Next year, on Thursday 18th September, to be precise, the electorate in Scotland will be given the option of going to the polls to cast their vote on a historic question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?"
The dissolving of the four hundred year-unity of the crowns and the three hundred years-plus of the union of the Scottish and English parliaments could well be a reality.
The debate, thus far, and the campaigns by both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps have been hotly fought and the usual rhetoric has generated, possibly, considerably more heat than light. The view common in the English media, in so far that anyone there actually cares about such a potentially seismic move in our shared existence, has amounted to little more than anti-Scottish bile and a yawning chasm of ignorance; factually inaccurate jibes about ‘Tartan Scroungers’ and the mythically enormous subsidy Scotland receives from her poor exploited neighbour abound. As do tales of the largesse on which the Scottish people live like lairds. As the English electorate aren’t entitled to a vote, though, such views require no further examination.
One place where the fighting is fiercest has been among Labour supporters and those to the left of Labour; which, these days, is pretty much 90% of everyone outside the Tory party and their supporters.
The question of independence has seen Labour lining up alongside the Conservative party and pleading for a continuation of unionist government and rule by London. In a country where there are more Chinese Pandas than Conservative MPs, this has, understandably, gone down about as well as a walkabout on Merseyside by Kelvin Mackenzie.
While the Tories have hammered all parts of the United Kingdom’s working class, nowhere else on the island have they done so with such a breathtaking lack of consensus. The democratic deficit that exists in Scotland is simply enormous; year after year, decade after decade polices expressly designed to enrich, still further, the wealthiest at the expense of those least able to afford it, have been ruthlessly carried through in a country which has consistently, overwhelmingly and democratically rejected them. Yet still Scotland is ruled by her London-based overlords. And Labour’s campaign amounts to what? Little more than asking Scotland to allow this to continue, basically. Not an overstatement to say, as incentives go, that Labour’s pitiful case is laughable.
It is this rejection of Conservative ‘values’ that drives the ‘Yes’ campaign. In contrast to English nationalism, which has been defined by Empire, the ruling class and the far right, BNP, EDL etc, nationalism north of the border is significantly lacking in the virulent racism and bigotry of its neighbour to the south. A yearning for egalitarianism and the sort of progressive social democracy long abandoned by Labour, both New and Blue alike, is what fuels the ‘Yes’ campaign.
There is, however, a hard and glaring logic to the Labour campaign. Simply that under current conditions, and the UK’s first past the post system of electing governments, there is a very real danger that if Scotland leaves the union, what remains of the UK will be doomed to permanent Tory rule. Sounds absolutely horrifying, doesn’t it? A closer examination of the facts, though, suggests that, in practical terms not a lot would change for England, Wales and the Six Counties. After all, with barely a cigarette paper between the Tory party and Blue Labour, in policy terms, who’s going to notice a difference? A decade plus of New Labour rule gave us imperialist war at America’s behest, PFI, welfare ‘reforms,’ which the current administration have merely carried through to their logical conclusion, deregulation of the City, a party “intensely relaxed” about obscene wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and the Tories’ anti-TU and draconian employment legislation left intact. The current manifestation, Blue Labour, can’t even bring themselves to vote against the Coalition’s despicable retrospective legislation and the brutal kicking of the poor. In fact, on the same day that vote occurred, they suspended three of their own councillors for voting against the ruling Labour Group’s austerity budget!
Apart from anything else, those of us living in England, exiled Scots, natural-born Englishmen and immigrant alike, will have the same choice we’ve always had under both high-handed Tory and unprincipled Labour rule; do something about it and rebel, either at the ballot box or, preferably, on the streets.
Blue Labour’s campaign is nothing but a fight for political survival and hell mend them, frankly. Had they been doing the job they were historically created to do, they’d need not fear Scottish independence.
So much for Blue Labour then and the case is clear; A ‘Yes’ vote would see Scotland free from both Tory rule and the spineless, ineffectual handwringing of the utterly useless official ‘opposition’. In fact, a 29-year old journalist and rank-and-file party member is a far more effective opposition and Owen Jones isn’t even an MP. Yet…
But would things be any better under the SNP? Well, as an old psychology adage has it, the best predicator of future behaviour is past and present behaviour. So free university education, prescriptions, travel for the elderly, a commitment that none of its councils will evict anyone for non-payment of the hated ‘Bedroom Tax’ to name just a few of the SNP’s achievements, might be a pointer to an independent Scotland ruled by the SNP (should they win the post-independence election, of course). Small pickings, sure, but compared to Blue Labour’s supine and craven capitulation to Tory orthodoxy, it’s virtually the Communist Manifesto. Much more importantly, it’s a concrete sign from the former ‘Tartan Tories’ that they are shrewdly listening to the working class base of the Scottish electorate, something Labour patently does not. Social values and the needs of the people are rated far higher than by the Westminster establishment. Of course harbouring too many illusions in Salmond and co would be foolish. They’re politicians, after all, and as wedded to neoliberalism as the other main parties.
Incredibly, all of that seems to have escaped most of the Brit hard left who have ended up on the same side of the debate as the Tories and Blue Labour. Sepia-tinged Bolshevik scripture, stripped of context and place, is recycled to justify the position. ‘One State, One Party’, cry the comrades, as they denigrate the Scottish Socialist Party, Scottish Republican Socialist Party and other socialists north of the border. I know; I used to say the same thing myself. It’s nonsense, though. If you’re a revolutionary socialist, you’d actually reject the very real weakening of the Brit state simply because it falls short of its outright destruction? Really? Lunacy, frankly.
Also, the historic unity of the British working class will be severed, we’re told. Again, utter nonsense. Why on earth should it be? Nothing is stopping such unity continuing via trade unions and other associations. People in the UK refusing to send aid and get involved with campaigns to help the beleaguered Palestinians simply because they aren’t part of the UK are somewhat thin on the ground, you might have noticed…
No one on the left who is supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign is under any illusion that independence will lead to a glorious socialist paradise but a more equitable society than that which currently exists is a very real possibility. However, there is a much more fundamental imperative, a much more noble and inalienable truth underpinning the ‘Yes’ campaign: simply that all nations should have the right to self-determination. The Brit left can, and does, support national liberation struggles all over the world. Why not the one on its door-step?
For all of the above and because “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself" Scotland should vote ‘Yes’ next year.