, leader of the 1916 Easter Rebellion for Irish Independence, became a socialist in Dundee. He stated in 1899: ‘Examine the great revolutionary movements of history and you find that in all cases they sprang from unsatisfactory social conditions, and had their origin in a desire for material well being. In other words, the seat of progress and source of revolution is not in the brain, but in the stomach.’ This positive advance for the oppressed is causing worries for the nationalists as well as the unionists.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister in the Scottish Parliament visited Dundee on Monday 1 September. Arriving just steps away from the Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions (DAWS) campaigning stall outside the Job Centre, local supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and DAWS activists spoke to him and pointed out that the Job Centre had issued a record number of benefit sanctions causing hunger and poverty for thousands. They demanded that the Scottish National Party government immediately end the benefit sanctions policy – regardless of the vote outcome. The SNP government has covered tenants' arrears built up through the unjust bedroom tax. It must be forced to likewise cover losses caused by benefit sanctions. As winter approaches, the awful choice between eating and heating looms – in an energy and oil rich country!

The life or death contradictions of a capitalist and predominantly imperialist economy are becoming stark in a developed country that is, for now, a part of the British state. The movement remains to be built which can either push the Scottish Nationalists on or aside, but a new class dynamic is emerging. Anti-imperialist politics have to be consciously brought into this rising working class vote but a Yes vote will still objectively shake the foundations of bloody British imperialism and open a channel of democratic progress for the working class and oppressed both in Scotland and even in England. Yes or No, the working class in Scotland is moving forward to challenge austerity because of the dire material conditions its poorest sections are experiencing.

FRFI supporters active in anti-sanctions campaigning work at Job Centres over the last few months have noted the overwhelming support for Yes – 95% - amongst the poorest people. Radical Independence Campaigners and others have gone door-to-door on the housing estates for the last year and confirm this development. Over the last period DAWS has hosted joint stalls with Yes campaigners and helped register over 700 new voters in a few days last week. Registration has now closed but there are many who are frustrated at not having a vote. Increased police presence at polling stations has been announced, presumably to prevent trouble from those who may be unable to vote.

The Labour Party is on the run everywhere in Scotland and this can also mean a long overdue political advance for the working class, whatever the outcome of the vote. Weel kent- well known- as the original party of austerity, sanctions, the bedroom tax, NHS privatisation and imperialist wars, it is mocked and shunned at every meeting and street corner, becoming utterly marginalised amongst the poorest working class on the housing estates and at the Job Centres. Do these arrogant Labour Party fools think that by bringing up Miliband, Prescott and Balls they can stop the haemorrhaging of No support even from their own heartlands? Nor can Nigel Farage or the blustering Orange Order stop the advance of independence either. These are changing times and working people are not prepared to be misled any more by unionist and racist bigots.

All anti-imperialists, socialists, progressives and democrats can take heart from these positive developments. British imperialism may be about to receive the most almighty, unexpected and deserved kick in its guts from the working class in Scotland. The oppressed of the world will cheer a Yes victory and a fatal weakening of murderous British imperialism.

Yes to Independence. No to British Imperialism!

Alba Gu Brath! Scotland will be Free!

Michael MacGregor

(James Connolly, The New Evangel, The Economic Basis of Politics, The Stomach, not the Brain,

Workers’ Republic, 12 August 1899)

Scotland: Yes to independence - No to British imperialism / FRFI 237 Feb/Mar 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

On 18 September the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, will be put to the Scottish electorate, estimated at around four million, when newly franchised 16-year-old voters are taken into account. A ‘Yes’ vote will begin a process of negotiation between the governments of Scotland and the United Kingdom on future constitutional arrangements. MICHAEL MACGREGOR argues that this opportunity should be used to advance the interests of the working class and to undermine imperialism.

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Glasgow Strife: Fighting for workers’ rights in Glasgow

I have been a long time supporter of FRFI in Glasgow. The analysis provided in the paper of the ever increasing attacks on poorer sections of the working class, casualisation and the role of the unions and the Labour party in implementing these attacks has been confirmed time and again in my own experience as a worker.

For the past four years, I have worked in an arts venue in Glasgow managed on behalf of Glasgow City Council by Glasgow Life, one of the Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) established by the Labour council in 2007.

Earlier this year, I was off work for four weeks with an official sick note from my doctor. However, despite working the equivalent of full time hours for the past two years, because I was employed on a supposedly casual basis, I was not entitled to payment for my scheduled shifts or even Statuary Sick Pay at the rate of £86.70 per week, despite having paid national insurance since the age of 17 and never once having claimed benefits. My only option was to sign on as unemployed. Despite ‘assurances’ from senior managers at a meeting at the start of this year that we would receive contracts (after re-applying for our own jobs) in July, at the last minute this was delayed with no explanation, meaning that we are continuing to lose money through the non-standard working hour payments and improved holiday pay that even zero-hour contracts would afford. If any of us was to suffer illness or injury, again we would be thrown on the scrapheap.

Glasgow Life is one of the biggest employers in the city, employing 3,000 staff with an operating budget of £100 million. Glasgow City Council created Glasgow Life and other ALMOs – essentially private companies, with charitable status, now running public services on behalf of the council – expressly to undermine the decent working conditions gained by council workers over many years. These ALMOs are run as the fiefdoms of the local Labour party. Glasgow Life’s Chief Executive Officer, Bridget McConnell (£132,000 salary), is the partner of former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell. Ed Milliband talks of ‘cracking down’ on zero-hour contracts while Labour councils implement them on a mass scale.

The principal trade union supposedly organising in the workplace, BECTU, has actively undermined our attempts to fight for better conditions. Last year, a sympathetic manager in our venue discovered that dozens upon dozens of ‘casual’ workers had been systematically paid holiday pay at below the legal statuary minimum for up to five years. Through her determined efforts over the course of several months, for which she herself was threatened with dismissal, alongside pressure we were able to exert, the company finally conceded and made back payments totalling several thousand pounds. When presented with the calculations initially, union stewards had told us that they had spoken with senior management and that there was nothing untoward!

Workers in Glasgow Life have had a pay freeze imposed upon them for three years, as inflation has spiralled. UNITE and BECTU both advised their members to accept Glasgow Life’s derisory 1% pay increase this year, which they duly did. Workers have already had their conditions destroyed, with over-time, public holidays, minimum call outs and non-standard working payments all abolished or severely undermined. I have seen many militant workers and long-standing trade unionists leave the unions in disgust. Barely any of the casual workers are unionised, despite our attempts to approach the unions for a fight. The senior managers, accountants and ‘human resource’ administrators responsible for implementing the cuts to services and working conditions, on the other hand, are more than well represented in the unions supposedly defending us!

Young workers today are being raised in a culture where casualisation and wage freezes are the norm; public holidays, overtime, collective bargaining, all the basic conditions once taken as a given, are unheard of, ‘luxuries’ to be ill afforded. The effects of these defeats will be felt for a generation. Market forces are being released into the public sector at an ever more rapid rate; the effect is not just on wages and conditions, but on the fundamental ownership and democratic accountability of these resources, which belong to the people of Glasgow as a whole.

There are no easy solutions. Casualisation makes workplace organisation increasingly difficult, as we ourselves have found: everyone is working different days and times, month to month the shift patterns change, there is no continuity to forge the solid links on which past struggles were built. We have no contracts and could simply be got rid of at any moment. I and other workers have supported whatever limited actions the unions have taken, but the links which bind them to the Labour party and its anti-working class agenda run deep. There is no choice but to start the urgent work of building independent, working class action to oppose these attacks. Glasgow plays host to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 (sponsored by ATOS!), with Glasgow Life workers a key part of its running – it is high time that we struck at the heart of this plan and fought for the real common wealth!

Alan Ryan

Glasgow: For action and democracy in the fight against ATOS

The ruling class attacks on sick and disabled people are escalating as the poorest sections of society are being forced to pay for the capitalist crisis. ATOS – the French multinational installed by the Department of Work and Pensions to implement the destruction of social welfare provision – has been subject to growing militant protest and pickets by Glasgow Against ATOS (GAA). Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in Glasgow have been working with GAA for the past year.  The statement below has been produced by Glasgow FRFI in response to recent attacks on them from within GAA.

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Scotland: Fighting the bedroom tax, challenging the Labour Party/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

Memories of the Poll Tax still run deep in Scotland, where Thatcher first implemented the hated tax, and working class resistance to it first arose. With the bedroom tax now set to affect 105,000 social housing tenants, around 80% of whom are disabled, anger and organisation is building once again. Yet so too are the opportunist forces on the left and in the Labour Party who sought to control the anti-poll tax movement, and seek to hold back resistance again.

On 30 March, 5,000 people marched in Glasgow against the bedroom tax, by far the largest demonstration against the measure to take place in Britain. FRFI supporters led a militant contingent of 50 people alongside Glasgow Against ATOS, which has been by far the most militant and active campaign on the streets of Glasgow, and has stood solidly against the bedroom tax and all cuts. Daniel McGarrell, an FRFI supporter arrested on an ATOS picket in March, addressed the protest on behalf of the campaign, but he was only able to do so after a political battle with opportunist elements who claimed that there were ‘too many’ speakers representing disabled people – although they were happy to allow half a dozen speakers from the ‘official’ labour movement which has done nothing to oppose the cuts.

The opportunist left has already torn itself apart over its attempts to control a movement which has barely begun. From Tommy Sheridan’s reappearance in the SWP and Socialist Party’s Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, to ‘No2Bedroom Tax’ and the Coalition of Resistance’s/Unite the Union’s ‘community campaign’, the opportunist left are united only in attempting to impose top-down, bureaucratic control over any genuine working class organisation and instead build alliances with the Labour Party.

In Hamilton, FRFI supporters have played a key role in establishing Hamilton Against the Bedroom Tax (HATBT), which through open campaign meetings, street work on local estates and protests in the town centre, has built a genuine working class campaign with local residents at its heart. In doing so, the campaign has exposed the real face of Labour’s so-called opposition to the tax. At a HATBT meeting on 28 March, two local Labour councillors, when challenged by residents as to whether South Lanarkshire council would publicly state it would not evict tenants who fell into arrears, refused to do so. In a written reply attacking the minute of this point, one councillor stated that ‘genuine campaigners are not subscribing to the false narrative of councils who will/will not evict.’ How convenient that would be for them!

On 20 May, the Daily Record exposed the fact that South Lanarkshire Labour council had threatened one local tenant, Angela Buskie, with eviction and legal action over bedroom tax arrears of just £129.96. The response of council leader Eddie McAvoy was to claim a ‘mistake’ had been made and introduce a freeze on eviction notices for twelve months. The Morning Star reported the same day that it had seen a letter from North Lanarkshire Labour council ‘raising proceedings for possession of the dwelling house’ of a disabled man in Coatbridge over arrears of just £50.10. This from a council whose chief has been one of the most vocal ‘critics’ of the tax.

Those who claim to be against the cuts, while actively implementing them, have no role to play in building opposition to austerity. FRFI will continue to challenge these reactionary forces, and those who defend them.

Joey Simons