In just a few days' time, we have witnessed prominent
Of course, I couldn't care less about what Blair, Brown, or Souter and Mathewson think about the pros and cons of Scottish separatism. What I do care about is what this change of tender tycoon hearts translates to politically.
The average Left unionist would, of course, seize the opportunity to attack the struggle for Scottish Independence as bourgeois or petty-bourgeois (they can't really make up their you see) nationalism, an evil project that will undermine working class unity on the island to the benefit of the ruling class. I do not wish here to deal with the pseudo-internationalist broken record of the Brit left. The time will come for that in another post. What I want to address is what these developments actually mean for those on the left that do support independence.
To begin with, it is necessary to remind ourselves that Scottish Independence is not an abstract demand rooted in romantic nationalism. The average Scottish working person that is supportive of independence is not so because s/he wants to see the Saltire flying over Edinburgh castle instead of the Union Jack. The demand for Scottish Independence is the product of the synthesis of a number of other key issues affecting the Scottish people, whether political, such as the democratic deficit, or economical, such as the grinding poverty experienced by people in Scotland. Such problems can never of course be permanently solved within a capitalist framework. They can, however, be at least addressed by a government that is not completely preoccupied with sucking up to big business through moderate measures such as providing free school meals and scrapping the council tax.
The problem though is that the SNP is more and more dependent on big business; its quasi social-democratic era under William Wolfe's leadership in the 1970's is long gone. The SNP has been gradually abandoning its formerly populist programme for an increasingly neo-liberal agenda. The revelation that the nationalists will (should they win in May) put separatism in the freezer until they have proven able to govern (govern what? Holyrood?) should not really come as a surprise to anyone. For the SNP (or better, its leadership) and its bourgeois masters fiscal independence is just as good as full separation as fiscal autonomy (that is, the ability to give even bigger handouts to capital) is what they're really after. Even their old policy of withdrawing Scotland from NATO has been effectively (although not officially - more like RESPECT has abandoned socialism) dropped meaning that even if Scotland does break away from the UK, she'll still be a loyal lapdog to the US.
All this effectively means that the SNP cannot deliver independence, or better, it cannot resolve the real problems that the demand for independence springs from. At best, the SNP can deliver formal independence from the UK, offering us a tartan clad version of the British state apparatus. Most likely however, the SNP will follow the path of its Catalunian counterpart.
So what is our task? We must break the hegemony of the SNP over the pro independence movement and at the same time show that the struggle for independence cannot but go hand in hand with the struggle for socialism and republicanism. The false-separatists are just as much an important political opponent as the unionists. We must also challenge the left-nationalist notion that growing support for the SNP is somehow a positive thing because it brings us closer to independence. It doesn't, not in any meaningful way. We must also challenge the rather abstract demand for "A referendum on Scottish independence" by Independence First. Referenda can be manipulated and it is a huge political blunder to campaign for one when you are not sure to win it. Further, campaigning for an independent Scotland in the abstract, as IF does will also not get us very far in the long run. If we are to gain the active support of the Scottish people we must be able to present a tangible alternative to the British state, rather than rely on their national pride.
The struggle for Scottish independence must be conducted on explicitly republican grounds while building socialist hegemony over the movement must be our primary objective. MacLean's call for a Scottish Workers' Republic is just as relevant now as it ever was.