Last year’s election saw the SNP sweep the board north of the border. This provides a strong mandate for a second independence referendum. But Boris Johnson has refused to grant such a vote, creating a potentially explosive situation.
The results in Scotland will be one of the few positive outcomes for class conscious workers. In a clear rejection of the Tory Party, the SNP won 48 out of 59 seats. This will also be seen by many as providing a mandate for independence.
But we must ask: will the SNP be able to carry out another independence referendum in the face of Johnson’s hardline refusal? And what would Scottish independence under capitalism actually mean?
The subject of independence has been put firmly back on the table. In 2014, the Yes movement became a focal point for radicalised workers and youth, who saw it as an opportunity to rid themselves of Westminster Tory rule forever. Even several Scottish Labour figures have now come out in favour of a new referendum.
However, the Tory majority is a double-edged sword for the SNP. As well as boosting support for independence, it also presents Nicola Sturgeon with some sizable obstacles to overcome. Earlier today in the House of Commons, Johnson and the Tories flatly denied the possibility of an IndyRef2, with the Prime Minister stating that the 2014 vote was a “once in a generation event”. But Sturgeon’s supporters are quite militantly in favour of another referendum.
This feeling will only strengthen as Johnson’s premiership and the crisis of Brexit, drags on. Pressure to defy the British government will increase. This will, in turn, put pressure on the SNP leadership, who remain wedded to bourgeois legality. As a result of this contradiction, the independence movement could radicalise in the year ahead.
SNP MP Brendan O’Hara shouted down as he asks the prime minister about holding another referendum on Scottish independence
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 8, 2020
Marxists have great sympathy towards left-wing Scots who see independence as a way of getting a government they actually voted for, and as a way to end austerity.
It is the duty of all socialists across Britain to support the right for Scottish people to have a second independence referendum and decide the future of Scotland for themselves. This is a basic democratic right that neither Johnson’s Tories nor the Labour Party should stand in the way of.
However, we must also explain that an independent capitalist Scotland will not solve any problems of the working class. The crisis of capitalism is global. The capitalists who dominate the economy would call for cuts, privatisation, and attacks on workers’ wages and conditions in order to make Scotland a profitable avenue for investment.
The SNP leadership – as popular as they are just now – are pro-capitalist liberals and do not have the ideas or methods to combat such bourgeois pressures.
The SNP is a party filled with class contradictions. Its membership and voters are overwhelmingly working class and on the left. Inside the party, a battle is being fought around the Growth Commission plans for an independent Scotland. Developed by SNP bureaucrats and city financiers, this has proven to be extremely unpopular amongst the membership and the wider independence movement. Over time, therefore, the class contradictions evident in the independence movement will widen.
Break with capitalism
In the conditions of a global crisis of capitalism, the only way to end austerity lies not with simply breaking from Westminster but in breaking with capitalism itself. This means the nationalisation of the banks and big businesses under workers’ control. Only that will give us the power to plan the economy for society’s needs.
James Connolly’s famous words in relation to Irish independence are entirely applicable to the radical supporters of Scottish independence:
“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country.”
The new Johnson Tory government will be one of crisis. He will have little room for manoeuvre. He is already despised in Scotland, and sooner or later the rest of Britain will catch up. His government will be beset by crises, protests and strikes, and may not last its full term. The Scottish working class will be sure to play a big role in discrediting, weakening and hopefully overthrowing his government.