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The Myth of Scottish Independence

Updated on June 27, 2015
A dog independent of its master?
A dog independent of its master?

Lower corporation tax "for fairness and equity"

Pro-NATO Nationalism

The Right-Wing Leadership of Both Camps

On September 18th 2014 the people of Scotland will be asked the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" This article will explain why this is an invalid question, entirely outwith the parameters of what is actually on offer in the referendum. There is no intention to sway readers to vote one way or other, but to make them think rationally about the question, and to deal in concrete realities rather than abstracted ideas, and most importantly, to expose the sham of what is on offer and the double-crossers and myth makers responsible.

Now the case for "independence" is put forward in a manner of ways. But we will start with the leading force of this movement. Firmly in the vanguard is the Scottish National Party and the umbrella group 'Yes Scotland'. They (SNP) are the largest party in the devolved Scottish Parliament, their leader Alex Salmond serves as Scotland's First Minister. These days the SNP are portrayed as self-styled Social Democrats. This has been a prolonged process as the Nationalists try to ditch their 'Tartan Tories' image.

Leading the opposing camp 'Better Together', are the UK-wide Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. The latter two form the UK coallition government. This is a firmly unapologetic right-wing neoliberal regime. In the case of the Labour Party, this ceased to have any claims to being a socialist or workers party, although, for now, are still affiliated to the leading Trade Unions - this is set to change and break the illusion once and for all.

Despite the public image of the SNP, the tendency of all parties and camps is to out-right-wing one-another. Each camp bends over backwards making concessions to international finance, Europe and the US. Both sides take to media attempting to convince the country and the wider world that their vision is best for business. Better Together argue that Scotland is best served remaining in the United Kingdom, with a stable currency: the pound, that an "independent" Scotland may not get EU membership and that this will negatively impact on the economy.

For the nationalists though, they had been making the case that Scotland would maintain a currency union with the UK, and continue to use the pound. Recently, this notion was put to bed by the UK government who said an "independent" Scotland would have to find its own currency. What will our currency be then? No-one knows.

But much more important is the issue of the EU, to which we will return to in discussion of the left-wing factions involved.

With Better Together painting a future of a possible economic basket-case, the SNP seeks to assure "investors". For a long time pre-2008 the SNP took to the media at every opportunity lauding the Irish 'Celtic Tiger' economy, Iceland and others as examples of small thriving European states. The financial meltdown that followed soon killed that argument. However, this has not stopped the Nationalists from continuing with their promises of lower corporation tax, with the intention of acting as a business tax haven. Of course, the end result of this policy is inevitable financial meltdown, after a period of a tax-race to-the-bottom: a period of competition with the UK to court big business and international finance. Despite the best PR and spin, this is Thatcherite trickle-down economics. Ditching the the tartan tories image, it seems, is not so well deserved.

The Radical Independence Trotskyite Front
The Radical Independence Trotskyite Front

The "Pro-Independence Left"

This is where the waters get murky. So far we have discussed the unashamedly pro-capitalist parties and groups, where we all know what to expect. On the left, nothing is so straightforward. But first of all, we will continue with the "pro-independence" left. Here we have a broad alliance easily described as the Liberal/Trotskyite left. These groupings come together in the 'Radical Independence' campaign. Included here are the unaffiliated ultra-leftists and armchair leftists who share their views. After a near century of whining that Stalin was wrong and Socialism in One Country is impossible! It is these elements who will be primarily charged with casting illusions, sleight of hand and outright fabrication. In essence, Trotskyism. Their main parties are the Scottish Socialist Party, it's breakaway party Solidarity, and the Socialist Workers Party.

Anyone from, or having spent time in Scotland will be familiar with some of the romantic notions which prevail, such as "the Scottish are more left-wing than the English". Despite this apparent fact, the same neoliberal parties dominate both North and South of the border, both in the UK parliament and devolved Scottish Parliament. The only variance is the size of each capitalist-party's individual block in parliament. Any governments elected in Scotland for the foreseeable future will be explicitly neoliberal.

Also existing is an attitude of Braveheartism. Scotland is portrayed as oppressed colony under English control. This is a cynical attempt to dupe the nominally catholic working class of Irish heritage to conflate Scotland with Ireland. What slander! This is to ignore that Scottish protestants played a leading role in the colonisation of Ireland. It is ignore that Scots have historically made up a larger proportion of the British army than of any other constituent part. It is to ignore that the Act of Union was signed by independent Scotland in 1707, in great part as a response to the disastrous Darien Scheme. This is when bonnie wee Scotland attempted a land grab in Panama, and to establish a colony: trailblazing in imperialism.

