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
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.
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.
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 million – prepared to vote to quit the
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.