Thursday, 25 September 2014


Those who fought for Scottish independence - the tireless campaigners, the newly politicized mass army of Yes activists, and indeed the Yes voters - have every right to feel gutted at the result. "Gutted" is the word I've had most commonly used by workmates, in text messages and conversations with campaigners on the streest, in the days immediately after the 55% vote against self-rule. "Angry" is another common adjective: anger at the lies and scare stories deployed for over two years to preserve the profits and prestige of the British ruling class and their hired politicians.
But it's important to stand back a pace, ponder the reasons behind the vote, look at what we actually achieved, put it in historical perspective, and above all look at what prospects Scottish independence and socialism face.

FROM 7,229 to 1.6 MILLION!
Back in the 1951 Westminster general election an enormous 81% of Scots voted. But that time round they voted the same direction as the rest of the UK, electing the Tories despite Labour having introduced the NHS and welfare state in the previous term of office. Those advocating Scottish  independence won a grand total of 7,299 votes in the whole of Scotland!
This weekend marks the 16th birthday of the SSP. At the meeting to found this new socialist party to challenge the big business agenda of not only the usual suspects but also Labour and the SNP leadership, we adopted policies on decent wages, reversal of privatisation, extension of public ownehership, equality, against war and Trident, etc - but crowned by the demand for an independent socialist Scotland. Back then this was still very much a minority viewpoint in society.

Fast forward to the Referendum result: not only did the percentage voting for independence far surpass the polls of two years ago, hovering round 25% or so, to reach a magnificent 45% for YES, but more impressive still is the fact 1.6 million voted for democratic self-determination, self-government, a Scottish government with full powers to shape Scotland's future. 
More than the entire poulation on my native N Ireland. An incredible result, considering the mountain of lies, filth and scaremongering these men and women had to climb to see a vision of a better future.
Post-Referendum analyses are a cottage industry, keeping some people in well paid jobs! And the detailed statistics are disputed between various polling organisations and psephologists. But some patterns of the Yes/No vote are indisputable, and confirm the fundamental factors behind the outcome, thereby also setting the context for what we now face and what we should do about it.

Most fundamental of all truths: class was the key determining factor in the vote. Big working class centre like Glasgow, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire all voted Yes majorities. Inverclyde almost did too, and North Ayrshire wasn't far off. 
This point is underlined in red by the central paradox: with the partial exception of Dundee, those areas voting Yes are Labour strongholds, whilst big SNP-voting areas voted NO. 
It's an incredible fact that all eight Glasgow constituencies, every one of them with Labour MPs, voted by clear margins for independence. One estimate put it at 37% of Labour voters nationally voting Yes.
Working class conurbations decided they'd had enough of Tory dictatorship via Westminster, enough of their brutal assaults on workers' lives and livelihoods, and voted for a better society. This was not a nationalist movement, but a movement for independence, with progressive social and economic aims at its heart. Something the Labour leadership either never understood, or chose to set their faces against in their devotion to the UK, its imperial pretensions, its capitalist system, and the personal stake the tops of Labour have in its continuation. 
They lack any ideological vision of a different kind of society, having abandoned all pretence of socialism a couple of decades ago, and therefore got into bed with the Tories to defend the capitalist status quo. Labour was the chief obstacle to a Yes vote, but they will also be the chief losers from the No vote!
All those who queued up to register to vote did not do so to keep things as they are! They voted alongside other working class (and many middle class) people to radically improve their lives, for a more equal, less poverty-stricken Scotland.

In stark contrast, the better-heeled middle classes of rural Scotland, Edinburgh, and the leafier suburbs turned out in their multitudes to vote against such change, with over 90% turnouts in many such districts. That included many SNP voters in the likes of the rural North. Many of them swallowed the fear-mongering about loss of security under independence, fearing for their relative personal security. Some are small c- conservatives, resistant to radical change. An exception to this pattern is the Glasgow west end middle classes, more radicalized, aspiring to a fairer society, many of them active in the Yes movement, including the likes of National Collective or even Business for Scotland.

Another feature of the voting patterns is age. Whilst exit polls argue over the detailed figures, everyone agrees that younger people voted overwhelmingly Yes, those over 65 overwhelmingly NO. One survey put it at 72% Yes among the youngest voters and 71% No for over-65s. 
It's widely accepted that there was actually a Yes majority among all voters under 55! A remarkable harbinger of the future. 
In the passing I have to condemn scurrilous comments I've seen and heard about "coffin dodgers". It's totally unacceptable to insult older citizens for voting No in their droves, including in the record-breaking numbers of Postal Votes. We need to understand why. At its heart, many pensioners, working class ones in particular, voted No in fear and dread of losing their pensions. With 30% of Scots still having no access to the Internet and therefore social media, they were subjected to a ruthless terror campaign of lies about their pensions being at risk. The fact the Coalition government's own DWP department issued statements as far back as January 2013 saying pensions would be safe and secure under independence - subsequently confirmed by the Coalition's Pensions Minister in May 2014 - didn't stop the Better Together lie machine pounding some of society's most vulnerable with hair-raising threats to the contrary. 

And the scare tactics were central to winning the No majority, not only amongst pensioners, but also sections of younger workers (as well as the points already made regarding the middle class). Better Together director Blair McDougall has blurted out what we all knew at a Labour party fringe meeting. Scare tactics were necessary to winning, he confessed. 
And one post-Referendum survey, by Brian Ashcroft, identifies three overwhelming reasons why No voters voted No: 47% out of fear and insecurity, 27% due to strong attachment to the UK, and 25% because of the last minute 'Vow' by Labour, Tories and LibDems of 'extra powers' for a devolved Holyrood parliament.
Workers in Defence-related industries were subjected to a Niagra of lies about mass loss of jobs in the event of independence. Workers in all manner of jobs, such as finance, banks, engineering, even sections of the civil service, we subjected to tales of Armageddon by their own chief executives. Or to be more accurate, that was the impression given to them after the mainstream media bosses had turned vague hints of relocating their legal HQs into headlines about the potential slaughter of jobs, something few if any of the bosses had actually threatened.

To win 1.6 million votes for independence in the face of ruthless opposition from all the forces of the old, reactionary, corrupt capitalist society is an incredible achievement, and a powerful platform to continue the struggle from. 
Bankers were in cahoots with BBC bosses; supermarket chief executives willingly took orders from Cameron to spread panic; international capitalist politicians like Barack Obama added their tuppence worth; and every single arm of the mainstream print and broadcast media - with the honorable exception of the Sunday Herald in the latter months of the campaign - were enlisted to protect a terrified British ruling class from the loss of Scotland, and all that would signify in loss of profits, natural resources, a parking lot for Trident nuclear weapons and imperialist prestige. 
No wonder Cameron went from panic to smug gloating and childish gossip about the Queen "purring down the phone" when he told her the result. No wonder the FTSE stock market share prices rose after the No vote. Class interests were at the heart of this Referendum.

But as we've written over the past year or more, Labour was the chief obstacle to the Scottish working class majority winning the democratic right to elect our own future governments. Who in the Scottish working class would listen to Cameron and his endangered political species after all? Or to Clegg's Mini Me Tory collaborators? 
The ruling class of the UK desperately needed Labour leaders to exploit their residual roots in the working class to defend the rich from a movement that threatened to go far beyond changing flags or government headquarters to demanding a change to the entire economic amd social system. And the Labour leaders obliged, betraying the working class they have exploited for votes and political office for a century.

One central aspect of this betrayal was the last ditch intervention of Gordon Brown for 'substantial extra powers' provided we voted No. This came on the back of months of pleas to vote No in 2014, vote Labour in 2015, and proceed to a land of milk, honey and 'justice with Labour'.
This then became the infamous VOW, plastered over the front page of the mass readership Daily Record, with Cameon, Clegg and Miliband vowing far more powers for Holyrood provided the Scottish people answered their cooing 'Please don't go' message.
And that ploy played a substantial part in swinging it for NO. The aforementioned Ashcroft survey of No voters identified 'extra powers' as the main persuader for 25% of No voters: that's a massive half a million voters!

