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Scotland: 45% vote Yes despite ruling class panic; Business as usual is not an option; Labour for Independence statement

By Alister Black, Glasgow

September 20, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- After two years of campaigning, Scotland’s independence referendum has ended. It saw victory for the No side, the opponents of independence, with 55% compared to 45% who backed a Yes to independence.

The referendum saw an unprecedented level of political engagement and debate throughout Scotland. This was reflected in the huge and unprecedented turnout of 84.59%, reversing the trend of recent decades of dwindling poll turnouts. Some rural areas even recorded 100% turnout.

Pro-independence campaigners, especially around the Radical Independence Campaign, registered thousands to vote in Scotland’s poorest and most marginalised communities, where many had been off the voters roll since the days of the poll tax.

We spoke to people who had never voted and needed the process explained. These alienated communities were enfranchised by the referendum.

Poor voted Yes

"The four poorest and most deprived local authorities in Scotland were the only local authorities (out of 32) who voted Yes. Glasgow, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire,” noted Frances Curran, a former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) Member of the Scottish Parliament. “Says it all about what this referendum was about.”

These communities have been hit hardest by Tory austerity and benefit cuts. Thousands rely on food banks for survival.

Tales circulate of families opening tins of beans on the spot and eating them cold, with their hands due to hunger. Police report a surge of house break-ins, in order to steal food. Some areas of Glasgow have an average male life expectancy of 58 years, lower than sub-Saharan Africa.

The “union of the crowns” has offered nothing to these communities but deindustrialisation, unemployment, poverty and despair.

In some areas such as Craigmillar in Edinburgh, voters organised early morning marches to the polling stations; mums and dads with prams and the elderly being pushed in wheelchairs to vote, led by banners and pipers.

This reflected the emergence, especially in the last few weeks of the campaign, of a dynamic and radical mass movement which mobilised in communities across Scotland to attempt to secure a Yes vote.

The great advantage of the Yes campaign was that we ceased to be led by politicians and men in grey suits and became a popular movement rallying around progressive and democratic ideas.

Young people were to the fore in this social movement, increasingly questioning and debating the kind of society we want to become.

The demands that inspired the grassroots did not come from the conservative Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto, they were not focused on historical or ethnic questions. They were focused on social justice and equality. They were for an end to ill health and food banks. They were for peace and the scrapping of Trident nuclear missiles.

Most had no previous political involvement but came into the campaign through their local community Yes group, from coalitions like the Radical Independence Campaign or campaigning groups like Women for Independence or the National Collective arts group.

Shock to establishment

This movement gave the establishment, the politicians and the City of London the shock of their lives, coming within a few percentage points of victory.

The British state threw everything it had into the fight. The Labour Party led the “Better Together” campaign and shared platforms with Tory leaders to campaign for a No vote. Labour has done itself serious damage and is now cut off from a new generation of politically conscious youth. Their final slogan at the polling stations was “it’s not worth the risk”.

In a display of “shock and awe”, British Tory Prime Minister David Cameron phoned all his old school friends on the boards of the banks and called in favours from the supermarkets and oil companies. They lined up to issue tales of capital flight and soaring prices.

Many of these were quickly debunked but these tales were given great prominence by the media, which overwhelmingly backed No.

Chief among these was the BBC, the supposedly impartial state broadcaster. Some BBC reports were stunningly biased. Although Yes used social media brilliantly to counter this onslaught, it did do damage.

There were endless threats that Scotland would be thrown out of the EU and would not be allowed to use the pound, cutting it off from international lending.

In the face of this assault, the Yes vote held up astonishingly well. Yes supporters overwhelmingly won the ground war in the last few days, literally taking over the streets of the big towns and cities every night for spontaneous mass rallies and marches.

New constitutional debate

We now face a new constitutional debate. Scotland has been promised new powers by Westminster and the possibility of a new constitutional settlement for the UK.

Already however, both Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband are backing away from their “pledge” to give greater powers. The Tories will undoubtedly try to use this to their advantage and to appease their right wing and the far-right “little Englanders”.

