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A radical alternative for Scotland with lessons for the rest of Britain

classnationandsocialismcoversep2013Featuring prominent trade unionists, politicians, political activists, academics and researchers, a book was published this week by Scottish Labour’s Red Paper Collective, focused on the constitutional debate, but with a wider application in the battle of ideas for a fairer Scotland. Class, Nation and Socialism, available now  at £7.99, takes an unashamedly class-based perspective, but has implications for devolution throughout the UK.

As its editors write in the Herald, it is “critical of the stagnant debate of the competing nationalisms and poses a political challenge to both the Yes and Better Together Campaigns.” The book criticises the party’s alliance with the Tories and Lib Dems which it says has “alienated much of the Labour movement… Labour is in danger of losing the support of key opinion leaders among trade union and community activists.

According to Dave Watson,  blogger, leading member of the Scottish Labour executive and Head of Bargaining & Campaigns at Unison:

This is a book about the politics of social and economic change rather than constitutional change – the politics of class, not nationalism. There is plenty of vision and ideas, but laced with a pragmatic view of the possible, not the improbable. It also seeks to do what is often missing in the current national dialogue – putting the debate in a UK context. In the introduction, Owen Jones sets out why the outcome of the current debate in Scottish politics has clear ramifications in Britain and elsewhere.

Pauline Bryan and Tommy Kane, the books editors, argue in the Herald:

It is quite understandable that people may want to escape the possibility of a further assault on our public service and welfare services by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Many suggest we have nothing to lose from a Yes vote. The evidence presented in the Red Paper is unequivocal; we actually have a great deal to lose. Not least, as a Yes vote would break Scotland away from the democratic structures of the UK without breaking the control of Scotland’s economy that is overwhelmingly situated in London and other centres of global capital.

Constitutional change does not in itself mean social change and many of the promises of a progressive Scotland coming from the left of the Yes camp are more reflective of their own hopes rather than current political and economic realities. It is the case that the party that delivers independence will deliver the constitution and put an ideological stamp on the future development of Scotland, which would be hard to undo. The SNP will not conveniently dissolve itself and create space for a left-based alternative. Its very strength lies in its cross-class alliance that is committed to lowering corporation tax, keeping the monarchy, being part of a sterling zone and remaining in Nato and the EU.

The referendum could, however, be a turning point in Scotland even without a vote for independence. The remaining 12 months before the referendum provide an opportunity to raise fundamental questions about current political and economic conditions and to explore political alternatives which would be beneficial for people across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Amongst those alternatives are a radical approach to economic intervention:

A Scottish Government should be able to create publicly owned enterprises to rebuild Scotland’s industrial base on green technology, renewable and high-value manufacturing; addressing unemployment blackspots and creating a more prosperous future for the people, especially the young people, of Scotland.”

Class, Nation and Socialism is available by post from Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA for £11.00 including postage payable to ‘The Red Paper Collective’. Contributors include Labour MSP Neil Findlay and MP Katy Clark, deputy general secretary of the STUC Dave Moxham, Eric Shaw, of Stirling University, and Dr Muir Houston, of Glasgow University, tarde union members of the Scottish Labour executive, Richard Leonard (GMB), Jackson Cullinane (Unite) and Dave Watson (Unison)

The name of the Red Paper Collective comes from a similar idea that a certain Gordon Brown had back in 1975.

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