The national question has arisen arises in many parts of Europe, as in Scotland and in Catalonia, with the deep changes driven by imperialism, taking place as a consequence of the disintegration of the old social structures.
The current world economic crisis, the ending of the welfare state, the drive towards precarity of working conditions and the attacks of the Thatcher era, have strengthened a feeling that Scotland would fare better as an independent state.
The campaign for independence is led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), a nationalist bourgeois party which has given a few concessions to the working class to try to win their support, like the no payment of tuition fees in public universities, or the granting of 1% salary increase for civil servants, while the central government offered no increase.
The question of the Scottish independence has divided all classes and the left in Scotland and Britain. On the side of the capitalists, the medium and small size companies, mainly those who trade less outside of Scotland than big companies, are organised around the SNP and its leader, Alec Salmond. More than 1300 smaller companies, “Business for Scotland”, have stated that they support independence. Pushed by the economic crisis and financial centralisation in the City of London, they want to re-organise the economy in order that they can take more of Scotland’s wealth. They are competing for a higher share of profits and increased public finance subsidies.
The SNP have promised to slash Corporation Tax to 3 per cent, which would give more handouts to business in an independent Scotland than London allows at the moment – all in the interests of the “Scottish nation,” that is in the interests of Scottish capitalism.
Independence is opposed by 130 Scottish industrial capitalists. They represent the big profiteers such as HSBC, and many major Scottish companies.
They are politically represented by the main capitalist parties in London, which jointly run the NO campaign. As Cameron and the Lib Dems – seen as reps of the City of London – are hated in Scotland, they need the Labour Party to do the job of defending the European Union and finance capital. What Miliband, their leader, is happy to do.
All three parties want to maintain the austerity programme being implemented in all three countries. But, would it be different in an independent Scotland ruled by the SNP?
They are in one sense fighting over who should keep the profits. The City of London and the speculators want to maximise those profits without hindrance. While medium and small size Scottish business seek greater profits. Nothing is in the interests of the working class.
The question of currency is a major problem for the yes campaign. Sterling will continue to be managed by the Bank of England and the financial capital. Monetary union would lock the Scottish and English economies together, leaving economic autonomy severely curtailed.
Monetary union would operate like the Euro, which has been used by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to take finance from the weakest countries to the main imperialist powers (Germany and France) and their multi-nationals.
The weakest nations of Europe are dominated by Germany and France, who use the European Union and the Euro to deepen the attacks on Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. London would use Sterling to the same effect. The subservience of the SNP would be no different to the subservience of the rulers of Greece or Spain.
Keeping the Queen, keeping the land for aristocrats
Keeping the Crown means that Scottish people have no right to choose the head of state and will, indirectly, keep the power of the House of Lords over Scotland. So, the Scottish working class will not be politically better off – as many on the left say – because the current lack of democracy will continue.
The SNP does not want to challenge Royalty for another reason. There is a strong allegiance to the Queen from the Scottish landowning aristocracy. More than half of Scotland is owned by fewer than 500 rich peers and it has the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in the developed world. According to Jim Hunter, who proposes land reform, after seven years of an SNP government nothing has been done to alter the concentration of land in the hands of the Queen’s friends.
The SNP campaign for independence does not go beyond the capitalist limits at all and does not deal with British imperialist domination over the working class. It is for big business, an attempt to obtain more economic autonomy.
The position in the Left
The Scottish Socialist Party state that “Scotland’s working class majority can be economically, socially, culturally and politically better off with independence. We believe Scots should be able to make our own choices, free from the chains of the neo-liberal, warmongering British state”.
However they cannot explain how Scotland could be stronger while keeping Sterling or how would free Scotland from the warmongers being part of NATO and the EU, that are no less imperialist than the “British state”. Especially if we consider that NATO and the EU are, ultimately, institutions controlled by American imperialism. Nor can they explain how the working class can improve economically if the SNP maintain the anti-working class laws introduced from the days of Thatcher, such as the anti-trade union laws.
The same is true for the majority of the left parties in Britain, who support independence, but fall short of any convincing arguments.
The Socialist Party call “for a critical yes vote in the referendum, while at the same time warning that only socialism – an independent socialist Scotland as part of confederation with England, Wales and Ireland – would offer an end to austerity”.
This referendum is not a step forward to an “independent socialist Scotland”, rather it will form a new capitalist nation with its intelligence service and army, supported by the British establishment against the Scottish working class. It is seeking to advance that section of imperialism which is Scottish and which has long been part of British imperialism.
The working class will be split by the creation of new borders and the fight for socialism, which means the abolition of nations and their borders, will take many backward steps.
The Socialist Workers Party state that “the breakup of the imperialist British state would be a positive thing,” and argue that the separation into two states would not harm the joint struggle of the British and Scottish workers.
But British imperialism will continue to rule and the borders between nations will be an actual obstacle for the unity of the working class.
The right to self-determination and workers struggle
The ISL and the International Workers League defend unconditionally the right to self-determination for all oppressed peoples, and that means their right to independence if such is the will of the majority of the people. But the right to self-determination cannot be an instrument of separation from the working class in England and Wales, but a necessary means to achieve the unity of the working class in common struggle against British capitalism.
We are against the creation of pseudo independence, which will maintain submission to the British or the European/American imperialist bourgeoisie, and because, despite the empty phrases of the British left, the secession posed for Scotland represents a step backward and an obstacle to the unity and solidarity of the British working class. It is not a step toward a free confederation of socialist republics (England, Scotland, Wales).
The left are substituting support for a nationalist struggle for the united struggle of the working class against austerity, and imperialism and shows are far they have travelled from a perspective of revolutionary class struggle.
What is needed, but not fought for by the majority of the left or trade union leaders, is unity with the whole of the British working class against the cuts and privatisation, with broad autonomy for Scotland and Wales against British imperialism and the EU.
That is why, together with the demand for the right to self-determination, we defend the Free Union of Socialist British States as an aim to be achieved in the struggle for the world socialist revolution.
Stop Tory and Labour threats against Scotland
In recent weeks the polls began to publicize a strong growth of the independence vote, resulting in a 51% for the YES vote, only 10 days from the referendum. While considered a technical draw, the most important is the growing dynamic of the YES vote. If it continues, it will ensure the victory of the independence supporters.
Cameron threatens the Scottish people by saying they will not be allowed to use Sterling and that independence is irreversible. Then another threat from south of the border came from Ed Miliband. “If you don’t want borders vote to stay in the United Kingdom”. He also stated he would look at border guards and passport checks.
Neither Cameron or anyone else has the right to change people’s opinion with blackmail.