Socialist Worker

Why Britain's bosses fear an independence vote in Scotland

by Charlotte Ahmed
Issue No. 2421

On the pro union rally in Londons Trafalgar Square on Monday of this week

On the pro union rally in London's Trafalgar Square on Monday of this week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Sections of our ruling class are being driven wild by the opinion polls on the Scottish referendum. Apparently if a small country on the edge of Europe votes for independence, civilisation as we know it is over. 

To date, the prize for the most absurd claim goes to Deutsche Bank. It claimed that a vote for independence would be a blunder similar to and as great as those that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. This is a cynical way of deflecting the blame for economic pain from the banks that caused it onto the people who suffer from it.

Tory prime minister David Cameron had a secret meeting with bosses earlier this month to build the No campaign. 

In a “call to arms” he urged them as “stakeholders” to express their views. He evoked the fight against Adolf Hitler’s Germany—for some reason the Nazis are a frequent reference point. 

The bosses duly responded with threats and dire warnings. Some major supermarkets said that independence would mean increased prices for their Scottish customers. 

What was the Labour Party’s reaction to these threats from corporate bullies? It supported them, of course.

Labour’s day of reckoning will surely come.

A vote for independence would crush the post-crash consensus of austerity and bailing out banks. It has the ruling class in a panic. 

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has not led this radicalisation. Rather, the political mood has developed within the referendum campaign as a response to austerity and to the parties that support it.

A genuine “erosion of consent” is developing in the consciousness of thousands of people. 


Many believe that a Scottish state run by an elected Scottish government will deliver an end to the neoliberal policies of Westminster in defiance of the capitalist class. 

Even if a new government had this intention, and that is by no means certain, the threats of the ruling class to undermine the project have already been made and are real.

There are numerous examples of a popular democracy being undermined or even overthrown by the reactionary forces of the capitalist class.

In an extreme example, Chile 1973, an elected socialist government was brought down by an army coup and the country’s elected leader, Salvador Allende, killed. 

Thousands were massacred, particularly among the working class that had belatedly mobilised to defend the government. The dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that emerged from the coup was brutal—but remained a friend of the West for decades. 

Less obviously violent, but devastating for millions of lives nonetheless, is the unelected, unaccountable power of corporations and financial institutions.

They have laid waste to communities across the globe. They  survived the crisis almost intact, because neoliberal politicians bailed them out with our billions and then imposed austerity on us to pay for it. 

Now they believe that they have the right to turn the screws on any new social democratic government. 

They see themselves as wild and risk-taking but in truth they don’t like change and they certainly don’t like anything that threatens their grip on power.

History tells us that the only defence from this is class struggle. In the US during the 1930s, the radicalisation of the working class, reeling from the effects of depression, forced the hand of president Franklin D Roosevelt. 

With a series of well-organised strikes, led by left wingers, in Minneapolis, Toledo and San Francisco, austerity measures were held in check. 

A Yes vote, would mean thousands of Scots would have heightened expectations of a new government. Millions more will watch in hope. The realisation of their hopes requires more than goodwill. 

We need to rebuild a left that can organise a class response to austerity and not rely on the state to do it for us. This is an urgent task for socialists in Scotland and elsewhere. If workers get back the confidence to fight we can beat austerity and imperialism. And that is why the bosses are in such a panic.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.