2020s >> 2020 >> no-1387-march-2020

Scottish Independence : Tartan Delusions

On the 31January the blue Euro-banner was hauled down at Westminster and the Union flag raised in its stead. In Edinburgh, though, the self-awarded gold stars flag was pointedly left fluttering in place next to the saltire.

The SNP are making a none too subtle point. The antidote to the referendum they don’t like is to be… another referendum. It would seem the political ‘logic’ is that the best way to counter leaving a union is to leave a union.

It is somewhat ironic that the clash between Holyrood and Westminster stems from a single shared source, nationalism, be it competing nationalisms. The cause is perceived sovereignty, as if Scotland, or England, or Britain can stand alone, or at least break away from a power portrayed as inhibiting its freedom.

However, what would the SNP do in short order should they achieve independence? Give it up to the EU of course. Similarly, should Britain shake off the last vestiges of EU influence, then treaties will be sought and signed with such as the USA.

Not only will the USA want untrammelled access to the NHS for its big pharma, for example, there will be a demand for any arrangements to be subject to America’s legal system. For the USA substitute any other major trading nation/bloc and something similar will apply.

This is what ‘independence’ means in a global capitalist world. Significant change cannot be achieved by a binary vote in a referendum. At best there is some reordering of the arrangements, but essentially, adjustments made, capitalism continues unhindered other than by its own contradictions.

The SNP has previously stated its intention of retaining the monarch as their country’s head of state, continuing the use of sterling and joining NATO. Presumably unaware of any contradiction, they also want to be rid of the Trident submarine bases.

Do they really think that if capitalism degenerates to the point where international warfare results in the use of nuclear weapons, the removal of Trident bases will somehow insulate Scotland from the consequences?

Should the SNP decide the monarch was not to be their head of state, then a president or some such would fulfil that function. Has being a republic lessened the grip of capitalism, with its extremes of war, inequality and crises, on the USA?

If Scotland was denied the use of sterling presumably that would mean embracing the euro with all its financial hazards and, more importantly, subservience to, not independence from, the European Union. If sterling is retained, then economic policy would, ultimately, continue to be determined in London.

The formation of Britain enabled the industrial revolution to create a dynamic economy in which Scots, Welsh and English played full parts. This also led to the formation of the working class with interests transcending those of constituent regional and national parts. Workers in Scotland faced the same exploitative capitalism as they did in England and Wales and expressed their voice through their own organisations, the trade unions.

And nothing has changed. Workers on any side of a border, wherever it is drawn, all face the same fundamental problem, capitalism. To exist, capitalism must exploit workers to make profit. Painting your face blue with crossed white stripes alters this not one iota.

Whatever the outcome of another referendum the people of Scotland will continue to live under a parliamentary system designed to preserve the interests of capitalism. If they have opted for ‘independence’ they will find ‘sovereignty’ surrendered to the EU.

The parliamentary system has evolved to serve the interests of capitalism, not democracy. It does not matter if a parliament is situated in London or Edinburgh, nor if its benches are upholstered in tartan and populated by nationalist MSPs, it will remain subservient to the needs and preservation of capitalism.

Referendums are designed to give apparently simple solutions to complex problems, they are the chosen way of despots and demagogues attempting to garner some semblance of popular support of their self-serving programmes.

The ballot box can indeed be part of the response of the working class to taking economic and political power away from the capitalist class. But this will have to be just one element of a much wider movement in which the working class consciously acts for itself.

No referendum can solve problems for the working class, not in Scotland, not in Britain via Brexit (or re-joining the EU at some point), not anywhere. There is no Tartan alternative to socialism.

DAVE ALTON