“It is difficult to decide which camp in the Scottish independence debate makes the stronger case for voting the opposite way,” were the sensible opening words in the 21 February editorial in the Morning Star.
In recent weeks, the editorial pointed out, “some dire weakness in the SNP-led Yes campaign have been ruthlessly exposed.”
The SNP claims that the pound would be the currency in an independent Scotland and that Scotland would be part of a “currency union” with the RUK (remainder of the UK). But all three Westminster parties have rejected such a “currency union”; an independent Scotland would have to have its own currency.
The SNP also claims that an independent Scotland would automatically remain a member of the European Union (EU). But EU Commission President Barroso has said that it would be “nearly impossible” for an independent Scotland gain membership of the EU.
The editorial might have pointed out how SNP-Scotland likes to tell the rest of the world how to run its affairs, on the basis that what’s good for Scotland is good for the world.
Thus, the RUK will have a currency union with Scotland, the EU will admit Scotland into membership, NATO will allow Scotland to remove Trident from the Clyde but maintain NATO membership, and the BBC will continue to offer Scotland all its output.
And an independent Scotland will continue to be British, Salmond has claimed, because Britishness is the property of people in Scotland as much as it is of the people of the RUK.
The Morning Star also rightly pointed out that the “left and republican forces in Scotland” who support independence have yet to explain why it would “create more favourable conditions for achieving a genuinely independent, socialist Scotland.”
For instance, in theory, the “left and republican forces” should have welcomed the rejection by Westminster parties of a “currency union” and the consequent need to establish a new Scottish currency.
But an article by the International Socialist Group (which initiated the “Radical Independence Conference”) only recommend an article on the Open Democracy website (which argues for a separate Scottish currency on the grounds that it would make Scottish exports more competitive).
The basic response of the ISG was to simply sidestep the issue: “The rights and wrongs of currency union are really not the issue.” The “real issue” in the referendum, claimed the ISG, is to pass judgement on British history:
“September 18th is a referendum on the history of the British regime. It is the fulcrum of everything that has past: the wars, the crushing of strikes, neo-liberalism. … The referendum narrative will be remembered by many as the people versus the British state.”
The Morning Star was equally scathing about the official No campaign of the main parties (“Better Together”):
“The unionist arguments deployed against a Yes vote have been reactionary enough to drive any progressive-minded democrat into the independence camp. Like Chicken-licken, Turkey-Lurkey and Ducky-lucky, the doom-mongers want the Scottish people to believe that a falling acorn means the sky is coming down.”
The arguments for a No vote of “Better Together” vacillate between verbiage and incoherence.
According to the campaign: “We are proud that we fought together to defeat fascism and worked together to build a welfare state.”
But that welfare state is being dismantled by the Con-Dem coalition (after years of dismantling by New Labour)!
Despite it being something of an oddity in a discussion about the referendum, the Morning Star editorial also raised the issue of the specific interests of the (all-British) labour movement: “The organic organizational unity of the labour movement across Britain is one of its greatest strengths.”
This makes the labour movement “potentially the most powerful force” to “secure left governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and London.” These governments would govern within the overall framework of “enhanced devolution guaranteed by a federal Britain.”
(Being the Morning Star, it placed this in the context of an “anti-monopoly alliance”, but this did not obscure the basic point it was making.)
Where the Morning Star editorial lost the plot was through cross-referencing the issue of independence for Scotland with its visceral (and reactionary, little-England or little-Britain) hostility towards the EU.
For the Morning Star the root of all evil is the EU and its Commissioners. When national governments and national ruling classes attack the working class, the Morning Star would have its readers believe, they do so not because it is in their own class interests to do so but because they are acting at the behest of the EU.
But the most reactionary and anti-working-class sections of the Tories are also anti-EU. They favour withdrawal from the EU because they see the EU as an obstacle to stepping up their attacks on the working class. And what is true of the Tories is equally true of other right-wing parties throughout the EU.
Anti-EUism was central to the case against Scottish independence put forward by the Morning Star.
“What kind of independence,” asked the editorial, “would exist in a Scotland whose foreign and military policies are largely decided by the EU and NATO?”
It would be irrelevant if Scotland had a seat on the EU Council of Ministers given that “EU policies are mostly shaped by the unelected EU Commission and the unaccountable European Central Bank.”
There would be no prospect of an independent Scotland promoting the interests of the working class because “a sterling union and EU membership make (such policies) all but impossible for a small nation with only nominal independence.”
Such arguments are at one with those put forward by the Morning Star initiated and backed Scottish Campaign Against Euro-Federalism:
“It is dangerously misleading to suggest that Scotland can join the EU and escape the policies that are currently pulverising social services across the rest of the EU… The stark truth about the EU is that none of the citizens of the EU get to choose their government.”
By this logic, there was no point in the colonies of the British Empire demanding — and securing – independence. Although they secured political independence, they all inevitably remained trapped within the confines of an international capitalist economy. But they were not “small nations with only nominal independence”. They were small nations with real political independence who had escaped from the yoke of British imperialism (of which Scotland was an integral part).
Independence freed them from the national oppression they suffered as British colonies (which would not apply to an independent Scotland — no-one, not even Yes supporters, argues that Scotland is a colony of the Westminster imperialist metropolis).
In a global capitalist world economy independence is neither illusory, nor “nominal” just because it does not allow a country to exist outside of that world economy.
From a socialist perspective, the arguments put forward in support of an independent Scotland make little or no sense (and the more “radical” the arguments, the less sense they make). But EU-membership by an independent Scotland is not a valid argument against independence.