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Where next after Scotland’s vote?

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Issue 2422
Crowds in Glasgows George Square before the referendum
Crowds in Glasgow’s George Square before the referendum (Pic: Andrew McGowan)

The Scottish independence referendum saw thousands of people getting involved in radical new groups to argue for a Yes vote. 

They dragged Scotland’s politics to the left, panicked the ruling class, and may have laid the basis for a new movement to fight for social justice.

In the aftermath of the result, they are grappling with what to do next. 

Some campaigners want to carry on organising in a movement of the 45 percent who voted Yes for independence.

Some have even called for backing the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the hope that this will lead to another referendum.

Socialist Worker talked to activists about the prospects for a new left party and the next steps needed to make it happen.

‘The left must unite to offer a lead’

Glasgow activist Keir McKechnie

 The question is how do we create a platform for the left to offer an alternative.

Some 25,000 people have attended Tommy Sheridan’s Hope Over Fear meetings and the Radical Independence Campaign has mobilised thousands of people. 

If they were to put a call out for a common platform for a left electoral coalition it could be a magnet for wider forces.

But we also need to look at the forces in the trade unions and at Labour independence supporters.

After Labour’s leaders got into bed with the Tories, they should be part of creating an alternative to the neoliberalism of Labour and the SNP.

It will also be important to appeal to some of the No voters who we disagreed with in the referendum, but who want to build opposition to austerity. 

We can’t treat them like they are class enemies, traitors or scabs.

Beyond that there are thousands of activists across Scotland radicalised by anti-war activity and Palestine solidarity work. 

They have also been politicised by the independence campaign and they too should be part of shaping a new left.

We’ve seen many people involved in mobilising against Ukip, racism and against the fascists.

It is important to pull this into a political alternative that can fight racism and to close the Dungavel refugee prison.

And there has to be an appeal to young people to be part of a new left movement in Scotland— especially the 71 percent of 16 and 17 year olds who voted Yes. 

The left can’t carry on being defined by previous splits. 

We have to draw a line under historical disagreements that existed inside the Scottish Socialist Party, that frankly appear as strange to new 


It is incumbent on the left to rise above this and unite to offer a lead to this working class movement.

‘The SNP is not the answer’

Rank and file electrician Stewart Hume

 Westminster politics is outdated and done. We need something fresh.

I’ve never been a member of a political party. Now I’m definitely going to join one because of the referendum.

When the result came through it was almost like taking a defeat from an employer, and I’ve not been used to getting many defeats from employers.

There’s a shift happening now, including for a lot of people who have not been involved in politics before. 

Labour jumped into bed with the Tories and we’re seeing people burning their membership cards or defecting over to the SNP or other parties.

I don’t think piggy-backing onto the SNP is the answer. They are pro-business.

We’ve seen that with the anti-blacklisting campaign recently.

In Dundee, the SNP council dismissed new guidelines and awarded a major contract to a blacklisting firm.

Our rank and file group was predominantly pro-independence. 

Some of us have been discussing how our union, Unite, should look at funding individual MPs rather than putting all our eggs in one basket with the Labour Party.

You can get tired of going to sit and listen to people at meetings.

But when we had our Besna dispute the rank and file had meetings every single week, and that was important to keep the momentum going.

The left has got to deliver something now, to get people along and put across a common goal.

‘This isn’t the end by a long way’

Aberdeen social care worker Nicola Leighton

This has been the first time many people got involved in politics.

At our meetings and rallies there was a huge mix of people, not just those directly affected by austerity, but workers in the oil industry and lots of young people.

Many of the people I work with got themselves registered to vote because they didn’t feel alienated or demonised. 

They haven’t felt that for a very long time.

Opposition to austerity is across the working class, whether people voted Yes or No. There’s a shared discontent with the system. 

I don’t think people voted No because they love nuclear weapons and want to keep fighting wars.

Social media is covered with No voters saying they now regret it. We were subjected to all this scaremongering about independence meaning the growth of “extremism”, but Britain’s wars are what fuels that. 

People don’t want to be part of these wars. I don’t think this is the end by a long way. 

We all feel like Westminster doesn’t represent us. The experience of the referendum has fed this belief that we want to participate more and be heard.

This can’t become a power game between different left parties trying to attract the same voters. 

People are looking for a real political alternative, now we have a chance to create one.

‘We can unite with No voters’

Stirling student Caitlin Rennie

The referendum highlighted issues that No voters have an interest in changing and we can use that to unite us and push for change in Scotland together. 

Look at the opposition to food banks, for example.

I think any new political movement really has to embrace differences and diversity. 

We can unite against the violence we saw on the streets of Glasgow last week. 

It has to be about removing division.

If we can spread that message then that is hopefully planting the seed for a new perspective to grow.

‘I didn’t leave Labour—Labour left me’

Dundee bus mechanic George Gray

I supported the Labour Party through thick and thin until 2010.

By that time I was completely disengaged with the party due to its neoliberal and authoritarian agenda. 

I think at least 50 percent of those who voted for them in 2010 will be like me and never vote for them again. Labour left me and I didn’t leave Labour.

They were too busy hating anyone supporting independence to realise they were becoming toxic. Ed Miliband is unelectable and the party is leaning to the right.

There’s a big groundswell of discontent among Labour members and it is going to backfire in his face. I think they are finished in Scotland in their current form. 

We’re not going to get any more powers for Scotland. Project Fear has degenerated into Project False and people are going to realise that soon.

Labour does not represent the working class any more. 

They are a party that supports nuclear weapons, hereditary power and privilege.

I’d urge any Labour supporters horrified at what you are seeing to make the journey over.

It’s now imperative that the Radical Independence Campaign, Labour for Independence and the socialists all come together.

‘Working class people have woken up’

Glasgow student Jordan Daly

The biggest achievement to come from the referendum has been the political awakening of working class people.

They have risen and gained a new perspective on the society they live in. 

It gave a voice back to people in Scotland and showed the strength of grassroots organisations. 

The first step in moving forward is for people to re-unite. We won’t get anywhere by further dividing ourselves between Yes/No, or 45/55.

We need to campaign as a solid unit to ensure that people don’t fall back asleep. People need to stay active because then they remain a threat to the elite—and that is where political success lies.

‘We’ve shown how we can fight’

FE lecturer Angela McCormick

The campaign taught us that there’s a deep-seated anger in the working class and, if given a space, that anger will express itself. 

The idea that people are apathetic has been blown away. Look at the turnout, the new registrations, the activity and the number of meetings that took place.

This was a whole new network of activists in working class communities. We saw people making their own leaflets, talking to strangers in queues and identifying one another as part of a movement.

People learned they are not alone. All the grievances they thought they couldn’t do anything about, now they could.

People learned on a large scale about the absolute complicity of the official media and the politicians. 

Campaigners are proud of winning a Yes vote in Glasgow and other working class areas. The class nature of the vote was clear to people—their boss was voting No and they were voting Yes.

The feeling was “we can do this”. And everybody thought the referendum was just the beginning.

We didn’t win the referendum. But we saw how much our rulers panic at the very prospect of working class people making themselves heard.

That’s because we are the majority. We are the class that produces the profits their system relies on. That gives us a power they are scared of.

The movement was a glimpse of how we can fight against war, racism and austerity—and the system that generates them.

Neither Labour nor the SNP offer solutions to the problems that motivated many Yes campaigners. But solutions exist, and they are worth fighting for.

Our enemies have big business, the media and the state on their side. We need to be just as organised on ours.

That’s why we build the Socialist Workers’ Party—and why Yes voters who want to see a different kind of society should join us.

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