Neil Findlay MSP and Tommy Kane
The Yes to Independence and Better Together campaigns have each wrapped themselves in a flag, but have so far avoided setting out programmes to tackle the issues of inequality and industrial decline.
On the one hand we have the SNP, the Greens and Scottish Socialist Party (who emerged from the staunchly anti independence Militant tendency) joining with right wing venture capitalists like Peter De Vink and the banker George Mathewson in a cross class alliance for independence. In Better Together the Scottish Labour Party, still the political expression of trade unionism, holds hands with the Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties. With such diverse interests on both sides it is impossible for common policy platforms to emerge outside the simple notions of “Independence or Union.”
Both Left and Right of the Yes Campaign see independence as a panacea. As is argued in more detail by Richard Leonard in this publication, ownership and control of Scotland’s Industry would still, in an Independent Scotland, predominately rest outside Scotland and be largely impervious to Scottish influence since we would no longer be able to vote for a government, able to reign in the power of that capital.
Perhaps most worryingly, for a Post Independent Scotland, the SNP, the drivers of Scottish independence, are quite comfortable at the dominance of Capital. As pro independence SSP member John McAllion puts it, commenting on Alex Salmond:
“If continuing SNP electoral success requires a new constitutional settlement that leaves the monarchy still ruling over us, he’s up for that. If it means keeping Treasury control over Scotland’s currency, he can live with that. If it means retention of the British armed forces, he will argue for continuing military co-operation between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Independence, he will argue, is a process not an event. We know that there will be a referendum. We do not yet know what that referendum will be all about.”
But it will be the SNP who negotiate the Independence on offer, so we know that this referendum will not be about breaking the influence global capital currently exerts in Scotland. The Yes campaign seeks a nominal self-determination with no concern given to economic self-determination or real political independence. As John McAllion, accurately points out, the plan is a Scotland subject to UK monetary policy and financial regulation (and of course royal protocols).
To this we can add in all likelihood NATO policies and practices, which in the case of Germany, for example and other ‘non nuclear’ states in NATO means that even although Germany itself has no nuclear weapons it nevertheless stores US nuclear weapons and supplies and trains pilots who can fly nuclear weapon laden aircraft. It is this context that we should treat the SNP’s commitment to a non nuclear Scotland.
What of the Better Together Campaign? Its members cannot outline a coherent vision either, for a Scotland that seeks to break and/or control the power of Capital and work in the interests of ordinary working people. A glipse of the weight of social and economic devastation Scotland is faced with is shown in the boxes below and the Better Together Campaign cannot simply speak of the virtues of the UK and how well we have been served by the current Union, without recognition that things must change within that union. Nor can it attack the SNP regression in foreign policy to neo-imperialism, because that is where all of the parties of the Better Together Campaign abide.
We need something better. We need a settlement that recognises and retains the existing arrangements for transferring resources across the UK. We also need additional powers for the parliament to allow for significant redistribution of wealth within Scotland and greater control over the economy by working people.
Logically this means that we cannot support a second question where Devo Max is posed as an alternative to Independence. Devo Max, as defined by the SNP, would in effect mean the end to redistribution within the UK and a likely race to the bottom in corporate taxation (See Dave Watson’s Article in this publication).
Whatever the question eventually put to the Scottish people, we believe there is time for the Labour and Trade Union movement to generate its own alternative using the Scottish Labour Party’s and the STUC’s review process. Our aim is that the ideas generated in this paper are included in those debates and form part of the Labour Movement alternative for constitutional change. This follows in the tradition of the first Red Paper in 1975.
In 2005, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Red Paper in Scotland 1975, John Foster, one of the original contributors, came together with a number of people associated with the Red Paper Collective to produce a series of essays under the title Red Paper on Scotland 2005.
The 1975 Red Paper on Scotland is remembered today mainly because it was edited by none other than Gordon Brown. It should be remembered instead for the influence it had in the pushing for democratic devolution and for seeking to advance people power at the expense of the power of capital in Scotland. In that it was part of a long, Labour Movement tradition arguing for home rule as part of deepening democracy within the political and economic union that is Britain.
It is in that tradition that we stand. The current debate must spur the Scottish Labour and Trade union movement to mobilise the Scottish People behind a position that retains its historic solidarity with the rest of the working class in Britain and the capacity wealth to be redistributed within the nations and regions of Britain. We need stronger powers to ensure that social ownership allows us to own and invest in productive elements of the Scottish economy which also means greater borrowing powers.
It is becoming clearer that these additional powers will not be handed to us and that we will have to fight for them. As the late Alex Falconer was wont to say, quoting Tom Paine “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it” The same is true of socialism.
- 630,000 individuals are in households experiencing absolute poverty
- 970,000 are living in households that are in “relative poverty”
- 160,000 children live in absolute poverty
- 260,000 children live in relative poverty
- Results: poor health, poor education, bad housing, reduced social opportunities, higher rates of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness (McKendrick et al)
- 658,000 households livie in fuel poverty (defined as people using more than 10% of the family income to pay their energy bills)
- In Tayside last year a significant increase in malnutrition, with 182 reported cases.
- 2,000 more deaths of people aged 65 in Winter 2008/09 compared to the summer months (The Poverty Site)
- Meanwhile the big six energy companies made £15bn profits.
- Men living in the most deprived areas have 18.8 years lower life expectancy and women 17.1 years than for those in the least deprived areas (Scottish Government)
- In the UK the share of output going to wages has fallen from 64% to today’s level of 53% creating a growing number of families classified as “working poor”
- Being unemployed is even worse: 143,000 Scottish people are claiming Job Seekers Allowance, 215,000 are officially unemployed; while 1.573m Scots are classified as ‘economically inactive’ (ONS, June 2012).
- Youth unemployment reached 41,300 (ONS, June 2012).
- Job vacancies available in June 2012, 36,000.
- 1,000 rich people in the UK have seen their incomes rise to record levels, from £146bn in 2000 to £444bn in 2012. (Sunday Times)