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More views on Scottish independence

Left wing Labour MP Katy Clark, Philip Stott of the Socialist Party and Carolyn Leckie of Women for Independence put their positions

January 19, 2014
7 min read

Why left Labour says No

by Katy Clark MP

For socialists, our key question is simple: who controls the economy?

The national question in Scotland should therefore be seen through this question, and any decision on how to vote should be based on what is most likely to progress our aim of increasing control for ordinary working people.

Many in the Yes camp would have you believe that independence would result in a break from neoliberal politics and bring about a progressive, left-wing Scotland. They often cite the consistent backing that Labour receives in Westminster elections in contrast to the more variable results in England.

However superficially attractive this argument is, it is historically very narrow, given that much of Scotland was represented by the Tories until the 1950s, and completely devoid of any analysis of where power is organised in the UK and how we can challenge it. Many of the largest concentrations of wealth and capital in Britain are in the south-east of England and in particular the City of London. Many of the financial institutions that have destabilised and imbalanced our economy are primarily organised there.

If socialists truly wish to break the dominance of finance capital in Britain, then they have to accept that this must be challenged. The suggestion that Scots can somehow cut ourselves adrift and insulate ourselves from economic policies we don’t like is absurd. As it is proposed just now, an ‘independent’ Scottish government would not have any control over monetary policy as the currency would be sterling, controlled by the Bank of England.

An independent Scotland would have England as a far larger and dominant economic force as a neighbour. And a Scottish government that could not set interest rates or control the amount of currency in circulation would be fighting with one hand tied behind its back, and less able to prevent a race to the bottom in workers’ wages, terms and conditions and union organisation.

This is not a defeatist argument, simply one that accepts the reality of the world in which we live. And it is not negative. There is nothing more positive than knowing that the only way we can take control over our economy is if we stand together with workers, trade unionists and socialists throughout these islands to make the case for a very different way of organising our society.


A socialist Scotland

by Philip Stott, national secretary, Socialist Party Scotland

Understandably, many working class people are looking to independence as a possible escape route from cuts and falling living standards. Support for a Yes vote is highest among the low paid, unemployed and young people. But independence from austerity can only be delivered by building an organised mass working class struggle against cuts while fighting for a socialist society.

There is no possibility that the SNP’s model for independence would deliver an end to cuts, low pay and unemployment. Alex Salmond and the SNP leadership want to continue with a sick and decaying capitalism whose only ‘way out’, as we see today, is to mercilessly attack the living standards of the majority.

Only an independent, socialist Scotland, based on public ownership of the means of production and a democratic socialist plan, could offer a route out of permanent austerity. In contrast, the SNP plans, for example, to cut corporation tax for big business in an independent Scotland, meaning that the oil and gas multinationals would pay even less.

Public ownership of these sectors would release billions of pounds to invest in job creation and tackle poverty, alongside a major investment programme in renewable sources of energy. The nationalisation of the banks and financial institutions, the major industries, transport and the privatised utilities under democratic working class control could lay the basis for the transformation of living conditions in a socialist Scotland.

The SNP, along with many on the left, has raised the idea of the ‘Nordic model’. This is a reference to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, where important gains were made by the working class in social protection, welfare and improved public services after the second world war. Today, capitalist governments in the Nordic states are picking apart these social gains against the backdrop of the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. Youth unemployment has rocketed and public spending is being cut, savagely in the case of Sweden and Denmark.

While supporting independence, we also stand for a united struggle of the working class against the Tory-Liberal government. We are campaigning for a 24-hour general strike that would unite workers in Scotland with those across Britain.


Minding the gender gap

by Carolyn Leckie, Women for Independence

If a recent (Panelbase) poll is representative, the gap between women and men in support for independence is frustratingly stubborn. But there are enough fluctuations and undecided women to bridge the gap come the referendum.

Contrary to the usual gender stereotypes, repeated research shows that men are more likely to ‘vote with their hearts’ in the referendum – and women with their heads. So it’s women’s heads we need to appeal to.

The democratic arguments for independence are powerful. Through most of my lifetime, I’ve lived under Tory governments that Scotland decisively rejected. How can that ever be reconciled to the age-old concept in Scotland of the sovereignty of the people?

Indeed, improving the constitutional set up is the majority view in Scotland. Fifty-seven per cent of voters support a written constitution – what chance is there of that in the UK?

But it is the hard-nosed, day-to-day, practical economic realities and possibilities the Yes campaign needs to invoke to persuade women, offering realism and hope at the same time.

Women, growing more unequal by the day in the UK, have a lot to gain from independence. Nine of the top ten countries for women are small – with populations of less than 10 million. All the Nordic countries are right at the top. Since 2006, the UK has dropped in ranking every year except one, to its current 18th place.

But just being a small state wouldn’t make greater equality automatic. Yes-supporting political parties would do well to develop a consensus of support for the policies that give the Nordic countries the smallest gender gap in the world. These countries have in common a greater work-life balance for all; higher participation of women in the workforce; the most equal earnings in the world; greater parental leave, maternity leave and paternity leave rights; and ‘post-maternity re-entry programmes’. All of which means that the birth rates are higher, economic participation is higher, quality of life is better and there are more resources to support pensions and the older generation.

This has been achieved, not coincidentally, by parliaments with the highest women’s representation in the world. So equal representation of women in a new Scottish constitution is integral to a Yes vote among women, in my view. According to the polls, women support it and men don’t. If the independence campaign is to be successful among women, it must be seen to put their interests first, redressing the imbalance of our political and economic history.