Scottish election confirms that independence is the key fault line
by Ken Ferguson • Forget all the media froth about the Tory revival. The SNP won the May 5th poll with a whisker short of a majority in a result which saw opinion harden around pro and anti-independence positions.
The SNP have hoovered up the vast bulk of the Yes vote while the Tories “revival” is based on support for hard line British unionism and to that extent the result will potentially bring a new clarity of independence versus Tory austerity.
But for that to happen the SNP will have to accept that that is the choice and shun ideas of a “one nation” independence which sidelines the very real social and economic divisions which scarred Scotland before the roll and remain to be tackled after it.
And if confirmation was needed that the national question remains at the heart of Scottish voters’ minds then the dismal fate of Labour provides it. Despite making a mild leftward pitch in policy back towards Old Labour, they were humiliated.
Outbursts by embittered New Labour rejects about “self-immolation for dummies” blaming the Labour demise on its supposed left turn are simply nothing more than political flat-earthism.
One-time Labour bastions tumbled into the hands of the SNP as a consequence of working class voters both supporting a Yes vote and no longer believing that Labour has any answer to their problems of jobs, security, poverty pay and soaring housing costs.
This is confirmed by a clutch of Labour figures who now recognise if perhaps not understand that the party’s attempt to ignore the national question just left them further beached after last year’s Westminster debacle.
Indeed as deputy leader Alex Rowley led calls for federalism, the left wing Campaign for Socialism smugly described the result as “Flags beat facts” recalling Brecht’s famous call after the 1953 East German rising for the party to dissolve the people and elect a new one.
For Scots, the reality is that the so-called people’s party is now at best ignored and in some quarters despised by working class opinion. A year out, it would be a brave pundit who would not predict that such Alamo-style bases as Glasgow City Council will fall to the SNP and seal their fate.
For the pro-independence left, the results were tough—even if the wavering Greens were included in it—it failed to win the support of 10 per cent of voters.
Even allowing for the fact that after the September 2014 referendum, many on the left joined the SNP, convinced that this was the most viable path to an independent Scotland favourable to socialist solutions, the fact remains that the ideas of socialism run counter to the tsunami of capitalist ideas dominating all aspects of life.
It is in this context that the puffed up media hype around Ruth Davidson’s Tories may, if not challenged from the left, play its part in moving public debate to the right and open the door to the marketisation of public services scarring England.
Already, Buffalo Bill Davidson has called for parent-run schools and the SNP opening to ideas such as primary school testing, sounding alarm bells over what can easily become the thin edge of the education privatisation wedge.
Despite its social democratic image, the SNP’s leadership includes many figures who are fully paid up fans of today’s business-dominated Scotland, simply replacing London with Edinburgh.
Yet the myriad of problems such as low pay, insecure jobs, lack of rented homes and Tory cuts implemented by Holyrood are just as real today as they were before 5 May.
Equally, the real solution offered by the left to these problems also remains relevant and it is essential that they form part of a concerted drive to defeat the imposition of Tory ideas—still rejected by Scots—via lobbying, spin and media hype of the limited Tory revival.
That task is urgent and must be the centre of the task of both defeating Tory attacks and advancing the credibility of socialist alternatives.
Then there remains the national question. In the election, a majority of independence supporting MSPs were returned. However, despite urging otherwise, none of them were returned on a mandate for Holyrood to take the power to call indyref2 from London to Edinburgh.
So despite the brave talk about a variety of events triggering a second referendum, the right wing press are already running stories that make it clear London will veto any such move.
Given that nobody on the independence side wants a second referendum to lose it the case to vigorously campaign for independence and contrast its possibilities with the increasing misery that will flow from the famous “sharing” of being part of the UK.
The period now facing pro-independence socialists places heavy burdens on them both to fashion and popularise alternatives to pro-market caution and advance the currently neglected building of a broad based, cross party, reinvigorated Yes campaign.
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