SNP pushes for Scottish Referendum 2

On 13 March Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon publicly announced the intention of the Scottish government to prepare for a second independence referendum. The timescale she proposed, between August 2018 and Spring 2019, is aimed to lessen the complications of Scotland’s re-entry into EU membership as an independent state. British Conservative Prime Minister May responded by ruling out another referendum on that timetable, fearing it will undermine the government’s position during the Brexit negotiations. Dominic Mulgrew reports.

While the Scottish government demands its ‘democratic right’ to a referendum, this dispute has nothing to do with democracy. Behind this ‘constitutional crisis’ lies a crisis of the British ruling class and its imperialist position worldwide; whether to side with US or EU imperialism. Moves towards a second independence referendum express the concerns and aspirations of a section of the British ruling class based in Scotland, as Britain heads towards a ‘hard’ Brexit. Masquerading behind nationalism and the interests of ‘the people’, their solutions will come at the expense of the working class and oppressed.

At the centre of these ruling class aspirations is Edinburgh’s financial centre which stands second only to the City of London in the UK. Since the Brexit vote, the financial centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow have warmed to the idea of Scottish independence with some seeing it as a ‘golden’ or ‘historic’ opportunity for them to serve as a ‘safe harbour’ for EU business and as a potential rival to the City of London (The National 29 July 2016). Sturgeon’s ‘open invitation’ to talent and investment from across the UK and Europe at the SNP conference in Aberdeen on 18 March reflects this. So too does the shift in opinion of respectable bourgeois writers and commentators from across the UK who are now rallying to the call for an ‘economics of independence’.

Echoing the language of the pro-EU section of the ruling class in Scotland about the ‘democratic right’ to a referendum, both the Socialist Party Scotland (SPS) and Socialist Workers Party have expressed support for a second referendum. The SPS claim the ‘democratic right for a second independence referendum which could potentially be an even more profound revolt against austerity, with more far reaching aspirations in a socialist direction.’ Demonstrating its Loyalist sympathies, the SPS however rejects a referendum on the sectarian British-imposed border between the north and south of Ireland. The SWP is more concerned that the Labour Party recovers its lost support, saying that ‘Labour has to back independence, not just a second referendum’ arguing that ‘there is no way back for Labour [in Scotland] unless it breaks with its pro-Union stance.’

Underneath the radical cover of ‘breaking up the British state’ the same old remedies of parliamentary politics and uniting against the Tories on the lowest possible common denominator are offered up. Former leaders of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) are trying to revive the organisation, promising they can retain working class support for independence despite disillusionment with SNP austerity. The RIC has form: it mobilised 3,000 people for a conference in November 2014, presenting it as an opportunity to start a real fight against austerity – only to do nothing. In practice, these people want to postpone any battle against austerity or for socialism until after independence. This reflects a denial that Scotland is a constituent part of British imperialism.

The task of collectively resisting unending austerity and rising racism will remain no matter the outcome of any second referendum. Playing up to this nationalism to supposedly avoid isolation ultimately serves to isolate anti-austerity struggle against the SNP today and provides a cover for this section of the ruling class to retain its place in the imperialist EU. They want working class cheerleaders for a ruling class game!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 256 April/May 2017