Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke at a mass rally in Glasgow last Saturday calling for a second independence referendum. This is the first time she has joined any such street protest in the last five years.
Official estimates put the size at 20,000 people, but over the two and half hours of the rally the numbers were probably nearer 40,000.
Sturgeon was in full campaign mode putting forward the Scottish National Party (SNP) social democratic face.
Refreshingly for a politician in Britain she addressed refugees and migrants as “new Scots” and said, “You are welcome here, the Scotland we seek is open, welcoming and inclusive”.
Sturgeon talked about an independent Scotland that “invests in our people, invests in our public services and invests in lifting our children out of poverty”. And she contrasted her vision to “a hard Tory Brexit or Trident nuclear weapons”.
Missing was any mention of the SNP’s Growth Commission, which predicts ten years more of austerity after Scotland becomes independent.
It also puts off Scotland having its own currency to some vague point in the future once independence is established. This would mean handing over major decisions on Scotland’s economy to the Bank of England.
Disappointingly, Sturgeon did not call for the release of the Catalan political prisoners. Neither did she condemn the actions of the Spanish state that has jailed the Catalan politicians who called the 2017 independence referendum.
Also missing was any criticism of the European Union (EU) for saying the repression of the Catalan independence movement “was an issue for the Spanish State”. Perhaps this was because one of Sturgeon’s main priorities after independence would be for Scotland to stay in or re-join the EU.
Sturgeon’s intention is for the SNP government to bring forward legislation to the Scottish parliament to hold indyref2 sometime in 2020. However, Sturgeon did not address how people in Scotland should respond if the British government refuses.
Unless there is major social struggle, the SNP’s best hope may be to do a deal with a minority Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn. They would back Labour in the British parliament in return for the right to hold indyref2.
Opinion polls at present show the SNP will win a large majority of seats in Scotland at the general election.
Corbyn’s radical message will undoubtedly go down well with many working class people. But Labour’s failure to even allow the Scottish parliament to choose when there is a second independence referendum will hamper its ability to win votes.
The rally last Saturday means that nearly 400,000 people have attended demonstrations across Scotland this summer demanding independence.
This is a considerable social force.
It is mainly working class and is looking at least for the sort of policies and change put forward by Sturgeon in her speech in Glasgow.
Support for independence is now running at around 50 percent.
Given the size of the active base of the independence movement there is considerable room for optimism that Scotland would vote Yes in a referendum. That’s why unionist politicians, particularly the Tories, are unlikely to agree to one.
Unfortunately, Sturgeon and the SNP leadership will never pursue a strategy which will confront the British state with the sort of militant action that could force their hand