As the debate around Scottish independence heats up, activists are putting the case for a radical break with Tory austerity and British imperialism.
More than 1,000 people attended the conference of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) last weekend. They heard arguments very different from those of Alex Salmond and the Scottish government (see right).
Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar told a 700-strong opening rally, “We need to put anti-austerity at the heart of the Yes campaign. We need to fill our ranks with the trade unions.”
He called for the abolition of the monarchy, to huge applause.
Arguments against austerity ran through the day.
Disability rights campaigner Susan Archibald said, “We’ve seen every political party dump on the poorest in society and we’re sick and tired of it. We seriously have to get angry and get organised because nobody is going to do it for us.”
The independence debate is capturing the imagination of workers sick of Tory cuts and attacks from the bosses.
“It’s like the inside of your head being made public,” said Tam, a former union steward at the Upper Clyde Shipyards.
Civil service worker Fiona travelled with a delegation from Aberdeen and Dundee. She told Socialist Worker that a No vote is a vote to continue “food banks, child poverty, the bedroom tax and the massive gulf between rich and poor”.
But the bosses’ blackmail of workers at Grangemouth oil refinery and petrochemical plant has exposed the shortcomings of Salmond’s alternative.
“If we vote yes without any radical shift in policy, we can’t expect much better,” added Fiona. “The appalling outcome at Grangemouth shows that clearly. It was a disaster for workers, yet hailed as a success by the Scottish and British governments.”
While this year’s conference drew a wider audience and range of speakers than last year’s inaugural event, there are dangers for RIC. It must ensure it lives up to its radical name and does not simply end up tailing the official Yes Scotland campaign.
For example Robin McAlpine, director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation think tank, insisted at the closing rally that “This really is centre ground Scottish politics. We are not a radical fringe.”
If RIC is to win working class people to vote Yes it needs to be rooted in the resistance to austerity.
Salmond blueprint isn’t enough to get workers behind independence
The Scottish National Party (SNP) launched its much anticipated white paper on independence this week.
The 670-page, 170,000-word SNP blueprint is in two parts. The first is about managing the devolved Scottish state after the referendum until March 2016, its date for independence. Part two is its election manifesto.
The SNP promises to scrap the coalition’s welfare reforms, such as Universal Credit and the bedroom tax, if voters in Scotland re-elect the SNP.
The strength of anti bedroom tax and other anti-austerity campaigns has forced the nationalists to make this a key headline pledge.
Polls for next year’s referendum have remained fairly constant since the announcement was made in spring.
The Yes campaign has never had more than about a third of any poll, with support for the No campaign less than half and the rest still undecided.
But so far much of the SNP’s efforts have focused on trying to reassure big business with the vision of a low tax economy.
It has also pledged to keep Britain’s currency, monarchy, and membership of the Nato imperialist alliance.
Unsurprisingly, many working class people remain unconvinced about voting Yes.
Derek Durkin, secretary of Trade Unionists for Independence, spoke to Socialist Worker about the Yes campaign.
He said, “This is the SNP manifesto, not the Yes campaign manifesto. We have to get our arguments out through the trade union movement.
“The campaign has to reflect working class interests because it’s only the working class that will return a Yes vote.”
Derek said they were preparing to launch a big workplace leafleting drive in the New Year to convince workers to organise trade union debates on independence.
“People are already passing motions for the debates to take place in their unions, rather than the decision being imposed without consultation—like in GMB and Aslef.
“This is an opportunity to get rid of the anti-trade union laws and for the right to take secondary action. I’m 100 percent confident if these proper debates take place in the unions, workers will be won to vote Yes.”