As Solidarity goes to press, the people of Scotland are voting on independence from Britain.
A narrow lead for a “Yes” vote in some polls has sent the entire British establishment into a panic. The queen said she was “horrified” at the prospect.
British PM David Cameron is under huge pressure to avoid “national humiliation” and go all out to “Save the Union”.
The Yes campaign has captured the imagination of ordinary people and has fused with a yearning to end austerity policies and cuts.
People have come to see independence as an opportunity for political renewal.
In contrast the “No” campaign is clearly about defending business-as-usual. They have relied on scare stories about how an independent Scottish economy would be a disaster. This has led to opponents branding it “Project Fear”.
David Cameron claimed an independent Scotland would be at an increased risk of terrorist attack, while Labour Party leader Ed Miliband argued that border guards may be needed between England and Scotland. Cameron held a secret meeting with business groups early in September to urge them to back the No campaign—and a string of threats and warnings have followed.
Unsurprisingly, Tony Abbott is also on their side. He said in August that those who supported independence were “not the friends of freedom”.
A “British Together” march by the anti-Catholic Orange Order in early September showcased the reaction, bigotry and racism that supporters of the union are defending.
Hope for change
The referendum has thrust the Scottish National Party (SNP) into the limelight.
Many of the SNP’s policies are well to the left of UK Labour, which like the ALP has moved sharply to the right in recent decades.
The SNP has pledged to defend the public hospital system and the welfare state. This is why it is winning support, and why socialists and other leftists have joined the campaign for independence.
Many people hope that an independent Scotland will mean an end to conservative Tory governments. Scotland has a long history of voting to the left but ending up with Tory government because of the Union’s voting system.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson acknowledged this when she was reduced to saying it was “not very likely” the Tories would win the next general election, meaning it wasn’t necessary to vote Yes to avoid the Tories.
Immigrant groups are also campaigning to support independence and against the anti-asylum seeker policies of the UK.
Independence for Scotland could also diminish the imperialist power of the UK and its alliance with the US. The removal of Trident nuclear submarines from the Clyde would be a blow to Britain’s position as a leading nuclear state and a real threat to the ability of the US to use Britain as a launch pad for its missiles in Europe.
The generals in Washington and at NATO HQ are terrified of losing the Faslane nuclear naval base. They are acutely aware that there are no other deep waters around the UK that won’t involve spending tens of billions of pounds to relocate it.
“Losing” Trident would help relegate Britain from its top position in the pecking order of world states. The issue is closely tied up with Britain’s membership of NATO. Britain has been a major player in NATO’s failed and bloody operations in Afghanistan. It also led the bombing of Libya and is now threatening to increase its involvement in countries like Ukraine.
The NATO question is also significant because the Scottish National Party (SNP) and its leader Alex Salmond have ditched an immensely popular 30 year old policy of opposing NATO, albeit while still opposing Trident.
If Scotland wins independence, there will be a contest over what a future Scotland will look like.
The SNP is a nationalist party, seeking to unite the rich and poor in Scotland for the sake of what it class “the national interest”. Nationalism, whether left or right, ultimately serves to mask class divisions. That’s why the SNP has tried to woo both working class voters while backing down over NATO and assuring the Scotland’s bosses they will provide them with a low tax, low regulation environment to reap their profits.
Many voting “Yes” have much higher expectations. This means the SNP could face opposition to any austerity and corporate tax cuts it tries to impose in an independent Scotland.
Adapted from Socialist Worker UK