Yes vote must do more than put a kilt on neoliberalism


By John McAllion

During his recent televised debate with Jim Sillars, George Galloway warned that an independent Scotland would be “no cold water Cuba”.  It was the only point during the debate that George’s arguments connected to reality.

A Yes vote will herald the break-up of the British state and the birth of a new Scotland.  However, it is no guarantee that politics in the new Scotland will shift decisively to the left.

In the most recent Scottish Parliament elections, Scotland’s four big parties took 98 per cent of the seats and 99 per cent of the constituency vote. By no stretch of the imagination could any of these parties be described as socialist. Arguably, in that election, the SNP fought on the most progressive of the manifestos on offer.

It promised to defend universal benefits, to keep privatisation out of the NHS, to retain Scottish water in public ownership, to preserve free higher education and to oppose Trident renewal.

Yet, at the economic core of the same manifesto, it also promised low and competitive taxes for Scotland’s private sector, not to use the Parliament’s tax varying power, a freeze on local government taxes, a cut to the costs of Scotland’s public and civil services and the imposition of pay limits on Scotland’s public sector workers. It also argued for Scottish control of corporation tax as a means of achieving “…the lower rate needed to maximise the economic benefit for our nation”.

All of Scotland’s mainstream parties are committed to NATO membership, the retention of the monarchy, privatised utilities and deregulated markets in which capital is free to roam the globe in search of private profit.  None of them are committed to repeal of the harshest anti-trade union laws in Europe.  All of them claim to be pro-business and all of them denounce the politics of class warfare.

In the event of a Yes vote, most of the sitting 59 MPs and 129 MSPs will share a sense of entitlement to a seat in the newly independent Parliament.  The party hierarchies and machines that sustain these politicians will still be in place.

The same safety-first civil service will continue to patrol Scotland’s corridors of power.  The print and broadcast media will go on reporting what the big four parties do.  The legal, educational, financial and business establishments will carry on trying to set the limits to political action.

There is a real danger that having campaigned hard for two years and having won a yes majority against the political odds, that some will believe it is job done on the morning of 19 September. If so, they would be making a huge mistake.

The real struggle for a socialist independent Scotland begins after we have secured a Yes vote. If the ruling elites referred to above are allowed to inherit the reins of power in an independent Scotland without serious political challenge, then the Yes campaign will have achieved little more than to put a kilt on the neoliberal status quo.

That cannot be allowed to happen.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the Yes campaign has been the re-energising of politics across the country. Old style political meetings are back. The SSP case for a socialist Scotland has played to packed meetings across the country. The Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow attracted 1000 accredited participants. Yes Scotland are themselves drawing in crowds that are unprecedented for a non-party campaign.

Old style canvassing is also back with 90 activists knocking on the doors of one Glasgow housing scheme on one recent night. A generation that had turned away from party politics in disgust has now re-engaged with a political struggle that has everything to do with building the good society and nothing to do with feathering the nests of politicians on the make.

The vision driving Yes activists across Scotland has nothing to do with ethnic nationalism. It is entirely free of any form of racism. It has no trace of anti-English sentiment.

It is all about building that other possible Scotland in which people come before profit.  It is all about building a more equal, a greener and a socially just society.

That vision can only become a reality in an independent Scotland if Yes activists organise to make it happen. That will mean re-building a mass party of the Left. It will mean re-constituting our trade unions as instruments of radical change.

It will mean devising new models of common, public and democratic ownership and much more besides. It will mean turning the world as we know it upside down. 18 September is not the end. It is just the beginning.

Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice