Socialist Worker

Winning Scottish independence will take a revolt against the Tories

With a second referendum in Scotland increasingly likely, the left must fight to make sure it is called and won—and furthers ordinary people’s interests

Issue No. 2546

A protest during the 2014 referendum campaign

A protest during the 2014 referendum campaign (Pic: Socialist Worker)

There won’t be a new referendum on Scottish independence unless there is a revolt against the Tories. And it won’t be won by saying it’s really about staying in the European Union (EU).

On Wednesday this week the Scottish Parliament was expected to support First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a referendum.

But Theresa May has already said “now is not the time” for another vote.

First minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Sturgeon wants a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. This is so that voters will have an idea what Brexit will look like but have a chance to choose independence before it comes into effect.

The SNP has a strong democratic case. In 2015’s general election it won 56 of Scotland’s 59 MPs. It was by far the largest party in the Scottish parliament after the 2016 elections.

Its manifesto in 2016 said, “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

If anyone has no mandate it is the unelected May. Her refusal to allow a referendum is a big gamble.

Even pro-union newspapers in Scotland denounced her position as “reckless” and “deluded”.

Britain’s rulers do not want a second front opened in Scotland while they battle EU negotiators over Brexit.

As pollster John Curtice put it in his analysis of the 2016 Scottish Social Attitudes results last week, “One thing is now crystal clear.


“The long-term consequence of holding the independence referendum in 2014 was a much higher level of support for the idea of independence than ever existed beforehand.”

He wrote that as the last campaign began in 2012 “as few as one in four backed independence.

“Now, some two years after the referendum, approaching half of all voters in Scotland back the idea.”

Brexit has been the trigger for Sturgeon and she has sought to link independence to EU membership. But that is a way to lose.

A third of people who voted for the SNP in 2016 went on to vote Leave in the EU referendum.

Getting a referendum quickly and then winning it requires a massive social movement—based on?working class interests—in the streets and the workplaces.

It will have to be on the scale of the 2014 movement—and more. But it can’t just repeat the messages of 2014.

It will have to recognise the rise of anti-migrant nationalism and be part of an internationalist alternative.

It must be an anti-austerity, anti-Trident campaign that offers real hope of change in workers’ lives.

And it’s crucial that struggle does not wait for a referendum. We need resistance now.

Polls last year asked Scots to prioritise key issues for the Scottish government. Most important by far were health and social care, the economy and the cost of living.

Making the rich pay more tax to fund our services was very popular.

The near-eclipse of Labour in Scotland also makes many people more ready to vote for independence as they fear years of Tory rule.

Class and wealth matter.

In 2014 support for independence was 13 points higher in the poorest working class areas than in the wealthiest areas. The left can help shape the debate, as it did last time.

It can link the arguments for a different kind of society in an independent Scotland to the fight against cuts and racism today.

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