David Cameron’s attempt to hijack the referendum on Scottish independence backfired spectacularly last week.
Cameron declared that Westminster would decide when the referendum should take place. He also tried to insist that the referendum would be a straight choice for or against independence.
But this prompted an angry backlash from across all sections of civic society in Scotland. Cameron was soon beating a hasty retreat after being called out for his crude attempt to rig the ballot in favour of the Unionist camp.
Cameron’s intervention was aimed at ruling out a third option on the ballot paper known as “devolution max” or “independence-lite”. This would involve Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, but having far more control over taxation and spending.
Many civic organisations in Scotland feel the plan to keep “devo max” out of the equation is totally unacceptable. These include key players in the 1990s campaign for a Scottish parliament such as the churches, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Scottish TUC.
They point out that polls show the “devo max” option is the most popular one among Scots. It is therefore supremely undemocratic to disenfranchise people by ruling out “devo max” as a referendum option.
But it’s not just Cameron who has angered Scots. Ed Miliband has abandoned Labour’s previous commitment to more powers for Scotland within the UK. He is cosying up to the Tories and their hardline anti-independence position.
This has caused dismay and disbelief among many Labour supporters. Many believe, with good reason, that Miliband’s approach will spell further disaster for Scottish Labour in the May elections.
Socialists should oppose all cynical manoeuvres by Westminster to deny Scottish people the right to democratically determine whether or not they wish to remain part of the British state.
But while we support the “devo max” option being included on the ballot paper, we should vote for full independence. Why? Because Britain is a major imperialist power that still wants to be able to invade and rob other countries across the globe.
A clear yes vote for independence would weaken the British state and undermine its ability to engage in future wars.
But there are also some dangers that socialists need to avoid. We are internationalists, not nationalists, and we should not become cheerleaders for Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Socialists fight for the interests of the working class. We are not for unity with Scottish bosses such as Brian Souter, the union-busting chief executive of Stagecoach and SNP supporter.
We are against any more bailouts for the bankers in an independent Scotland—and that includes the Royal Bank of Scotland.
We should be asking Salmond if his vision of independence includes scrapping all the draconian anti-union laws of the past 30 years. We also want a timetable and an action plan for the removal of Trident nuclear submarines from the Clyde.
We don’t want to live in a neoliberal Scotland where councils implement austerity cuts and destroy our public services. We want more taxes on the super rich in Scotland and redistribution of wealth to combat the disgraceful levels of child poverty, youth unemployment and inequality.
That’s why we continue to call on councils to set deficit budgets or needs-led budgets rather than implementing the savage Tory cuts in the pipeline.
Finally, we need to maintain unity between workers in Scotland, England and Wales. Workers in England and Wales should support the right of Scotland to self-determination as part of that unity.
Breaking up the British state is not the same as breaking the unity of the working class. The public sector strike across Britain on 30 November was a brilliant example of workers fighting together north and south of the border.
Our class unity will continue to be our greatest strength in the battles to come against the bosses—inside or outside the Union.