Scotland’s Choice

THE FIRST stage of the Scottish independence referendum has begun. Anyone living in Scotland aged 16 and over on 18th September, who is registered to vote, can take part in the ballot. Some 700,000 Scots received their postal ballot papers this week. The rest will go to the polling stations on 18th September to vote on the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country. If Scotland votes yes, then talks will take place over transferring powers from Westminster to Holyrood, with 24th March 2016 pencilled in as Scottish Independence Day.

The debate has dominated Scottish politics. The pro-independence Yes campaign has naturally been led by the Scottish National Party which runs the devolved Scottish government and holds the majority in the Scottish Parliament, while the opposition Better Together platform is dominated by the Labour Party that governed Scotland in coalition with the Liberal-Democrats until its defeat at the hands of the SNP in 2007.

The nationalists are not calling for an end to the monarchy. The “independence” the nationalists want is simply the independence Scotland possessed when it became a dual monarchy in the 17th century. Scotland and England were ruled by the same monarch in a customs union, an army united by loyalty to the Crown, following the same foreign policy but with separate parliaments, which made their own laws for their own kingdoms. This continued until the Scottish ruling class opted for a combined parliament and single “Great Britain” in 1707.

Neither side disputes the fact that Scotland is a nation and the real issue is whether Scots would be economically better or worse off with a sovereign parliament in Edinburgh. Though there has been a robust debate neither side has been completely open about their motives. The Labour-led anti-independence campaign has played on the economic uncertainty that they claim would follow independence but few have publicly verbalised their real fear that the loss of some 60-odd Scottish seats could jeopardise Labour’s chances of ever winning a general election outright in the rest of Britain.

Likewise the nationalists present a rosy picture of a land of opportunity in a future independent Scotland while keeping quiet on the real argument coming from the sections of the Scottish bourgeoisie that support them who see the Westminster Parliament as an obstacle to greater integration within the European Union.

Nevertheless Scottish independence would free the Scottish working class from an increasingly oppressive and intrusive Westminster government. That is not the same as achieving socialism but it could 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.

Independence, in itself, does nothing to preserve national traditions and culture or strengthen working class power. In the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, self-governing administrations comprised of local exploiters have presided over the virtual demise of all their heritage and culture while introducing labour laws and practices even worse than those implemented by the mainland Tories since 1979.

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 would not bring any instant paradise for Scotland. 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.

The New Communist Party has long recognised the rights of the Scottish nation to full national self-determination. We support Scottish demands for the right to preserve and develop their culture and national identity. We support the Scottish people’s right to possess and control all the physical and other resources present on their land and territorial waters. The New Communist Party calls on all its Scottish supporters to vote Yes in the Scottish referendum