Scotland’s choice

by Daphne Liddle

SCOTLAND’S First Minister, Alex Salmond, has published the White Paper mapping out Scotland’s path to independence, which the Scottish people will vote on in a referendum next September.

The New Communist Party supports the principle of independence for Scotland and Wales. Our 2012 Congress Document says:

“The Scottish and Welsh Labour parties have developed policies, under pressure from the labour movement, that reflect more the demands of the working class for social justice and have a positive message for the workers in England.

“The New Communist Party has long recognised the rights of the Scottish and Welsh nations to full national self determination. We support Scottish and Welsh demands for the right to preserve and develop their culture and national identity.

“We support their right to possess and control all the physical and other resources present on their land and territorial waters. We support the tax-raising powers for the Welsh Assembly. While maintaining our call to vote Labour in Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and local elections, the New Communist Party will support a Yes vote in Scottish referendum.”

But achieving this is not straightforward or simple. The Con-Dem Coalition opposes Scottish independence and is set to make the process as difficult as possible, and has issued many scaremongering threats and warnings to the Scots about their economic prospects if they do achieve independence.

The Scottish nationalist leader has countered with rosy promises that are not regarded as realistic.

Some of the benefits Salmon lists — like increasing free childcare to 30 hours a week for all three and four-yearolds, could even be implemented now under the powers of the existing Scottish Parliament.

His proposal to close the British nuclear weapons base at Faslane and turn it into a conventional naval base for a new Scottish Defence Force, while remaining part of Nato could be a very difficult juggling act, if not impossible.

The loss of the Faslane base will be a big blow to Nato and the Nato powers will oppose this to their utmost. It would strike a mighty blow against the America’s Atlantic Alliance but it is unrealistic to expect Scotland to remain on good terms with them after doing this.

Likewise with Scotland’s economy: Salmond wants Scotland to keep the pound sterling as its currency and gain automatic entry to the European Union as formerly part of an existing member state.

But remaining with sterling will tie Scotland to all the consequences of economic policy decided in Westminster — and Westminster it not expected to be kind to Scotland in its policy making. Imperialist powers do not welcome secessionism.

The EU, which is dominated by Franco-German imperialism, will not necessarily grant Scotland automatic entry. And new entrants now have to agree to join the euro as a condition of joining the EU.

Salmond has promised to abolish the hated Bedroom tax — but to do this he will have to disengage Scotland completely from the rest of Britain’s benefits bureaucracy. It can be done but not instantly.

Nevertheless Scottish independence would free the Scottish working class from the increasingly oppressive and intrusive Westminster government. That is not the same as achieving socialism but it could and should bring some real benefits to Scottish workers. Salmond is no socialist; he is proposing further corporation tax cuts that will benefit capitalists in Scotland at the expense of workers, who will have to make up the difference from their own taxes.

And it shows he is part of the global trend towards economic liberalism, which effectively grants maximum freedom from state influence to fat cats and super rich while cracking down on the working classes.

But Scottish independence would open up the prospect of a genuinely left-wing Scottish Labour government. Again, that would not amount to achieving socialism but it would improve the chances of working-class friendly reforms.

The organised workers of Scotland — the trade unions — would still have to fight for such reforms but they would be easier to win than trying to wring them from Westminster.

So independence for Scotland would not bring any instant paradise for Scotland — and it would be a lot more complicated and difficult than Salmond claims.

But it would put Scottish workers in a much better place to fight for real improvements — and it would be a serious blow to the British ruling class, to British imperialism and to Nato.