But what of the Vow? That is a major short term issue in deliberations on what we need to do in the wake of the Referendum.
The actual pledges from Brown and then all three unionist parties - the Vow - were a mixture of very vague and downright deceitful. 
It promised the permanent existence of the Scottish parliament - which of course Westminster still has the power to defend or disband! 
It promised to defend the Barnett Formula whereby Scotland gets funded above-average per head of population - from taxes the Scots conduct net exports of to Whitehall by £billions every one of the past 35 years! But five days after the No vote the London Times carried a front page announcement of plans to slash the Barnett Formula!
The Vow refers to additional income tax raising powers, control of some welfare (Housing Benefit is most frequently named) and the ability to defend the Scottish NHS from privatisation.
How do they propose to give control of Housing Benefits (HB) to Holyrood if Westminster still has control over rolling out its discredited Universal Credit (UC) which plans to include HB as one element of UC payments? As we wrote many times during the campaign, power over HB was only raised because of the mass revolt over the Bedroom Tax, as a sop from Labour which their partners in unionism and capitalism have now also adopted.

The NHS aspect of the Vow was a blatant attempt to neuter the massive impact of the case for voting Yes to defend the NHS from the consequences of cuts and privatisation of the NHS in England. But what is still missing - as far as anyone can tell what is actually, concretely included!-  in these last-minute promises is control over the fundamental purse strings - for instance Corporation Tax on very big businesses. 
Without the ability to raise adeqaute funds for the public purse in Scotland, a Scottish government could soon face the Hobsons Choice of either resorting to some form of privatisation/private investment to shore up the NHS, or use whatever powers over Income Tax granted to then levy higher taxes on the working class and lower middle class. 
In that respect I think the whole scheme behind the Vow is not only a late concession to mass pressure from a panicky ruling class - and in particular their Labour lieutenants - but also a cunning trap. To ensnare Scottish governments into passing on cuts and austerity dictated by Westminster, a devolved government taking the blame for measures they don't have the economic levers to fully combat. A cunning plan, as Baldrick might say!

And within an hour of the Referendum result, Cameron announced a master stroke in his efforts to appease the Tory backwoodsmen, UKIP and the baying mobs of middle class Middle England against any concessions to further Scottish devolution: linking it to English Votes for English Laws (EVEL!). 
In fact this is a powerful democratic argument for Scottish independence! 
But Cameron's ploy forced his Labour bedfellows to get up in arms - in cynical attempts at self preservation. To avoid Labour losing even more working class Scottish voters if their promises are exposed as utterly hollow and false; and to avoid the scenario that even if Labour won in the 2015 Westminster elections (with the help of Scottish votes) they could end up totally undermined and defeated by a Tory majority on English issues. Claim and counterclaim on 'the Vow' has followed, causing hordes of people who voted No to say "I think I did the wrong thing". 

So what should we do about it?
There is no doubt the 45% Yes voters are joined by hordes of No voters in expecting and demanding the untrustworthy Westminster politicians carry out their Vow of extra powers for Holyrood. A period of consultation is supposed to happen. As part of helping to sustain the mighty coalition of forces that made up Yes Scotland, RIC, Women for Indy, Trade Unionsists for Indy and numerous other formations, I think we should actively demand something that goes beyond the vague half-promises of the unionist parties - whilst taking account of the fact we've just lost a vote for full independence. 
For example, demand and campaign in the streets, workplaces, colleges, and cyberspace for 'The Powers to Transform our Lives'. Powers including the ability to implement a £10 national minimum wage, as agreed unanimously at the recent TUC conference. Powers to reverse all attacks on welfare and benefits - not just the Bedroom Tax. The powers to tax the very rich and big business precisely to defend our NHS and other services. Amd the power to take the energy companies into public ownership, to combat fuel poverty and pollution. 
Powers that fall short of independence, but would avoid the trap being set by Westminster for Holyrood to implement and take the blame for cuts dictated by Westminster and the class they represent.

Labour deserves to be punished for their central role in denying the Scottish people democracy. 
In the trade unions we should help stem the tide of resignations from trade union membership in disgust at union leaders who told members to vote NO, and used members' fees to help finance Better Together and/or United with Labour - without any proper prior debate and vote amongst the members at branch meetings and conferences of Scottish members. 
Instead of leaving the union, leaving yourself defenceless at work and leaving even more control in the hands of undemocratic national officials, we should organise mass withdrawal from payment of members' fees to Labour in those unions affiliated to Labour. Demanding instead that the unions make the break from Labour and help build a mass, working class socialist party.

In the 2015 Westminster elections, I personally would support the idea of a Yes Alliance, a pro-independence slate of candidates (whatever the exact name), embracing the three parties that were in Yes Scotland - SNP, SSP and Greens - and others who were part of that coalition. 
I would not endorse the SNP by saying we should all punish Labour by voting SNP - that would be a hostage to fortune, given the track record of the SNP implementing cuts in councils they control, not to mention their policies on cutting big business taxation, or membership of NATO, etc. and the likelihood they will now implement austerity cuts imposed by Westminster cuts in the block grant, stockpiled and deferred rather that defied and defeated by the SNP government.

But just as the SSP played a totally constructive but independent role as the socialist wing of Yes Scotland - uniting in the fight for independence, but retaining the right to put across our own distinctive socialist case for it - so too a continuation of that successful alliance into next May's general election would be one important strand to sustaining the crusade for outright independence, as well as hammering Labour for their treacherous role. And such a multi party alliance could reach voters that the SNP on its own would never win over, given the tribalism of SNP-Labour loyalties.

An even greater prize in the staging posts we can envisage for continuing the struggle for independence and socialism is the 2016 Scottish parliament elections. And they are a mere 18 months away!
All those tens of thousands who fought for a Yes vote could fix their sights on winning an absolute majority of pro-independence MSPs in 2016. 
The SSP, for its part, is not about to disappear! Alongside others we want to make 2016 an independence election, a mandate for self-government. Those, including several SNP leaders, who speak of independence being off the agenda for another generation, or in some cases a lifetime (70 years!), are lowering our expectations unnecessarily. Referenda are but one means of winning independence. The democratic election of a majority of MSPs who favour independence in 2016 - SNP, SSP, Greens, Independents - would surely be equally a mandate for Scottish independence?
That is a quite short term opportunity that can't be spurned by talk of "waiting another generation" in the wake of 18 September 2014. 

And none of these suggestions are thrown out onto a vacuum. We've commented many a time that the Referendum campaign has been an exercise in mass political education, at an incredible pace, to an incredible level of understanding amongst tens of thousands, in the public meeting halls and workplaces of Scotland. 
An unprecedented number of people are signing up to the three parties that fought for a Yes vote. 
But even on that the mainstream media just can't bring itself round to telling the full story, the truth. They systematically exclude mention of the 2,200 (at time of writing, over a mere five days!) who have applied to join the SSP. The capitalist politicians, and even the faint hearts and wiseacres who wrote the obituaries of the SSP in recent years, have a lot of explaining to do! This is an unprecedented growth rate for any socialist party anywhere in the UK, let alone amongst the smaller nation of Scotland. And these people are politically savvy, whatever age they each are, finding their natural home in the one and only party to have consistently campaigned for an independent socialist Scotland since our birth 16 years ago.

We should all be immensely proud of the 1.6 million who conquered mountainous obstacles to vote Yes, and also wide open to the hordes of No voters already bitterly regretting having listened to the lie machine. We should be proud and confident of the tens of thousands who will keep up the fight to win self rule - not in 70 years or even 'a generation', but in the foreseeable future. And we should celebrate and embrace the thousands who have said 'The time has come to be an organised socialist, I'm joining the SSP!"
The struggle continues - and our day will come!

Thursday, 18 September 2014


This truly is a day destined for the history books, decision day on Scottish self-rule, potentially the first day of an entirely new chapter in history, with all its repercussions for the might and swagger of British imperialism, and its boost to the demands for independence for the likes of the Catalans - who are staging a vigil in hope of a Yes vote in Scotland!
In some ways it's also like most other days. Up in the pitch black of night to start work at 5am. 
But today, making sure I switch my Yes badge to my clean uniform, and double-checking I've got the bundle of Yes leaflets - one in Polish for Tak, the other with the apt message: 'One opportunity - to end Tory rule forever'. 
The first batch of fellow workers I encounter show all the traits that have been noticeable for a while: the sparkle, enthusiasm, talkativeness and straightforward happiness of spirit of those we've convinced to vote YES over recent months, and in contrast (with a couple of rare exceptions) the quiet, subdued, even sullen silence of those sticking to NO.
It will never stop me standing up for their rights and conditions as their union convener, but the NO voters generally display a lack of confidence in demanding improvements in their lives; the Yes voters seem empowered with vastly raised expectations.