Alongside debatable idealised romanticism, we have myth creation. "Under independence we will rule our own affairs/control our own economy/have no more foreign wars." This is a skillfully crafty and cunning manipulation of language: a trait of Trotskyism. It is this line which dupes so many of the well intentioned Scottish working class.

Firstly, on the issue of ruling our own affairs and controlling our own destiny. There are multiple realities that cut through this particular illusion. Of course, key to the central issue of this article, is firstly the use of the term "Under Independence...", as will be shown, independence is not on offer, it is out of the question.

The following "we will run our own affairs", can be put to bed more simply. This is a falsehood for many reasons. We should first of all highlight the absurdity of so-called 'Marxists' telling us we will be in control of our own affairs by electing bourgeois parties to a bourgeois parliament, no, electing any parties to a bourgeois parliament! Any Marxist knows that the power of the state is much greater than the power of parliament (yet they talk of Stalinists distorting Marxism). Even if the Trotskyite parties controlled parliament (they don't and they won't, nor can) they would not control the great body of the bourgeois apparatus: the police force, the army, the civil service.. Under the terms of independence we will retain the British monarch as head of state with all the division of power that entails. And we have not even begun on the EU yet!

We can do that on this question of "control our own economy". Anyone who knows the first thing about the European Union, knows the utter ridiculousness the notion of economic control is, within the context of EU member status. To be an EU member, states must sign away their control and ownership at the door. The EU is a free trade zone, first and foremost. That alone makes economic control impossible. For it is not possible to control and direct ones economy when it is owned primarily in Washington and London, and this is the harsh economic reality - no vote can take away their status of economic privilege and ownership. The EU allows no nationalisation, no state-ownership. For small states, this is especially forbidden - only the mega political powers like Germany can take on the EU, or rather manipulate it to it's own benefit. Even when in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Gordon Brown's Labour government took the step of nationalising some collapsing banks, this was allowed on the condition that it was temporary, and once the losses had been socialised (banks had been saved and debt secured by the public purse) the profits must be privatised. This is the reality of EU membership.

Finally to "no more foreign wars", nice idea but not reality. Under Scottish Independence, the SNP have rushed to assure their masters: international capital and it's political force, the USA. Scotland will retain membership of the imperialist beast of NATO. NATO membership entails NATO wars, and NATO wars mean foreign wars, imperialist wars fighting at the behest of the US. In summary, things will remain exactly as is. As the US pushes for more markets to dominate, ferments unrest and declares war on those pursuing an actual independent path, we will remain an accomplice of the bandits.

What kind of independence leaves you possibly with a foreign currency, a British hereditary head of state, an economy owned in London and New York, while directed by Brussels, and a military controlled in Washington?

Of course on all of these issues the same is true of the United Kingdom which is also controlled at an EU-NATO level, in conjunction with international capital.

History has taught us to expect these tricks of the Trotskyite enemies. They have learned from their hero. As Lenin said of Trotsky "What a swine this Trotsky is—Left phrases, and a bloc with the Right". Unfortunately, some of the working class allow themselves to be duped by the conjuring.

The Trotskyites have even successfully painted in some quarters that the "pro-independence" camp is the left wing camp. And it is true that the right-wing Lib-Lab-Con parties are the mainstream no campaigners, they are in the vanguard of what is essentially an inter-ruling class struggle verging on a distraction aimed to nullify class struggle by the working class in these times of acute economic crisis. It must be reiterated, both camps are firmly led by ruling class bourgeois parties.

A Little Marxism

However, if the Trotskyites were to be believed, the world would think Scottish independence is a Left v Right issue. This could not be further from the truth. This is not only shown by all that has been written so far, but by the fact that both the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party of Great Britain-ML are both opposed to Scottish "independence", not to mention George Galloway MP. Many of their arguments overlap with the exisiting realities already mentioned in this article, particularly the CPB positions on NATO and the EU. The CPB also stress that capital is organised at a London level, and so in order to be effective the working class response must be at a British level also. The CPB also engage with Socialism First, a trade unionist/remnants of old Labour group campaigning for a no vote.

