Scotland's left on independence referendum: For an 'anti-austerity yes vote'

Statements on the Scottish independence referendum by the Scottish Socialist Youth, the International Socialist Group (Scotland) and the Scottish Greens.

By Andy Bowden

January 10, 2012 -- Scottish Socialist Youth -- After almost a year since the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory we have a  date – autumn 2014 for the most important referendum in Scottish history, on whether or not we stay in a union [the United Kingom] dominated by the right wing, a state that invaded Iraq, imposes nuclear weapons on the Clyde, destroyed Scotland’s industrial base, or whether we become an independent nation with the power to fundamentally change Scotland for the better and which reflects the left of centre political terrain instead of being dominated by the Tory home counties.

The referendum date has been announced after months of whining from the unionist [pro-British] parties, all of which have been in disarray since the SNP’s victory. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories [Conservative Party] all called for a referendum to be held as soon as possible after the SNP’s victory – ignoring that when the SNP was a minority administration they all refused to support the SNP’s call for an independence referendum in 2011.

They must be kicking themselves now – the poll on Scotland’s future will now take place after two years of a vicious Tory austerity package that will disproportionately affect Scotland’s economy, which itself has a higher than average public sector employment due to destruction of Scottish industry in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher. If it comes down to choosing between a government led by [the SNP's] Alex Salmond in Holyrood and many years of continued Tory rule in Westminster, even non-nationalist Scots may vote Yes as an “exit strategy” from Tory misrule.

This fear of a referendum being held at the height of Tory cuts is probably what motivated British Prime Minister David Cameron – along with typical unionist arrogance – to try to bring the referendum under the control of Westminster. After 300 years of Scotland having no say in whether or not we stay in the union, Westminster is now very concerned that Scots should have a fair say in it, even going as far as to say a referendum held by the Scottish parliament would be “illegal” and “unconstitutional”. A bit ironic given that the UK has no written constitution – it has kings, queens, princes, dukes, but no constitution.

At the end of the day, no referendum carried out is “binding” under UK law – all of them are advisory. And if there’s a majority yes vote for independence, it does not matter whether it’s in 2012 or 2014 – politically, the union is finished. After years of snidey slagging of Scots as “subsidy junkies”, “dole scum”, too wee to go it alone etc, Conservatives in England are beginning to wake up to the reality of Scottish Independence – the British state would be “Shorn of its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and relegated to minnow status in Nato”.

Unfortunately for the Tories who have less MPs in Scotland than there are Pandas, they’re unlikely to have any impact in stopping the breakup of the UK. Cameron’s intervention into the timing of the referendum shows he has zero tactical knowledge of the Scottish political scene. The unionist pillar of political strength in Scotland is the Labour Party, which has still not recovered from its defeat of 2007 let alone last year’s humiliating rout in Scotland.

Despite the disparity in political strength between the SNP and it’s unionist opponents, by 2014 you can expect the honeymoon between the Scottish media and the SNP to be over, if not at least on hiatus for the duration of an independence referendum campaign. Expect predictions of the apocalypse if Scotland decides to go it alone.

That’s why we need to organise a grassroots independence campaign to ensure we have our own media to promote the case for Independence – with Socialists adovcating a republic, public ownership of oil and taxes on the super rich, in contradiction to the SNP’s model of Scotland as a "Celtic Tiger" like, er, Ireland.

Pro-independence left-wingers don’t just need to organise to win the referendum, but also to shape the future of a post-independence Scotland – to oppose any moves to keep Scotland inside a “Union lite” with British military bases kept in Scotland on lease, or where our economy is run along the same Thatcherite lines that condemns a quarter of Scottish children to poverty.

For the first time in decades we have a chance to fundamentally change Scotland and Scottish politics for the better. Lets get organised to build the Socialist Republic.

[Scottish Socialist Youth is the youth organisation of the Scottish Socialist Party.]

International Socialist Group: Scottish independence -- where we stand

By Chris Bambery

January 11, 2012 --  International Socialist Group, Scotland -- There is a reek of desperation about the manner in which [British PM David] Cameron and his Liberal Democratic Party allies have blundered into a confrontation with [Scotland's First Minister] Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party (SNP) administration in Edinburgh over the referendum on Scottish independence. Why this sudden panic?

