Scotland votes no to independence

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2,001,926 (55.3%) voted no, with 1,617,989 (44.7%) voting yes. Overall turnout 84.5%.

The British ruling class is today breathing a huge sigh of relief. The possibility of a Yes victory in the Scottish referendum had caused widespread panic. A triumphalist media is now congratulating everyone on how democratic and peaceful the referendum was. We are told that the result represents the will of the people; but the reality is that it represents the fear of the people. Following the result, SNP leader and Scottish Minister, Alex Salmond announced his intention to step down from his positions. Within hours of the result, the pledges by the three Westminster party leaders to offer more powers to Scotland, lie in tatters.

The Yes campaign came from 20 points behind in the polls over the past three months to become a serious contender for victory in the two weeks leading to the referendum date, as a Yougov poll published on 6 September put Yes ahead by 1%. In the days that followed, the British ruling class went into complete overdrive in order to secure a No verdict. All national media were mobilised accordingly; all of the 39 daily and regional newspapers called for a No vote and ran scare stories. All bourgeois organisations were deployed. On 10 September Prime Minister’s question time in the House of Commons was cancelled to allow all three party leaders to travel to Scotland to save the Union. On 11 September over 100 Labour MPs, until then utterly complacent about Scotland and certain that the No vote would triumph, stepped off a London train at Glasgow Central station to save the future of the Labour Party. Bank chiefs were reported as claiming that banks would leave Scotland and that interest rates would rise. The No campaign insisted that Scotland would be left without a currency. Food prices, it was widely reported, would rise should Scotland vote Yes. Anger and revulsion at biased BBC coverage of the campaign led to a 5,000 strong demonstration outside its Glasgow headquarters on 14 September. On 17 September, 14 former Armed Forces chiefs signed an open letter saying a No vote was critical for the nation’s security. On the day before the vote, former Labour Party leader Gordon Brown claimed a Yes victory would put one million of Scotland’s two million jobs at risk.

Reflecting on Irish acceptance of the 1922 Treaty which imposed partition in Ireland, the Irish revolutionary communist, Liam Mellows said that the Treaty had been accepted not by the will of the people but by the fear of the people. Back then British imperialism threatened the Irish people with ‘immediate and terrible war’ should they vote against its proposals. Today that same imperialist British ruling class used more sophisticated means to threaten the Scottish people and in so doing exposed many to the limitations of bourgeois democracy.

The Yes campaign won important majorities in the poorest urban areas of Scotland; with majorities in Dundee, North Lanarkshire, West Dumbartonshire and Glasgow. It is here that the Yes campaign was able to gain support from the poorest sections of the working class especially its younger elements. Thousands of activists campaigned in these communities, arguing that a better, more socially just Scotland is possible. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! campaigned for a Yes vote, against British imperialism, arguing that working class interests must be at the fore of Scottish politics. The Labour Party stands today absolutely discredited among a huge section of the Scottish working class people; the official Better Together campaign did not hold a single open public meeting throughout the city of Glasgow during the campaign.

Against a tidal wave of propaganda based on negativity and fear, a significant and sizeable proportion of the Scottish people voted defiantly for independence. It was always the case that there would be no constitutional solution to social questions; the battle was about political power and basic democracy. We have no time for despondency and demoralisation; the ruling class has gained a renewed mandate to continue its offensive against the working class – all progressive forces must organise against them.

Already the greed of the ruling class is exposed for all to see as they now argue about how much money London should be able to cream off the national wealth in the wake of the referendum victory. New forces must emerge as struggles break out in defence of working class living standards. Socialists have a responsibility to relate to this and a duty to act.

Paul Mallon