Both Corbynmania and Nicolamania in retreat

CM-Jeremy Corbyn-looking in distance

Jeremy Corbyn: seeks like-minded comrades in Scottish Labour. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson “Amid all the talk about the if, when, how and why of a second referendum, a technicality is being overlooked,” Sunday Herald columnist Ian Bell reminds us, “David Cameron says you can’t have one.” Monarchist-loving nationalists might also like to note, adds Bell, that in the last analysis a second vote on Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination rests with “The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council”. And neither she nor her Prime Minister will give permission for one if a Yes vote appears likely.

Such anti-democratic nonsense is not the only conundrum facing the independence movement over a second referendum. The SNP have made it clear their main aim now is to secure another majority at Holyrood. And they are convinced this cannot be achieved by stressing independence as the issue in the minds of conservative voters in the North East of Scotland.

Retaining John Swinney’s seat at Holyrood (and others in strong No voting areas) remains their top priority. If a commitment to a second referendum puts that at risk then they will simply not call for it.

Notwithstanding two recent opinion polls that suggested a majority would vote for independence, SNP leaders privately acknowledge that a second referendum held now would be lost as most people would see it as defying the ‘will of the people’ as expressed last year.

The nationalists therefore intend to duck the second referendum issue in their forthcoming Holyrood manifesto. Losing a second No vote, they correctly conclude, would set the independence movement back a generation.

And yet it is not just as simple as that. For as Jim Sillars makes clear in his new book In Place of Failure, a new mandate is essential if the independence movement is to persuade the UK Prime Minister to concede a second vote. Failure to secure such a mandate next May would be a major mistake.

So how do we set a date without restricting the chances of success? The answer, Jim Sillars suggests, is to leave the date open but within the next five years. That way we can capitalise on any substantial changes in the political situation and allow time to mobilise the broad-based campaign needed to win.

Those cross-party forces are more important than ever after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. Although he is increasingly a prisoner of his right wing and opposes independence, Corbyn is nonetheless well to the left of the SNP and capable as Ian Bell puts it of “lobbing repeated shells into nationalist trenches”.

Indeed, in his first two weeks, he exposed several SNP weaknesses on the monarchy, public ownership, fracking and austerity. Forcing the normally sure-footed Alex Salmond to admit he frequently sings the National Anthem (with a third verse which promises to ‘crush rebellious Scots’) and bows obsequiously to ‘Her Most Excellent Majesty’ every chance he gets.

Corbyn easily exposed the nationalists soft underbelly, its right/left contradictions. SNP Energy Minister Fergus ‘Fracker’ Ewing was also badly exposed when he condemned Corbyn’s promise to take the big six power companies back into public hands despite it being very popular with the vast majority of Scottish voters.

The Scottish Socialist Party certainly shares this desire to see the energy companies renationalised—mind you it is neither Labour nor SNP party policy to do so. Nor is it likely to be so.

In these new political circumstances, the role of the SSP and RISE, Scotland’s Left Alliance, will be crucial for the independence movement in returning Corbyn’s ‘shells’.

Those drawn to Corbyn’s progressive ideas will recognise the nationalists are nowhere near as left-wing as they would like people to believe.

The pressure on Corbyn from the neoliberals in his own party is considerable, it’s true, yet it is matched by those in the SNP like John Swinney, Keith Brown, Richard Lockhead and Fergus Ewing who argue against austerity before meekly and crucially qualifying their opposition by adding “on this scale and at this time”. Nicola Sturgeon does that too.

Ian Bell’s timely warning therefore that “this might be as good as it gets in terms of popularity for the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon” should be heeded by all independence supporters.

The nationalists, having demobilised the Yes movement, have left it vulnerable to attack. And like others, Ian Bell is alarmed at seeing it dissipated just as the Corbyn challenge emerges.

Scottish Socialist Party and RISE activists throughout Scotland are therefore right to step up our activities on the streets and in working class communities in defence of an independent socialist Scotland.

Both Corbynmania and Nicolamania evaporate in the cold light of day because neither Labour nor the SNP’s actions match their leaders rhetoric.

RISE and the SSP intend to become Scotland’s left opposition by taking up issues such as a £10-an-hour living wage, ending zero hour contracts and welcoming migrants and refugees to 21st century Scotland.

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