First, the reality has sunk in that a referendum will almost certainly vote for "devolution max". The polls suggest support for independence is growing, particularly among the young and the working class. Thus a state of alarm has set in among the Tories and their cronies because the preservation of the [United Kingdom] matters to the British ruling class. Globally, Scottish independence would be seen as a diminution of its power.

At a personal level there are deep ties between the British ruling class and Scotland. There is a British ruling class which unites its Scottish and English components. This alliance was forged on the battlefield, in the bloody construction of empire and in the emergence of the United Kingdom as an industrial and financial global power. David Cameron not only represents, but embodies this, as does equally the British royal family. The realisation Scotland might vote for independence comes as a genuine shock to these people.

Second, Cameron and his Liberal Democrat collaborators have little influence on the situation north of the border. The Tories are openly described as a "toxic brand" on BBC Radio Scotland news and the Liberal Democrats are regarded today as little more than Tories bedecked in yellow. Any united "no" campaign, which is what Cameron wants, would have to rely on the participation and co-operation of the Labour Party. But even a supporter of a "no" vote like Labour frontbencher Jim Murphy rules out appearing on the same platform as Cameron because of the toxicity associated with the Tories.

Thus the coalition government has charged into this confrontation with the SNP administration in a way which will have delighted Alex Salmond. When Cameron, Danny Alexander et al. dictate that Scotland can have a referendum but that they will decide the question, timescale and who runs the vote, it reeks of the old colonial attitude – the old adage that “the natives can have a vote but they cannot be trusted to run things themselves”. The demand from Westminster that a referendum should be a straight choice between union and independence with no third option for "devolution max" also carries the implication that the natives are too stupid to decide on anything more than two options.

Salmond will relish a confrontation with the Tories because, for many people in Scotland, he will effectively be confronting Thatcher’s spiritual heirs, and in that fight there is only one winner. The scare being spun by George Osborne, Cameron and Alexander is that big business won’t invest in Scotland because of the threat of independence. There’s not a shred of evidence for this and the prime minister’s spokesperson was forced to admit that it was based on private soundings. The business world seems far more worried about Cameron’s "veto" on Europe than on the prospect of Scotland voting for independence within the European Union.

It’s a very basic point, but a referendum which is an act of self-determination should be decided upon and controlled by the people it affects, not imposed by Cameron and his allies. We take the position that we’re for the break up of the United Kingdom by whatever means possible given the UK’s bloody record round the globe (most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya), with a fresh one looming in Iran.

We know that the Scottish ruling class played a massive part in the creation and maintenance of British imperialism, and we will not forgive that, but we want shot of the UK state. They can take [the] Trident [nuclear submarines] and its replacement away from the Clyde when they go, and we want no Scottish troops involved in imperialist wars.

However, on a more positive note, in campaigning for a "yes" vote for independence we can promote the argument for an "anti-austerity Yes vote". Cameron (and now British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband) wants to doom us to at least a decade of austerity. By campaigning for Scotland to escape that nightmare we can fight for our vision of a new society and that can help build resistance south of the border.

While independence for Scotland should be championed, becoming cheerleaders for the free-market capitalist Salmond would be a mistake for the anti-austerity resistance, anti-war movement and the left. We need to build our own independent, united movement in this referendum campaign – one that puts the needs and wants of the people at the fore, instead of the big business independent Scotland aspired to by Salmond and the SNP.

Scottish Greens: Referendum must empower Scots from 16 years up

By the Scottish Greens

January 2012 -- Responding to today's announcement by the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Scottish Greens have called for the transfer of new powers to come without strings attached and for the urgent opening up of the debate to what kind of independent Scotland the voters are being offered.

The Scottish Greens support votes for 16 and 17 year olds and will campaign for their voice to be heard in the referendum.

Patrick Harvie, member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) said:

It’s essential that the transfer of new powers to put the referendum on a stronger legal footing must be without strings - it must be genuinely empowering. Anything else will be seen by every Scottish voter as a piece of mischief and nothing more. Denying 16 and 17 year olds a vote on the future of their country is a shameful position that must be reversed right away.

Both sides are so far obsessed with posturing and process. Both need to move on to a debate about the kind of society Scotland could become. The real issues are about how independence – or any other option – could deliver a more equal society, a more sustainable economy, and a decent future for our communities.

Greens take the view that independence could offer a radically better future for Scotland, but it’s vital that the campaign engages people with those issues, instead of only offering opportunities for politicians to strut and posture at one another.

[For more on the Scottish Greens' position, see the videos at]