Tide is turning: workers have the most to gain from Scottish independence

tufi march banner by Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser Huge swathes of working class people in Scotland, including many who cling onto their Labour voting habits despite years of bitter disappointment, are shifting over in favour of independence. And by God the working class needs self-government if we are to avoid some of the worst assaults and setbacks in modern history!

For two years, the working class has been fed a daily diet of fear, lies and blood curdling tales of the Apocalypse in the event of Scotland doing what umpteen nations at the Commonwealth Games did long ago – elect its own government to decide its own future. The mass media bombardment and incitement of uncertainty has been relentless. No wonder some people fear public services would lack the funding in a smaller country – despite the fact the UK has some of the worst services, fourth lowest pensions and worst child poverty in Europe. And despite the fact Scotland is a net exporter of taxes to Westminster, to the tune of £4.4billon in 2011/12 alone.

No wonder many older workers fear for their pensions – despite the fact they are being dismantled and devalued by successive Westminster governments, and despite Coalition Minister of State for Pensions, Steve Webb, admitting in May that pensions would be safe and secure under independence. No wonder the woman in Greenock today told our SSP stall “We’ll have no yards if we vote Yes” – despite the fact the former shipbuilding centre of the world has been reduced to a fragile shell, slashed from 35,000 jobs in Scotland in 1979 to 5,000 today, with constant job insecurity for those shipyard workers who have survived wave after wave of redundancies under Westminster rule.

So with the thickening fog of lies and scaremongering, it is all the more remarkable and significant that big chunks of workers have seen the truth and swung over to voting Yes – including stalwarts of the labour and trade union movement. No set of workers in Scotland know more about the value of workers’ unity, solidarity and internationalism than those who lived and fought through the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders battle of 1971-2. In the face of wholesale shipyard closures, the work-in staged by these men and women electrified the whole working class, built a monumental movement, which straddled national borders and continents, and forced the Tory government of the day to retreat and save the majority of jobs.

So when seven prominent veterans of the UCS struggle – shop stewards and union conveners during that historic class confrontation – publish an open letter in favour of a Yes vote, appealing to today’s shipyard workers to do likewise, it is a moment of profound significance. It blows to smithereens the Labour leadership’s arguments that voting Yes would endanger workers’ unity, or that it’s a vote for ‘separation’ or ‘narrow nationalism’. The British and Scottish Labour party leaderships thought they could impose a No vote on Labour voters and the trade unions, with the help of the dirty lie that voting Yes makes you a Salmondista, a fan of permanent SNP rule, and an enemy of workers in England, Wales and Ireland.

But their monolith is cracked, falling apart, with a big swing to Yes within the Labour party itself, which is in turn a sure sign of the even bigger pro-independence trend growing inside the trade unions, which Labour heavily relies on for cash and votes at elections. As Ed Miliband visited Scotland recently to tell us all again the “value of pooling resources in something bigger, the UK”, two contrasting Labour figures on Merseyside came out in favour of Scottish independence. Principled left-winger, former Labour MP Les Huckfield, was one who spoiled Miliband’s unionist party.

The other was right-wing reptile and anti-socialist witch-hunter-in-chief Peter Kilfoyle, former Labour government Minister. Each in his own very different way is a clear reflection of the growing mood for self-determination for Scotland amongst Labour voters. Far more significant entirely was the recent declaration for Yes by a large group of senior workplace and branch leaders in UNISON Scotland.

Despite being pounded by fake radical general secretary Dave Prentis with offers of UK union funds to back Better Together, UNISON in Scotland has remained formally neutral, campaigning for ‘A Fairer Scotland’. The Scottish UNISON leadership are astute enough to know siding with the Tory-funded unionist camp would wreak havoc in their ranks and provoke mass resignations. And now many prominent UNISON activists, including Scottish Deputy Convener Stephen Smellie, have openly called for a Yes vote as the best route to ‘a fairer Scotland’.

As Stephen, a Labour party member, explained, “In an independent Scotland the trade unions will be far more influential than is possible at a UK level. Having spent years campaigning for a better, more just and fairer Scotland, I don’t believe all those people and organisations who have worked for fairness will let the politicians get on with it. In alliance with communities and progressive forces, trade unionists will be able to ensure that decisions taken by government will be more often in favour of working people, of sustainability, of peace, of justice.”

