For a moment it looked like there was a real possibility that a radical, mass campaign would cause the breakup of the British state. Millions of Scottish people had decided that they’d had enough of neo-liberalism, Tories and nuclear weapons. In the face of an opposition which ranged from the Orange Order, the Windsor family and Gordon Brown, 45% of Scotland’s electorate declared that they wanted a different sort of country.
Cameron is wrong when he says the issue of Scottish independence is off the political agenda and in this issue we examine in detail what led to the referendum result and what its consequences are. It’s a safe bet that very quickly the question will be raised again. New generations of young Scottish people have been radicalised in the most profound way and the variants of Thatcherism that they are being offered by the Westminster parties have no attraction for them.
The speed of the Tory reaction was a testament to the quality of the training the British élite receives at Eton and Cambridge. Their class instincts kicked in as soon as the result was known. They immediately shifted the debate onto UKIP’s terrain with direct appeals to English nationalism. In this issue we also look at the democratic deficit in English politics and suggest some ways it can be addressed which make no concessions at all to English patriotism.
The Labour Party saved the union, even as many of its voters rejected its unionist message. Miliband learned very quickly that the Tories don’t do gratitude. All the campaign rhetoric about listening to the people of Scotland was instantly forgotten. Labour was humiliated and Nigel Farage’s moment in the sun had arrived. Since the morning of the referendum result much of the mainstream media has been acting as Ukip’s publicity department. The BBC in particular is compelled to let us know of his every utterance and public appearance.
We have a lot to say about Farage’s ultra-Thatcherite party. It’s in a de facto alliance with the most right wing Tories who are prepared to hand Labour the election, split the Conservatives and create a hard right Frankenstein’s monster in its place. However, not even seats which were once considered as Labour heartlands are now safe from the most successful hard right organisation Britain has seen in its political history.
Not every lesson from the Scottish referendum campaign can be directly exported. As Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood says in her interview with us, she will try to apply many of them in Wales. There is a national dimension to politics in Scotland and Wales which is very different from England. The question of which state you live in was an amazing mobilising force in Scotland. People in England are slowly getting used to the idea that the British state and England are not synonymous.
What we saw in Scotland was that a huge progressive and radical movement was built around a programme that was the very opposite of everything that Farage stands for. It was united in its opposition to racism; it opposed nuclear weapons; it had a strong ecological message and it rejected the neo-liberal common sense of its unionist opponents.
Again, this is something we examine closely because at a time when it looks like the entire political class and its journalists are being dragged along in slipstream of Farage’s tank, Scotland’s 45% showed us a completely different direction and a wholly new strategy.