By Bob Fotheringham
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Scotland, Labour and independence – what should the left do?

This article is over 6 years, 9 months old
Issue 2572
Scotlands first minister Nicola Sturgeon - under pressure
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon – under pressure (Pic: First Minister of Scotland/Flickr)

Several thousand people joined the pro-independence Hope Over Fear rally in Glasgow last Saturday.

Although smaller than similar events earlier this year, it showed there is still powerful backing for another independence referendum and a Yes vote.

But this can’t hide the problems facing the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, recently announced a new “radical” programme for the Scottish government. Proposals include an end to the public sector pay freeze, possible higher tax for the rich, an investigation into a “citizen’s income” and action on climate change.

Typically for the SNP, which looks for support from all sections of Scottish society, including bosses, any pay rise will have to be “affordable”. A proposed new investment bank will be led by a former chair of Tesco Bank.

Nevertheless, this announcement was interpreted as a move to the left by most commentators in Scotland.

This would not have happened without the impact of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

Although the SNP remains the major political force in Scottish politics, Sturgeon undoubtedly feels under pressure and believes the party needs to respond.

The SNP’s record in government is good in some areas. But on the central question of challenging neoliberal capitalism and fighting austerity it has been deeply uninspiring.

And the “radical programme” had no mention of a second independence referendum. The SNP has put this firmly on the back burner.

Socialists in Scotland want to see an end to austerity, cuts and racism and an end to the Tories in power. They cannot remain neutral on the issue of the positive impact that a Corbyn victory could bring.


It would be a blow to the supporters of the free market and open the possibility of increased levels of class struggle.

That is why socialists in Scotland should call for a vote for Corbyn if a general election is held in the foreseeable future.

However, Scottish Labour in general terms is far to the right of Corbyn, except on the issue of Trident which (under pressure from the SNP) it is favour of getting rid of.

The resignation of Kezia Dugdale as Scottish Labour leader has led to a leadership election for Scottish Labour. Regrettably the contestants are far from inspiring.

Anas Sarwar, a millionaire businessman, hails from the right of the party. Richard Leonard as an open Corbyn supporter is preferable.

But as a former GMB union official he hardly represents a symbol of left wing struggle.

Also, Corbyn’s opposition to independence puts him at odds with many potential supporters.

Corbyn should accept that the Scottish Parliament has a right to decide when to hold a second independence referendum. This would go a long way to winning backing from working class voters.

Finally, many Labour supporters and many in the independence movement share numerous issues of common concern.

An end to racism, opposition to austerity and cuts and opposition to Britain’s military adventures to name a few.

The challenge is to get more people working together for concrete action around these issues and more.

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