The SNP has seen the resignation of popular First Minister Alex Salmond. The SNP demonstrated strong organisation and has widespread support. It will probably now be led by capable deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, who played a crucial role in the campaign.

The left may be strengthened over the next period if it can react strategically and make a turn towards the social movement that emerged in the campaign.

There may be attempts by the social-democratic “Common Weal” platform, which drew support from many intellectuals and celebrities as well as grassroots campaigners, to build a new force.

Radical Independence and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) also emerged from the campaign with their reputations enhanced, as have the Scottish Greens. Many activists will be keen to continue the degree of unity achieved during the campaign.

In the face of an establishment onslaught, and after 25 years of being told that tackling poverty and inequality was a dream and there could be no alternative to the neoliberal consensus, 45% of Scots still voted Yes.

This is a great achievement and an even better achievement has been the building of a mass social movement. If we can now harness that movement to build a new political force in Scottish society then, despite our defeat in the referendum, we can regroup and organise to shake up politics.

[Alister Black, editor of the Scottish independent Marxist review Frontline. Black, a member of the Scottish Socialist Party, is active in the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), a left platform within the Yes Scotland movement.]

 

Scottish Socialist Party: 'Independence not defeated but deferred'

By the Scottish Socialist Party

September 19, 2014 -- The Scottish Socialist Party is naturally disappointed by last night’s result. It is setback for the forces of social democracy and socialism in this country.

But our disappointment this morning is tempered by an immense pride in the 1.6 million Scots who voted Yes and the thousands of new political campaigners who energise this country, stimulated it politically in a way it has never seen before and withstood the hysterical propaganda of a panicked UK establishment over the last ten days particularly.

Scottish independence is not defeated today, it is deferred.

Support for independence reached 45% yesterday and that is unprecedented. I do not see that receding.

As democratic socialists, the SSP fully respects the decision reached by the people of Scotland but, as they say in Italy, "La lotta continua", the struggle for an independent socialist Scotland continues.

The independence tide is not halted today, rather it has shifted irrevocably.

No prevailed because a slim majority of elderly Scots, vested interests and the well-to-do were frightened of change. The No campaign won with an unrelenting battery of negativity and pessimism.

Scotland is not remotely the same place as it was yesterday. It is changed utterly by this result.

Many Scots opted for a Yes message of prosperity, fairness and democracy and rejected the status quo keen to take our rightful place as a full and equal member of the family of nations. We are sure they will continue to champion our social democratic and socialist values in seeking prosperity for all, equality, greater democracy and an end to exploitation and warmongering.

The British ruling class and its political mouthpieces threw everything at us and 1.6 million stood tall. We are proud of that bravery and pay tribute too to all the SSP’s partners in Yes Scotland for what we have achieved together.

The No side won and yet they also promised a more prosperous, fairer and more democratic nation. They must now show how that inclusive, progressive and more democratic new country can be built via their preferred route.

 

Business as usual is not an option

By Alan Thornett

September 19, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance -- The proposal for an independent Scotland has been defeated in the September 18 referendum, and the ruling elites have expressed a huge collective sigh of relief. It was a defeat based on fear and intimidation organised by the No campaign in collusion with Downing Street which delivered a “no” vote by a margin of 44.7% to 55.3%.

The whole of the Westminster establishment and the three "main" political parties were lined up against a Yes vote. To these we can add virtually the whole of the media, the banks, the supermarkets and the City of London. The military establishment entered the debate around in defence of Trident nuclear-armed submarines. They have managed to prevail by exploiting fear, intimidation and appeals to every kind of reaction and conservatism over the most remarkable grassroots campaign ever seen in these islands. Internationally they enlisted support from Barrack Obama to the president of the EU.

Labour Party politicians, led by a re-emerged Gordon Brown, were even more forceful than the Conservative Party (Tories) in pushing this intimidation.

