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Scotland independence vote: Socialist policies needed to answer Project Fear
Thursday 18 September will see an unprecedented mobilisation to the polls for the referendum on Scottish independence.
An estimated 75-80% of the 4.1 million people entitled to vote are predicted to take part - compared to barely 50% in the 2011 Scottish parliament elections. The strength of feeling, in particular the desire by many working class Yes supporters for fundamental social and economic change, will see hundreds of thousands of the most alienated from the pro-capitalist political establishment participating.
This mood reflects, as Socialist Party Scotland has consistently explained, that support for independence is being driven by a desire to escape from savage austerity and falling incomes.
A recent poll of polls showed No still in the lead, but only by 56% to 44%, an uncomfortable position for the pro-union establishment and the interests of British capitalism that they represent.
The stubborn solidity of the Yes vote is certainly not a result of a convincing case from the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership or the official Yes campaign.
Rather than offering up policies for fundamental change, an end to austerity and a transformation of living standards, Alex Salmond and co have desperately sought not to raise expectations too high as to what independence on a capitalist basis could deliver.
This was evident by Salmond's performance in the recent STV debate with Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign. A mass audience of over one million people watched it on TV, while a further 500,000 followed the debate online.
This was a major opportunity to advance the case for decisive economic and social change under independence based on public ownership of the economy and an end to cuts.
Instead, Salmond persisted with the line that independence under the SNP would be a safe pair of hands for capitalist interests. The SNP would "balance the books" and seek a formal currency union with the rest of the UK.
This would leave the Bank of England in control not only of interest rates but also, in practice, the levels of spending in an independent Scotland.
The leaders of the three pro-union capitalist parties - Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems - have ruled out a Sterling zone in an effort to undermine the SNP's case.
The SNP leadership has continued to insist that a currency union is 'inevitable' once 'normal' relations have been returned to following the referendum. But Cameron, Miliband and Clegg see the SNP's currency proposals as an Achilles Heel to be remorselessly attacked.
A poll immediately following the TV debate saw support for independence fall by 4% - an indication that the SNP are vulnerable as their pro-business position becomes further exposed.
Socialist Party Scotland has consistently explained that even if the Westminster government eventually agreed to a formal Sterling zone with an independent Scotland, it would be an austerity-laden trap from its inception.
By ceding control to the Bank of England and British capitalism an independent Scotland would be locked into a programme of long term cuts.
This has also been the experience of the Eurozone, with savage austerity budgets inflicted on member states. The consequences of this economic torture for Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal etc have been catastrophic.
In contrast, a socialist government would carry through democratic nationalisation of the finance sector in Scotland and repudiate the capitalist debts built up through the bailing out of the banks in 2008/09.
It would also be necessary to bring into public ownership, under working class control, the key economic sectors of the economy, including oil, transport and manufacturing.
Through these measures, as well as a state monopoly on foreign trade, it would be possible to use the vast wealth of capitalism to break with the austerity practices of the Bank of England, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund and invest in jobs, a living wage and the rebuilding of public services in an independent socialist Scotland. This policy would have to be conducted alongside an appeal to the working class in the rest of Britain and Europe to break with capitalism and establish a democratic socialist confederation of states.
Salmond says that it's Scotland's pound and "we're keeping it". But locked out of a formal currency union, were that to be the case, none of the alternatives of 'sterlingisation' (using Sterling without a formal currency arrangement and which is in reality the SNP's Plan B), joining the Euro or a separate Scottish currency - without the nationalisation of banking, finance and the wider economy - would represent an escape from permanent cuts.
Socialist policies needed
While it's unclear what the referendum outcome will be, a major contributory factor in the No campaign's lead is doubt about whether an independent capitalist Scotland would economically deliver for the majority. Polls have shown that more people consistently believe that both they and the country as a whole would be worse off under independence.
While this reflects the doubts and uncertainties arising from the deluge of negative propaganda from Project Fear, big business and the media, what is also clear is that the SNP's pro-big business policies are an obstacle to answering the lies of Better Together.
The Scottish government has implemented £3 billion of Con-Dem cuts since 2010 in Scotland. The SNP's 'Outlook for Scotland' public finances paper promises each person would be £1,000 better off after independence, but not until 2029. "If possible," say the SNP, they would increase public spending by £1.2 billion in 2017-18. However, the Scottish parliament's budget will have been cut £6.7 billion by then. A reversal of the cuts under SNP plans for independence is ruled out.
Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first minister, commented: "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."
The SNP's lack of a decisive break from capitalist policies and austerity is weakening support for a Yes vote. None more so than promises to slash taxes for big business under independence, including the vastly profitable North Sea Oil industry.
In contrast there is huge 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 calls for the powers of independence to be used to end the cuts and for public ownership and democratic control of the main sectors of the economy.
Alongside Tommy Sheridan and others, Socialist Party Scotland has been organising public meetings on the theme of Hope Over Fear - the Socialist Case for Independence.
More than 14,000 people have come to hear Tommy Sheridan since January as part of the tour, looking for ideas they are not getting from the official Yes campaign.
The support for an anti-cuts, pro-socialist case is an indication of the potential for a new mass workers party to become a major force in Scotland.
Central to building such a party will be to stand implacably for the maximum unity of the working class across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. We oppose any attempts to divide the workers' movement on national lines.
A socialist Scotland as part of a genuine, voluntary and democratic socialist federation with England Wales and Ireland - and as a step towards a socialist Europe - is the only way to end the nightmare of austerity, cuts and capitalism once and for all.
This article was first published on 11 August 2014 as an editorial from the Socialist, the paper of Socialist Party Scotland: www. socialistpartyscotland.org.uk
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