Socialist Worker

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech does not guarantee Indyref2

by Bob Fotheringham
Issue No. 2652

Marching for independence in Edinburgh last year

Marching for independence in Edinburgh last year (Pic: Duncan Brown)


Tens of thousands of people were set to join the All Under One Banner demonstration for Scottish independence on Saturday.

It follows a key speech by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister.

Last week Sturgeon outlined her plans to bring forward legislation for a second referendum on independence by 2021.

But this does not mean that a referendum will actually take place.

For example, the Tory government in Westminster immediately responded that it would not agree to such a vote.

Sturgeon’s speech was a reaction to pressure from the independence movement.

Huge numbers have taken to the streets demanding Indyref2.

For a number of years Sturgeon has made her priority keeping Britain part of the European Union (EU). She has said that a second referendum should wait until the “fog of Brexit has cleared”.

There remain major hurdles if independence is to become a reality.

It is almost certain that the legislation will pass through the Scottish parliament.

But nothing has been said about how the Scottish government will challenge the refusal of a UK government, of whatever party, to allow a second vote.

Support for independence in 2014 was driven forward by the belief in working class communities that independence would lead to an end to the policies of austerity and cuts.

Weaponry 

There was hope that it would lead to a different sort of Scotland.

It would be one with extended and democratised public ownership, no nuclear weaponry, and major investment in the NHS, housing and education.

But a pro-EU strategy, which attaches Scotland to neoliberal free market institutions, will hamper this.

It won’t allow a Scottish government to bring forward policies that can deal with Scotland’s major problems of poverty, neglect and homelessness.

Sturgeon’s speech also contained two other major initiatives.

In contradiction to her plans for a second independence referendum, she will consult with other parties on how to make devolution more effective.

She also outlined plans to create a “citizens’ assembly” on the Irish model. This was said to be a way of achieving “maximum areas of agreement”.

But an unelected, unaccountable body such as this won’t take the independence movement forward.

Sturgeon was right to make it clear that one of the reasons she wants independence is to continue free movement of people.

Scotland should be open to all those fleeing war, poverty and catastrophic climate change. But it should also welcome all those who come for a better life.

It is shameful that the Labour Party has supported the Tories on ending workers’ free movement.


‘The SNP should defy the Tory government in Westminster’

Neil MacKay, spokesperson for All Under One Banner, spoke to Iain Ferguson

How important do you think the pressure from below has been in persuading Nicola Sturgeon to call for a second referendum?

It’s been very important. I’ve become more aware over the past few weeks especially that people are at the end of their tether.

They’re feeling disillusioned and alienated, and are looking for a way forward.

All Under One Banner has been the biggest movement in terms of channelling that discontent, though other groups have also done things.

The SNP is now like the Scottish establishment and we’re like William Wallace challenging the Scottish nobles!

We’re the ones who are sticking to our guns.

Theresa May has already made it clear that the UK government will refuse a second referendum. If that happens how should Sturgeon respond?

“Should” and “will” are two different things. The SNP will leave it hanging there and use it to boost their 2021 Holyrood parliament election campaign.

Its leaders will argue “we have a mandate—now give us majority government”.

In other words they will use it strategically to build for Indyref2 in about 2023-4.

What they should do in my view is to defy the UK government and hold a referendum regardless. They should set a date and take it to the wire.

Many people feel that linking the question of a second referendum to EU membership would be a mistake. What’s your own view?

That’s a dangerous strategy—playing two hands at the same time will only confuse people but for a long time Brexit is all the SNP have talked about.

Instead they should go ahead with Indeyref2 and then a few months later have a referendum on Scotland and the EU with all the different options set out.

How can we build on these huge demos to increase the pressure on the Tories?

This year we’ve got eight demonstrations planned around the country.

Apart from that we’re also linking up with Welsh independence activists. There’s now an All Under One Banner Cymru who are holding their first march on 11 May.

As far as we’re concerned it’s all part of the same struggle to break up the British state.


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