But I have failed miserably in refusing to watch the fitba on Sky despite Alex Salmond’s cosiness with Rupert Murdoch (oh, and Murdoch’s dislike for unions, democracy and all that namby-pamby liberal nonsense). I still recklessly watch Bond movies despite the fact that Shir Sean was born just along the road from me and backs independence for a country he doesn’t want to live in. I even speak to (and occasionally accept drinks from) my mates who unfathomably voted Yes in the referendum.
In my deluded way, I strongly believe that Dame Anne Begg is not a Nazi, despite the conclusions the nationalist underbelly draws, and trolls about, from a photo somebody took of her with a National Front guy she didn’t know was a National Front guy. I know this conclusion is based largely on a pile of misinformation about her long fight for disabled rights and on other equalities issues, her chairing of the Parliament All Party Group on Equalities and her voting against the Iraq war in 2003.
Oh, and there was the speech to the Aberdeen TUC St Andrew’s Day Rally in 2014 when she paid tribute to
“proud record in fighting fascism and standing against apartheid” and vowed
that the fight would go on. I am so naïve. Don’t you know that the official record, the Aberdeen
TUC and Wikipedia are all part of the
establishment offensive against Scots patriotism?
I quote this kind of damaging nonsense from the nationalist - and no doubt from the unionist - fanatical fringes, because there is a more worrying mainstream effect. There is an element of an intolerant ‘nationalist’ versus ‘unionist’ political context bedding itself into Scottish politics - as opposed to a constructive ‘left’ versus ‘right’ debate.
One where a basic belief in independence or not is an end in itself. One where
Scotland is divided and will become ever more divided if we are not careful.
In the most radical time in
history, John Maclean saw the road to socialism coming through independence. Keir
Hardie was perhaps closer to federalism while Willie Gallacher eschewed both in
favour of an internationalist agenda. They were unanimous in one thing and that
was temperance. Try selling that one these days!
However, there was clearly room for healthy differences of view in our socialist history. They were differences of view based on an underpinning principle of socialism. None were prepared to dilute that objective in any way in their quest for their preferred constitutional future for
The debate remained firmly on ‘left’ versus ‘right’.
The ‘unionist’ label is used to imply association with the Tories and bigoted fringes. I am not a ‘unionist’ and neither is anyone else I know who voted No. I am socialist who believes social justice will be best delivered by solidarity of working people across our nations. I was not prepared to accept the poverty and inequality I believe would have arisen from independence as a price worth paying. With what we now know about oil prices, debt, borrowing and currency implications, I am even more convinced.
However, I also know many Yes voting comrades who would not be happy with the label ‘nationalist’ and all that implies about blind patriotism. They too are socialists who see the practical road to socialism as being unachievable in a Tory dominated
and only able to be delivered through independence.
The trouble at the moment is that progressive voices are being drowned out by a ‘Labour-bad’ agenda that, despite all the changes Labour has made, has succeeded in damaging the credibility of so many good socialist candidates; followed by an ‘SNP-bad’ response that seems to get people’s defensive hackles up rather than creating a debate on the issues.
At the risk of being labelled as an ‘SNP-bad’ type, I have to say that in some quarters (especially online) any political debate about the SNP’s record in government has been effectively stifled because of the sheer torrent of vituperative responses. That cannot be good in any political system.
With a referendum now at least a few years away, somewhere, somehow, we need to get back to the issues we face here and now.
For me, in local government, that is thousands of people going into 2016 out of a job. Thousands more having unmanageable workloads piled upon them to cover. Care services (yes, part of our health provision) facing new cuts, privatisations and outsourcings that will further undermine pay, conditions, living wage progress and of course quality of service to the most vulnerable.
Of course the Scottish Government can’t defeat austerity alone even if it wanted to. But it can mitigate it and so far it has not seriously attempted that. The words are good but the actions don’t match them. It is not being ‘anti-independence’ to challenge that failure.
One of its tools is tax powers, including the Council Tax. Despite all the hype about
being socially progressive and prepared to pay for good public services, no
party looks ready to chance higher taxation to mitigate austerity as a
vote-winner! That’s all the more reason we need a cross-party resolution to the
Council Tax issue.
It is also a reason for socialists in Labour and the SNP to argue in and out of their parties to persuade people that beating austerity, delivering universal services and benefits, and working towards social justice means we have to pay our fair share in a progressive tax system. It is a role that the People’s Assembly Scotland will be building on at its rally/
on 23 January in Glasgow.
Without that, we just replicate the worst of
at Holyrood, whether or not we are independent, by playing to the opinion polls
and focus groups with the sole aim of gaining or retaining power to tweak at
the edges, rather than trying to fundamentally change the debate. Westminster