Socialist Worker

Scotland after the referendum: we need to back a left alternative not the SNP

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2422

Tens of thousands were inspired by the radical Yes argument offering the hope of a different Scotland

Tens of thousands were inspired by the radical Yes argument offering the hope of a different kind of society (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The left in Scotland has the sort of opportunity that comes around only very occasionally. 

The Yes movement has left behind a deep anger against the Tories, the Labour Party, big business, the lack of democracy, media bias and the corruption of official politics. 

It has also created a rich experience of activism. Tens of thousands do not want to return to “ordinary life” which walls them off from any political involvement.  

There ought to be a political vehicle for these people to continue the fight. Great social movements in Greece and the Spanish state boosted new parties—Syriza and Podemos. 

The Scottish Yes movement was not on their scale. But it had some of the same features and ought to spark its own party from the best people involved.  

In the absence of such a formation, the Scottish National Party (SNP) will absorb good activists. 

The party claimed on Monday that 16,694 people had joined it since Thursday’s vote. Joining parties is a sign of the maturing of activists. They want to organise. 

The SNP fought alongside other Yes activists and headed up the campaign. 

But it will not deliver on the hopes of those who voted Yes to save public services, defend jobs and living standards, oppose imperialist war and stand up for working class people. 

It will continue to impose its own packages of cuts, generally back big business against the unions and look to secure tax cuts for the corporations. 

The SNP is a nationalist party which believes that all Scots, from Stagecoach boss Brian Souter to the unemployed in the housing schemes, share a common interest. 

Many people half sense that, but in the absence of an alternative the SNP is a powerful magnet. 

That is why the left needs its own political party—and urgently. Days and hours matter at such a time. 

And this party cannot be defined by the splits in the Scottish Socialist Party a decade ago. Imagine you are talking to one of those thousands of 16 and 17 year olds who voted Yes. 


What would make sense to them now? Surely radicalism, activity, bold left politics—and unity. 

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Scotland has fought magnificently in the Yes campaign. It has been imaginative, involved, determined and hard working. 

We have sold thousands of copies of Socialist Worker and recruited dozens of people. We raised class politics and issues such as freedom for Palestine and standing up to Ukip as well as independence. 

We hope as many Yes campaigners—and people who voted No but who share our views—now join us. 

But we also think that those who don’t join the SWP should be organised on the left. 

That’s why we disagree with Tommy Sheridan’s call for everyone to vote for the SNP in the general election and postpone a left challenge until the 2016 Scottish parliament elections. 

Tommy Sheridan played an astonishing role in the campaign, speaking to over 25,000 people at meetings and inspiring many more. He ought to play a leading role in building the left, not giving cover to the SNP. 

His proposal seems to confirm one of the lies that was spread about the referendum—that a Yes vote was a vote for the SNP. 

The conference called by Solidarity—which is co-convened by Tommy Sheridan and which the SWP supports—on 25 October will be an important opportunity for debate.  

We do not believe that social progress is on hold until the SNP wins an election—or independence is achieved. 

There must be resistance now, and we can beat back the Tories and the bosses now. We can lay the basis for a movement that fights for socialism. 

The Yes campaign should stay on the streets. 

The Hope Over Fear rally in Glasgow scheduled for 12 October is a good start to this, and people should also join the STUC demonstration on 18 October. 

Everyone should come to Marxism in Scotland on 11 October and the Radical Independence conference on 22 November. 

Let’s not see this opportunity wasted.

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