By Alan Bissett
Here we are at the start of Scotland’s great, historic year: 2014, everything building towards the watershed referendum on 18 September.
The No campaign, so long used to a comfortable lead, are feeling their support steadily melt as more people start to question the supposed ‘strength’ and ‘security’ of the UK.
The positive case has been made forcibly by the Yes campaign. Our Unionist media concede this, even as they amplify the No campaign’s attacks on our aspirations.
What has given the Yes campaign momentum lately is the effect of more and more voters weighing a new start for Scotland against what’s on offer from the Better Together campaign: precisely nothing. If a voter is identifying at this stage as a ‘Don’t Know’ – and there are enough of them to swing the balance – it means that independence to them is a vaguely attractive but evanescent concept, well-intentioned, but too much of an unknown in comparison to the familiar here and now of Britain.
The Unionist parties have tried to play to this feeling, by using ‘stability’ of the pound, of defence, of economic size as their main selling-point. But even some No voters are starting to see this as yet another mask for a right-wing agenda.
It should become the task of those in favour of independence to make Westminster’s future for Scotland clear. We must alert working people to reality: our industry, labour and resources have been catastrophically mismanaged by successive UK governments, in hoc to the whims of big business, to our long-term detriment.
Our oil – the vast extent of which was hidden from us by successive Tory and Labour governments – was used by Margaret Thatcher to underwrite the welfare bill caused by her vandalism of the UK economy. Scots found ourselves facing the indignity of having our own oil wealth used by a government we didn’t vote for to decimate our industry. The eventual result can be now witnessed in the opening of food banks in Glasgow, a looming homelessness crisis, rocketing energy costs and widespread poverty.
Not only have the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems shown no will in dealing with these problems, each has exacerbated them when in power. The pro-independence parties of the Scottish Socialists, the Greens and the SNP, while they disagree on vision, at least have plans to reverse this decline.
The ‘Better Together’ campaign, bankrolled by Tories, corrupt interests and wealthy elites, sees Scotland as a political irrelevance, a mere supplier of oil receipts to the UK treasury, an exploitable resource or (in the case of Labour) a source of votes. Retaining the status quo will be the minimum of its efforts: the stealth withdrawal of powers from Holyrood and cuts to Scotland’s budget are its true objective.
Their threats have been cloaked by a compliant media, but various pronouncements from key figures have hinted strongly that if Scotland votes No the status quo is as good as we will ever have it. After all, we were promised rewards if we voted No to devolution in 1979. What we received was Thatcherism. Scottish people are not stupid. Our aspirations- for ourselves, for our families and for our country – have not been matched reality. We are constantly reminded by the No campaign about supposed Britain’s economic might and prosperity, while our living standards and job security continue to falter.
The independence movement must not only confirm that the suspicions of Scots are correct – that only a super-rich minority benefit from the current UK set-up – but also set out a powerful alternative.
Pete Ramand and James Foley’s forthcoming book Yes: The Radical Case For Scottish Independence is a very good place to start. Under no illusions about either the British state or the capitalist intentions of the SNP leadership, it shows the way ahead for a true democracy in which workers and communities properly participate, a nationalised economy, based on Green energy, an oil fund, and a progressive taxation system which ensures that the wealthy – who currently enjoy tax avoidance at our expense – pay their way.
For socialists, we must make clear that independence alone will not solve Scotland’s problems, as ours will still be a state, like any other, vulnerable to predatory capitalism. Backed, however, by the active participation of workers and a strong Left programme, Scotland can meet this challenge.
We could go beyond even the good example of Nordic social democracy and adopt the successful, co-operative models of running industry found in Brazil and the Basque region of Spain, in which profits are reinvested in the communities which produced them. We have nine months to persuade the people of Scotland that the UK economy is irredeemably broken and that a better way is possible.
Let’s make them count.
Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice