Scotland: yes or no?

With two weeks to go, the latest polls suggest that the upcoming referendum vote on independence for Scotland could be close, although the average of all polls still suggests that Scots will vote no to independence. It’s going to be a big turnout though.

In this post, I want to try to analyse the arguments for and against independence mainly from the point of view of whether an independent capitalist Scotland would be better for the Scottish working class in economic terms, and for that matter the rest of the British working class, than remaining in the Union with the rest of the UK.

Principles

But first let’s start with the principles. A united world in a fair and equal federation or commonwealth of states would be the most beneficial to the majority. It would mean sharing resources, culture and ideas to the benefit of all through a democratic process. So, a federation of the old nation states of the British Isles would be better, in principle, for the majority who live by their labour and not by profit and ownership of capital. But this implies a socialist federation.

Of course, if any nation wants to stay separate, or to become separate, from such a union, then that is up to them. They should be able to decide in a free and fair vote. And a union or federation of nation states that is not equal and is more of an oppressive union of the large and powerful over the small is not good news – and this is the model of all capitalist federations. On the other hand, staying separate as a ‘nation’ for the sake of it is an antiquated and backward idea in human social development, and particularly for working people. It also ensures the continuation of the capitalist mode of production.

The decision for yes to independence or no should not be based on whether Scotland needs to be a nation – it is one, in geography or territory and, to some extent, in culture, although that has been diluted over centuries with the gaelic language almost dead and ‘scots’ seriously reduced. Catalonia in Spain, also possibly considering independence from Spain, is more of a nation in that sense, as it still has its own living language. But then Ireland is clearly a nation, but uses English. And the Scots clearly consider themselves a nation.

Scots

And yet there is little difference in attitudes between the majority of English and Scots. Polls show that Scots have similar views to the rest of the UK when it comes to welfare, immigration, benefits, unemployment and public spending. Summarising the data from social attitudes surveys, Lindsay Paterson of Edinburgh University writes: “These differences, though generally placing Scotland to the left of England, are not so huge as to signal a fundamental gulf of social values.” Most people in the UK did not vote for the Conservatives in 2010. Most people in Scotland did not vote for the SNP at the Holyrood elections in 2011.

For the English working class (if we can talk about such a thing), the issue is clear. It is much better for the English if the Scots stay within the Union as an important part of the electoral and industrial struggle against the pro-capitalist parties. Only the most reactionary of the English working class favour independence for Scotland – i.e. ‘getting rid of the moaners north of the border’. In all polls on the issue, those south of the border favour the Scots staying, including those Scots living south of the border.

The reality

Of course, in the real world, principles do not apply. The Union of Scotland with England and Wales first became a reality under absolute monarchy, with succession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603, although the parliaments of the English and Scottish aristocratic elite remained separate. Formal Union with the ending of the Scottish parliament was established by decrees from both parliaments in 1707. Article 1 of the Act of Union of 1707 states that: “the two kingdoms of Scotland and England shall on the 1st of May and for ever after be united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain.”

The Union was forced on the Scottish ruling class by economic circumstance. Its wild speculative schemes to set up a ‘colony’ in Panama (ironically raised as model for an independent Scottish currency now – see below) as a pale shadow of English colonial development, had bankrupted the Scottish economy. The Scottish ruling elite then agreed to a ‘merger’. Actually, the majority of the English ruling class was opposed to the Union as they thought it was too costly to bail out the Scots (similar to the arguments about Scottish bank failures now). But Union was forced through by the strategists of the rising English capitalist class and backed by the budding urban bourgeois of the Scottish lowlands. It was opposed by the rural highlanders and chiefs who wished to preserve their clan system and looked to a reactionary Catholic monarch, then in exile, as a saviour from English/Scottish capitalist takeover.

But let’s return to now. The question for the Scottish working class is whether having an independent capitalist government operating out of Edinburgh is better than having a British government operating from Westminster – for their living standards, control over production and distribution, defence and security, health, housing and education.

It will be a pro-capitalist government, whether Scottish Nationalist or Scottish Labour. The SNP see their vision of an independent Scotland as one where banks and big business continue to accumulate profits and capital; and where land ownership is the most concentrated in the developed world (half of Scotland’s land is owned by just 500 people).  “We are now six years into an SNP government which has done absolutely nothing legislatively about the most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world”, Jim Hunter, Land Reform Review Group.

An independent Scotland will retain the Queen and the British monarchy as the official head of state, the (English) pound will remain the currency, a ‘nuclear deterrent’ is still accepted and the armed ‘defence’ of the country will remain in the hands of others (NATO). Private education and health sectors will remain (and even increase), and housing will continue to be dominated by private landlords and construction companies, with the public housing playing little role. And the SNP wants Scotland to join the EU, a reactionary ‘free market’ based union, but with all the ‘opt-outs’ that were ‘won’ by the Thatcher government for the UK (something that will not be granted). And the EU is now imposing severe public spending targets on its members.

That part of the Scottish business class that favours independence is pleased with this vision. “The SNP is patriotic, well organised and has prominent business support just like the old SUP. My suspicion is that, whatever he says publicly, Alex Salmond is well aware of his potential support from the patriotic right wing in Scotland, which is why he was so keen to back the Scottish regiments and abandon opposition to Nato. Whatever happened to the Scottish Tories? They turned into Scottish Nationalists. You read it here first”, says Jim Walker, a hedge fund adviser., And “It will be fascinating to observe Scotland becoming more Thatcherite while pretending not to do so. “ says another City economist Andrew Smithers, in the FT.

So it’s a moot question whether much will change for the working people of Scotland. But let’s consider the economics of it.

The oil

The mainland (excluding offshore energy) Scottish GDP per head is almost bang on average for the UK as a whole. If it included all the oil, Scotland’s GDP per head is about 18% above average. Unemployment, inequality, growth and the structure of the economy is closer to the UK average than in Northern Ireland, London or northeast England. Over a long-period, real GDP growth has been a touch slower than England’s.

Scotland’s exports to the rest of UK (rUK) account for 70% of its exports. Exports to Scotland account for 11% of rUK exports. So Scottish capitalism is heavily integrated into British capitalism, more so than Canada into the US. In 2012, Scottish exports to rUK amounted to £48bn while rUK exports to Scotland were £59bn. So an independent Scotland would run a trade deficit with its main trading partner, the rUK, thus requiring investment or credit funds from ‘abroad’ to fill the gap.

Scottish exports

Scotland would be a small capitalist state dependent on trade with rUK and little possibility of reducing that dependence. Now it could be argued that Scottish capitalism would have more flexibility and it’s true that some small states sometimes do better economically than large ones. But small states are also more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of global financial and production crises like the Great Recession, as the experience of the Baltic states, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Iceland and Cyprus has shown in the last six years. They have suffered far more than Scotland did as part of the UK.

Energy-rich Norway has one of the highest living standards in the world, it remains outside the EU and has huge financial reserves. Could an independent Scottish capitalist state become another Norway? Well, if we analyse the projections for future oil and gas production in the North Sea, the answer is no.

Even if Scotland were to gain rights to 90% of UK energy revenues through taxing the multinational oil and gas companies after independence, most forecasts suggest a decline in those revenues over the next decade or more. Forecasting revenues is extremely difficult given that volatility in prices, fluctuations in output and oil industry investment have a direct impact on the tax take. Technological advancement and policy reform could help turn marginal fields into profitable ones. An independent Scotland would depend on oil for 18% of its wealth, yet North Sea production has been falling 6% a year for the past decade.

Professor Rowthorn from Cambridge has pointed out how oil price uncertainty was “one of the strongest arguments against independence”. Over the next 25-30 years, most estimates are that North Sea oil revenues will decline whatever happens to the price of oil. David Phillips, a senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank reckons that “even with a geographic share [of revenues], Scotland’s finances get worse by the middle of this decade”.

The Aberdeen-based billionaire Sir Ian Wood, former head of oil services supplier Wood Group, who in the past year has led a government-commissioned review into how best to exploit the North Sea’s remaining resources, has also warned of a sharp tail-off in production from 2030. Sir Ian acknowledged that as many as 24bn barrels of oil equivalent may remain, but he suggested 15-16.5bn as a more likely total – compared with the more than 40bn extracted since the 1970s. Oil & Gas UK puts the range between 12-24bn. The Department of Energy and Climate Change reckons UK oil production will decline from 43m tonnes this year to 23m a year by 2030.

If you assume that the oil price will rise from $102 a barrel in 2015 to $160 by 2040, in other words, stay much the same in real terms, then revenues from the North Sea will not rise in real terms at best and probably will fall. Robert Chote, chairman of the OBR, predicted a sharp fall in UK oil and gas receipts from £6.1bn in 2012-13 to £3.5bn by 2018-19, with far steeper declines after that. The UK culled total revenues of £4.7bn from the North Sea in 2013-14.

oil revenues

Public finances

And this brings us to government finances under an independent Scotland. The latest Scottish official figures show that, if calculated on the same basis as the rest of the UK, a so-called per capita basis – with oil revenues shared equally across the UK – Scotland’s public sector had a budget deficit of 13.3% of GDP in 2012-13, the latest year for which figures are available. That compares with 7.3% for the UK as a whole; the Scottish deficit is nearly twice as large. Even with 90% oil, Scotland’s budget deficit in 2012-13 was 8.3% of GDP, bigger than that for the whole of the UK. Indeed, it has been bigger on that basis for the past 25 years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons that, over time, a Scottish government will run bigger fiscal deficits than the UK over the next 50 years.

fiscal

This is because Scotland will have a population that ages more than the rest of the UK, so pension and health costs will rise more. Also public spending per head in Scotland is 10% higher (maybe for the best reasons). Yet the SNP plans to cut corporate taxes for business to attract more investment, so relying on foreign capital to boost growth and jobs.

So it is not going to be easy for a Scottish government to maintain slightly higher levels of public spending for Scots than south of the border without running larger fiscal deficits that will have to be financed by borrowing (issuing Scottish government bonds) from the City of London and elsewhere. The energy revenue stream has varied between 5-22% of Scottish tax receipts over the last 20 years, averaging around 12%. Managing such violent swings, with such a large fiscal deficit as a starting point, would be no easy task. The government will face rising interest costs on that borrowing compared to the cost of borrowing by the Westminster government, perhaps an interest rate premium of 50 to 100 basis points, potentially more. Scotland would also inherit a significant proportion of UK government debt. This is what the SNP wants to negotiate.

Also, if Scotland joins the EU as a separate member, it will be subject to the severe fiscal austerity targets now being imposed on the likes of Greece, Portugal, Spain and others by the EU under its fiscal pacts. That threatens the ability of the government to sustain better health and education services as well as welfare benefits, especially if corporate taxes are being cut at the same time. Already, it has been revealed that current Holyrood control of the health service has led to significant privatisation of contacting services, just as in England. A major study by the Nuffield Trust in April suggested the performance of the health service in Scotland had improved in relation to England. But the policies that had made the difference were UK-wide – such as waiting list targets – not the result of devolved decision-making.

The currency

The cost of borrowing by a Scottish government raises the issue of Scottish banks and the role of the Bank of England, which has been a major issue of debate between the yes and no camps. Scotland’s banking assets – in practice the potential liabilities of an independent Scottish government in the event of independence – are a staggering 1,100% of GDP. Scotland has a potential banking liability of Icelandic proportions and much bigger than those (700% of GDP) which almost bankrupted the Irish economy. This oversized banking sector will shrink as the likes of Lloyds and others take their Scottish base away (with the loss of jobs and income), but RBS apparently plans to stay. Ironically, this is 86%-owned by the Westminster government and regulated by the Bank of England (BoE).

Under a proper currency union of Scotland and rUK using the pound, the BoE would set interest rates independently of government and parliament. So a Scottish government would still have no say over the basic interest rate, which would be determined by unelected BoE members using just the inflation rate of the UK as a guide. Scotland would remain under the grip of the City of London and the fluctuations of economy and the financial sector of rUK, as before.

A sterling monetary union is the Scottish Government’s preferred option for an independent Scotland (new report). So this would mean accepting the interest rate decisions of the BoE and allowing fiscal control to remain with Westminster or the EU, just as happens now in the UK. These would include submitting budgetary plans to Westminster, accepting some continuing oversight of its public finances by UK authorities and limiting the degree of tax competition between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

But so far, all three major parties south of the border say that the Bank of England should not act as ‘lender of last resort’ to Scottish financial institutions after independence if they get into trouble. Of course, a Scottish government can adopt the pound as its currency without being part of currency union with rUK, or the credit backing of the BoE. This is what Panama does with the US dollar. But then Scottish capitalism is on its own if things go wrong in the night with its banking system or if inflation takes off north of the border. That risk means that the City of London will want to charge more to lend to a Scottish government and corporations because of the extra risk involved.

The only faction of pro-capitalist economists who think that the Panama solution would be best is the extreme ‘free market’ Adam Smith Institute. Research director Sam Bowman, commented “the ‘Panama option’ may be his best bet for an independent Scotland… emulating Panama could give an independent Scotland a remarkably robust financial system because Scotland’s banks could not depend on an unlimited central bank lender of last resort.” No central bank for Scotland would be good news.

It’s true that other ‘currency pegs’ (as they are called) have been successfully sustained over lengthy periods. Hong Kong’s link to the US dollar has been maintained since 1983 and the exchange rate between the Danish krone and the euro has been fixed since the formation of the Eurozone. But these are separate currencies from the dollar and the euro. And the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has accumulated massive dollar reserves. The Scottish situation would be different. Scotland could presumably expect to receive a pro rata share of Britain’s gold and foreign exchange reserves. But the £10bn or so that Scotland might expect would be hopelessly inadequate to defend a fixed exchange rate from speculative attack.

Alternatively, a variable exchange rate between Scots and English pounds would be a mess. The queues at the bureau de change at Edinburgh’s Waverley railway station would be the most visible result. More important, Scottish households and companies would have to decide how to denominate their assets and liabilities and choose the currency in which they wished to trade. This is what Hungarians and Poles found after taking out ‘cheap’ euro mortgages and watching their income in forints and zlotys to service them plunge.

Three models

We could sum up the future of an independent Scottish state from three possible models. The first is that Scotland becomes an energy-rich Norway with huge oil and gas revenues, staying outside of the EU, with the highest living standards in the world and huge reserves for a rainy day. This is not possible for Scotland with declining North Sea output and revenue in real terms and the need for multinational investment in energy technology.

Second, it could become an Ireland based on a low corporation tax and incentives for multinationals to come and invest. Ireland achieved this in its Celtic tiger period, but mainly because it was part of the EU and the Eurozone, as well as having access to the UK market. This will not be possible for Scotland as Ireland has already occupied that space and Scotland would have to be in the EU as well (possibly at a time when the UK withdraws!). To get into the EU, Scotland would probably have to agree to join the Eurozone at a certain point (that’s what every new member must now agree to), thus dropping the pound, for rule by the ECB and the EU fiscal pact.

The third model is Iceland: a small independent state with a high standard of living relying on fishing and bauxite mineral mines, outside the EU and with the ability to devalue its own currency in crises. However, Iceland is only the size of Coventry and it did not escape the global financial crisis either.

Both Ireland and Iceland were brought their knees by an oversized banking sector that took ‘hot money’ and relent it recklessly to destruction. The banks were bailed out in Ireland at huge and continuing cost to Irish households. Iceland was forced to devalue, creating sky-high inflation and it had to negotiate a deal for repaying lost bank deposits with the UK and Holland, again at a huge loss to the living standards of its small community (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/icelands-electors-how-ungrateful/). Scotland would face the same issue.

At best, the majority of the Scottish people will find little difference under Holyrood than under Westminster and it could be worse if a global crisis erupts again. Scotland as a small economy, dependent on multinationals for investment, still dominated by British banks and the City of London and without control of its own currency or interest rates, could face a much bigger hit than elsewhere in terms of incomes and unemployment.

So independence would not bring dramatic economic improvement to the majority of Scots; indeed, it could mean a worse situation. But then the decision on independence is not just a question of the economy and living standards. That brings us back to the issue of the Scottish and English/Welsh (and Irish) working class sticking together in the struggle against British capital. Will an independent Scottish capitalist state strengthen that in any way?

If the vote is yes, I’ll look at the repercussions for the UK and Europe in a future post.

51 Responses to “Scotland: yes or no?”

  1. vallebaeza Says:

    Reblogged this on Econo Marx 21.

  2. Karen Helveg Says:

    Good analysis. Some of us would like to give City of London a knock on its head though.One aspect more: if Scotland votes yes, the chance of the tories winning the next election increases, thereby the chances of a UK vote on EU membership. (I assume that Scotland would not vote in the next UK elections if the ‘yes’ vote wins). And the chances of Scotland joining EU separately. So it would be interesting to extend the analysis to what happens to EUr.
    One minor error: Iceland does not mine bauxite, alumina is imported to be smelted by the likes of Alcoa and Alcan Rio Tinto. Iceland only delivers electricity through controversial hydropower dams.

  3. Joe Hartney Says:

    Although you do not clearly state that you think Independence would weaken the Scottish working class, your comment here;

    “It is much better for the English if the Scots stay within the Union as an important part of the electoral and industrial struggle against the pro-capitalist parties. Only the most reactionary of the English working class favour independence for Scotland – i.e. ‘getting rid of the moaners north of the border’.”

    Argues that retaining the currrent form of the Great British state is a less reactionary option in England. This surely has to be challenged, given that it is clear that the majority of the British ruling class are determined to maintain the integrity of their state, with its Trident nuclear weapons based in Scotland and its current role as the main supporter of US Imperialism on the UN security council.

    The break up of Britain will be a blow to the British ruling class, that cannot be disputed. It weakens them nationally (through the loss of territory and revenue) and internationally. A weaker English ruling class, suffering a serious setback for its beloved nationalist ideology, would benefit the English working class. If anything (following Lenin’s position on the national question) workers in England should be more focussed on attacking the views of their own rulers, and leave it to socialists in Scotland to raise criticisms of the Scottish nationalists. Challenging British nationalism in the dominant nation (England) should be the priority.

    It may be true that there are reactionary, ‘anti-Scottish’ arguments for supporting Independece in England, the same could certainly be said of the attitude of some to Northern Ireland over the years. However, the bulk of the British establishment are united in their view that Scotand is better off in the United Kingdom, those who give a left cover to this argument (as do some in the Labour Party) unwittingly imply that working class unity is dependent on the unity and integrity of the capitalist state.

    • irishmarxism Says:

      If the English working class would benefit from a setback to its ruling class’s nationalist ideology why would the Scottish working class not also benefit from a setback to Scottish nationalism that blames links with England for its woes and not the economic system? Surely then you should call for a No vote?

      Unfortunately from what I have seen many of the socialists in Scotland are much more interested in pushing independence and feeding illusions in it than warning Scottish workers about the nationalism of their own country.

      The argument that workers unity is easier within one state seems to me to be so obvious as to be a commonplace. The argument around this and the spurious claim that socialists can decide what is good for workers simply by looking at what the views are of their enemies and what might weaken them is taken up in my own blog in a series of posts:

      http://irishmarxism.net/2014/08/18/yes-a-non-nationalist-argument-for-scottish-independence-part-1/

      http://irishmarxism.net/2014/08/30/yes-a-non-nationalist-argument-for-scottish-independence-part-2/

      http://irishmarxism.net/2014/09/06/-yesa-non-nationalist-argument-for-scottish-independence-part-3/

      • Joe Hartney Says:

        The point I am making is that in England we do not have Scottish Nationalists to argue with, only the arguments of the main British parties – all of which are determined to defend and keep the union at all costs (witness Ed Miliband’s crass comments about ‘Border Guards’ at the weekend, or the Daily Mail bringing the Queen into it). Therefore it is not at all “reactionary” to counter their arguments.

        In Scotland, of course, socialists do need to challenge the nationalist argmuments of the SNP, but if they do so without first challenging the Great British nationalism of the UK establishment, they will not be listened to seriously. The best way to do that is to argue for Independence (as socialists should have no interest in maintaining the British State in its current form), but also argue for a socialist programme that challenges the politics of the nationalists.

  4. ryelands Says:

    Good piece. The IndeyRef debate on the “left” has mostly been so devoid of historical, political or economic data that it verges on the irrational (which perhaps helps to explain the venom with which some conduct it). This is a refreshing change.

    • Mike Ballard Says:

      I agree. The article is jam packed with information which should undermine the material case for living under the Scottish bourgeoisie as opposed to the British bourgeoisie. Devolution is a dumb idea made dumber by the realities of political-economy.

  5. “It’s not about nationalism…” | howupsetting Says:

    […] given the chance. A structural analysis of this, however, paints a very different story. This excellent blog compellingly makes the case that the issue is global capitalism, not which Parliament has which […]

  6. sao Says:

    Just to remind you that I am a South American. I would very much like an opinion by you about the trends for autonomy or independence not only by the Scots, but within the context of other efforts like the Catalans or Vascos in Spain, and the Puerto Ricans in the US. Would the same happen to them? That is, would their economy worsen? Would the effects on world economy be very small?
    There were many attempts for autonomy in the past centuries. Are they relevent now? Are they justified now since their linkage to the mother countries are much deeper?

  7. ROSLUX Says:

    I have always sensed that Scotland fancies itsely as more Scandanavian than British.

    That could mean Sweden or Norway or Denmark.

    The problem is that in reality Scotland is more British than it would like to believe.

    Still I hope they vote yes as I feel a political crisis would be created in England and soon enough the North will question whether they want to be part of Toryland. A yes vote could tear Britain apart, which would be a welcome development.

  8. Boffy Says:

    I’d recommend reading the blogs at the Irish Marxist site Sraid Marx – http://irishmarxism.net/2014/09/06/yes-a-non-nationalist-argument-for-scottish-independence-part-3/.

  9. ryelands Says:

    “I hope they vote yes as I feel a political crisis would be created in England . . .”

    The consequences for the respective working classes, especially the Scottish as it is the most exposed, concern me rather more than any temporary discomforture of the British establishment or passing middle-class whim. Sorry to be old fashioned.

    The notion that the rest-of-UK bourgeoisie (including that sizeable Scottish contingent opposed to the nationalist cabal) couldn’t cope with or turn a “Yes” vote to its advantage provides a flimsy case for risking the Scottish working class’s being weakened in perpetuity if, as I believe they would be, the fantasies of the Tartan Tories prove to be fanciful tosh. Despite claims to the contrary (which illustrate the light-minded attitude of many “Yes” campaigners), if Scotland chooses to go it alone, it stays alone. It can’t change its mind in a couple of years and crawl back. Bourgeois and middle class Saltire-waving elements may have the resources to overcome the consequent difficulties but I’m not so sure the working class has.

    Lacking as Scotland does these days much by way of a manufacturing sector and even less by way of a banking sector, reliant on a declining oil industry and hoping to rely on farming the wind for a subsidy-driven, “nation-building” Ponzi scheme (which puts its hitherto viable tourism sector at risk), my fear is that the economic model it would emulate following a “Yes” vote is as likely to be Greek as Scandinavian. The picture of a flight of capital and of economic decline of the type Michael and others hint at was echoed (from the inside as it were) in a recent comment piece by a brace of bankers:

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/comment-scottish-money-and-debt-post-independence-1-3530383

    Note the points about the inevitability of our being softened up for the joys of the EU and the euro and (in our terms) swapping a fictional “national oppression” by the English for the harsh reality of an all-too-real subservience to EU diktat.

    Much of the clamour for a “Yes” vote comes from purportedly radical middle class elements who seem to feel that all that proley stuff was fine back in the day but that it is now to their advantage to support the divisive agenda of an SNP which is, as I was reminded the other day, the offshoot of far-right Scottish Toryism, an indulgence of arch-conservative John Buchan, no less. (I slipped up big time in forgetting that – it’s well described in Wiki.)

    • Joe Hartney Says:

      Your comments about the SNP being right wing are a bit out of date. They are currently to the left of the British Labour Party on a number of issues.

      Also, you comment about “saltire waving” middle class, but what about the Union Jack waving ruling class of Britain, they are the ones after all who are currently in power.

      • ryelands Says:

        “Your comments about the SNP being right wing are a bit out of date. They are currently to the left of the British Labour Party on a number of issues.”

        That’s not hard, is it? Though they don’t tell you much about the SNP’s direction were it to win a 2016 post-independence election, which issues had you in mind?

        I’m not suggesting you approve of it but you must surely know of its strong authoritarian bent – see e.g. the controversy over the centralised police force, the creation of armed police units with no Holyrood say-so, the highly controversial and not-yet-dead proposal to abolish a defendant’s right to corroboration, the U-turn on NATO (stand-by for ditto on nukes).

        I take it you know of its (prior to a gay-marriage stooshie) rapport with the nuttily right-wing Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine? Or, to show it has no sectarian bias, its fondness for funding from that arch-homophobe and furiously anti-union Tartan Oligarch, Brian Souter?

        If that lot is some sort of left turn, God help us. Yes, that desperate.

    • Joe Hartney Says:

      Of course I cannot predict what would happen in a post-Independence parliament – you could be correct and the SNP could turn sharply to the right. So what? We already have a right-wing coalition in charge.

      If you want to make the case that Scottish workers will be worse off under Independence, then surely you need to demonstrate that even if the SNP did govern and shifted right, they would be worse than the current establishment parties we have to put up with in the UK.

      Not only is it not possible for you to predict this, it is highly unlikely (in my view) that working people in Scotland would accept such a move to the right – after all they currently largely reject Tory policies in British elections, and the SNP has won and maintained support by ensuring they outflank Labour on a few (carefully chosen) issues (e.g. no tuition fees for students, free social care for the elderly, the effective neutering of the UK Bedroom Tax).

      No doubt the pro-capitalist SNP will try and use nationalist arguments to prevent workers from fighting back, but there is nothing new about that, the Scottish Labour Party and the STUC have been doing it for years. What matters is the confidence workers have in their own ability to challenge such arguments, and this would not be in any way depleted by Independence.

  10. Mike Ballard Says:

    You wrote: “So, a federation of the old nation states of the British Isles would be better, in principle, for the majority who live by their labour and not by profit and ownership of capital. But this implies a socialist federation.”

    There would be no State in a socialist federation nor would there be those who live by profit and ownership of capital. A socialist government would be a classless democracy. A federation of socialist governments could exist, if the associated producers thought having more than one government per area of the planet were necessary.

  11. ROSLUX Says:

    “Much of the clamour for a “Yes” vote comes from purportedly radical middle class elements”

    Actually if you look at the polling data the ‘unskilled’ workers mainly give their vote the independence and those who rent their houses also are much more likely to vote yes than those who own their own homes.

    http://www.futureukandscotland.ac.uk/blog/class-divisions-and-scottish-referendum?fid=13910&isc=1&did=a6e46f0e40d0adbc64a14f5fbf4ed883c7fa5ff9&ctp=article

    I would say the middle classes are actually a bit split on the subject, for example business leaders are warning against voting yes. I suspect that middle class no voters will look at the unskilled workers who mainly support independence and think, “How can we leave such a crucial vote to these uneducated fools?”.

    “Lacking as Scotland does these days much by way of a manufacturing sector and even less by way of a banking sector, reliant on a declining oil industry and hoping to rely on farming the wind for a subsidy-driven, “nation-building” Ponzi scheme (which puts its hitherto viable tourism sector at risk), my fear is that the economic model it would emulate following a “Yes” vote is as likely to be Greek as Scandinavian. ”

    So let us be clear, being part of Britain has led to a massive decline in manufacturing and banking? So are you arguing that Scotland should stick with an arrangement that sees systematic decline?

  12. ryelands Says:

    “. . . ‘unskilled’ workers mainly give their vote the independence and those who rent their houses also are much more likely to vote yes than those who own their own homes.”

    That may well be true but it has nothing to do with what I spoke of which was “the clamour” for the Yes vote. By that I meant the SSPs, the Sheridans, that seemingly endless stream of thesps, minor academics, “experts” and their wretched “studies” and all the rest who have signally failed to warn the working class of the risks of “independence” or explain that, without so much as a wet dream for a viable currency, with a banking sector no longer in Scottish hands and in a post-industrial economy, quitting the UK to become a junior-league EU member (or not, all according) is to leap out of the frying pan into the fire. Of such nonsense are betrayals made.

    “How can we leave such a crucial vote to these uneducated fools?”.

    You provide no evidence for that suggestion.

    “. . . being part of Britain has led to a massive decline in manufacturing and banking? So are you arguing that Scotland should stick with an arrangement that sees systematic decline?”

    The decline in manufacturing is not so much systematic as systemic, part of the general decline of the western powers, the long-term marginalisation of British imperialism (in which the Scottish bourgeoisie and middle classes played a key role) and the emergence of rival capitlist blocks such as BRIC.

    One thing there was not, however, was a “decline” in Scotland’s banking. RBS and HBOS were, before the crisis, two of the biggest banks in the world. They have since suffered an ignominious collapse driven by the greed of the Scotch-and-proud-of-it management of RBS and the joint Scottish/English management of HBOS. RBS is now owned in large part by the British taxpayer and HBOS by Lloyds. The smaller Clydesdale Bank is owned by the National Australia Bank Group, which plans a cull of its Scottish assets. None of these banks will revert to Scottish ownership; there is no Scottish central bank.

    Westminster must take blame for failing to regulate UK banks but, even when everyone who could read a newspaper (I recommend the habit) knew that something was seriously amiss with RBS, the SNP’s Alec Salmond, who had prior berated Westminster for its regulation being overly robust, insisted that the crisis was nothing but the antics of “a few spivs and speculators”. (Amusingly, one of them turned out to be an SNP economic advisor.)

    In short, I’m not arguing that Scotland should stick with anything; I’ve been a socialist for over 50 years. On your logic, we should be campaigning for an independent Detroit.

  13. ROSLUX Says:

    I am not arguing for a yes vote but it is you who claimed that an independent Scotland could be an economic basket case for the reason that is already is one! A strange argument!

    “On your logic, we should be campaigning for an independent Detroit.”

    This is only my logic as you understand it, which is in reality your logic and not mine!

    One crucial difference between Detroit and Scotland is that I am assuming Scotland would want to remain in the EU. So I don’t think your analogy here holds water. It doesn’t hold water anyway for demographic, historical, legal and cultural reasons and more besides.

    You claim I am making an assertion when I say “How can we leave such a crucial vote to these uneducated fools?”. I fully accept that I am doing this. Though my main point, to refute your own assertions was backed with facts.

    But you are doing something worse than making assertions, by claiming something is a fact when it actually isn’t. The middle class is made up of more than thesps and minor academics and you decide to pick out the pro independence statements from thesps and minor academics and equate this with middle classes clamoring for independence. Of course you have to ignore the thesps and minor academics who are arguing against independence! So everything you say is an assertion.

  14. ROSLUX Says:

    Just to clarify, I am not arguing for a yes vote by pointing out that unskilled workers and those who rent their homes support independence or for any economic reasons.

    I am only supporting a yes vote for it’s potential to tear Britain apart, and no other reason.

  15. ryelands Says:

    “One crucial difference between Detroit and Scotland is that I am assuming Scotland would want to remain in the EU.”

    The Detroit remark was what’s called a joke or a quip. OK, OK they can be hard to spot; I should perhaps have flagged it with a “smiley”.

    “Scotland” doesn’t get to choose, the Scottish government gets to decide whether to apply for EU membership. It’d have to wait the 2016 election but, no matter who wins that, it will apply. There is no significant anti-EU lobby in Scottish politics and even less understanding of the EU on the left.

    Until recently, Salmond had claimed that he had been legally advised that membership would be granted automatically. It turned out not only that he hadn’t had legal advice (he’d lied) but also that EU membership would be far from certain. Spain’s government has, for obvious reasons, said it would be minded to veto a Scottish application. To be admitted to the EU, as Roberts’s paper and the Scotsman piece I cited earlier make clear (and as many of us well knew already), Scotland would have to make Draconian changes to its polity that would bear down heavily on its working class. If you disagree, you need to refute Roberts’s points under “Public finances”. He mentions Greece and Spain. I’d add Ireland and, chillingly, Ukraine.

    “I am only supporting a yes vote for it’s potential to tear Britain apart, and no other reason.”

    I don’t want to see the lives of swathes of fellow citizens who do not have their problems to seek made worse merely to indulge the whims of economically and politically illiterate adverturers who see the referendum as a bit of a wheeze. The UK should indeed be broken up but by working class action not by an intra-bourgeois spat, neither side of which in the last analysis gives two hoots about the quality of working class life.

    Incidentally, Yugoslavia was torn apart by nationalist movements that developed in a declining polity.

  16. ROSLUX Says:

    “Incidentally, Yugoslavia was torn apart by nationalist movements that developed in a declining polity.”

    I will take this as another joke, as the analogy works even less well than the Detroit analogy (or joke).

    Scotland’s membership of the EU would be near as certain as anything can be (if there is a yes vote we can let events decide who is right), we can also determine on what grounds Scotland will confirm EU membership. Your vision of what the EU will impose suggests that Scotland will be better off outside the EU, I would disagree.

    “I don’t want to see the lives of swathes of fellow citizens who do not have their problems to seek made worse merely to indulge the whims of economically and politically illiterate adverturers ”

    This is what you would call an assertion, though staying with Britain is equally an adventure than going independent.

    “The UK should indeed be broken up but by working class action”

    The break up of Britain could be decided by unskilled workers and those who rent their homes if the polls are anything to go by. We could call that the first action by the working class in the break up of Britain and the first blow against the British ruling class.

  17. sartesian Says:

    Does this referendum have any significance for class struggle? That’s the question. What program stands behind this referendum– a program that says Scotland joins the EU?

    We have 100 years experience with “national revolutions” without a class conscious revolutionary program, but with programs far more radical than that behind this vote– Zimbabwe, anyone? South Angola? Chile?

    Now I know I’m an ultra-left and all that, having advised no vote in 1994 for the ANC, but what is the program of the parties on each side of this issue?

    Now if the SSP seizure of assets of British capitalism on Scottish territory, etc. etc. as part of its independence program– maybe then you have at least a basis for critical support. I looked through the SSP website (not very closely, I admit), I couldn’t find anything that looks like that.

    I did find this: “Scotland’s overall military budget to brought into line per capita with that of the Republic of Ireland with the savings diverted to vital public services.” That’s so charming. How can any socialist refer to Ireland without mentioning the EU and the devastation brought upon its economy through the EU bailout program?

    I do see the SSP saying that independence, in and of itself, will make Scots “better off.” Really? Will it? All by itself? Without class struggle? Fantastic.

  18. Roger Conway Says:

    “How can we leave such a crucial vote to these uneducated fools?” has been posed a couple of times.

    Quite simply this is the state of affairs at every national election/referendum/poll. For better or worse it is called democracy.

    To me the biggest motivation to encourage a NO vote is the gloomy prospect of a permanent Tory majority in rUK if Scotland goes.

  19. irishmarxism Says:

    Joe Hartney Says:
    September 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

    “The point I am making is that in England we do not have Scottish Nationalists to argue with, only the arguments of the main British parties . .”

    The point is that this is not quite right. As an English socialist you are part of the British working class the unity of which is being attacked by a bourgeois nationalist party in Scotland. It is both your right and your duty to fight against this division.

    Of course such a fight will be more effective from a Scottish worker’s voice but those fighting against nationalist division both in Scotland and England need to be able to point to voices, campaigns and mobilisation of all British workers against nationalist division as a concrete example of the alternative to separation.

    That there appears to be some acceptance of the nationalist position that only Scots should have a voice, even if it is correct that only they have a vote, shows how much the poison of nationalism has affected the debate. The voice of English workers against Scottish nationalism is required (and will have all the more force if it weighs in against English nationalism as well).

    This is all the more necessary against those English leftists who think all this nationalist stuff is a great idea. That is a debate that is more easily taken up by English socialists.

    You say that of course Scottish socialists need to challenge the nationalist arguments of British nationalism first. Why? If it is the duty of English socialists to fight English nationalism why is it not the duty of Scottish socialists to fight Scottish nationalism? At the moment it is Scottish nationalism that is proposing the division of the British working class.

    It would be nice to think that the majority of Scottish socialists are fighting both Great Britain nationalism and their own more parochial variety – but they are not. In fact their main criticism of the bourgeois SNP is that they are insufficiently nationalist, that they don’t want enough ‘independence’. To think that all this does not threaten workers unity is in my view profoundly mistaken.

  20. ROSLUX Says:

    “At the moment it is Scottish nationalism that is proposing the division of the British working class.”

    Erm, no. They are proposing splitting the British state (for better or worse), which is not the same thing as splitting as the British working class. If working class unity was dependent on the capitalist nation state Marx wouldn’t have helped establish the international and actually internationalism would be impossible.

    Like the Britosh working class are united anyway! I mean seriously get your head out of the sand comrade and smell concrete reality.

  21. irishmarxism Says:

    So is working class unity easier within a single state or across states? To ask the question is to answer it. And to answer it is to see why Marx supported setting up the International. And to look at the history of the International is to see how it was temporary while national workers organisations were not. And to see this is to see how much harder unity across states is – which is where we began.

    And you actually believe the capitalist SNP, which dominates the nationalist campaign, will be perfectly happy if it wins to see mass workers unity across its borders?

    But of course you give the game away in the last paragraph – none of this really matters to you because you don’t believe there is any workers unity there in the first place.

    Why don’t you just be honest and say this from the start. That way the claim that the only thing that matters is two capitalist states instead of one might have more coherence. It wouldn’t make it right but might better reflect the concrete reality of your position.

  22. ROSLUX Says:

    “So is working class unity easier within a single state or across states?”

    In the 21st century Glasgow may has well be Cairo to, say, a worker in Derby, given the level of communication technology. I did remember Marx saying workers of the world unite though.

    Scotland would expect to remain within the EU though, so judging by your formulation Scotland are part of something bigger than Britain, working class unity across the EU.

    Of course Marx understood that unity is not so easy as keeping nation states together:

    “This is certainly the most extensive aim ever contemplated by any institution, with the exception, perhaps, of the Christian Church.”

    “And you actually believe the capitalist SNP, which dominates the nationalist campaign, will be perfectly happy if it wins to see mass workers unity across its borders?”

    I would expect all capitalists, SNP or otherwise to oppose working class unity. The output of the capitalist press shows this. I take for granted the opposition of capitalists to working class unity.

    “But of course you give the game away in the last paragraph – none of this really matters to you because you don’t believe there is any workers unity there in the first place”

    This is so riddled with dogma as to be laughable. Firstly pointing out actual reality isn’t giving the game away but being sober in thought. Secondly my point is that working class unity has not been fostered too well within the Union, on the contrary I would say.

    It could be that an independent Scotland triggers a political crisis in the UK, it could awake working class consciousness, it would certainly shake the ruling class.

  23. Joe Hartney Says:

    Those who argue, as does irishmarxism, that the movement for independence in Scotland is an “attack” on the unity of the British working class, must feel that there is something about the British capitalist state as it is currently constituted that that helps to maintain working class organisation / consciousness / confidence? What exactly is this? As far as I am aware those who control the British state spend their time attacking the working class, not trying to hold it together.

    Supporting or opposing the Independence movement in Scotland is a tactical question. I cannot see any reason why a state controlled by nationalists in Edinburgh (assuming the nationalists win a post-Independence election) would be any worse for workers than a state controlled by UK nationalists in London. As a result we should look at the destabilising impact that Independence would have for British capitalism. Losing Scotland would create a massive constitutional crisis for the rulers of Britain and would be major blow to the British establishment, weakening it both at home and internationally. This is a non-Nationalist reason for arguing for a Yes vote in the Independence referendum.

  24. sartesian Says:

    This “destabilizing impact” is vastly overrated. We’ve heard it before– in and about Iran; Argentina with the first and second coming of Peron; Libya during the Qaddafi era; and the Ukraine (pick your side) ad infinitum ad nauseum. And the destabilizing influence of each and/or all on international capitalism was exactly what? Zero.

    The fact of the matter is that Scotland’s separation from England is no more destabilizing than the destabilizing forces that capitalism always unleashes, so what’s the gain?

    The issue is the class content, the class movement beneath the surface that may or may not get expressed in a “national moment.”

    The campaign at least of the SSP in support of the Yes vote traffics in illusions: “You’ll be better off with independence.” Really? Show me how.

    Some others argue that if Scotland has its own currency, it would be better insulated from EU economic disturbances. Guess what? Scotland does have its “own” currency, the pound, and just look how well that has served to insulated the population of Britain from the economic disturbance since 2008.

    If there is no gain for the working class, in terms of articulating a class program, a class strategy that targets capitalism as capitalism, then this whole campaign is but a spectacle, a racket, designed to put money in the pockets of a group of carnival barkers.

  25. ROSLUX Says:

    Joe, you put it much better than I did!

    “so what’s the gain?”

    So whats the loss?

  26. sartesian Says:

    Not just “what’s the gain,” but “whose gain is it.” Some speculative loss for the British ruling class is not a material gain for the Scottish and/or English working class.

  27. irishmarxism Says:

    Joe, you put it much better than I did!
    “so what’s the gain?”
    So whats the loss?

    Ok, let’s do this. Let’s look at what separation does for the working class.

    Let’s start with the English working class. I don’t find that Scottish nationalists are much interested in them except perhaps to say that they’ll be saddled with the Tories forever without the Scots. Separation makes no sense if English workers are just as strong as Scottish workers so the nationalist case must be that they are not.

    So separation can’t be good for them.

    I have heard it said by some left nationalists that Scottish nationalism will set an example for English workers to follow but I don’t think exponents of this have really thought this through – English nationalism would be good for English workers!!!

    That however is the example being set. Maybe if it’s a No vote English workers might be encouraged to tell the Scots to get lost, we want independence for England, and if they succeeded the Scots would indeed be independent. (What happens to Wales doesn’t enter into nationalist concerns). It’s all tactical after all and no points of principle are involved.

    So let’s get to the Scots. Well they have been told that independence will allow them to build a socially just society. Why? How? Well it won’t be because the new state will be a workers’ state because it will be a capitalist state so this is one piece of nonsense that they will have to be persuaded of for a start. They will also have to buy the argument that this will happen by having lower corporation taxation than England

    Perhaps it’s simply because the new state, even if it is capitalist, will be nicer because it is Scottish. This might be because Scots have got rid of the English (see above). But that means unity with Scottish bosses comes before unity with English workers. Not a good first step to strengthen Scottish workers’ class consciousness.

    Having been told that an independent Scottish state will deliver them social justice Scottish workers will be entitled to take this at face value so illusions in the beneficence of the capitalist state when it’s ruled over by people with the same accent as theirs will be increased (well a Scottish accent anyway even if it’s not parliamo Glasgow).

    If they have ‘their own’ state why would they need trade unions that cover a foreign state? This would now be a harder argument to make and even harder if we have to convince them that unity with Egyptian workers is just as real and concrete a necessity as unity with English workers. Why would they buy this having been persuaded that they are better off without the English?

    Whatever way you cut it Scottish workers have been fed a diet of nationalist nonsense that what they need is ‘their own’ capitalist state free from an English majority.

    In my view therefore things would be worse and Joe can only claim that at least they would be no worse. So no strong grounds for a Yes vote there.

    So what about the capitalist class?

    Joe claims that the British establishment would suffer a major blow. It would be destabilised and would be weaker.

    Since the SNP have said and done everything to ensure that for the capitalist class as little will change as possible – the same currency, same financial regulation, EU and NATO membership – this should not be exaggerated. A Scotland that joins the race to be competitive with England will give rise to many more threats to Scottish (and English) workers than to Scottish capitalists.

    This is not to say that the English establishment will not lament the loss of their Scottish brothers and sisters but maybe they will be consoled by a rising tide of support if English workers become more nationalist as well.

    Which brings us to the Scottish component of the British establishment. Well, if there is a Yes vote this will be an enormous legitimation of their position and the new capitalist state that they will preside over. So no weakening of this element of the state or establishment.

    So what are we left with – that two capitalist states will be weaker than one united; except of course that they will continue to be united in the many ways that have been listed. US imperialism will just have to have two poodles instead of one.

    One last point in relation to the question raised – why does the British State as presently constituted help maintain working class organisation?

    It does this because the development of a unified capitalist market (including for labour) across Britain gave rise to British trade unions and British working class parties in response. Increased regulation of capitalism by the state provided further common conditions for an all British working class movement that faces similar conditions because it faces by and large the same state’s regulation.

    A long and often noble history has forged a British working class movement that doesn’t cease to exist even after recent decades of defeat. The task facing this movement is further international organisation to match the internationalisation of capitalism and to do so through unity in struggle. It is not to seek refuge in backward nationalism and reactionary dependence on a capitalist State to call one’s own.

    • ROSLUX Says:

      Irish Marxism puts forward the argument against Scottish independence. Maybe this is just me but that seems ironic on quite a few levels!

      “I don’t find that Scottish nationalists are much interested in them except perhaps to say that they’ll be saddled with the Tories forever without the Scots”

      We could rephrase this to say the ‘unskilled’ workers in Scotland and those who rent their homes are not much interested in the English working class (but that would be putting words in their mouth, something you are apt to do). Of course here you assume that the onus is on Scottish workers to hold out the hand of friendship, but I haven’t heard much ‘please don’t leave us’ from the English side, other than from the establishment. But if we accept your point (though we shouldn’t) it would indicate a failure of the union to foster class unity across the borders.

      “I have heard it said by some left nationalists that Scottish nationalism will set an example for English workers to follow”

      You have probably misrepresented (again!) the argument of the yes leftists here, jumped too hastily to a conclusion. I suspect the argument isn’t that the English should form their own nation but that they should reject Thatcherism and its continuation under successive governments.

      “Maybe if it’s a No vote English workers might be encouraged to tell the Scots to get lost, we want independence for England, and if they succeeded the Scots would indeed be independent.”

      Or maybe they will feel sympathy with the Scottish position. I suspect the ‘unskilled’ British workers and those who rent their homes will feel some solidarity with the Scots wish to break with the union. The middle and professional classes will probably hold some chauvinistic attitudes for sure.

      “Well it won’t be because the new state will be a workers’ state because it will be a capitalist state so this is one piece of nonsense that they will have to be persuaded of for a start.”

      No, it could be because they believe that the Scottish state will take Scotland in a more socially democratic and progressive direction. We don’t live in the ‘let’s have revolution now’ world. So you can’t damn the yes voters because they are not demanding the abolition of private property!

      “But that means unity with Scottish bosses comes before unity with English workers. Not a good first step to strengthen Scottish workers’ class consciousness.”

      You should be careful not to put words into the mouths of the Scottish workers. From the arguments I have heard the motive is to rid themselves of the British political system.

      “Having been told that an independent Scottish state will deliver them social justice Scottish workers will be entitled to take this at face value”

      Only if they are total cretins!

      “It does this because the development of a unified capitalist market (including for labour) across Britain gave rise to British trade unions and British working class parties in response. Increased regulation of capitalism by the state provided further common conditions for an all British working class movement that faces similar conditions because it faces by and large the same state’s regulation.”

      We are in Europe now, and those union battles, workers rights, the ‘social contract’ (well the bits they haven’t opted out of) will be better defended outside the British system. Successive British governments have fought to water down the rights of workers within the EU, I can’t see how an independent Scotland could be any worse, in fact I would say they would be better placed to defend and extend them.

      The Scottish workers, well the ‘unskilled’ and those who rent their own homes, are taking radical steps to improve their lives, it may be clumsy, it may be naive but isn’t it about time the English workers stepped up to the plate? Lay off the Scottish workers already!

  28. Joe Hartney Says:

    “It is not to seek refuge in backward nationalism and reactionary dependence on a capitalist State to call one’s own”

    I fear you are contradictng yourself – you have just argued that the working class is partly dependent on the British state for its cohesion. Again, there is a danger of only identifying the nationalists that are NOT in power as the ‘backward’ and ‘reactionary’ ones.

    The borders of states do not necessarily place a block on working class solidarity and there is no reason why working class organisations need to be broken up just because a new state is formed. Some argue that socialists should support a federalist European super state for similar reasons, that the form of the capitalist state will create international working class organisations to match the ‘internationalisation of capitalism’.

    In my view socialists in Scotland who are campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum are correct to do so, they can be a part of a movement that is challenging the British establishment and at the same time attempt to raise a socialist vision of what an Independent Scotland would look like. This is not so difficult to do, so for example, the issue of defending the NHS from privatisation has become a key argument in the Yes campaign.

    • irishmarxism Says:

      You are right Joe that “The borders of states do not necessarily place a block on working class solidarity” but it must be obvious that unity is harder to achieve across borders than within them. Especially after a nationalist campaign that says everything else should be separate.

      And you are also right that “there is no reason why working class organisations need to be broken up just because a new state is formed.” Unfortunately any assurance on this score from the left Scottish nationalists ring hollow. The first thing these people did was set up separate Scottish organisations. What credibility would they have telling Scottish workers to maintain their existing links with English workers when the so-called socialists, who should be to the fore in united organisation , separated their forces even before ‘independence’?

      • ryelands Says:

        “Unfortunately any assurance on this score from the left Scottish nationalists ring hollow.”

        Lefty Nats and Natty Lefties can assure us until they’re blue in the face as well as the flag but the reality is less persuasive. Recall that the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has been in a lengthy and bitter dispute with Westminster over pensions cuts and that a conference last year and two ballots authorised the leadership to prepare for strike action. It had the Scottish leadership’s support for this.

        However, public sector pensions being a devolved matter, Scottish leader Jim Duffy, who is also a prominent SNP stalwart, cut a deal with (“won concessions from”) Holyrood and called off the Scottish FBU’s strike action without telling his London colleagues.

        As a gloating hack wrote in The Herald on 3 August: “[UK leader Wrack] wrote: “Social partnership [weakens] workers and their organisations and leads to trade union officials ending up putting forward the case for employers.”

        Well, fancy that. The piece went on: “He also blasted Duffy for accepting an OBE, saying: ‘I have to say I find it a huge embarrassment that an official of this union took such an honour from the British establishment at a time when we are facing the worst cuts and attacks in history.’ ”

        Duffy has since been voted out of his union post and is now, I’m told, busy campaigning for a “Yes” vote. Still, a gong’s a gong for a’ that.

  29. fearnach Says:

    Iceland in particular, which allowed its banks to go the wall, jailing the speculators and throwing out their complacent political allies, is now enjoying very high rates of growth, including a booming tourist industry because the currency has fallen in value. Icelandic fish and fish products, of course, remain in high demand globally. Scotland could do much worse than follow that example.

    • michael roberts Says:

      Unfortunately not true. The banks have been bailed out. The debt is still there and is now being repaid to the UK and Holland (at 40% of GDP) putting the net liability position of the country at 500% of GDP; Iceland did not escape the grip of foreign investors. The bankers got off and the conservative government has returned with neoliberal policies. Gross public debt tripled to 100% of GDP. Most important, through devaluation, real household incomes have been devastated and house prices fell 40%. OECD (2013) finds that Iceland suffered the worst percentage change in household market income between 2007 and 2010. Household debt relief is being funded by higher taxes. Growth has picked up, but real GDP is still below the pre-crisis peak. Investment is still 25% below its historic average. Things would be even worse but for capital controls, which the conservative govt wants to get rid of. And remember Iceland is just 300k people, hardly bigger than Coventry.
      see my posts https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/profitability-the-euro-crisis-and-icelandic-myths/ and
      https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/icelands-electors-how-ungrateful/

    • ryelands Says:

      “Scotland could do much worse than follow that example.”

      There is no debate over whether, in the event of a “Yes” vote, Scotland would apply for EU membership. Despite the early doors bluster, it might just persuade a reluctant Bank of England and the Westminster government to form a currency union of some kind that would allow it to use Sterling. However, as it would (if admitted) be a new member of the EU, such an agreement might count for little as EU rules stipulate that new members must, in the long term, adopt the euro.

      There is also no debate over the fact that neither arrangement would allow it to regulate, let alone devalue, its currency. The pertinent decisions would be taken by the Bank of England (Sterling) or the European Central Bank (euro). Note e.g. that it was as much Greece’s inability to devalue as its corrupt polity that has brought that country to its knees in recent years. The primary victims of that loss of sovereignty were the working class and the poor. Ditto Spain, ditto Portugal.

      Iceland has so far managed avoided meltdown because it is not an EU member.

      Scotland’s fishing industry BTW (the Uk’s to be precise) has been severely restricted by the EU’s quota system.

  30. sao Says:

    There should be absolutely no doubt about Marxist principles concerning the right of the peoples to their autonomy. To affirm that someone belonging to the working class does not have the right to separate on reasons of the unity of the working class is absolutely wrong.

    • irishmarxism Says:

      Having the right to self determination is not the same as separation. Voting No is equally an exercise in self determination.

      Where socialists start from is the interests of the working class and this involves unity. You have to have a very good reason to seek to disrupt it. In the case of Scotland I haven’t seen what this is. What we have had is effectively claims that it doesn’t exist and the mythical unity of Scots trumps the real unity of the working class.

      • ryelands Says:

        “Voting No is equally an exercise in self determination.”

        Exactly but that you have to make such an obvious point and that no-one on the “Yes” left seems willing to acknowledge it does illustrate rather well what a mess it has got itself into.

        What’s also seldom discussed is that the imminent vote has, to a degree that may prove decisive, been all but gerrymandered. The right to vote in the referendum but not (unless I missed something) in local or parliamentary elections has been given, in a move that AFAIK has no precedent, to 16-year-olds and to temporary residents such as students from overseas but not to Scots resident outwith the country, however temporarily. (To their credit, many overseas students insist that they have no intention of voting as they see the issue as none of their business but that’s down to them, not to the SNP.)

        I don’t know what the writer’s political position is but some interesting points are made on the befuddlement of the lefty-Yes and on its curious new bedfellows in a Comment piece in today’s Herald:

        http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/left-yes-owes-a-debt-to-liberal-right-wing.25298962

  31. sao Says:

    To try to defend the undefendable, to say that you can vote “no” and that is self determinism but at the same time to argue against voting “yes”–that is a game of words. And that is unMarxist, antiMarxist. A true upholder of the unity of the working class knows that the interests of the working class is the same no matter the nationality: English, German, Italian, whatever. Using your arguement one can unauthorize nationalistic movements like the Puerto Ricans or the Basque. All the independence movements would be wrong according to you.

  32. sartesian Says:

    What’s absolutely certain is that Marxists have no interest in preserving the unity of a bourgeois state. So we exclude a “no” vote from the getgo. The question is does this “independence” actually amount to independence, to advance of working class interest.

    This is not a moral question like “we are obligated to support national self-determination under any and all circumstances.” It’s tactical and strategic. Will it advance the ability of the workers to confront capitalism as a whole? As capitalism? That’s the question that needs to be answered. And if the answer is being obscured by national, bourgeois rhetoric and programs– well then you have the answer.

    • irishmarxism Says:

      The question being asked involves what political arrangements provide the better circumstances for workers to defend and advance their interests. A no vote is therefore not excluded. How could it be if it’s purely tactical?

      In this case, compared to nationalist division the unity of the existing state arrangements are indeed preferable, for all the reasons given, and so a No vote is required. Otherwise we might be left calling for an abstention that would leave the working class materially in a worse position.

      • ryelands Says:

        I’m not generally attracted by quotes from Marxist classics but I couldn’t resist paraphrasing one from the under-rated Bulgarian writer Chrstian Rakovsky (Selected Writings, p 155):

        “Instead of Marxist discussion of the concrete changes which have taken place in the British state (in its economic, political and legal institutions and in the inter-relationships of classes in the country) during the latest and perhaps most acute phase of its post-imperial decline, left apologists for the Scottish Nationalists have conducted, generally in a menacing tone that bodes ill for the future, a metaphysical discussion about the ‘nature’ and ‘essence’ of nationalism in general. They have become like metaphysicians, scholastics and sophists, tilting at theoretical windmills.”

      • ROSLUX Says:

        Clearly the political arrangements of the union have not been a nourishing shell for the unified working class struggle. The breaking up of that union will, i believe, provide more fertile ground and open up more posdibilities, prompt more questioning.

        I reject the nationalist label of this struggle. There is a revolutionary element, and while revolutions can give us Cromwell, they also give space to ideas and interesting questions.

        A no vote is motivated by fear and conservatism. No one has been more menacing than the left British state apologists and the mouthpieces of the British ruling class.

      • sartesian Says:

        Have to disagree with comrade irishmarxism; what IM is providing is an argument that parallels the argument that says a Social-Democratic government is preferable than a conservative government; one version being for example of “vote Hollande, and hold your nose.”

        Will maintaining the unity of Britain enhance the position of the working class? Uhh……Britain’s been unified for 300 years so the bottom line on that “enhancement” is exactly what?

        Britain was unified under Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron. How’s that been working out for the unified British working class? Better than in there had been the independence of Scotland?

        That’s all in the realm of speculation.

        Yesterday the Financial Times reported the CBI’s claim that 90% of Scottish businesses oppose separation. On the fact of it, that’s a pretty good reason to vote for separation– IF there is a class-conscious program attached to the referendum.

        If there is not that class conscious program that specifies the vote as tool/method for the struggle against capitalism, then it is the responsibility of Marxists to point out that regardless of the outcome of the vote, the struggle is as it always was.

        I don’t know how RosLux can claim there is a “revolutionary element to this vote,” unless there’s a very different meaning to “revolutionary” in RosLux’s lexicon. In addition, it seems to me that all parties have been busy making sure no revolutionary element emerges on either side.

  33. ROSLUX Says:

    Yes i suspect my lexicon differs from yours. My lexicon also distinguishes between revolution and revolutionary.

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