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There’s no going back for Scotland’s radical Yes voters

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Issue 2421
Thousands of Independence supporters took over the streets of Glasgow on Saturday of last week
Thousands of Independence supporters took over the streets of Glasgow on Saturday of last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)
From top: Joe Rocks, Sarah Gibbons, John Paul Tonner and Angela McCormick

From top: Joe Rocks, Sarah Gibbons, John Paul Tonner and Angela McCormick

Supporters of Scottish independence were only emboldened by the desperation of the British ruling class last week.

A week of scare stories, veiled threats and downright lies thrown by the Tories and their allies to intervene in the Scottish independence referendum backfired. 

Central squares and high streets were filled in many towns and cities last weekend by increasingly confident campaigners who felt the momentum was with them.

Polls still said the result was too close to call as Socialist Worker went to press. Yet already the campaign has transformed political life. Huge numbers of working class people seeking change have been brought into political activity. They are part of a campaign on the ground dominated by a desire for social justice.

Joe Rocks is a retired social worker from Glasgow’s Govan area, where he helps organise a Radical Independence Campaign (Ric) group.

“This has re-engaged working class communities,” Joe told Socialist Worker. “The mainstream parties didn’t want the ‘people living in the high flats’ involved in this—but Ric did.” 

Joe said a few dozen people have got involved with the Govan group, motivated by “the hope for something better”. “People know the arguments, they understand and know what’s going on in society,” he said.

This politicisation means issues such as scrapping Trident nuclear weapons and taxing the rich are now part of everyday debate.

Caitlin Rennie studies at Stirling University. She told Socialist Worker the referendum has made her think more about society. “Poor people are getting punished for the mistakes of the rich,” she said. “The government is worried—look at how many are registered to vote.”

Former Labour Party member Sarah Gibbons agreed. She told Socialist Worker that she has only really become “properly involved” in the last month as the voter registration deadline loomed closer.

“We signed up thousands of people in the final weeks,” she said. “Many of them have never voted before. Because of this, some argue they don’t have a right to say they’re sick of getting governments they don’t vote for.

“But the reason they don’t vote is that they are sick of being let down time and time again, especially by Labour politicians who’ve sold working class people down the river.”

Radical independence campaigner and socialist activist Angela McCormick said the referendum will have a lasting effect.

She said, “It’s been absolutely incredible to see the transformation.

“People have found their voice and are saying they’re not going away. Working class people have paid the biggest price from austerity. They’ve been demonised by the Tories and patronised by Better Together. 

“And they are at the centre of the drive that’s shifted the campaign to the left. To those who say people are apathetic, where’s your apathy now?

“When people are offered an alternative then they feel like there is a reason to vote. After the referendum there needs to be a continuing focus for the left.”

Scotland’s new left needs a new party

Campaign materials on a socialist stall for independence

Campaign materials on a socialist stall for independence (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Many of those fighting for independence want more than either the Scottish National Party (SNP) or the Labour Party are prepared to offer. This has opened new discussions about the future of the Scottish left.

Sarah said, “Whether it is a Yes or a No the days of sticking a red rosette on a donkey are over. Labour is screwed. I think people are crying out for an alternative.”

Glasgow University student Jordan Daly agreed. “The big change is the shift away from Labour,” he said.

“Left wing politics are changing. Who’s to say all this can’t form into a new political party?”

Joe said, “We’re crying out for a new party of the left and there are new leaders already thrown up by this campaign in working class communities.”

Activists inside the Labour Party formed the new campaign Labour for Independence (LfI) in disgust at the party leadership lining with the Tories to defend the British state.

LfI member John Paul Tonner says he is open to a new party as long as it’s based on participation by its members. 

He told Socialist Worker, “That’s what will keep it grounded—it keeps it in the streets and away from politicians in suits. I just want people to have better lives and more equality—I don’t care what the party is called.”

Joe said, “There’s a new breed of young activists and we all agree on what’s wrong.” He said all these strands could unite together but all the left groups and socialists need “to leave arguments that are in the past, in the past”.

Sarah argued, “We need to wipe the slate clean and start again. We need to move forward and help create something that works for the people.”

Angela said, “The independence movement has brought together activists from across the left and, crucially, those new to campaigning.

“It would be a missed opportunity if we fail to provide a united left electoral challenge because of divisions of the past.

“Labour’s embrace of austerity has left many without a party to vote for—we mustn’t waste this chance to provide and alternative.”

Thousands fill streets of Glasgow and march on BBC

The spontaneous protest against the BBCs pro-union bias

The spontaneous protest against the BBC’s pro-union bias (Pic: Socialist Worker)

the final weekend before the referendum vote saw a huge mobilisation for the Yes side. Most spectacular was Glasgow. More than 3,000 Yes supporters took over the city centre for the day.

Hundreds were there to campaign, hundreds more wanted to pick up more campaign materials to give out back in their local areas and many simply soaked up the atmosphere.

Teacher Caroline McKinlay told Socialist Worker, “This is not about waving a flag, it’s about winning change for the kids I teach in the classroom.

“We try to instil values in the children, and encourage them to have a vision about society and have a voice. But we live in a society that doesn’t reflect that at all.

“We’ve been told we’re not valuable for so long. But people need to feel their ideas are valuable, and they can contribute and make a difference.”

All over the city stalls were set up. Performers with Yes badges entertained the crowds.

Saturday’s success inspired people who didn’t make it to come out on the Sunday.

There was also a lot of anger towards the bosses, politicians and the media, particularly the BBC which ramped up their “Project Fear” last week.

More than 4,000 people marched on the BBC headquarters in a spontaneous protest last Sunday.

They demanded an end to the state broadcaster’s bias in favour of the unionist camp.

Campaigners are getting active in every corner of Scotland

Across Scotland campaign stalls, mass canvassing, music events and more were putting the arguments.

More than 150 trade unionists for independence turned out for a rally in Dundee. Labour “No thanks” campaigners were jeered at by the crowd asking, “Are you Tories in disguise?”

Around 500 people of all ages joined the campaign in Inverness. It was a young crowd and it ended in a big party with lots of singing.

Dozens turned out in smaller towns. Hundreds more joined campaigning in the cities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. 

Cavalcades of cars were organised everywhere. One in Glasgow was so long it took over 10 minutes to cross the bridges over the River Clyde.

Keep going until the last minute

In the last week several polls have been conducted. Some polls put Yes ahead—one by eight points. Others have it for the No side. 

The average of the last six polls put Yes on 49 percent and No on 51 percent. Many were conducted at the height of the scare stories at the beginning of last week—and showed that they has not had the effect desired by the unionists.

The Better Together campaign has increasingly panicked over recent weeks as its 22-point lead has disintegrated.

The momentum of the Yes campaign could win a vote for independence—but only if activists keep fighting until the very last moment.


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