Thousands of people were set to rally for Scottish independence in Glasgow this weekend, marking two years since the referendum.
It comes as Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon formally puts independence back on the agenda.
Launching her “programme for government” last week, Sturgeon announced that her party “will consult on a draft Referendum Bill”.
It doesn’t mean “indyref2” is a done deal. It simply means the SNP will have a bill ready if its leadership decides the time is right.
That won’t be any time soon. The polls are unfavourable and the process of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU)—which could trigger a second referendum—hasn’t even begun.
Sturgeon’s strategy risks damaging support for independence rather than boosting it.
The SNP said it would push for another independence vote if there was a “significant and material change” in circumstances.
Brexit could be such a change. Sturgeon insists Scots “do not want to leave” and argues for an independent Scotland in the EU.
The aim is to win over Remain voters who didn’t vote for independence in 2014. But it could do the opposite, making independence conditional on an EU that some Yes voters reject.
Neil Mackay helped organise the 10,000-strong All Under One Banner march for a second independence referendum in Glasgow in July.
Many saw it as relaunching a radical independence movement. “I knew we should hit the streets as soon as possible after the Brexit vote,” Neil told Socialist Worker.
But Neil thinks Sturgeon’s strategy is “risky”. He voted Leave because he “wanted the establishment to suffer”.
A third of SNP voters ignored the party’s pro-EU stance and voted Leave. And Neil isn’t convinced that all the independence supporters who voted Remain actually wanted to stay in the EU.
He said, “Many were more interested in stoking the constitutional crisis than being in the EU. I don’t think Nicola Sturgeon quite gets this.”
Sturgeon’s policy speech last week highlighted that politics in Scotland aren’t exactly like the rest of Britain. It’s one of her priorities to emphasise that Scotland is different—and could be independent.
Where the Tories attack disabled people on benefits, the SNP says it wants a “Scottish social security system” centred on “dignity”.
While prime minister Theresa May wants selective grammar schools, Sturgeon stakes her reputation on “closing the attainment gap” and fighting child poverty.
But her speech was also full of pro-business jargon—“centres of excellence”, “action plans” and “investment hubs”. The SNP combines economic policies the bosses can trust with social democratic values that appeal to workers.
This neoliberalism with a heart is a delicate balance. On one side are the SNP’s rich donors, who want to keep the EU’s single market.
On the other is an influx of new members, galvanised by the hope of challenging the rich and well to the left of its traditional activist base.
Socialist Worker backs independence. As Neil argued, “Breaking up one of the oldest colonial powers—what socialist couldn’t support that?”
As Britain’s rulers bomb Syria and lock out refugees, that fight is as urgent as ever. It can’t be kept on hold until the SNP leadership thinks the time is right.
As Neil said, “people are getting hurt every day by austerity” and we need an independence movement that is “anti-cuts, anti-racist, anti-Trident”.
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