by Ken Ferguson · The cheering which met the supposedly stunning defeat of the SNP leadership on a Scottish currency had barely died down when the party’s legendary spin machine went into overdrive with a “nothing to see here, move on” message.
Of course, given the normally iron grip of the party machine on conference the defeat inflicted on the platform—by a majority of 52 in a conference of 1,500—was certain to make headlines.
However whether they obscure or clarify is a rather different question.
Significantly the leadership line was to roll with the blow with Nicola Sturgeon reported by ‘sources’ s being relaxed about the vote saying it would allow the party to “move forward with confidence.”
Which rather begs the question of why it was contested of course but perhaps more significantly is it true?
To answer that we need to both look at the aims and content of the Dalkeith amendment and the wider outcome of the debate on the controversial so-called Growth Commission.
The policy formally is to move to a Scottish currency but qualified by the term “as quickly as possible” in other words leaving timing largely to those who will gauge what is “possible”—the supposedly defeated leadership!
Given that this was the only wrinkle in an otherwise smooth passage for the widely criticised pro-market ‘Growth Commission’ the SNP leadership may have scored a conference victory for its right wing economic policy but what is the wider cost?
A wide range of pro-independence forces from the Voice and SSP, the Greens, RIC, Commonweal and clutch of leading SNP dissidents have all criticised the dismal austerity-based economics which lie at the heart of the Wilson approach.
Unashamedly open about its objectives of placating the bankers and agonising about Scotland’s credit rating with the financiers, it puts the prospect of continuing austerity for the many as the price of soothing the wealthy few.
Make no mistake, no amount of spin and hoop-la can alter the fact that the policy adopted in Edinburgh is fundamentally at odds with policies which are needed to deal with the constellation of pressing problems facing Scotland’s working class majority.
With its plans to continue to curb public spending it will inevitably lead to continuing poverty pay, spending cuts, rip off rents, slashed services and privatisations.
To point this out is not, as the wilder shores of Cybernattery claim, to indulge in an ‘SNP bad’ politics but simply to follow the logic of the economics at the heart of the proposal.
Indeed those who either knowingly or out of misguided loyalty suggest for example that the GC isn’t neoliberalism on the lines of Thatcher and Reagan needed to listen to Nicola Sturgeon when she told BBC Radio 4 of the hard choices in the Wilson report which “Couldn’t be sugar coated.”
This is surely a pivotal moment for the broad independence movement.
Irrespective of when any second referendum takes place will it be possible to mobilise the levels of campaigning and mass engagement of 2014 which had at its heart a belief that a Yes vote was a vote for justice and change on a ‘soothe the bankers’ offer?
At this point it is vital to state the hard truth that the support of Scotland’s working class majority has yet to be won for Yes and is not in the bag as part of the calculations.
Equally to win this crucial constituency—which far outnumbers bankers and financiers—demands a programme which links their real needs on pay, health, housing and so forth with a case that convinces them that independence is the best way to achieve real change.
This in turn poses some serious problems, particularly for the left and progressive pro-independence forces on how to build a movement capable of winning in a context in which the multi faceted pluralist Yes movement of 2014 has morphed into a dominant party which calls the shots.
Given that this party has adopted a fundamentally conservative indy offer is there even a basis for a mark 2 Yes movement capable of uniting with the large range of forces seeking a vision of independence going well beyond today’s business as usual?
If, as it undoubtedly is, building a campaign to convince voters that independence is the most effective route to justice and change is the essential task is how can this best be achieved?
Far from being the Holy Grail leading to a Yes victory the Voice shares the view of many on the left that it is potential vote loser across working class Scotland.
That’s why, as we report elsewhere in this Voice, we support the call by the SSP for discussions between those who reject the economic shackles at heart of the Growth Commission on the Yes movement to map out a way forward.
More than ever, Scotland needs independence as an essential key to unlocking real change for both people and planet, and that needs serious work now.