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Seven left-wing reasons for staying together

union flag melts away from scotlandViewed from afar, Better Together has been a poor show. Not in terms of numbers involved out canvassing day after day. I’m on about the politics on offer. The vision thing. Yes have it. That an independent Scotland will share the monarchy, be a semi-colony of the Bank of England and fancies a corporation tax race to the bottom with rUK and the Irish doesn’t really matter. It won’t be this forever. Where Salmond and the SNP have been really clever is allowing ‘Scotland’ to be populated by all kinds of aspirations. It’s a sail catching every gust of hope, and one that may well blow it across the finish line.

Better Together have absolutely not done this. Alastair Darling has approached the independence referendum as a managerial matter. Questions of social justice, of what the union could be and should be have been crowded out by technical arguments around currency, pensions, oil revenues and economic stability. These are important issues, but you fight politics with politics. You match ideas with ideas. You have to show the people of Scotland how life will get better under continued union with the rest of the UK. Saying “more of the same” is simply not good enough.

Yet just as an independent Scotland would not always be the plaything of the bond markets, so a no vote does not necessarily mean Westminster business-as-usual. The situation is pregnant with positive, tangible possibilities. If it survives the union and the 63 million people of the UK stands on the cusp of irreversible change. So, on the day the RMT in Scotland narrowly voted to endorse the Yes campaign, here are seven political reasons for saying No Thanks, and staying with us.

  1. Labour are going to win the general election next year. Yes, really. The SNP have – wisely – tried tying the yes vote to anti-Tory sentiment. As a country, Scotland is the most spontaneously social democratic section of the British Isles. This is nothing to do with the “natural character” of Scottishness. It is rooted in the brutalities of deindustrialisation, the use of Scotland as Thatcher’s proving ground for the Poll Tax, and how the people of Scotland had no constitutional comeback at governments the country didn’t vote for, both then and now. Yet Conservative rule can be counted out in the months. Tory civil war, UKIP, and general nastiness and incompetence have done for them.
  2. Labour have a recognisably social democratic policy agenda. It’s not consistent. There are too many residues of the old thinking and concessions to anti-immigrant scaremongering. Yet on the whole, the package is moving in the right direction: left. Scotland’s NHS is yet to be blighted by backdoor marketisation. Under Labour, it never will be. But more than that, Labour is looking to develop a national care service alongside the NHS so our elderly and most vulnerable people will not get caught up in or be let down by medical and social care professionals working in silos. Labour is committed to capping energy bills and rents, of making sure the scourge of low pay is checked and reversed by raising the minimum wage and vigorously promoting the living wage, of scrapping the bedroom tax and dumping the Tory proposals to victimise the poor further. More house building, a jobs guarantee, increasing taxes on the rich – if it’s a scrap over social democratic policies the SNP want, it’s what they will get.
  3. If Scotland votes no, it still wins. Devo-max, which all the Westminster parties are signed up for, enables Scotland to keep its tax beyond contributing to the provision of services/institutions managed on an all-UK basis (EU membership, NATO, foreign office, overseas aid, R&D, UK-wide infrastructure investment, etc.). Never again will a Westminster government be able to attack the people of Scotland through the block grant. As is right, Scotland’s spending priorities should be up to the Scottish parliament. This has none of the risks so belaboured by Darling, and undermines the centralism of Westminster government in the rest of England.
  4. Speaking of centralisation, the Labour party is committed to handing power and money to local authorities. In a few short years a century of Westminster centralisation will be undone. If this is good enough for England and Wales, it’s good enough for Scotland too. While the SNP, paradoxically, aren’t so keen on devolving power away from Edinburgh if Scotland stays in the union empowering local government this way will be irresistible. Local elections will matter much more because our communities have a greater say of how their money is spent. In Scotland, I hope this would mean a deeper embedding of social democracy which, in turn, will inspire, inform, and change local politics south of the border.
  5. The independence referendum has changed the union. It will never be the same again. But that change needs deepening. If Scotland does vote no as per current polling, the margins will be tight. It means afterward Scotland will be in a stronger, emboldened position within the union. Independence won’t go away, a comeback and revisit is inevitable in the medium to longer term. To keep Scotland on board all of the above is not enough. There has to be a massive policy shift. As it just so happens, one is bobbing up and down on the horizon. Living in times of uncertain energy prices and growing insecurity, we shall increasingly have to turn to the resources of these islands to provide our needs. Presently the Scottish government have the target of 100% of Scotland’s energy to be generated by wind power by 2020. If Scotland remains in the UK, the political minefield and environmental lunacy of fracking makes Scottish wind and wave extremely attractive for speedy investment. This means a real shot in the arm for the greenreindustrialisation of Scotland and a windfall under devo-max as electricity is exported to the rest of the UK and elsewhere. That could happen anyway, but how much longer would it take if left to the Scottish government alone? Scotland is in a strengthened position to lobby for and make the case for the rapid development of these resources, but only within the union.
  6. If Scotland remains in the union, its anti-Tory majority will have the pleasure of kicking this odious government out of power. Not just that, 2010-15 may well be their last hurrah. Splits and UKIP are bleeding them dry, they cannot seriously claim to be a Britain-wide party like Labour can and, long-term, demographics are against them and the UKIP freak show. Do you really want to leave the fun of delivering the coup de grace to the English and Welsh only?
  7. I admit it, one of the reasons I want you in Scotland to stay with us is entirely selfish. I am a socialist. I want to see a better society in which all that is best about our shared culture – solidarity, liberty, acceptance – to be celebrated. All that is ugly, the sexism, racism, xenophobia, bigotry, whether it comes in an orange sash or a yellow and purple leaflet, needs driving out. The obscenity of inequality and dominance of the city is disgusting. The great thing is I’m far from untypical. There are millions here who want to see what I want to see. If you vote no, the act of union goes from a parchment born of aristocratic and dynastic skulduggery to something much better: a voluntary union of peoples. Scottish social democracy now is no finished article, but already strengthens the popular centre left majority where you are strengthens the political balance in favour of working people and their families here too. And when we vote in a Labour government next year, social democracy will be yet further embedded in Scottish politics. If we have each others’ backs, we can make life better for all 63m of us. So please, when you cast your ballot on the 18th, vote to stay with us.

7 Comments

  1. Mukkinese says:

    At last a positive case for staying together.

    The independence case of linking unionism with the Tories is hard to comprehend, but seems to have taken hold with some Scots.

    I really hope that if Scotland does gain independence then the Scottish electorate holds Salmond and the “Yes” camp to account for what happens and do not let them get away with pointing the finger of blame south.

    With the “optimistic”, and probably unrealistic, deadline of eighteen months for separation negotiations set by Salmond, we can see that he is already preparing a “blame” stick with which to hit Westminster…

  2. David Melvin says:

    So Labour’s last ditch stand is to bring Ed Balls and Baron Prescott to a rally to convince these troublesome Scots to vote for the union and continued austerity and privatisation. That should be a boost to the “Yes” campaign!

  3. Chris says:

    What about the fact that the British are one people and we belong together?

    Personally I’d prefer a lot more union jacks, patriotic songs and reminders what country people’s grandads fought for in the wars.

  4. swatantra says:

    I rather like the idea of a Scotland running along the lines of other Scandinavian Social Democracies with populations of around 5m. Denmark Sweden and Norway are doing quite well, and so is Finland. Scotland is a Nordic Country, and will be returning home.

    1. Mukkinese says:

      No doubt Scotland could eventually become like Sweden, though it does not have near the same oil and gas resources of Norway.

      The problem is how long and how hard it will be to get there. The Scottish government cannot answer some fundamental questions and so is clearly not properly prepared for independence…

      1. Robert says:

        Ok course the Scottish Government may be a labour party, you cannot blame one party, since the Tories would have no hope in Scotland, the SNP are more or less a Socialist party in some of it idea, while for a while Labour looked and sounded like new labour.

        So if Scotland go it alone we may well see labour having to look at it self to see which way it will go.

  5. David Melvin says:

    Why do all the “No” supporters with Labour party posters look miserable and all “Yes” supporters upbeat? It must be the prospect of Ed Miliband employing Baron Prescott as a border guard at Gretna Green. When are Labour going to realise that their policies of austerity and privatisation gives no hope for the future is the problem not the solution. In Scotland the alternative to Labour may just give hope. The Green party in England have now clearly positioned themselves to the left of Labour. Possibly there is hope

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