A Better Scotland?

LAST WEEK the people of Scotland voted to reject independence. Nearly 85 per cent of the electorate voted in the referendum that the Scottish National Party (SNP) hoped would end the union with the Westminster Parliament. But though the campaign clearly mobilised millions of Scots the nationalists failed to win the majority to their banner.

A total of 3,619,915 people voted Yes or No — a turnout of 84.5 per cent in Scotland as a whole and a new record for any election held in Britain since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1918. And at the count the “No” side was victorious, with 55 per cent voting against independence in a poll that the Tories are saying has settled the Scottish question for at least another generation.

That, of course, is a matter of opinion. Some say that former Labour premier Gordon Brown’s last minute intervention pledging greater powers to the Scottish Parliament was decisive in securing a majority in favour of the Union. In fact the result merely confirmed what the opinion polls had been long predicting.

It is not surprising that the vote went as it did. The SNP’s majority in the Scottish Parliament rests on 45 per cent of the popular vote on a turnout of around 56 per cent. In the last real election for the European “Parliament” earlier this year the SNP topped the poll with just 29 per cent of the vote with Labour coming narrowly second and the Tories third. In this election UKIP gained its first electoral victory in Scotland when a much derided London antiques dealer took the sixth placed Scottish seat. The pro-Yes Greens got nine per cent. The SNP has still to win the majority to the cause of independence and a minority, large or small, is still a minority.

The SNP is essentially a liberal bourgeois party that represents the interests of those elements of the Scottish ruling class that see the Westminster government as a brake on Scotland’s greater integration with the European Union.

The SNP, which has led the Scottish devolved government for the past seven years, has used its powers in some cases to assist the working people of Scotland. They have undercut Scottish Labour in defending the health service, maintaining free tuition for students and introducing free proscriptions.

But their broader agenda is simply for an independent Scotland within the European Union that would apparently thrive on oil revenues and capitalist investment lured by tax-breaks and lower corporation tax at the expense of workers, who would have to make up the difference from their own taxes. This is not an agenda that can win over the masses who still support Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour’s problem is that it simply refuses to go beyond the parameters set by the Westminster party whose rightwing leaders believe they can administer the capitalist economy better than the Tories and think that they can buy off the workers with a few paltry neo-Keynesian reforms that do nothing to tackle the gross inequality and exploitation that exists in Britain today.

Gordon Brown said his further devolution pledge had been endorsed by the Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition leaders as well as Labour. In Scotland people are waiting to see what this really means. Very little if David Cameron’s latest comments are anything to go by. The Prime Minister is now raising the “English question” to argue that greater Scottish powers must be off-set by a diminishing of the powers of Scottish MPs in the Westminster Parliament to embarrass Labour and undercut UKIP, which the Tories fear will take many of their core votes in England at the next general election.

Whatever the Westminster parties do our policy remains clear. While maintaining our call to vote Labour in Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and local elections, the New Communist Party supports Scottish and Welsh demands for the right to preserve and develop their culture and national identity. We support the demand for genuine self?governing powers for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. We support their right to possess and control all the physical and other resources present on their land and territorial waters and we support the rights of the Scottish and Welsh nations to full national self-determination and independence.