Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/819/18964
Scotland: Threat of a Yes majority forces concessions from Project Fear
Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland
The independence referendum campaign in Scotland is approaching its concluding two months with opinion polls still showing a lead for the No side - 57% compared to 43% for Yes. This has been greeted with some relief among the capitalist establishment following a significant increase in support for the Yes side during March and April.
It followed a widely derided intervention in February during which Tory George Osborne, Labour's Ed Balls and Lib Dem Danny Alexander all ruled out an independent Scotland being able to use the pound in a currency union. Since then Project Fear - the campaign of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems with the support from a majority of the media and big business - has undergone a cosmetic makeover.
A velvet glove has been slipped over the iron fist. The slogan of the so-called 'Better Together' campaign is now: "No thanks". Socialist Party Scotland has previously pointed out that "the stick will still be wielded, but the failure of Project Fear means the carrot of enhanced devolution is now needed."
Alongside this change of tack, and reflecting the overarching interests of US imperialism and international big business, have been the interventions of Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and even the Pope, who have all spoken of their hope that the UK will remain "successful and united".
The author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, has also donated £1 million to the Better Together campaign. George Galloway waded in, saying a Yes vote would cause "havoc throughout the land".
More powers for Scotland
All three major pro-union parties have now come forward with promises for more powers for the Scottish parliament in exchange for a No vote. The Tories, who opposed devolution in the 1997 referendum, are proposing that the Scottish parliament should control all income tax raised in Scotland. Labour's pledge is that Edinburgh would set three quarters of the basic rate of income tax.
The recent British Election Survey report showed that 74% of people in Scotland want more powers, including a majority of those who say they'll vote No in September. Facing the prospect of a possible defeat in September the concessions coming from the No camp are an attempt to split off those inclined to support Yes as the only way of getting the powers they want.
The recent announcement by David Cameron that Glasgow is to get "city region" status and £500 million in infrastructure investment if Scotland stays part of the union is another example of the carrot and the stick approach.
Yet, it's also clear that continuing austerity, rising poverty and falling wages is providing a bedrock of support for independence. While the momentum behind the Yes campaign has stalled, there has not yet been any significant fall in support for independence either.
A recent report from the Scottish government showing that the numbers living in poverty had risen by 110,000 to 820,000 between April 2012 and 2013 is an indication of the human costs of savage cuts being inflicted by the Con-Dems. In a stunning revelation 52% of those adults living in poverty were in work.
With 70% of the welfare cuts still to be implemented in Scotland - a further £6 billion is due to be cut by 2016 - it's clear that hundreds of thousands will be driven deeper into poverty as a result. It's these conditions that are driving working class support for a Yes vote in September.
Obstacle to a Yes majority
A key factor in allowing the No campaign to still hold a lead in the polls is doubts about whether an independent capitalist Scotland would economically deliver for the majority.
A typical poll for YouGov in late June found that 49% believed that Scotland would be worse off after independence, with 27% who thought it would be better off. When asked if personally they would be better off, only 17% said they would.
While the deluge of propaganda from Project Fear is an important factor in this outlook, what is also clear is that the Scottish National Party's (SNP) pro-big business policies are also an obstacle in convincing those who are uncertain about voting Yes.
The SNP is not campaigning in the referendum for a decisive end to cuts and austerity. Indeed the Scottish Government has implemented £3 billion in Con-Dem cuts since 2010.
The SNP promises a meagre £1,000 "independence bonus" for all, but not until 2029. "If possible", says the SNP, public spending would be increased by £1.2 billion in 2017/18. However, the cuts to the Scottish parliament's budget will have been £6.7 billion by then. A reversal of the cuts under the SNP's plans for independence is ruled out.
As Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first minister, pointed out recently: "Independence is not a magic wand. We won't wake up the day after becoming independent and find that all of Scotland's challenges have disappeared or that overnight we've become a richer, more economically successful country."
This lack of a decisive break from capitalist policies and the austerity that accompanies them by the SNP leadership is weakening support for a Yes vote. None more so than promises to slash taxes for big business under independence, including of the vastly profitable North Sea Oil industry.
In contrast, there is overwhelming public support for public ownership of gas, electricity, transport and oil. The anger at the pro-rich policies of the main parties is growing by the day, as is the idea of a need for a new party to represent the working class majority.
Socialist Party Scotland is campaigning for a Yes vote in September. But we are also putting forward a programme that the powers of independence should be used to end the cuts, tax the rich and big business, and for public ownership and democratic control of the main sectors of the economy.
These ideas have been finding enthusiastic support at public meetings across Scotland. With Tommy Sheridan and others, Socialist Party Scotland has been organising public meetings on the theme of Hope Over Fear - the Socialist Case for Independence. 1,250 have attended six public meetings since April organised in Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and Paisley at which Socialist Party Scotland members have spoken alongside Tommy.
More than 13,000 people have come to hear Tommy Sheridan since January as part of the national Hope Over Fear tour looking for a pro-socialist and anti-austerity ideas they are not getting from the official Yes campaign or the SNP leadership.
In The Socialist 16 July 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
10 July public sector pay strike
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Reports and comments