Indy benefits not currency decisive for working class

poster by Colin Fox With one month to go until the independence referendum the opinion polls give the No side a lead of between 4 per cent [Panelbase 17/8/14] and 14 per cent [YouGov 18/8/14] depending on whom you believe. But with the high level of ‘undecideds’ no one can say for certain what the final result will be.

This remarkable position has been achieved by thousands of dedicated Yes activists who have worked tirelessly these past two years to ensure Scotland fully debates the political issues involved in this referendum. And they will continue to work like giants until the polling stations close on 18 September.

Whilst the referendum debate is fundamentally about prosperity, fairness and democracy the media coverage in recent weeks has been fixated on ‘the currency issue’ which they insist ‘refuses to go away’. They are wrong to do so for the fact is the vote will be won or lost in the housing schemes of Scotland as working class people weigh up whether or not they will be better off with independence.

Will they share in the prosperity of a newly independent country? Will the great wealth of Scotland ever be used to eradicate poverty and deprivation? Will the working class majority get the opportunity to flourish when Scotland is finally able to take charge of our own decision making processes?

The economic picture often provides contradictory evidence as for example when the employment figures were released last week. On the one hand they show that Scotland is out of the worst recession in 80 years and heading for growth of around 3.5 per cent this year. The No campaign claim this shows that the UK and Scottish economies are flourishing and that it would be ‘madness’ to ‘separate’.

‘Happy days are here again’ they insist, but the problem with this narrative is that the living standards of the majority of Scots continues to fall. The employment figures show record numbers of people in work yet average wages rose just 1 per cent. Wages normally rise in periods of high employment as the bosses bid against each other for the available labour. Despite record numbers in the labour market however wages continue to fall in real terms [inflation is running at 2.5 per cent].

This puzzle is explained by the fact that the overwhelming majority of these new jobs are poorly paid, casual, part-time, insecure and service based. The exploitation of Scottish labour continues therefore at a relentless pace and there are more people living in poverty in Scotland today who are in work than ever before.

The closure of the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow this week gives us another glimpse at the Scottish labour market and its deteriorating working conditions and living standards. The 170 employees of the Clyde’s last remaining commercial shipyard [once the busiest river in the world for building ships] have lost their skilled, full time, unionised and relatively well paid jobs and now face the certainty of re-entering a labour market where only part time, insecure, causal and non-union jobs are available.

Yet the worsening conditions of Scotland’s working class has barely featured in ‘the leaders debates’, the media coverage or in the ‘pollsters’ questions. They all miss its significance. The currency issue on the other hand has been talked about ad infinitum as the No side seek to frighten and confuse voters. When the history of this referendum is finally written no issue will have been discussed more often and shown to have been a bigger ‘red herring’.

There are, as the SSP has frequently pointed out, only four options in this debate; keep the pound formally or informally, join another currency [like the Euro] or establish our own. The Scottish Government has said it would maintain the existing arrangements and keep Scotland within a Sterling zone. The SSP has no problem with this as a transitional arrangement to take us from here through the 16-month independence negotiations to full independence.

Thereafter we believe it is in Scotland’s best interests to have our own currency. That way we would set our own exchange rates, interest rates and control our own budget completely. There is nothing anyone can do to stop Scotland using the pound if we want to. Several countries in the world use the US dollar for example or the old German Deutchsmark when that was around. But Scotland’s economy would be far stronger than the RUK thanks to our oil reserves. And there is the rub. We need to have our own currency.

The political position the SSP has taken on this and other issues in this debate has lead to great interest in our party and our cause. We need to reach as many people as we can over the next month and explain the case for an independent socialist Scotland. We want people in their hundreds to join the SSP.

Whatever else may be said about Scotland on 19 September, the political situation has been transformed. The referendum debate has mobilised thousands of Scots. The Scottish Socialist Party has played a tremendous part in that mobilisation and our fortunes have been transformed too over the past two years.

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