Scotland: please explain!

Submitted by Matthew on 8 February, 2012 - 12:19

The editorial in Solidarity 231 seems to say:

1) We are against independence for Scotland because we favour larger units, etc.

2) However we are also in favour of breaking up the existing larger unit of the UK into three separate units (Scotland, Wales and England: a “democratic federal republic”);

3) Having broken the larger unit of the UK into the smaller units of Scotland, England and Wales, we then move the latter units back to a closer unity as fast as is compatible with the wishes of the population.

But the general principle enunciated in (1) is inconsistent with what is advocated in (2). And what is the point of (2) if the end goal is (3)? Leaving aside the issue of the monarchy, (3) basically exists already.

Please clarify.

Chris Stanley, Glasgow

Martin Thomas replies.

We want a unified, stateless, socialist world, with social rights and conditions levelled up globally (as far as possible: as Frederick Engels once wrote, people who live in the mountains will always have different conditions from plains-dwellers).

But socialists do not advocate the immediate amalgamation of all nations into a single, uniform political unit. In current conditions, and probably for a large period even after the victory of workers’ governments world-wide, that amalgamation would mean the domination of the better-equipped, larger nations over others. For now and for some time to come, we support independence for oppressed nations or nations at risk of oppression.

On the same principle, even when the disparity of resources and wealth between nations is small enough that we can back merger into a single state as an immediate move, we favour regional autonomy for distinct nationalities (i.e. a federal form of government), so as to reduce the risk not only of outright oppression but also even of friction and annoyance. Although none of the big nations of Europe is in broad historic terms oppressed, or at short-term risk of full-blown national oppression, we favour a federal union of those nations, not their immediate full amalgamation (“united states of Europe”).

The same applies for England and Scotland. For centuries Scotland has had a distinct legal and education system from England. We want a common system better than both the present English and the present Scottish system. But to translate our general historic aim of levelling up into an immediate demand for uniformity between Scotland and England would be quixotic. Now, and in the near future, because England is so much more populous than Scotland, it would mean putting Scotland under English rules, and doing that when on issues like university fees Scottish rules are less bad than English rules.

We don’t want to increase the differentiations and barriers between Scotland and England. But we do want a rational, democratic way of dealing with the differentiations which exist, and which it would be quixotic to try to abolish by immediate decree.

The old system where Scotland had separate rules, but they were all set by the same Westminster government which also set rules for England, was anomalous. So is the current system where separate Scottish rules are set by the Scottish parliament, but there is no broad federal framework. Better to have a federal framework. There would be overhead costs (federal institutions for England, or maybe for some chosen large regions of England), but the merits of regulating things according to general democratic principle rather than patched-up, anomaly-ridden makeshift outweigh them.

When advocating a reorganisation, obviously we advocate that it be democratic and republican: thus, democratic federal republic.

Within a democratic federal republic, we advocate “levelling-up”. We want fuller amalgamation as soon as the friction and annoyance that would be caused to the smaller nations by such amalgamation has been reduced by successive “levelling-up” to trivial proportions.

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