A recent TNS Poll found 28 per cent of Labour voters are intending to vote Yes, up from an average of 21 per cent over the previous three months. As we have persistently argued for years, it is precisely the working class who have least to lose by ending Westminster dictatorship for and by the rich, and most to gain from self-rule, where the working class majority can organize and insist upon a radical redistribution of wealth to banish poverty pay, breadline benefits, and reliance on food banks in this food-exporting country.

The central lie peddled to cow working class people into voting No is that we face a choice between the status quo or endless uncertainties under independence. The Status Quo is not on offer. Only One Direction is – backwards, at a frightening speed! The Tories have still to implement at least 70 per cent of their planned cuts to public sector jobs, services, wages and benefits.

They boast that the economy is ‘back on course’ by GDP growing by 0.2 per cent above the pre-2008 banking crisis level. What they prefer to hide is that while profits and the wealth of the billionaires and millionaires is booming, pay increases only average 0.3 per cent compared to 1.9 per cent official inflation (itself an absurd under-estimate of daily price rises for life’s essentials). And GDP per head of population is still 5 per cent below its 2008 level and will take at least another three years to catch up. The alleged recovery has been built on the backs of millions suffering low pay and Zero Hours Contracts. Workers are far worse off now than we were six long years ago.

When a million public sector workers across the UK took strike action on 10 July to demand a share of the alleged recovery in the form of pay rises, the Westminster Coalition responded with repeat threats of even more vicious anti-union laws, designed to effectively ban strike action – the first step towards dictatorship by any other name. And where were the denunciations of this by the (union-funded) Labour Party? Their deafening silence spoke volumes about their intentions if (a very big if!) they get elected in Westminster in 2015.

The same week, Miliband spewed out economically illiterate garbage about Labour “transforming the economy without any increase in public spending”, in a tortured attempt to win back some working class voters whilst keeping sweet the middle class swing-voters of so-called Middle England. And the following week, closer to home, the Labour city council in Glasgow went to court to get a ban on peaceful protests called by council workers’ unions outside the City Chambers during workers’ lunch breaks or outwith their shifts – after the same ‘people’s party’ had refused bonus payments for anti-social hours worked by staff to make a success of the Commonwealth Games.

That’s a taste of the ‘justice with Labour’ we keep being promised as a reward for voting No in September! Workers face a hellhouse if a No vote is cast. The slaughter of incomes through Universal Credit. Attacks on young people’s housing benefits. Enforced daily visits to JobCentres on pain of escalating sanctions that drive people into destitution. Attacks on pensioners’ rights. Savage cuts to jobs and wages in the public sector, including revenge attacks on Scotland’s block grant from Westminster. A drive to spread student tuition fees north of the border. Dismantling of the NHS through the knock-on effect of Westminster NHS cuts on a devolved Scottish NHS via the Barnett Formula. Increased use of Zero Hours Contracts to brutally maximize profits. The destruction of a vast expanse of Scotland by fracking, which the Tories have now authorised for about a third of our land mass. And the squandering of at least £1billion a year of Scottish taxpayers’ money on Trident weapons of mass destruction, instead of potentially transforming childcare, education and elderly care.

A No vote is what should induce massive fear and insecurity, not self-government. To spell out this is not negative campaigning, it’s telling the truth – before it’s too late. In contrast, a Yes vote would guarantee several things to the working class majority. Escape from dictatorship by the Tories. The chance to escape the looming assaults on our incomes, rights and conditions. The chance to shape Scotland’s future, by sustaining the energy, creativity and determination displayed by tens of thousands of people who’ve participated in Yes campaign events, and by fighting in turn for a socialist majority in the 2016 elections.

Those older generations who were reared on the socialist aspirations of Labour and trade union pioneers have the chance to see those ideals pursued in an independent Scotland, where their voice can count. Young people raised to their feet by the referendum campaign have the chance to help build a genuinely democratic, inclusive, socialist Scotland that acts as an international beacon. And the SSP will remain as steadfast in fighting for not just independence but also socialism after the referendum as we have for the past 16 years. Join the growing forces that reject the dictatorship of capital, the dictatorship of the Tories, the dictatorship of Westminster. Our day will come!

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