by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson · Last weekend’s SNP Conference voted to endorse the Sustainable Growth Commission’s case for independence. Or did it?
For whilst the media focused on the defeat suffered by party leaders over an amendment demanding an independent Scotland introduce its own currency as soon as is ‘practicable’, the question is have the rank and file endorsed the conservative conclusions in Andrew Wilson’s report?
On the face of it they did. Certainly party spin doctors insisted this was the case with the ‘rogue’ Dalkeith and District amendment merely adding to it. But I understand the Dalkeith delegates are fuming with that interpretation insisting their widespread criticism of the Report, and ridiculed by them in the debate, has been ignored.
Other delegates also referred to the ‘ambiguity’ surrounding the Conferences attitude to Wilson’s Report.
SNP leaders are keen to claim its endorsement after a tightly choreographed debate where as I understand it all the branch amendments critical of the SGC’s central recommendations were ruled out of order.
Meanwhile in a leaflet distributed to delegates by SSP activists we highlighted how ‘The SGC proposes a low tax, low wage economy, with public spending cuts and with both fiscal and monetary powers to defend our economy from global speculators unilaterally surrendered.
The Report also insists public spending in an independent Scotland must be held in check, particularly when economic growth cannot justify it.
The left argues for measures based on the needs of the population. This would therefore be outranked by a right-wing case that says Scotland cannot prioritise investment in quality public services to eradicate poverty and inequality.
This ubiquitous conflict brings us to the role of ‘Progress Scotland’, the shadowy new organisation set up and run by former SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson. The former MP for Moray, who lost his seat to the Tories in 2017, and is known as ‘Mr NATO’ because of his close links to the military and defence industry, today leads the right-wing of the SNP.
If Andrew Wilson is their ‘policy wonk’, Robertson is the ‘streetfighter’. Robertson and Nicola Sturgeon have tied the case for indy tightly to EU membership.
To listen to them you would think the EU was the source of all reforms ever won. You would also think ‘the democratic deficit’ that saw Scotland vote to Remain whilst the UK voted Leave, was all there was to the case for independence. Whereas for the SSP, as we have repeatedly insisted, it is far more profound than that.
Conference delegates endorsing Andrew Wilson’s free market orthodoxy undermined the idea independence represents a progressive left of centre, social democratic advance.
The SSP meanwhile has been at the forefront of opposition to Andrew Wilson’s conservative proposals. When they were first unveiled in the summer of 2018 I described them as ‘straight out of the New Labour playbook’ because the economic arguments represent orthodox free market conclusions Tony Blair once espoused.
Wilson believes Edinburgh financiers, Aberdeen oilmen and Glasgow billionaires are the key to winning any second referendum. He insists ‘we have already won the working class vote’ and therefore need to win over middle class, middle Scotland.
Former SNP Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill is not the only one to question this logic. Writing in The Scotsman last week [25/4/19] he argued ‘Scottish Socialist Party leader Colin Fox is correct to point out we did not win a majority for Yes among working class people last time. And the turnout in poorer areas was another challenge for us.’
Myself and Roisin McLaren, as the SSP’s co-spokespersons, have therefore written to all those in the Yes movement who have spoken out against the Growth Commission’s recommendations; Commonweal, RIC, Greens, George Kerevan, Alex Neil, Jim Sillars, Jim and Margaret Cuthbert and Kenny MacAskill, suggesting we get together, consider where the SNP Conference vote now leaves us and ask how we are to increase support for Yes from among Scotland’s working class majority. For that remains crucial to everything we do.
One million in poverty
Nicola Sturgeon has rightly argued the way to overcome the UK Government’s refusal to grant a Section 30 Order permitting a binding second referendum, is to secure majority support for Yes.
This is something however she has never managed. Support for Yes is at best stable in the polls. Winning majority support is frankly something the SGC conclusions will never achieve.
And Nicola Sturgeon would do well to remember that for one million people in Scotland living in poverty today—and mostly in work—the case for a £10/hour Living wage and job security is not only more important than Brexit, it is surely part and parcel of what independence is all about?
Promising greater dividends to Edinburgh bankers, Aberdeen oilmen, Galloway landowners and Glasgow businessmen is not the way to secure self-determination. Those gentlemen are, and will remain an impediment to our ultimate goal.