Until a week or so ago, when support rose dramatically for the Yes campaign, and blind panic set in, the Westminster elites had expected a walkover. They didn’t even bother with contingencies. When asked why there was no contingency to move Trident the government said it was because the London considered the possibility of a Yes vote as a "very low probability". It was a statement that not only reflected the divide between Westminster and Scotland but the contempt with which the Tory leadership regarded that divide.

The Yes campaign should be congratulated and celebrated, despite the result. It generated a huge national debate that rose to ever-higher political levels as the referendum date approached. This is expressed in the remarkable statistics: with registration at 97% and the turnout at 84.6%. This is a clear sign that when real change is on offer people will engage with it and grasp the opportunity to shape their own destiny.

A different Scotland

The Yes campaign was not based on crude nationalism or anti-English sentiment, but on the idea of a different kind of Scotland with new level of political democracy and involvement. It was based on the idea that people living in Scotland should rule Scotland and that the long period of English dependency should come to an end. It was based on the idea that they should not have Tory governments imposed on them that they did not vote for, and which had virtually no support in Scotland.

It reflected resentment in Scotland that a range of Tory policies --from student fees, benefit cuts, especially for the sick and disabled, the bedroom tax, tax cuts for the rich, and foreign wars -- were imposed on them by people with no support in Scotland.

The strength of the Yes campaign is also expressed in the enthusiasm with which 16 and 17 year olds took to the campaign and the debate, having been given the right to vote for the first time in the referendum. It was expressed in the remarkable energy that gripped the Yes camp in the final weeks of the campaign.

Labour Party

On the morning of the result, Labour Party politicians, even more than Tories, were talking about this vote settling the issue of independence for a very long time and even for good. The critical mass of support for independence, however, has increased dramatically in the course of this campaign and that is unlikely to change. People in Scotland have spent months debating and defending the idea of independence and are more committed to it than they have ever been.

It is not surprising that it is Labour Party politicians who are so vehement this morning. Labour has been heavily damaged by running a shoulder-to-shoulder campaign with the Tories.

The biggest Yes votes were in the strongest Labour industrial (or de-industrialised) heartlands of Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dumbarton and Dundee.

The Scottish Labour Party has suffered a serious fragmentation and is likely to be in trouble, particularly when it comes to the next Holyrood election in 2016. The Scottish National Party (SNP) will be seeking another majority and hope to replace Labour as the main left of centre social-democratic party in Scotland. Those tens of thousands of Labour voters who supported the Yes campaign and were attacked by the Labour Party for doing so may well then stick with the SNP. Particularly since a big vote for the SNP in that election would be the best way to reignite the issue of independence.

Extra powers?

Nor should it be assumed that the Westminster elite will now deliver the extra powers to Holyrood just because they have signed a pledge on fake parchment that they will do so. This is already being cast into doubt by Tory back benchers who intend to oppose it and coalition ministers who don’t want it.

British Prime Minister David Cameron knows that to do so will strengthen the call for independence in Wales. Leanne Wood, as the leader of Plaid Cymru, has played a good role in supporting the Yes campaign in Scotland. She is already making it clear that she is not prepared to see Wales left behind as Scotland discusses more powers.

It also raises the issue of the huge democratic deficit in Britain as a whole as one of the most centralised countries in Europe. It raises issues from the alienation of the northern cities and the northern regions from Westminster and the south east, and it raises once again the issue of the first-past-the-post electoral system, which means that most votes don’t count when it comes to an election.

It is clear from the first statements that Cameron has made on this that he is more interested in looking over his shoulder to the far-right UK Independence Party, to English nationalism and his right-wing back benchers than fulfilling a pledge with Scotland. He is far more interested in simply stopping Scottish MPs voting on English issues, which would be popular with UKIP leader Nigel Farage, than looking to any kind of new constitutional settlement for England.

This poses a problem for the Labour Party because the pledge was made first and foremost, not by Cameron, but by Gordon Brown. Cameron’s main aim now is to turn clock back on this whole development, but it won’t be easy. The Yes campaign comprehensively won the political debate. Many of the 1.6 million people who voted for independence may well remain politically engaged and will not take kindly to backsliding on promises or new attacks from Westminster.

