Class challenge key to Yes win

Photo: Craig Maclean

by Ken Ferguson • High end corporate lobbyists Charlotte Street Partners’ New Town offices, which service the needs of the elites who dominate life in today’s Scotland, is the natural habitat of author of the SNP’s neoliberal Growth Commission, former MSP Andrew Wilson.

After a pregnancy that exceeded the 23 months of the longest mammal (the elephant) its much anticipated birth, overseen by Dr Wilson, may have pleased his corporate chums but it didn’t pop many corks in the wider Yes movement.

Indeed, the reception it received from a swathe of independence figures reminded us of that old favourite ballad Nobody’s Child.

Far from the silver bullet that we were promised would annihilate the claims of Better Together, the weighty tome was met with a mixture of anger, despair and disbelief from sources as diverse as Commonweal, former MP George Kerevan, ex-Yes chair Dennis Canavan, and the Scottish Socialist Party.

Like the Voice itself, all of the above share one key characteristic in that all support independence and generally do so with the intention of breaking with the failed neoliberal-based economic model pioneered by the failed UK.

Indeed, the evidence strongly suggests that this desire was a decisive factor in taking the support for Yes from the mid-20 per cent mark to the 45 per cent of 2014, saw massive voter turnout and very high voter registration.

Nobody who participated on the Yes side in the broad movement—cross party and no party—is likely to forget the experience nor underestimate the scale of the task of recreating it and building support for a future Yes victory.

Unlike 2014 we face a Labour Party unlikely to be stupid enough to join a Better Together 2 with the Tories and prising itself slowly away from Blairism alongside a Tory party emboldened by their Scottish gains last year led by all the media’s favourite Tory the vacuous Ruth Davidson.

To then be faced by a supposed “master stroke” document which cuts the feet from much of the progressive case of 2014 and offers at least ten years of further hard times while making soothing noises to the cash bloated bankers who caused it all is bad enough.

But when this comes not only from your supposed allies but the top leadership of the movement and when it is heavily questioned and criticised by Yes supporters, generates a defensive media blitz including a Twitter storm from Nicola Sturgeon, it spells trouble.

Simply put, far from the answer to the unanswered questions, this product of a narrow group of pro-business figures taking evidence from their own people; it is a deeply conservative and, for the Yes movement, divisive, damaging document.

Unsurprisingly, as the story unfolded, it became clear that while dozens of business groups were consulted, no attempt was made to seek the views of the 600,000 strong Scottish TUC.

And this is the fundamental problem at the heart of this unfolding crisis unleashed by this document.

By disregarding the key immediate interests of working people in favour of hoping to placate the world of business, it risks fatally undermining its own base.

Yes supporters often quote the fact that their cause still stands about the 45 per cent it won in 2014 and, along with the SNP leadership, they take this as the base line for a second campaign.

However faced with an offer of a pro-market business friendly politics largely indistinguishable from today’s UK which is in great contrast to the message of hope that built the 45 per cent this risks taking those hard won voters for granted.

Bluntly, as the Voice has consistently pointed out, the working class—far and away the majority of voters—is the crucial key to building a Yes majority. Simply, there are more of them than the financiers and bankers at the heart of the Wilson report.

As we have argued, this makes crafting a Yes offer that meets the challenges and pressures on wages, poverty, housing, transport and many others an essential requirement to win.

Even the Growth Commission accepts that much could be done now to deal with pressures and problems facing Scots.

Such an approach would, among others, end tendering of vital services as we examine in our piece on NorthLink elsewhere in this Voice, a major drive to rebuild our rented housing sector and real action to slash the shameful tally of one million Scots in poverty and concrete action on workers rights.

As the saying has it, action speaks louder than words, and to build a Yes win in a future referendum, the vital task for now is to show how a Scottish government can act to meet the needs of people and planet rather than shaping policy for the elite minority.

Enacting such major progressive changes would both offer real life gains in everyday life and also offer an example of what change could be delivered by breaking with the banker dominated UK.

Certainly it is now clear that the timid banker pleasing recipe of the Growth Commission is more of an obstacle to change than a road map to it. The sooner it is binned the better.

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