With less than five months to go before Scotland goes to the polls to vote on independence, the Better Together campaign is in a state of panic as the gap between both sides continues to narrow.
Recent opinion polls indicate that support for Scottish independence is rising and all the momentum is with the nationalists. A poll by ICM for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper shows that the pro-union side has fallen four points in the last month to 42%, while pro-independence support has remained at 39%. This leaves a gap of only three points between the two.
No campaign: An unholy alliance
Given the performance of the No campaign, led by an unholy alliance of right-wing Labour, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, that should not be totally surprising.
They have played into the hands of Alex Salmond, who explains the struggle for independence as a break with the Tory austerity-ridden establishment in Westminster. The Tory government in London is a godsend to the Nationalists. Thatcher was never forgiven for treating Scotland as a testing ground for the Poll Tax and other policies. So loathed is the British Prime Minister, Tory Toff Cameron, that he cannot front the “No” campaign for fear of alienating people. In the 1950s, the Tories won 50% of the seats in Scotland; today, they are left with just a single member of parliament.
In addition, the Better Together campaign, headed by Alastair Darling, has nothing to offer but a negative campaign, full of statistics and patronising threats. In short, the Scots are being portrayed as good for nothing and incapable of running their own affairs.
Out of desperation, the “No” campaign is now pushing Gordon Brown, a so-called heavy hitter, to intervene against independence, the very man who lost Labour the last election.These people offer nothing but the status quo part two.
More seriously, David Cameron had bungled the referendum from the word go. He thought he was being clever by refusing to allow a third option on the ballot paper – Devolution Max or real powers for the Scottish Parliament – thinking instead that simply Yes/No to independence would be enough to defeat the nationalist cause. This complacency has now completely backfired as they now face potential disaster. No wonder John Stuart Mill called the Tory Party the Stupid Party.
According to February’s Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, if “Devo-Max” had been on the ballot, it would have been supported by a big majority. Instead, we now have the prospect of the Tory Party presiding over the break up of the United Kingdom, which would be an unprecedented debacle for their prestige as well as Britain’s shaky stature in the wider world.
The Scottish Nationalist Party
The SNP is led by smarter-than-usual bourgeois politicians who have skilfully painted themselves as “social democrats” far to the left of the Labour Party.
The right-wing domination of the Labour Party in Scotland has also played into the nationalists’ hands.
Clearly, the SNP is a capitalist “business friendly” party, firmly wedded to the capitalist system, but with an ability to manoeuvre. They have jettisoned the “Tartan Tory” image for a far more radical one, in an attempt to appeal to the working class. But nationalism is a poison that seeks to divide workers on national lines.
For the unity of the working class
Socialist Appeal has no truck with the present Establishment and their own class interests. Our starting point has always been the interests of the working class and the struggle for socialism. While we stand for the right of self-determination of the Scottish people, up to and including the right to separate, we are implacably opposed to bourgeois nationalism, which seeks to divide the working class.
Independence on a capitalist basis will not solve the problems of the working class, which stems precisely from the crisis of capitalism. As James Connolly explained to those advocating Irish independence, “even if the green flag is hoisted over Dublin Castle, England would still rule you through her capital,”
The same would be true in regard to an independent Scotland. In any case, capitalism is in deep crisis everywhere, resulting in massive austerity and brutal attacks. The SNP’s “arc of Prosperity” has turned into an “arc of Crisis”. Divisions into smaller nation states will not solve anything, but only serve to weaken the workers’ movement.
We can understand those who are attracted to independence for positive reasons and greater control over their lives. This is especially the case with young people, alienated by Westminster and the Coalition’s austerity. We are certainly in favour of greater autonomy.
Independence on a capitalist basis
However, independence on a capitalist basis will be the worst of all worlds. This independence would be based on the Monarchy, the Pound, British banks, British military bases, membership of NATO and the EU.
It will not solve the problems faced by Scottish workers, and will serve to undermine the unity of the class. It is the unity of the working class, which is essential for the overthrow of capitalism.
A victory for independence in the September referendum would result in an upsurge of nationalism, which would benefit the SNP. It would be a blow to the unity of the working class across these islands, as nationalist sentiment would inevitably surface in the trade unions and labour movement.
Struggle for socialism
As Marxists, we view the development of trade union and political organisations on an all-Britain scale as a tremendous historical advance and would vehemently oppose any attempts to reverse this trend towards unification of the labour and trade union movement across national boundaries. We stand for the unity of the working class in England, Wales and Scotland.
We are in favour of autonomy for Scotland, with real powers to implement socialist policies, which need to be linked to the struggle of the working class in England and Wales, as well as internationally. We are opposed to independence, not out of enthusiasm for the United Kingdom, but out of a desire for socialism.
Tomorrow there will be May Day celebrations worldwide to mark International Workers’ Day. It celebrates internationalism and the need to challenge global capitalism, which has no borders. If we are to fight world capitalism, then we cannot resort to nationalism. The only way forward for working people is the struggle for internationalism, class solidarity and world socialism.