In recent Scottish politics, the focus has been on the call from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party and their allies for a second referendum on Scottish independence based on Scotland having a say on its constitutional future prior to Brexit. The grounds of this appeal are flimsy at best as out of an electorate of some four million, only 1.6 million cast a vote to remain in the EU with one million Scots voting to leave and the remainder obviously not feeling strongly enough, either way, to bother voting at all.
An interesting facet of those who are the most vocal in their calls for the break-up of the United Kingdom is that they style it as being some kind of progressive move rather than being about nationalism. Many of them loudly protest that they are internationalists and not nationalists and that an independent Scotland would become some paragon of wealth equality and social democracy. Despite the glaring economic holes in the case for independence, including the major downturn in the oil industry since the referendum in 2014 and the Scottish budget having a potential £15bn shortfall, they claim that Scotland could go its own way and avoid austerity and eradicate poverty.
Given that the majority of prominent independence campaigners are pitching the campaign to have a second independence referendum on what might be described as a left-wing platform, it is interesting to hear from voices on the left who are against having what is being styled as indyref2.
Arthur Scargill, one of the best-known leaders of the trade union movement in modern times has spoken out against holding another independence referendum until at least after Britain leaves the EU. Quoted in the Morning Star newspaper of 15 March he said:
“ARTHUR SCARGILL opposed the call for a second Scottish independence referendum yesterday and said Scotland “has an obligation” to abide by the vote to leave the EU.
The former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president said that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for another referendum should not be granted yet.
He told the Star: “Parliament must reject any proposal from the SNP for a second referendum until the UK has fully left membership of the EU.
“Then, and only then, should any suggestion of separation be even considered. I am speaking as a socialist.
“The Scottish people voted 55.3 per cent to remain in the United Kingdom. The Scottish people also voted in the largest ever known referendum whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave the EU.
“Having participated in that ballot they are bound to accept the decision to leave.”
Mr Scargill added: “I have fought all my life, along with people like Tony Benn, for the UK to withdraw from the iniquitous EU.”
Mr Scargill makes the important point that Scotland voted first to remain in the United Kingdom and then it voted as part of the UK to leave the European Union.
Also quoted in the Morning Star article is Ian Davidson the former Glasgow Labour MP:
“Ian Davidson, a member of Radical Options for Scotland and Europe (Rose), told the Star that the possible consequences of Scotland leaving the EU and “separating” from the rest of Britain should be made clear before any referendum decision is made.
He said: “The SNP is using the Brexit vote as an excuse to hold a referendum.
“The economic situation is far worse now in Scotland than it was before, so another referendum would be a disaster.
“Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell said that a separate Scotland would have ‘turbocharged austerity,’ and that would be correct. “We need socialism and not separatism. Labour would campaign against the idea of another referendum, but would not block it in Parliament.”
The timing of the referendum call also serves the SNP’s plan to “galvanise supporters” for local elections in May, Mr Davidson added”
From what might be termed the industrial left comes a damning critique of the SNP’s plans to break-up the United Kingdom and stay in the EU. Workers, the journal of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) had this to say in its March/April 2017 issue:
“ When over 72 per cent of the British electorate turned out in the EU referendum – a higher figure than in the last five general elections – it was clear they were voting as a British voice. Regions, sections or “nations” were not determining their own futures in or out of the European Union. It was a vote for Britain as a whole with a result that applied to Britain as a whole.
The path to this clear democracy had already been established in 2014 with victory for the rejection of Scottish independence in the referendum by nearly 11 percentage points. That decision reaffirmed that we are one nation from the Scilly Isles to the Shetland Isles.”
“Such worker unity is essential if we are to defend ourselves against the capitalist club that is the EU, with its free flows of capital and labour, anti-worker judgements in the European Courts of Justice and attacks on sovereignty. The class that forged the nation voted as a nation to reject the EU.”
So it is clear that opinion on the left of politics is in no way unanimous in its support for Scottish independence and thus the future of Scotland both in the United Kingdom and the European Union cannot be reduced to a simplistic left versus right debate.
By David Andrews