The radicalisation of the Yes campaign could well translate into a new radicalism in Scottish politics. This could also have its reflection throughout Britain. Demands for more devolution and democratic reform are inevitable. Westminster has not represented northern English cities and northern regions any more than it has represented Scotland.

Despite the defeat, things can never go back to where they were. Business as usual is not an option.

 

No to independence, but no confidence in the Union

By Chris Bambery, International Socialist Group, Scotland

September 19, 2014 -- Counterfire -- The British elite threw everything into stopping a Yes win, but the narrowness of the No vote adds to the crisis of the United Kingdom.

So near and yet so far. Despite all the energy, creativity and excitement of the great debate which has gripped Scotland it did not achieve a Yes vote.

Yet, for the pro-independence campaign to get anywhere near to winning was nothing short of a miracle. Westminster thought a No vote was a certainty until the last fortnight of the campaign. The British elite will not be happy with the sheer numbers – over 1 millionprepared to vote to quit the United Kingdom.

The British elite threw the kitchen sink and more into stopping a Yes win – rolling out corporate chiefs galore to threaten disinvestment and, in the case of one Deutsche Bank spokesperson, the greatest economic depression since the 1930s. The media bias was so bad it would have been hard to make it up. The fear factor was the British elite’s best weapon and boy did they use it.

Not content with that they turned to a trusty ally, the leadership of the Labour Party, and in particular former premier Gordon Brown. Brown, first, ditched the cross-party Better Together and campaigned on a Labour ticket, using words excised from the party’s dictionary under New Labour -- like "solidarity" --  without any embarrassment. Second, Brown announced that all three Westminster parties had agreed to his plan to fast track extra powers for the Scottish parliament. This may have been news to David Cameron but he hurriedly agreed understanding it had to be done to head off independence.

That will create real problems for Cameron. Even before polls closed in Scotland on September 18 the railways minister, Claire Perry, joined a growing number of Tory MPs criticising the promises made to Scottish voters. They want the scrapping of the Barnett Formula, whereby Scotland receives a portion of the UK budget, despite Cameron joining Miliband and Cameron pledging to retain it.

In two weeks' time Cameron looks set to lose the Clacton by-election to the UKIP, after the sitting Tory MP, Douglas Carsewell changed his colours, resigning from the Tories to join Nigel Farrage and forcing a by-election.

More importantly Cameron, as has been widely reported, has waited for the referendum to be out of the way before ordering British airstrikes in Iraq. Independence campaigners should demand a vote on this in the Scottish parliament and that the SNP, which opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, should vote against fresh military action there.

The narrowness of the No vote adds to the deep crisis at the heart of the United Kingdom. For historical reasons the British economy is very globalised and thus exposed to any turmoil on the world markets. Secondly, its historic dependence on finance, its low investment and its low productivity means it’s suffered over a century of economic decline that no government, not least Thatcher’s been able to staunch let alone reverse.

Having lost an empire the British elite cannot be confident Scotland is safe in the Union. The age profile of the No camp suggests time is not on their side. Further, a poll this week showed Scotland and London would vote to stay in the European Union if a referendum is held on Britain’s membership, the rest of England would vote to quit. Such a result would open up a can of worms.

Returning to Scotland, the Yes vote is big enough to create a problem in that down the road the trend is towards independence. For Scottish Labour its clear the Yes vote was firmly based on working class areas which were traditional Labour heartlands in Glasgow, elsewhere on Clydeside and Dundee (the SNP could not carry its strongholds like Angus, a largely rural and small town area). Those traditional Labour voters were subject to a considerable amount of denunciation by the Labour leadership and its unlikely those Yes voters will return to the Labour camp any time soon.

The crucial question is what happens to the huge numbers mobilised to campaign for independence, particularly those who were mobilised by the Radical Independence Campaign and the other groups fighting for a different, radical Scotland.

For them but there will be a bad hang over this morning but once we’ve recovered there is work to be done. There is no Team Scotland. This is a country divided along class lines. That’s important, there will be battles over fresh wars, austerity and much else, but the central question for me is where those working class people who voted Yes go now. They found a voice for the first time in a generation in the broad pro-independence campaign. Tinkering with the constitution is not going to satisfy them.

