Scottish Independence – A Dilemma for the Left?

Yes, I know what you’re thinking; “For God’s sake, man, we’ve got this going on all around us, must you really join in too?” Well, the short answer is; yes, yes I must. You see the thing is, that as a Scot from a working class family, living in Scotland’s biggest city, this is an issue very close to my heart and one that I take deep interest in. So unfortunately, there’s going to be a metric shit tonne of this stuff going up every now and again.

So, Comrades, it’s a divisive issue, is it not? Perhaps more divisive than one might think, however. In one corner, one imagines, the ardent nationalists -wearing kilts and drinking whisky whilst singing ‘Scot’s Wha Hae’- all for the idea of an independent Scotland, whilst in the other corner, sit the Union Flag waving, tea drinking, Westminster types all singing ‘God Save the Queen’. The SNP on one side with the Tories, Labour and the Lib-Dems on the other side. Naturally, the rest of the public looking on expects the left all to pick one side, and generally assumes it will jump in with Labour on the ‘Better Together’ train.

But what we see in this debate could not be farther from the truth, because even Labour is divided on the issue, Allan Gorgan and his ‘Labour Voters for Independence’ movement has torn a huge chunk from Labour’s membership regarding this debate, not only that, but Labour even manages to be splitting itself from the ‘Better Together’ campaign by launching it’s own ‘United with Labour’ Campaign, separate from the Conservatives in the ‘Better Together’ Campaign. But the main point here remains that even with regards to Yes/No, Labour is deeply split. So where does this leave the rest of the left-wing?

Traditionally the left-wing of the United Kingdom had been pro-union, with parties such as the Socialist Worker’s Party and Socialist Party of Great Britain standing against the Yes Campaigns in the 1979 referendum on Devolution. However, in recent years, it has begun to change, with the SSP now standing in support of an Independent Scotland, along with members of the left-wing community up and down Scotland, including many south of the border too. However, these groups are not also without their splits, whilst official party stances may change, the individual beliefs remain as divided as ever, clearly evidenced by the Labour Party’s current split on the issue.

Many leftists in Scotland still believe independence to be a bad move, something to firmly oppose. Those who support the idea of an independent Scotland are generally branded ‘nationalists’ and deemed untrue to the international struggle of the proletariat. It is argued that we cannot possibly be better off under independence and that the same kinds of problems will persist in Scotland as they have done before regardless of how we vote. Some will even claim we’ll be worse off. There are generally two basic arguments: “You cannot guarantee we will be better off or that the people will be any better off” and “That nationalist belief is counter to the internationalist principles of socialism”. So I’ll try and cover these both separately.

“You cannot guarantee that under independence, the Scottish people would be any better off or more fairly treated than they are now under the current system.”

To this, I would concede, no, I cannot guarantee you anything like that. However, what I can guarantee you is a chance to make things better. Now there have been many reports from both sides making various claims from the extraordinarily unbelievable to the mundane and rather pointless. I personally don’t blame you for not wanting to believe either side. However, Scottish Independence offers us a chance, it is that chance, that opportunity that is there to be taken, to let us try to build a fairer Scotland that is the real goal to the campaign. A ‘yes’ vote would allow the Scottish people to take matters into their own hands and to govern themselves, it would bring the government 600 miles closer to the Scottish People. What’s more a small country is more easily able to look after the individual areas and people than a huge country.

The status-quo would do one thing and one thing only, leave things exactly as they are. Westminster continues to make cuts and pursue austerity measures in a desperate bid to save a dying system from total collapse. The U.K. currently has some of the highest levels of debt in the developed world and is cutting these debts at the expense of its people. As a matter of fact, the only way we can make sure we are not better off it to stick with the current system.

The ‘Better Together’ campaign continually tell us things such as “You won’t be welcome in Europe, people won’t want to trade with a new Scotland.” Well, this is not really true, Scotland already trades much of its resources to Europe and other countries, these trade partners trade with Scotland, not for the flag on the packet, but for the product inside the packet. Scotland is already a key player in the European market and to suggest that Independence would change that is simply not credible. There is also the notion that independence would scare off businesses and harm the economy. Well, this is also not true, many large and small businesses have welcomed the idea of trading in an independent Scotland, under more competitive levels of corporation tax, set forward by the Scottish Government.

The other favourite of the Better Together lot is the oil issue. “The price of oil is fluctuating”, “You cannot simply have an economy run on oil”, “It’s running out”, etc, etc. The oil issue is perhaps the most hotly contested issue in the debate. But the fact of the matter is, that most of the Better Together campaign’s material on the oil issue is sheer scare-mongering. It should first be noted that Scotland’s economy is not as dependent on oil as one might be led to believe; other industries such as technology, whisky, seafood, renewable energy, tourism, etc, make up a huge proportion of Scotland’s economy already, that’s not the oil dependent economy the Better Together lot would have you hear about. Another little tidbit that they don’t tell you is about Norway, and economy far more dependent upon oil resources than our own, but one of the wealthiest countries in Europe with one of the highest standards of living. It can be done.

“In supporting the Nationalist cause you act counter to the internationalist ideals of Socialism”

Well, that’s not entirely fair, you assume because I support the self determination of a group of people, I should be branded a nationalist and kicked away, yes? Dear, oh, dear, how narrow minded the left has become. I am perfectly aware that socialism is an international struggle, I am a socialist, but the idea that unless we go for international change straight away, it’s not worth it, is silly. In fact it is a huge problem in the left right now, that too many people throw away the ideas for small change because they want big, global change over night. I have some news, that’s not how it works, one requires small changes, at a national level first. The world isn’t going to undergo an international socialist revolution in a week, these things take time.

The fact is, that Scotland is already fairly left leaning as a country, even the nationalist party are described as Social-Democrats for god’s sake. A small, left-wing, fairly well off country, is far more likely to make the move to the left than a large right-wing, christian, conservative kingdom like the U.K. It’s the small change that is needed to set Scotland on the road to socialism, because let’s face it, Scotland’s more likely to vote left than the rest of the U.K.

What’s more, it’s fairer to the people of Scotland, you have to remember, that as a socialist, you fight for the people, for their interests, for their chance at fairer society, freedom and equality. To stand against independence is a fundamentally un-socialist thing to do, as you stand against the right of an entire people to their own self-determination. Remember, that before we can start to think big, we need to think small. When socialists talk of the global struggle, they begin to leave behind the troubles of their own people, the people they represent and the people that need them. When one declares that he fights for the people, yet ignores the people around him for those somewhere far away whose troubles he cannot begin to comprehend, he alienates himself from his people.

There are of course more concerns from the left, and rightly so, this being the biggest decision the Scottish people have made in three hundred years, however in my opinion, the benefits of independence far outweigh the benefits of remaining part of a dying imperialist power. For a little more info on the Scottish Socialist Party’s stance on independence, visit their website at: http://www.scottishsocialistparty.org/policies/

That’s all from me for now, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer it. For now, however,

Thanks for reading.

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