Battle for a socialist Scotland needs unity

Alan Bissett: wants to see left wingers working together to take on an incredibly powerful foe, like we did during the indyref

by Alan Bissett I write this the morning after the Scotland Bill was debated in the House of Commons and am still shocked at how nakedly the Unionist parties showed their contempt for us. Westminster voted down the SNP’s Full Fiscal Autonomy proposals, despite there being a clear mandate for it from Scottish voters during the General Election. This wasn’t a surprise in itself, but still an indication that both parties are determined to keep Scotland within the tight financial straitjacket imposed from London.

It’s also clear that Home Rule is, as far as the Unionists are concerned, a ship that has sailed. It was obvious to many of us before the referendum why the Tories were sending Gordon Brown out as an emissary with the words ‘Home Rule’ on his lips: plausible deniability.

Being a mere backbench MP, it was not within Brown’s gift to guarantee more power—Yes campaigners and the Tories both knew this—which is why David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, can now say that ‘Home Rule’ was never promised in the first place.

Not only that, but Mundell claims the infamous Vow was immaterial anyway, referencing a poll conducted by YouGov in March which found that only 3.4 per cent of No voters cited ‘more powers’ as the main factor in their decision.

This is misleading. People base their vote on a combination of reasons, not just a single ‘main’ one. The Vow formed part of the No campaign’s crucial last few days, as they knew it might be just enough to reassure waverers.

Those of us on the Yes side could see from a mile away that the Vow was both vague and far from legally-binding, so that, no matter what they did afterwards, they could claim they had fulfilled it or that, if cornered, it didn’t really matter because, after all, what exactly had been promised?

This game of smoke and mirrors was evident in the Tories’ reaction to the SNP’s amendment to the Scotland Bill, requesting that our parliament could only be dissolved by consent of the Scottish people. This was the Vow’s very first and headline promise: ‘The Scottish Parliament is permanent.’

The Tories voted down the amendment—knowing full-well that it broke commitments Cameron had made—simply as a veiled threat, a flexing of muscles, a reminder of who is in charge.

Add to this the proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act and trades unions’ rights, the vetoes which the Tories have worked into the Scotland Bill, including a crucial one over welfare, and of course the income tax trap.

This new ‘power’ means the SNP will be forced into raising taxes on working people (as opposed to, say, corporations) or cutting public services, to offset budgetary constraints from Westminster.

So we can see that the No vote has placed Scotland exactly where the Tories want us: squirming and powerless to resist their austerity onslaught.

There are even theories circulating that the Tories are trying to goad the Scots into a quick, second referendum, in the hope that another defeat really would kill off the dream. We should be wary of this, and call a referendum on our terms at a time of our choosing.

Another five years of Tory pain—with a potential EU exit thrown in—is hardly likely to cement love for the Union among Scots already disenchanted with the aftermath of the No vote.

It’s one thing to identify the problems, however, and another to act on them. We could pray that the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn is elected as leader of the Labour party, although this seems far-fetched given the other three candidates are Blairites, charging towards Planet Tory.

We could hope that Scottish Labour divorces itself from the UK party and reconnects with its soul, north of the border. Again, unlikely.

Or we could take matters into our own hands by realigning the left in Scotland, a process which began during the long referendum campaign, when we all learned the value of working together to take on an incredibly powerful foe.

The result was the largest mass political awakening among the Scottish people of modern times. This is potential which has only begun to be tapped. The Unionists are finding it harder and harder to fool the Scots—as Labour’s General Election wipeout shows—and the appetite for socialist policy in Scotland is rising.

I’m aware that not everyone in the SSP is in favour of an alliance with the Scottish Left Project for the Holyrood elections next year—and I respect their reasons—but we really do have far more in common than not, and we are going to need all hands to the pump.

There has to be an opposition in Holyrood, and I’m sure even the SNP would prefer it came from the pro-Yes left rather than the Unionist parties.

We ally with the SNP when it comes to the Westminster game, but the SNP having Holyrood all to themselves is not good for Scottish democracy or the socialist struggle.

Make no mistake: we are in dark times. The nightmare which many of us feared—a No vote followed by a Tory majority—has come to pass. It’s important to understand the past, lest we be doomed to repeat it, but the real fight is in the future. The battle for a socialist Scotland continues.

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