By Maggie Chetty
Sometimes, thoughts crystallize when you are away, far from the native turf stimulated by contrasts and comparisons. Sitting here in the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains near Malaga, you can see little farms all over, new terraces and new crops of tropical fruits like avocado, mango and custard apple growing in what would be, very inhospitable, vertiginous territory in Scotland.
Over the last fifteen or twenty years some farmers have gradually deserted the traditional crops of lemons, olives and vines to embrace new tropical fruits that are often processed in large cooperatives of local farmers. The road networks from Malaga to the south are very modern and well surfaced, often crossed by huge elegant viaducts or tunnels between mountains.
Just before leaving Glasgow I spoke to a taxi driver who comes often to the area to stay in the house of a friend. When we talked about the referendum, he became animated when I expressed my support for independence.
He said “Have you seen the state of the roads in the South of Spain? They are superb – money spent on basic infrastructure”.
As we spoke we bumped over the potholed surface of Glasgow’s West End. He went on. “I didn’t always believe in Scottish independence but over the last four or five years when I saw what was happening in Westminster, I began to think, we can do much better, nothing could be worse than what is happening there. And I’m not alone in this, many of the people who travel in my cab are the same!”
I have to admit to similar feelings about the poor road infrastructure in many areas of Scotland and the apparent disdain of the Westminster government for the high-speed train links serving anywhere beyond Birmingham – a lack of ambition for modernising infrastructure for the future for anywhere outside London and the South East.
After the re-election of the last SNP Government, First Minister Alex Salmond made a request to the Westminster Government to borrow money for 300 ‘shovel-ready’ projects in Scotland as a way to counteract the impact of public service cuts in the current crisis. This was immediately refused.
By contrast, what you can see around you in Granada Province is the land well cultivated with new and ambitious crops supported by infrastructures that allow excellent transportation and travel.
Allowing for the obvious differences of climate and terrain, you have a sense that whatever current difficulties posed by corrupt reactionary government officials and rapacious EU policies, this is a country with aspirations that is rapidly modernising itself.
Recently different elements of the left in Scotland (and I include myself in this) have used some energy in proclaiming that the referendum is not about the SNP but about independence in Scotland that might be governed by other or new parties. It is also about staking out a claim for the left in this debate.
The reason for this has been dictated by the terms of the argument used by those who oppose independence ie the No Campaign, the Westminster Government, prominent US politicians, the BBC, much of big business, the Labour Party, many trade unions and the Communist Party of Britain – a curious assortment of naysayers.
In my view some of them have arrived in this position through ignorance or misguided loyalties, by absorbing the prejudiced and poisonous propaganda of cultural imperialism spewed out by the establishment over the last three centuries – others are there because they have a serious job to do in preserving the remnants of imperial greatness of the patchwork of nations that makes up the UK.
There is another danger that we must be watchful of, that of failing to recognise the current attacks on the SNP Government for what they are – imperialist forces gathering themselves together to mount a combined attack on the SNP Government’s capacity to unite a broad and diverse front of the electorate in favour of independence. While we on the left wish to ensure that the world at large knows that there is a left movement for independence, we should never forget that the SNP, with whatever mistakes or mis-judgement they may have made, have, nevertheless, borne the brunt of these imperialist attacks.
The SNP have carried the banner for independence and national sovereignty for decades and have won the majority of the Scottish electorate to their vision of a nuclear-free Scotland with public services, health, education and protection of the vulnerable guaranteed. This is an excellent basis for the development of the Scottish Road to Socialism.
Perhaps the time has come for the left to waken up to the need to defend the SNP Government as the only broad front that can bring about Scottish independence.
Maggie Chetty is Secretary of Scottish Socialists for Independence