The SNP will try and capture their support but they could not carry their heartlands such as Angus and Perth & Kinross for Yes and during the referendum campaign their “Vote Yes and nothing will change we’ll keep the queen, pound and NATO” was not inspiring. It was crucial that the more radical message of Radical Independence Campaign in others mobilised working class people. The SNP is capable of outmatching Labour in terms of social-democratic rhetoric but it accepts the neoliberal template.

This poses the question that having mobilised working class communities and a new generation of young activists RIC and others have to ensure they do not lose their new home and their new sense of identity.

The radical left got its act together in this campaign. It needs to stay together because it’s better together.

 

Labour for Independence official statement

By Allan Grogan, co-convenor and national spokesperson of Labour for Independence.

September 20, 2014 -- I would like to begin this statement by offering a huge thanks to all of our activists, members and supporters over the last 30 months. With your support we were able to grow from a Facebook page to a political organisation whose logo, name and political view made it’s way into the very heart of the referendum campaign.

The people of Scotland have spoken, with the highest turnout in a generation, while we are disappointed, devastated and grief stricken at the result we must accept it as the will of the people of Scotland, who at this particular moment in our nation's history have decided to vote no. We must follow the words of Margo MacDonald and come together as a people to ensure that we enforce Westminster’s pledge of more powers for Scotland. We cannot let the outer fringes of our national debate work to destroy our national pride.

If I can be permitted to speak personally in this official statement. The most difficult part for me in the fall-out of this vote was to have to face my three sons yesterday morning knowing that we have let them and their generation down. I picked up my five-month-old son and whispered an apology to him with tears rolling down my face. Instinctively he leaned in to comfort his dad, for about three seconds, then he leaned back and slapped me across the face as babies do. I took it in the spirit I hope he meant. Your three seconds of grief are over, it’s time to continue the fight.

I consider my family to be fortunate, we do not have riches, but we are not one of the 800,000 living in poverty in Scotland. My children do not have everything they want but they are not one of the one in four living in poverty in this country. While often we have endured tough times we are not one of the thousands who have had to use food banks in Scotland this year.

These issues are why we campaigned for a yes vote and they are still the issues we will fight for. We have not been alone in this campaign. I am proud that we have shared a platform with Jeane Freeman, Jim Sillars, Colin Fox, Jonathon Shafi, Carolyn Leckie, Cat Boyd, John Finnie and Jeane Urquhart. We consider them and the great many of their parties, groups and individuals who follow them as brothers and sisters in our cause. This also includes a great many of our comrades throughout Yes Scotland’s local areas. It comes as no surprise that the regions who voted yes have real Labour values and traditions running through their core.

This is why the sights and sounds from the Labour leadership during this campaign have been particularly difficult to swallow. From Johann Lamont’s ‘something for nothing society’ to her smiling outside Asda at the claims that their prices would rise after a yes vote, inflicting more hardship and despair among the working class and poor. From the high fives with Tories at many counts to Jim Murphy’s embrace with Annabel Goldie in Clydebank of all places. I am fully aware of the dejection and despondency many Labour members and supporters feel at this time. I fully accept the personal decisions of all our supporters to re-examine their affiliations with not only the party but also Labour for Independence.

It is for this reason that I, my fellow co-convenor Deborah Waters, invite our executive, prominent Labour supporters of LFI and delegates of each of the 32 regions that voted in Scotland to a meeting in Glasgow on October 4. This meeting will decide what, if any future, Labour for Independence will have and how we move forward. I also invite those names I mentioned above to a separate meeting that same day to discuss how we can maintain the solidarity shared throughout the left in this campaign moving forward.

Our wounds are very raw at this moment, now is the time for reflection and renewal. It is through our endeavours that Dundee, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Glasgow voted for the opportunity for change. It is why many in our nation, the 45% yearn for a better way. We owe it to them to come together and consider our future choices, for the betterment of our nation.

 

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