While doing my job, people walk past, stopping to chat or comment on my badge. Many of them go away with a leaflet, a reminder of a core reason for YES. As a group of three pass me I shout 'Yes, Yes, Yes?'. All three reply YES in unison, one adding: "It's not even a question any more". 

Another jokes "You can't be wearing that Yes badge alongside your union badge!" He is referring to Usdaw's affiliation to Better Together, without prior debate among the members and branches. "But I knew you had the bottle to make your own mind up." We then discuss what happened with the Usdaw decision and what members can do about it.

A recent recruit to the union describes how he was NO until a few weeks ago, but one of several experiences that changed his mind was a telephone canvass from the NO campaign, somebody up from England.
"I declined to say which way I was voting, repeatedly, and then this guy told me to consider what was happening in Ukraine and our fight against the Nazis. I couldn't believe it. I asked him if he was saying a YES vote would lead to invasions and civil war like Ukraine and Russia, and his reply was 'Stranger things have happened'. That was the end of the call for me!"

A slight majority of the Polish workers I spoke to were going to vote NO. After a five minute chat one of them said she would definitely now think again "because I've never heard the information you've given me before". 
In previous conversations I'd picked up a rumour, so on asking some Polish workers straight out this morning, they confirmed they'd been told that a YES vote would mean they would have to leave Scotland. A dirty lie, systematically spread by at least some of the NO campaign, brutally playing on the fears of migrant workers who have settled in Scotland for a better life. As well as Scotland planning to welcome MORE migrant workers, the only real threat to them staying in the country is a NO vote, a subsequent Tory or Tory-UKIP government at Westminster next May, and then their In/Out Referendum on taking Britain out of the EU.

Two more new recruits to the union this morning.
One woman who spotted my Yes badge and showed how she had a slightly more discreetly displayed one on her uniform!
A man who started in our place recently, who it turned out had been leafleting for Yes at a polling station before his shift. When I introduced myself he said: "Oh, you're the one I've read about debating in the union?". Which he must have read on, a report of our branch members' meeting where, after a brilliant, vigorous debate, members voted 87.5% YES, with ZERO for NO. A debate that has caused a huge buzz at work over the past week, including among people unable to attend who have had reports from members at it, winning round big numbers of NOs and doubters to YES. In the past two days at least 3 of the Undecided voters at our debate have confirmed to me they are now firmly voting YES.

But while we recruit to Usdaw and gain improvements at work for an increasingly strong membership, our UK and Scottish union leadership are driving people out of the union. Several members today again spoke to me about "That letter". The one posted to every one of USDAW's 46,000 Scottish members, from UK general secretary John Hannett, asking us to vote NO - even if we Don't Know! The letter was a rehash of the email all members got from him last week.
It's created fury, and massive threats of resignation, because members were never given the chance of branch debates or a ballot of members before Usdaw decided which side to support.

So while campaigning for workplace improvements, I am also fighting to stop union membership bleeding away.
The fury of members is entirely justified. But resigning from the union - something happening across numerous workplaces on a big scale - would be a terrible blunder, a disastrous mistake in the extreme. It would leave workers defenceless in times of need with their employers. And it would weaken the fight for greater union membership democracy, if critics of the current USDAW leaders' undemocratic methods on the Referendum just walk away from the union.
They should instead stay and demand democracy. And they can opt out of paying money to the Labour party whilst staying in the union. Numerous members in our workplace have asked for the forms to do that. Just home, and a supply of Usdaw Political Fund Exemption Notice forms has arrived in the post.

Off to vote, to apply a pencil to paper as a contribution to the quiet revolution of working class people we are witnessing; then onto the streets for the rest of the day to help shore up the YES vote, so all workers can shape Scotland in our best interests.
Vote YES, vote TAK, and seize the reins of power for the working class majority!