Socialist Worker

Will there be racism in an independent Scotland?

Ayesha Saleem and Stephen McBroom argue that anti-racism must be a central part of the struggle to break the British state

Issue No. 2412

Protesting in Glasgow this month

Protesting in Glasgow this month (Pic: Duncan Brown)

The election of Scotland’s first Ukip MEP in May with over 140,000 votes was a stark reminder that Scotland is not immune to toxic racist scapegoating. The 23,000 votes for Nazi candidates is another reason to challenge it. 

Yet some on the left believe workers in Scotland are somehow more progressive than other workers in Britain.  

The mainstream debate about migrants is less poisonous than in the rest of Britain, in part due to the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) argument for an extra 24,000 migrants a year. 

But this is on a neoliberal basis, to compensate for Scotland’s ageing population and boost profits for the rich. 

Scotland’s past and present mean that our rulers will try to divide us with racism just as they do in any other country. Our ruling class played a key role in the slave trade and used racism to justify it. 

British nationalism and its Scottish variant went hand in hand with the development of empire. 


Scotland is one of the most unequal societies in Europe. The top 10 percent of the population are 273 times better off than the poorest 10 percent. That gross inequality is compounded by vicious Tory cuts, “begrudgingly” implemented by the SNP-led Scottish government. 

New statistics this month show that one million Scots are living in poverty, including one in five children. 

The bitterness that exists at austerity means we need to put anti-racist politics at the heart of the independence debate. 

One recent Survation poll underlines why this is so important. It highlighted a striking level of support for Ukip policies among Scottish Tory, SNP and other voters. 

Overall, two thirds backed Ukip’s headline pledge to impose stricter immigration controls. 

We have seen a sharp rise in the level of racist scapegoating and Islamophobia led by the mainstream parties and media across Britain. 

Their racist agenda legitimises fascist and racist thugs. It helps them organise in Scotland, trying to whip up racism in the most multicultural areas. 

Recently Nazi splinter group Britain First invaded mosques in Glasgow and Cumbernauld to intimidate Muslim elders and hand out army issue Bibles. 

In response socialists and trade unionists have organised solidarity and big anti-Nazi mobilisations to counter the fascists in Scotland. 


While the Tories ramp up the rhetoric for tougher immigration controls, Labour’s feeble opposition has simply tailed them. It calls to clamp down on immigrants’ access to benefits, social housing and health. 

It’s not surprising then that black and Asian Scots increasingly support a Yes vote. 

Scotland has enormous wealth, enough to provide all those who live in it with a decent standard of living, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or religion. 

But racism will not simply disappear in an independent country. It is part of capitalism, a system that fosters division and war. 

We have to loudly say migrants are welcome here, whether fleeing repression and persecution or looking for work. 

In arguing for a Yes vote to break the British state, we say that the struggle is for a different Scotland. 

That has to mean fighting every manifestation of racist oppression—and ultimately the system that breeds it.

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