Holyrood: independence still key

THERE’S NO SCOTTISH CORBYN: despite Jeremy Corbyn’s UK leadership victory, the party of Keir Hardie faces the real prospect of coming third to the hated Tories in Scotland (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Ken Ferguson   • With the unedifying shouting match of the first “leaders” TV debate the official Holyrood election campaign got under way. Hosted by a BBC desperate to shoe horn the campaign into a UK framework we were told that this election will be “all about tax”. It won’t.

‘HAS ANYONE SEEN DIANE...?’: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party are ‘all over the place’ north and south of the border. Photo: Craig Maclean

The spectacle of professional politicians playing to the script was neither interesting nor informative. Rather it was a classic example of what has been called “symbol politics”.

Symbol politics are used to spotlight supposedly radical differences between parties which in reality is more about brand image than real policy differences.

This was pioneered in the UK by the New Labour regime headed by Blair and spoon fed to shallow hacks in print and TV by a phalanx of spin doctors.

In the current campaign, the key “symbol” is to be tax. In presenting this as the centrepiece, broadcasters, print journalists and the mainstream parties are willing accomplices.

So Labour’s puny tax plans are presented as a major move back to socialist politics. The SNP’s no change tax message is used to reinforce their even handed managerialism and doomed Lib Dems parade their schools penny in a desperate ploy to break with their former UK pals the Tories. The Tories just keep on being Tories.

Of course the reality of all of this is that the sums of money involved—both in terms of tax paid by individuals and raised for service—is miniscule and laughably inadequate to deal with the problems facing working people.

Gone are the former SNP pledges to eradicate poverty, end fuel poverty in energy rich Scotland or to combat privatisation. Similarly Labour are miles away from the supposedly radical socialist party they are pretending to be.

Indeed for Labour, despite the Corbyn UK leadership victory, the party of Keir Hardie faces the real prospect of coming third to the hated Tories. How have the mighty fallen.

However, back on planet reality, low pay, zero hours contracts, benefit sanctions, housing shortages and a climate of insecurity and fear face voters who look at the mainstream party offer and see a debate far from their concerns.

Despite this, the SNP will come out on top overwhelmingly because the vast majority of Scots voters see them as the most effective vehicle with which to oppose the Tories.

But their campaign has a black hole at its centre which is spotlighted daily in interviews, announcements and campaigns. They have put independence firmly on the back burner with the gas off, in a pot labelled “aspiration for the future”.

Instead they have opted for a moderate marginally left posture which stresses they are the superior managers of a devolved system within the UK and that is what they are pitching to remain. So as reports and polls show Yes support growing and the realisation dawns that independence is the only sure way to break with Tory rule and open the way to a real break towards a new progressive politics the SNP duck and fudge the issue.

This approach can only further weaken the movement built during the referendum campaign and must be resisted with a renewed broad pro-independence campaign involving all pro-independence forces.

With Cameron floundering and the prospect of a hard right post-Brexit Tory government cutting billions this approach leaves Scotland—even with SNP dominance—at best managing the cuts.

That is why the demand for control over the calling of indyref2 be solely in Holyrood’s control is central to the option of taking the independence route out of the Tory nightmare.

That demand for control over the referendum will be at the heart of the RISE campaign along with a raft of progressive policies for £10 an hour pay, scrapping the Council Tax, action on rents and housing shortages and so on.

Let there be no mistake; the independence issue is the elephant in the room in this coming campaign and all attempts to downplay it from whatever side only serve to spike the guns of all campaigners striving to defend jobs, services and living standards.

By closing off the road to a second referendum even as support for Yes grows, Scottish voters are left at the mercy of the hard nosed Tories whether led by Cameron or Boris.

For the reality is that the No vote handed them power over spending and thus the ability to impose madcap austerity on Scotland whether it is managed by Nicola or not.

Indeed older Voice readers will recall the long Thatcher nightmare when despite rejecting her policies we got steel closures, pit closures and mass unemployment. We still live with the consequences.

If this to be avoided this time independence is the only sure option and downplaying it is a dangerous folly which will be combated by the RISE campaign in the days ahead.

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