by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson • Andrew Wilson’s long awaited Sustainable Growth Commission Report was finally published last week, and it has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon.
First promised in 2017, it was supposed to fill in the holes in the SNP’s economic case for independence that lost the 2014 Referendum. Instead it reads like a New Labour playbook from the 1990s.
The 14 academics, businesspeople and politicians were asked to address the key economic challenges facing an independent Scotland; our low growth rate, poor productivity, untapped economic potential, an ageing, and indeed declining population, decide what currency we would use, solve our low levels of inward investment and high levels of emigration.
Put bluntly, not only does their report not fill in these holes, it presents an even more fiscally conservative and timid prospectus than last time.
Briefed to allay the fears of the money markets and a Scottish middle-class it has reached conclusions which alienate existing Yes voters and completely undermine the transformational case for independence.
Above all the Report exposes the deep divisions that exist between the right and left of the independence movement.
For the right, as Andrew Wilson and his Commission have made clear, independence is about transitioning our economy from the neoliberal Scotland of today to an independent nation that is little different; containing the same failed formula of low wages for working people and low taxes for their bosses.
The same ‘labour market flexibility’ [neoliberal coda for zero hour contracts and poverty wages], the same fiscal austerity and cuts to public services.
The same private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, the same currency ,Sterling, the same tax evasion by the rich.
The same privatisation, the same Head of State, the queen, the same class system and the same membership of the anti-democratic, neoliberal EU—except by then we will have to accept the Euro as our currency. Not very appealing, is it?
The left has, it’s fair to say, comprehensively rejected the Report. All of us on the Yes Scotland Board understood the movement had already agreed on the need for fundamental change with independence.
That’s certainly what the SSP signed up for and spent the last 20 years advocating on doorsteps and in workplaces across the country.
We will not support the conservative, free market version of independence Andrew Wilson proposes here. For us independence is about abandoning the thoroughly exploitative British state and all its economic and political models in favour of positively transforming the lives of 5 million citizens.
Nicola Sturgeon has tried, and to some extent succeeded, in persuading Scottish voters the Nationalists are a left of centre political party. But that myth is again undermined by the conclusions in this Sustainable Growth Commission Report.
Indeed, so clumsy has it been in contradicting the SNP leaders earlier ‘footwork’ I for one will not be surprised if she unceremoniously dumps it once next week’s SNP Annual Conference in Aberdeen is safely out of the way.
Her defensive stance this week insisted the Report was merely ‘one contribution to the wide-ranging independence debate’ and strongly infers she will not stand by its conclusions.
‘Tone and message matters every bit as much as policy specifics in driving sentiment’ admits Andrew Wilson. And I agree.
So if the public perception of this report undermines the SNP’s central disguise as a left of centre social democratic party it will be quickly jettisoned. For they know that would leave their ‘left flank’ wide open and they are not that daft!
Keith Brown’s election as SNP Deputy Leader, however, will further fuel the flames and signal how much the party remains under the tight control of economic and fiscal conservatives.
Brown, a former Royal Marine, stands firmly on the right of the party and yet he is now just ‘a heartbeat away’ from assuming overall command.
This Report is fiscally conservative and recommends ten years of economic austerity after independence in order to balance the books and placate the money markets.
It recommends using Sterling as our currency and avoiding any spending commitments to address the widespread inequality and poverty that Scotland suffers in so many areas of life.
Andrew Wilson claimed in The National this month that ‘senior sources in the Unionist camp have told me privately they think the independence case has been strengthened by this Report’. Well they would, wouldn’t they?
The response in working class areas of Scotland, where this vote will be won or lost, has not been so welcoming!
If the ‘National Assemblies’ promised by the SNP to discuss this Report take place and are indeed open to the wider independence movement the Scottish Socialist Party will attend to make the case for an independence that is transformative, about materially advancing the interests of Scotland’s working-class majority.
Our alternative case for independence, an independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic, is more important than ever in the current debate.