Class Unity and Independence
Tom Morrison argues that Independence will result in division not progress
During the Scottish independence referendum campaign, Scottish Communists argued that what was on offer from the Scottish National Party (SNP) was a “fake independence”. SNP’s White Paper on independence, which was presented as a blueprint for the governing of a separate Scottish state, sought to keep the pound, seek membership of the European Union, lower corporation tax, and join the NATO. Let’s look at these propositions.
In keeping the pound there would be a high price to pay for the Scottish people. We would be handing the key levers of the economy – interest rates, exchange rates and control of the money supply – to the Bank of England, and the bank would insist on its right to control Scotland’s annual budgets. Therefore austerity would continue apace.
The EU’s 2012 Stability Treaty would have to be written into Scotland’s constitution. It specifies that annual budget deficits should be no more than 0.5% and national debt no greater than 60% of GDP. Scotland’s debt of at least 85% of GDP would immediately place Scotland in the EU’s Excess Deficit Programme requiring severe austerity measures for several years. As for any public ownership or state aid for industry, forget it. It’s not allowed under EU rules.
The White Paper’s only tax proposal was to reduce corporation tax on big business to at least 3% below that of the rest of the UK. The aim was to attract inward investment but it would reduce Scotland’s tax income from those most able to pay – big business – and it would introduce divisive competition with the rest of the UK resulting in a race to the bottom.
NATO, the cold war military alliance controlled by the United States, is being rapidly expanded to become a force for global military intervention. Scotland’s armed forces would be drawn into overseas wars as they are today. The SNP supported the war in Afghanistan and supported the intervention in Libya. Just as important, it would have made getting rid of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons much more difficult. Trident is assigned to NATO and the Scottish Government would have been asking to join a nuclear-based alliance while proposing to get rid of its main nuclear strike force.
We want a UK government which is constitutionally required to redistribute wealth and power across the nations and regions of Britain in proportion to social need.
Forces on the Left who supported this “independence” such as the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) claimed that these issues – the currency, the EU and NATO – would be decided by a Constitutional Convention after the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2016.But that would not have been the case. The Scottish Prime Minister, Alex Salmond, said that the Scottish Government would begin negotiations immediately after a Yes vote. The terms of “independence” would have been settled long before March 2016 without any input from the Left. Nor would the Left have more than a token presence in such a convention since representation would be determined by electoral support (currently the Left have less than 2% of the vote in Scotland).
If there had been a Yes referendum vote, Scotland would have separated in March have left the Westminster Parliament and a Labour Government, if elected in 2015 would have likely fallen after losing the support of its Scottish MPs. This would have done serious damage to the unity of the British labour movement and could have condemned England and Wales (and by proxy Scotland) to long-term Tory rule.
Communists argued and continue to argue for greater powers for a Scottish Parliament and support progressive federalism. We want a Scottish Parliament which would have greater powers to intervene in the economy and take key industries into public ownership. We want a UK government which is constitutionally required to redistribute wealth and power across the nations and regions of Britain in proportion to social need. Such a government would require to be backed up by extra parliamentary action by the over six million organised trade unionists united across Britain.
Communists believed such a strategy was a world away from the status quo proposals of the Tories and the Labour led Better Together campaign that led the calls for a No vote. It would ensure that the new powers of a Scottish Parliament would help lift the level of class struggle across Britain. Such a strategy would unite not divide our class.
Tom Morrison is Scottish Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain