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Debate: Should the left vote Yes in the Scottish independence referendum?

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Is Socialist Worker right to argue for a Yes vote? Two Labour Party members in Scotland, Vince Mills and Bob Thomson, debate how the left should vote in September’s poll
Issue 2393

No – There are no shortcuts to class unity  says Vince Mills

Vince Mills

The bedroom tax, changes to disability benefits and other benefit cuts are already causing massive anger and suffering in our communities. 

And about 80 percent of the coalition government’s cuts have still to come.

It’s hardly any wonder then that sections of the Scottish left are attracted by the argument they would be better placed to achieve a better society if Scotland were independent.

The first argument put forward is that there is a significant difference between the Scots and the English in terms of the extent to which they favour progressive politics. 

The argument goes that, on balance, Scots are more favourably disposed than the English. In fact the evidence argues in quite the opposite direction. 

A 2011 Nuffield Foundation report concluded that in terms of being “more social democratic in outlook than England, the differences are modest at best”. 

It also notes that, “Like England, Scotland has become less—not more—social democratic since the start of devolution.” 

The second argument is if Scotland left Britain it would lead to the break-up of the British state, with the implication a progressive Scotland would then emerge. 

The Scottish Business Insider list of the top 500 companies in Scotland in January 2013 showed a top 20 dominated by wholly-owned subsidiaries of foreign multinationals and London Stock Exchange quoted corporations.  

If people vote Yes either the Bank of England (if Salmond gets his way and it is looking doubtful) or the European Central Bank will control monetary and fiscal arrangements and therefore exchange rate policy. 

The commanding heights of the Scottish economy will still be quoted and floated on the London Stock Exchange.  


A Yes vote will leave these commanding heights owned and controlled from outside Scotland. At the same time, the key levers of economic policy will be exercised from London or Brussels.  

The EU is fundamentally undemocratic and an engine for neoliberal interference. And since it is fundamentally undemocratic, then ultimately the left needs to campaign for withdrawal.

Withdrawing from Britain delivers a double whammy against the left. It removes it from any influence on the political structures that govern the key financial institutions running Scotland, principally located in London. 

And as a small and largely externally owned economy, it leaves Scotland in a very weak position in relation to the EU behemoth.

If the English working class is as likely to challenge the exploitative nature of capitalism as their brothers and sisters in Scotland, then together we can challenge capital at its heart in the City of London.

There is no doubt that winning people to a radical anti-neoliberal project is enormously difficult. But if we want to challenge the power of capital that is what we must do. There are no shortcuts.

We need a strategy built on existing working class institutions, primarily the trade unions, but growing beyond that into the British?wide movement that the People’s Assembly aspires to be. 

We need a movement that advances the case for social ownership of the economy starting with the banks, and financial institutions, the energy companies and the communication and transport infrastructures.

That will give us the basis for transforming this rotten, unjust society into one fit for human beings.

Vince is chair of ­Campaign for ­Socialism and a contributor to Class, Nation and Socialism: Red Paper on Scotland 2014

Yes – Labour must ditch its toxic unionist alliance says Bob Thomson

Having been a member for over 51 years, the actions of the Labour Party have been disappointing to say the least. 

Joining forces with the Con-Dem government, which is dismantling the welfare state, in the unionist Better Together campaign was plainly wrong.

Instead of having nothing to do with these toxic allies, they’ve tried to outdo them in running down Scotland’s economy and our dignity as a nation state. 

Watching Labour form a pact with the Tories and Lib Dems to refuse a currency union was sickening. 

Sterling is the British currency and the Bank of England is the central bank. They are both the property of all constituent countries—any change should be subject to democratic negotiations. 

Whether people vote Yes or No, this collaboration will have serious negative consequences for the electorate for the Scottish Labour Party.

The unionists have spent the last 18 months rubbishing Scotland’s economy and questioning whether the European Union would want us as members. 

The impartial observer might ask if Scotland is such a basket case, why are they so desperate to keep us in Britain? 

The biggest threat to Scotland’s prosperity is remaining within Britain. 

Britain’s economy has been in steady decline since the 1970s with the balance of payments in deficit, national debt increasing and sterling depreciating. 

As recently released 30 year old government papers show it has only been kept afloat by oil revenues and selling national assets. Interesting that British governments only publish civil service advice which suits them!


Once our biggest export, manufacturing industry has been decimated. Hundreds of factories are long gone with the loss of tens of thousands of highly skilled, highly paid jobs. 

Strategic industries in energy, transport, steel and now Royal Mail have been privatised and are mostly foreign-owned with profits exported abroad.

The three unionist parties are all committed to more austerity. Their record shows there is no possibility in the foreseeable future of any radical economic or social changes at a British level. 

A Yes vote gives an opportunity to create a better, fairer, prosperous country which could act as a beacon for the rest of Britain. Some comrades on the left argue that supporting independence is a betrayal of fellow workers in the rest of Britain, condemning them to perpetual right wing governments. 

However solidarity has always been national and international and will continue whether the worker is in Glasgow, Grimsby or Gdansk. 

The nature of direct solidarity has changed because of the increase in multinational corporations and in Britain, where public sector wages and conditions have been devolved. 

I am not a Scottish National Party (SNP) supporter though they have been socially progressive. A modern democracy does not have a hereditary head of state. We should only keep sterling for a transitional period and not join Nato. 

The SNP has been too centralising and authoritarian—more power should be handed back to local authorities and communities. The referendum is about the future of Scotland, not the SNP. 

The Yes campaign includes socialist parties, the Scottish Greens and non-aligned individuals as well as the SNP. Many comrades in “Labour for Independence” will be encouraging over 800,000 Scots who voted Labour in the 2010 general election to vote Yes.

Bob is a past Scottish Labour Party chair and treasurer. Current member of Scottish Left Review editorial board

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