Independent Unity in Scotland
A platform of speakers from Syriza in Greece, Quebec Solidaire, Fronte de Gauche in France, EH Bildu party of the Basque country, and Palestine, left no doubt as to the internationalist credentials of Scotland’s Radical Independence Conference last weekend, writes Gordon Gibson.
Over 800 attendees, representing the gamut of Scottish politics from the SNP to the SWP, came together in Glasgow for as enthusiastic, optimistic and unifying a gathering of the left as one might hope to experience.
Edinburgh University’s Rector, Peter McCall’s rousing opening on the rise of revolutionary movements in Europe and his call ‘against fascism, against new liberalism, for an independent socialist Scotland’, was followed by speaker after speaker calling for popular Scots’ control over financial institutions, for free school meals, socialised housing and care for older people, an end to nuclear weapons, a boycott of Zionist Israel, promotion of arts and culture, a welcome to refugees, building the unions and communities, free education, women’s equality, a national investment bank to create jobs and a nuclear free green economy. This was a veritable programme for socialism. Make no mistake, the Scottish left is on the move.
To demonstrate a maturing unity, an ovation welcomed long time nationalist and CND campaigner Jean Urquart MSP to the platform. She and fellow SNP MSP John Finnie resigned from their party after its recent conference decision to overturn opposition to NATO. “We are for an independent Scotland, not a NATO-dependent Scotland.” Her reminder that the referendum is a direct result of the existence and success of the SNP was accepted positively by the conference.
In the face of a ‘new’ Scottish Labour Party seemingly intent on self-destruction, advocating cuts, attacking benefits scroungers and allying with the hated Tories and LibDems, a Labour for Independence grouping has emerged. The same weekend, the Labour dominated Scottish TUC declined to support Alistair Darling’s “Better Together” No campaign. Cuts, jobs, bankers and Trident make it too close to Cameron’s “all in this together big society” for even them to stomach.
The ‘no’ campaign offers the status quo, something Scottish voters have clearly rejected for decades. The call from ‘one nation’ Tories was brushed aside with typical humour: Scotland is a one Tory nation!
If there was an omission from the programme’s founding platform it was a cry for ‘a future for young people’ but the array of young speakers and the refreshing youth of the conference organisers allayed that concern.
Perversely, it was the overwhelming optimism and enthusiasm that both inspired and worried, if not in equal measure. This positive and constructive gathering caused supporters to stay late in large numbers, leave the hall buzzing with a real sense that the referendum can be won, and a commitment get out amongst young people, communities and unions with the campaigning. There was no consideration of the likely fightback by a British state that will resort to the foulest of means to prevent secession. If its political lackeys, its media, banking, legal and education establishments don’t do it, they will call out their neo-fascist unionists to further divide Scottish workers. This real danger must be addressed with pro-active campaigning and a start to resolve the social and economic needs of all Scots.
The conference understood that, unlike the SNP’s ‘don’t worry’, no-change, monarchy-NATO status quo campaign, this referendum will only be won if the Scottish people can see that independence will bring a real alternative to austerity, welfare cuts, and wars. Speakers from both the platform and the floor stressed the need to start work with voter registration amongst young people and in low-income communities, on housing, with asylum seekers, on cooperatives to counter poverty shortages, on child-care, on the green economy – on the socialist programme. Is ‘another Scotland’ more likely via Westminster or with a campaigning Scottish people and a democratic Scottish government?
The first marker for Radical Independence is next spring’s anti-Trident Faslane demonstration, set to be a massive popular focus of the anti-nuclear and Independence campaigns. The referendum can be won with such enthusiasm and commitment but only if Scots can see ‘A Better Scotland’ ahead.