So far the ‘Independence’ debate has been a sterile argument between unionists and nationalists.
Would independence impoverish Scotland and turn it into another Greece or Portugal on the periphery of Europe? Or would it make us a land of prosperity – a new Norway?
More importantly, for trade unionists and socialists, the debate so far misses the crucial dimensions of class politics and the redistribution of income and wealth. What constitutional settlement would best allow the people of Scotland to break the power of big business and neoliberal policies and promote social and economic justice?
And, as this pamphlet agues, this has to be done in large part at British level because that is where the capital which controls Scotland’s economy is concentrated.
The STUC has played a leading role in the campaign for Home Rule and a Scottish Parliament since the 1930s. But it was always for a parliament with the powers to tackle the deep rooted challenges facing working people – poverty, poor housing, inadequate public services, unemployment and industrial closures. In other words, working people in Scotland needed a parliament to represent them which could work in unity with working people elsewhere in Britain to defend and advance their interests. Such a parliament is now more needed than ever.
Under this scheme, Scotland’s parliament could be part of a federal structure in which England, or the regions within it, could have some measure of self government while a federal government in London would have responsibility for the currency, corporate tax rates and a portion of income tax. A crucial component of this would be to maintain the principle of redistribution of income from the wealthy south-east and City of London (currently the Barnet formula) to poorer areas like Scotland. The Scottish Parliament, for its part, should have the power to take over failing companies, to hold key industries and utilities in public ownership and to invest in selected strategic industries such as renewable energy and life sciences through the public sector.
By contrast, ‘independence’ or ‘full fiscal autonomy’ would break the unity of workers and trade unionists across Britain. SNP policy is to lower taxes on corporate profits to attract business away from other parts of Britain. ‘Independence in Europe’ would deprive Scottish people of the very powers they would need to intervene in industry or borrow for strategic investment.
Both would be in breach of EU competition law or the new EU ‘stability pact’. Moreover, ‘independence’ and ‘full fiscal autonomy’ would both dispense with the crucial principle of redistribution of income at UK level. An ‘independent’ or ‘devo-max’ Scotland, without a high level of unity and working class mobilisation, would become a low tax, low wage economy which would struggle to maintain public spending and jobs at current levels.
Only a Scottish Parliament with increased powers of intervention in the economy, which retained the principle of redistribution at British level, would promote the unity of trade unionists and working people throughout Britain.
This would create the optimum conditions for democratic advance and socialism in Scotland and across Britain.