By Héctor Sierra
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A letter to a Scottish independence supporter

This article is over 1 years, 0 months old
We need to break with the dead hand of the SNP
Issue 2861
Rally for Scottish Independence in Glasgow 2019. Protesters in a sea of scottish flags

A rally for Scottish Independence at George Square in Glasgow in 2019 (Picture: Bob Shand/Flickr)

The 2014 Scottish independence referendum remains in the memories of many activists as the time we gave our rulers the fright of their lives.

We came close to dealing a serious blow to politicians that have decimated working class people’s lives. And the campaign sent shockwaves through a British state that—in tandem with the US empire—still sees it as its right to bomb, invade and occupy countries around the globe.

But 2014 is now a distant memory. As we approach the 10th anniversary, the issues dominating the news are the financial scandals, collapsing membership figures and arrests plunging the Scottish National Party (SNP) into crisis. Supporters of the British state are rejoicing, trumpeting the death of the movement for Scottish independence.

It is true that voting intention for the SNP has declined, but support for independence remains as strong as ever. And enthusiasm for indy could be a lot greater if it was clearly linked to a vision of breaking with the authoritarian laws, racism, transphobia and ecological inaction of the Tories.

The real crisis our movement faces is one of strategy. The Tories are not having any of it. And it has been clear for some time that the party many expected to deliver independence can’t find a way forward. This is a problem that also extends to the other mainstream pro-independence parties, the Scottish Greens and Alba.

Meanwhile, the problems that drove you to support independence in the first place have only become more pressing in the last decade. The NHS, education and social care are crumbling under privatisation, one in four Scottish children live in poverty and Scotland has been named Britain’s “zero-hours capital”, with 105,000 workers not having set working hours.

For years, you have been asked to vote for the party that has overseen this state of affairs in the belief that everything would pay off if in the end we won the prize of independence. You haven’t agreed with some of their policies. You have been frustrated at the pace of events. But at the end of the day, you have stuck with it because you trusted them. Thousands now rightly feel betrayed and think we cannot go on like this.

What do socialists say then? We are not asking you to vote for us and let us do the job. Our argument is that to break the deadlock around independence, we cannot look to manoeuvres in Westminster and Holyrood. Instead, we have to look at what the millions of us at the bottom of society can do.

The strategy of appealing to Tory governments and the institutions of the British state, such as the Supreme Court, has proved a dead-end. SNP leaders have never contemplated other alternatives involving mass mobilisation, civil disobedience and forms of more militant action. This is because they support the same capitalist system Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer also defend—the system creating poverty, oppression and climate chaos.

On Saturday, the SNP will be holding a convention on Scottish independence in Dundee. Voting SNP will be put forward as the centrepiece of the fight for indy.

The fact that the convention has been called for the same day as an independence march in Stirling shows the priorities of SNP leaders. They are not aligned with those of grassroots independence supporters.

And it exposes their fear of a movement its leaders claim to represent—but which they have only shown contempt for. And this follows the pattern of Humza Yousaf favouring attending the coronation of King Charles in May over the All Under One Banner march of at least 15,000 in Glasgow on the same day.

We can see that whatever the difficulties around independence, the fight for changing our society hasn’t stopped in Scotland—or elsewhere. Over the last year we have seen the most inspiring strikes in decades, involving teachers, posties, rail workers and many others. They have resisted attacks by Tories and employers, but also in some cases cuts by the Scottish government. They all deserve the full support of those of us who want to see real change.

These events show the power ordinary people have to fight for change. This is the kind of power we need to organise and unleash if we are to ever challenge the British state again. But this means breaking with the dead hand of the SNP and with the politics and strategies of compromise and moderation.

It means throwing ourselves into the battles for pay and to save jobs and against the far right’s attempts to build in our communities. We have to look for every opportunity for resistance—whichever parliament the attacks are coming from. And it means building a force in Scottish politics that focuses on organising the power of ordinary people to fight for change themselves. Such a force exists in the Socialist Workers Party and we urge you to make it stronger by joining us.

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