Socialist Worker

Yes to a new Scottish independence referendum

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2545

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in Glasgow and other Scottish cities during the 2014 independence referendum

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in Glasgow and other Scottish cities during the 2014 independence referendum (Pic: Josh Brown)

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Monday that she will ask the Scottish parliament to vote next week to seek a second independence referendum.

The bold move caught Tory prime minister Theresa May on the hop and has thrilled independence supporters eager for another crack at breaking from Britain.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Greens will comfortably see the vote passed at the Edinburgh parliament.

But it is by no means certain that another referendum will happen soon.

May is expected to say there can’t be a vote until after a Brexit settlement is clear. This would mean 2019 or later.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that Labour will oppose a referendum in the Scottish parliament, but that the party won’t block it at Westminster.

But Labour will then campaign to stay in the Union.

Corbyn’s position is a mistake, and is likely to find few friends in the party.

Hardline opponents of independence such as Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale will claim he is surrendering.

Labour supporters of independence will think Corbyn is repeating the basic error of 2014 when the party campaigned alongside the Tories to save the British Union.

That’s a big reason why its support collapsed. Labour should back a referendum and campaign for a Yes vote on an anti-austerity, anti-Trident, anti-racist basis.

Since 2014 support for independence has risen and there is now a fairly even split.


Socialist Worker supports the break-up of the British state. Weakening the junior partner of US imperialism, especially in the era of Donald Trump, will be a positive thing.

But the strategy of linking independence to membership of the bosses’ European Union (EU) and single market both weakens the fight and makes faulty assumptions.

Some 400,000 Yes voters backed Leave in the EU referendum.

And many No-voting Remainers are unconvinced that independence is the way to stay in the EU.

It will take a mass social movement to force May to hold a referendum, and then to win it.

Neither Sturgeon’s SNP nor Labour will organise such a movement.

Working in a united way, the left helped shape the debate in 2014.

And it also inspired the idea of a radical independence.

Support for the Yes campaign began to soar when it focused on opposing cuts to public services and economic policies that are pursued by the neoliberal EU.

That, along with resolute opposition to racism and welcoming migrants and refugees, must be the starting point this time.

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