In the left-wing No campaign, CPGB-ML have taken the step of arguing that Scotland is not a nation. This is based on Stalin's excellent work 'Marxism and the National Question', a work explicitly endorsed by Lenin, and surely central to the Marxist understanding of nation. Stalin's basic position being (although it is of course more refined by the context it rests within the pamphlet)

"A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture."

Whether the conclusion that Scotland is part of the British nation, is the correct Marxist conclusion, the reader can decide.

So what we have then is certainly not a left v right debate with a pro-independence left vs a pro-union right. Such proclomations are vulgar, infantile and uneducated. On the apparent right, we have communists, and on the apparent left, we have pro-EU, pro-NATO capitalists. Clearly the dichotomy is wrong.

There is no left-right distinction, and therein lies the problem. We are at a time of ecocomic crisis. A class war should be fought, but is neglected in favour of constitutional concerns. Oh how the bourgeoisie must laugh. Yes or No, "Independence" or "Union", the bourgeoisie win and capitalism is not challenged. How they have masterfully crafted the art of class warfare. From the cunning of the enemy there is much to learn. We must first master their tactics, strategy and deceit, then adapt and evolve these to go on the offensive. This is a long road, bogged down by one word political discourse of "Yes" and "No.

Personally, I am pro-independence. I am for real independence, the kind that can only be achieved by long and arduous struggle. The kind that allows us economic control whether in Scotland, the UK, Europe or beyond (This is not to say we should aim for global revolution or nothing. But that I would build socialism, wherever possible, wherever practical. If the conditions allowed it to be possible I would support building socialism in a single street. But the conditions of Scottish "independence" forbid socialism). The kind of independence that is more than a slogan or a single word. But this is achievable only by way of defeating the imperialist beast, the US, EU, NATO, bourgeois block. I said it was not my intention to propagandise for a yes or no, but to expose the myth of what is on offer, and expose the double-crossers responsible.

"The strength of the national movement is determined by the degree to which the wide strata of the nation, the proletariat and peasantry, participate in it.

Whether the proletariat rallies to the banner of bourgeois nationalism depends on the degree of development of class antagonisms, on the class consciousness and degree of organization of the proletariat. The class-conscious proletariat has its own tried banner, and has no need to rally to the banner of the bourgeoisie." - J.V Stalin

Further Reading
Further Reading


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    • profile image

      Paul 3 years ago

      Nice article. For what it's worth cpgb-ml argue Scotland doesn't constitute a nation but are generally in favour of devolved power (in Scotland and the regions) based on the fact that under the present historical conditions it gives the working class more ability to exert influence. As your article correctly points out, and what most people miss(!) is that this isn't a vote on independence in any meaningful sense!

    • Comrade Joe profile image

      Comrade Joe 3 years ago from Glasgow, United Kingdom

      Do you have any actual criticisms to make Nicky? You could have attacked any argument I made, but instead chose not to. Make an actual critique and I will engage with it. But so far you have given me nothing but empty idealistic platitudes.

      I also assume it is you who sent a friend request via Facebook but i won't keep association with anyone who says

      "I need to point out that past or current forms of existing "communism" (including Stalinist and Maoist strains) are acutely anti-communist - that is to say that they are the opposite of what true communism is."

      As i found within seconds of looking at your page.

    • profile image

      Nicky P 3 years ago

      Joe this is exactly the sort of ill-founded reactionary tosh that will obviously spew forth from the closed minds of obscure and anachronistically moded ideologues like yourself. Unless of course I have read you all wrong on account of this perverse diatribe here. And if that sounds strong it is because your article is strong and wrong. I invite you to debate this publicly and amicably on real terms.

    • Comrade Joe profile image

      Comrade Joe 3 years ago from Glasgow, United Kingdom

      the 2011 UK census showed that 83% of the population were born in Scotland, 9% were born in England.

    • Baby-Boomer-58 profile image

      Alex Finn 3 years ago

      My Scottish friends tell me there's now more English people living in Scotland than Scots. Watching travel programs on the tv, there certainly seems to be a lot of English accents in the Scottish tourist destinations and businesses they visit.

      While I accept my friends might be exaggerating, each of the many English now residing in Scotland presumably has a vote.

      I will make a note beneath September 18 on my calendar and watch with interest for the results. Oops. Better make that September 19. I keep forgetting that Brits are a day behind. :)