People in Scotland should vote yes in the forthcoming independence referendum because it is the option for progressive change writes Ralph Blake. A Yes vote will see not only a complete realignment of political forces in Scotland but the virtual marginalisation of the right wing – the Conservative party and UKIP.
Left critics of independence argue that a yes vote is tantamount to vote for the SNP and hence their policies as outlined in their white paper on independence. This is not the case however, as the Scottish electorate at the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election only gave the SNP a mandate to hold a referendum on independence not a mandate for their policies or to negotiate the terms of any independence with the test of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UKGBNI).
We have analysed in depth over the last 18 months the shortcomings of the SNP’s policies and their left nationalist supporters while providing radical alternative policies[i].
There are a range of views on matters from the monarchy, NATO, EU, social issues, the economy to the financial system. Nobody is voting in the referendum on these issues only that Scotland and the people of Scotland should decide how these matters should be handled.
The SNP are rushing to try and head off any democratic debate and decisions on these issues. They have declared their intention, in the event of a yes vote on 18th September 2014, to start the next day negotiating the terms of independence with the Westminster government inviting Labour MSPs to participate in the negotiating team.
We say that the SNP and Labour don’t have a mandate to carry out these tasks. That the terms of independence, a new Scottish constitution, the organisation of the economy and the financial system and the social and foreign policies of a new Scotland should be decided by the Scottish people as a whole through democratic debate and voting.
The best mechanism to achieve this is a constituent assembly where members are elected by the Scottish people. This would allow political parties, campaigns, movements and individuals to stand on a declared platform of policies for independence. The constituent assembly elections could be held several months after the 18th September 2014 allowing sufficient time for a participatory democratic debate on how an independent Scotland would look. The assembly would then be tasked with drawing up a constitution, the basis of the terms for negotiating independence and basic principles on social, economic, financial and foreign policies.
It is key that left supporters of independence not only campaign for yes vote but for this constituent assembly as well. At the same time demanding that the welware reforms are stopped in an independent Scotland and that austerity is immediately ended and that the cuts that have been implemented so far are reversed. This is something that some members of the Radical Independence Campaign are taking up.
At the same time as campaigning for a yes vote the left and progressive forces must start actively putting their alternatives to the SNP forward to show the Scottish population that the SNP don’t have a monopoly vision of what a future Scotland could look like. These alternative policies could include:
- An end to minority, LGBT and women’s discrimination ;
- No membership of war alliances such as NATO;
- A democratic participatory expansion of the Scottish parliament and end to the monarchy
- Reduce inequality in Scotland by a wealth tax and a progressive income tax
- Restore corporation tax to 30%
- Close down tax avoidance schemes
- Take our natural resources under democratic public control, ownership and management
- Take key services such as public transport, utilities, the post office back under democratic public ownership, control and management
- Create a public banking system that serves the people and public investment
- Establish a central bank using Scotland’s share of the Bank of England’s reserves
- Our own currency free from either Bank of England or European Union control
- A national pension retirement scheme that ensures all have a basic standard of living at retirement
- A social housing building programme to meet the housing crisis
- Investment in a public renewables industry to create jobs and move the economy away from fossil fuels
- Take Scotland’s fair share of the UK’s debt and make the rich, wealthy, bankers and corporations pay for it and the deficit’s reduction not the people of the rest of the UKGBNI
It is likely that the demand for constituent assembly will not be met and that any negotiating will be carried out by the SNP and some Labour figures. That does not mean the campaign for a constituent assembly and putting demands on the SNP will be futile. Such a campaign will raise people’s consciousness in Scotland and help to realign the left into a new political force that continues campaigning on these issues until 2016 Scotties elections. We know that the SNP and Labour will not be able to deliver on their promises which are why both the alternative message must be heard and an alternative political force formed that can. We are entering a period of dynamic change in Scottish politics and the left has a unique opportunity to shape the future of this change pushing it in a radical direction.