Category: Scotland
The SNP and class politics
| March 24, 2017 | 9:42 pm | class struggle, political struggle, Scotland, UK | No comments

The SNP and class politics

Monday 20th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

THIS paper has a proud history of advocating the national and democratic rights of the Scottish and Welsh people.

In a multinational state, a degree of national autonomy is vital for any people wishing to express their own distinctive culture and identity. As nations, Scotland and Wales also have the right to determine their own futures, up to and including separation from England or Britain.

These are questions of principle to which we adhere without qualification.

However, when and how people should exercise their rights is a matter of judgement. As Lenin put it, advocating the right to divorce is not the same as proposing that a particular couple — let alone all couples — should actually get divorced.

For socialists and communists, the fight for social justice and the transformation of society are paramount considerations. Would Scotland’s separation from Britain assist the working class in achieving a radically fairer society? Would it take the people of Scotland — let alone England and Wales — further down the path to a socialist society? Would it help create the conditions for socialist revolution?

The Morning Star is not convinced that Scottish or Welsh separation in current conditions answers these questions in the affirmative.

Moreover, there is a strong case for arguing that separation would divide the political class struggle — and what has been a largely united labour movement over the past 120 years — in two if not in three. This might create problems for the monopoly capitalists whose interests dominate the British state, but they would remain united in their ownership and control of the economy in all three nations.

Most seriously for the working class, separatism weakens class consciousness and class politics, as shown by the SNP spring conference in Aberdeen at the weekend.

There, the platform politics were entirely those of identity and grievance. Every significant problem faced by the Scottish people is, apparently, the fault of the Westminster government and the union. Capitalism with its class division of society was not mentioned. Big business is blameless.

The SNP does not advocate socialism, nor steps towards it, nor even real independence.

What kind of “independence” craves for continued membership of the European Union?

This is the same EU whose rules have forced the Scottish government to hand over its Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) infrastructure projects to private-sector finance and control. The cost of resulting delays and extra unitary charges will have to be met by the Scottish government, the NHS and local authorities over the next 30 years.

Five major projects must be retained on the publicsector balance sheet, diverting £1 billion from other spending plans.

Despite all SNP pledges to the contrary, PFI is back with a bang in Scotland, where the public will end up paying more than £9bn for SFT projects — three times their capital value. Scotland’s official auditors are investigating.

Yet so desperate is the SNP to leave Scotland’s biggest single market by far, namely Britain, and stay in the marginal European one that it emits not a squeak of protest about these EU diktats.

Its “independence” in the EU means no Scottish sovereignty over public finances, the movement of capital, international trade, the importation of super-exploited labour, VAT or public-sector contract compliance; a Scotland bossed around by the EU Commission and European Central Bank, inside an EU wedded to Nato.

How different that is from the perspective of progressive federalism in a Britain where wealth and power is redistributed to the working class in every nation and region.

The Brexit Collection: Food for Thought for Scottish Nationalists?
| March 10, 2017 | 7:23 pm | Analysis, political struggle, Scotland, UK | No comments

The Brexit Collection: Food for Thought for Scottish Nationalists?

© Photo: PIxabay

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Neil Clark

Back in 1975, the Scottish National Party (SNP) strongly opposed Britain’s membership of the EEC in the referendum held in June that year. In 2016, the party did the exact opposite, with leader Nicola Sturgeon campaigning energetically for Britain to remain in the European Union. Was the volte-face a mistake?

Edinburgh-based writer, blogger and anti-globalization activist Kenneth Bell believes most firmly that it was. In The Brexit Collection, a newly published compilation of his feisty and provocative essays written before and after the 2016 vote, Bell labels current SNP policies towards “independence” and membership of the EU as being “incoherent” and nonsensical.The big question is: How can a party calling itself “national” demand freedom from Westminster, but not from Brussels?

The SNP surely had a more intellectually coherent stance forty-odd years ago, when its Parliamentary leader Donald Stewart, said that the EEC “represents everything our party has fought against: centralization, undemocratic procedures, power politics and a fetish for abolishing cultural differences.”

Kenneth Bell, would, I’m sure, have been a strong Stewart supporter.

In the essay, A Scottish Brexit, written in May 2016, Bell urged those who had voted “Yes” in the Indy ref of 2014, to go against the advice of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP leadership and vote “Leave” in the euro referendum of the following month. The benefits of Scotland saying a hearty “Guid-bye” to Brussels would be immense.

“An independent Scotland, if it came about, would control not just the vast offshore oilfields, but the bulk of Europe’s fishing waters… those waters could provide employment for an army of Scottish fishermen under a government that could forbid foreign fishing fleets from touching them,” Bell writes.

He points out that at present fishing protection is handled by Holyrood (under the orders of the EU) and not by Westminster. So the key to Scotland being able to regain control of its own waters — is exiting the EU.

“Think about that for a moment and think about the wealth that is swimming around under Scotland’s seas that will entirely the responsibility of Edinburgh.”

Bell says the government of a truly independent Scotland could legislate to reserve most or even all of the fishing bounty to Scottish boats, leading to a great increase in employment. “Shipyards would be inundated with orders for new fishing boats… the skippers of the new vessels would be begging school leavers to sign up as fishermen.”

To enforce the system, the Royal Scots Navy (sailing the seas for the first time since 1707) could be reformed “to check the licences of any foreign vessels” that were allowed into Scottish seas.

Bell claims that reclaiming control of its own fishing waters is what Americans would call a “no-brainer,” yet the SNP leadership remain deaf to such ideas.

In fact, Scots only have to travel to Norway to see how a country in the north of Europe, with oil and fishing waters, is better off outside the EU than in it.

The SNP’s love affair with Brussels is indeed hard to fathom, and it could, in Bell’s view, eventually prove disastrous. The party’s line during the 2014 Indy ref was that Scotland would automatically remain a member of the EU, if Scots voted to cede from the rest of the UK.

But that point is still not clear. In January, the leader of the largest group of Spanish MEPs, Esteban Gonzalez Pons, warned that an independent Scotland would have to queue up behind Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Turkey, if it then applied for EU membership..

If Scotland did have to reapply for EU membership, say after a successful “Yes” vote in the next Indy ref, or after a Westminster-led Brexit, then the “wolves in all the major capitals,” as Bell describes them, are going to demand their pound of flesh.

“Scotland’s position will be very weak indeed,” he argues.

“The country would not appear at the negotiating table as a confident, modern democracy but as a beggar, leading to be allowed entry under whatever terms it can get… As any Scotsman knows, when the opponent is on his knees, this is the time to start kicking him in the head… Scotland will be on its knees and the big power kicking will be brutal indeed,” Bell warns.

Then there’s the harsh austerity policies that Brussels is sure to insist upon. The EU demands that member states have a deficit-to-GDP ratio of no higher than 3%. Scotland’s is around 10%.

To get its deficit down to EU-approved levels, the Scottish government would have to hike taxes and/or slash public spending, destroying the achievements of the country’s welfare state, which includes free prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly and continued council house building.

Is that what progressives in Scotland really want?

Even if Scotland was allowed to automatically stay in the EU, it is likely to be at a disadvantage. Although its universities have benefited from EU research funding, Scotland, like the UK as a whole, is a net contributor to the EU budget.

The SNP — lest we forget — swept the board in the 2015 general election on an anti-austerity platform, yet ironically their support for the EU could lead to a new era of swingeing cuts.

With its oil and its fish, Scotland could become another Norway. But if the wrong choices are made, it could become the new Greece.

Bell doesn’t go into this in his book — but perhaps it could be the theme of his next collection.

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