Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives, March 2014 congress


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Scottish independence and the national question

67. If Scotland was to vote for independence it would be a blow to British capitalism in general, and the Con-Dem government in particular. It would introduce even more instability into the situation. Independence would not take place until after the next general election but we do not accept, as some wrongly suggest, that it would mean England and Wales being condemned to endless Tory governments. We are not advocates for separation but we defend the right to self-determination, up to and including the right to separate, for Scotland and Wales. At this stage it does not seem most likely that Scotland will vote for independence in the referendum, but it is not excluded. While opinion polls show a majority saying they will vote no, among the young and the working class, particularly its poorest sections, there is much higher support for independence. Polls show that support for independence is 8-10% higher among 'social classes' C2DE than it is among ABC1. Support for independence among those in social housing is 53%, while it is 49% among the unemployed. For a big section of the working class support for independence is bound up with a desire to escape austerity. For this reason our sister section in Scotland is calling for a critical yes vote in the referendum, while at the same time warning that only socialism - an independent socialist Scotland as part of confederation with England, Wales and Ireland - would offer an end to austerity.

68. The majority of the capitalist class is bitterly opposed to independence for Scotland, which would be a major blow to the prestige of British capitalism. There is also considerable opposition from capitalist powers across Europe, particularly Spain, because of the fear that it could escalate the national demands of minorities within their countries. The Tories have largely left the no campaign to Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians, only because they realise that if they give a lead it would be counter-productive for the no campaign. This has not prevented Cameron wading in - in an extremely crude fashion - to threaten Scottish workers that the continuation of shipbuilding in Govan is dependent on voting against independence. If the SNP was willing to put a clear anti-austerity position it is likely it could successfully counter the scaremongering of the no campaign and succeed in winning the referendum. Instead, however, Alex Salmond - apart from a few small reforms - is so far promising that things will remain much the same. Salmond's version of an independent Scotland includes cuts in corporation tax, and Scotland remaining in a sterling zone in which the Bank of England would set interest rates! If Scotland does not vote for independence it is not clear what will happen in the general election. Until now there has been a big section of workers who have voted SNP in elections to the Scottish Parliament, but Labour in all-UK elections. However, this will not automatically be the case in the next general election. If the SNP do well, a Labour/Liberal Westminster coalition with SNP support is a possibility.

69. At this stage support for independence in Wales is much lower than in Scotland. However, the national question is not static, and it is possible support for further autonomy in Wales will grow as the discussion around Scottish independence dominates the news later in the year. Given consciousness in Wales, at this stage we support the devolution of maximum powers to the Welsh Assembly. At the same time we must combat all elements of bourgeois nationalism, from wherever it emanates.


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