2007 - 2022

Scotland is Not Sorted

13439039_10154348750412009_2435682945166971672_nWe need more than indyRef2 to build a better Scotland.

The grief and anger is extraordinary. In my political life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a strong outcry from left-leaning people in the UK, such a strong sense of horror and despair: not at the announcement of the ConDem coalition, not at the election of UKIP MEPs and Councillors, not at the result of the Scottish independence referendum. Part of that grief and anger is a necessary period of anger and lashing out: nasty jokes on Twitter about old people, vindictive newspaper coverage of regretful working class Leave voters made to sound thicker than they are, sweary rants on Facebook, recriminations against various factions of the left. And, in Scotland, fierce calls for a second independence referendum. But, while I still support an independent Scotland, I think there are tremendous dangers in this reactive response: an independence borne out of the desire to escape a terrifying England, an independence built on rage against others imagined as stupid, poor and uniquely racist, and an independence won through crisis with a centrist party in charge – these will not be progressive visions of independence.

Nicola Sturgeon’s political response to the EU referendum response has been impressive: while Patrick Harvie of the Greens was first out of the gate with a strong message and a Party petition calling for continued EU membership for Scotland, this effort was steamrollered by Sturgeon’s confident, dramatic and well-planned response. By unilaterally and with gravitas declaring a Scottish foreign policy through the trumpeted phonecalls to Sadiq Khan and EU leaders, by enticing 45ers with the possibility of a second independence referendum without risking definite commitment, and by pleasing the liberal left with a necessary and welcome message of support for migrants, Sturgeon was by far the most impressive political leader on the day of the result, and perhaps the only one whose press conference was met with support rather than mockery. Just as the SNP played the post-indyref game perfectly, outmaneuvering both left- and right-wing organisations to seize the narrative (and the Party membership), they have planned and played the post-Brexit moment to make the maximum political gains and taken Scotland much further on the road to independence.

But there are tremendous dangers in bringing indyref2 about too quickly. One reason that the SNP isn’t immediately declaring such a move is that they don’t yet know if they actually have strong enough popular support, but another, perhaps more important reason is that both the Party leadership and the Scottish civil service absolutely did not want independence to come about this way. The UK is in political and economic turmoil. The Scottish civil service has not had time to catch up with events and prepare properly for the consequences of Brexit. The future of the EU and of the Eurozone is in doubt, as is the future of the pound. All of this makes it harder than ever to make the economic case for Scottish independence, even as the political case has become stronger: an independent Scotland will find it harder to thrive in a period of UK-wide (if not Europe- or world-wide) recession.

Moreover, a reactive independence in times of economic deprivation risks also being reactionary: no matter how “civic” the SNP’s vision of nationalism, all such politics contains within it the seeds of the kind of enthno-nationalism which has now brought England so low. Anti-English sentiment on social media is just the smallest and most innocuous sign of this; the frequently willingness to blame Scotland’s social and economic problems primarily on “Westminster” or the English outsider more generally is another element. Just as England will soon no longer have the EU to blame for economic woes, an independent Scotland will no longer have England to react against – and who will be next?

Over a third of the SNP voters voted for Brexitwhich implies that a significant portion of the Party’s electorate, if it has not outright bought into anti-migrant sentiment, is at least willing to put migrants’ interests and safety aside – which, given the rise in actual street fascism post-referendum, amounts to throwing migrants under the bus for Scottish independence.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that anti-migrant sentiment in the Scottish population differs little from that in England, even if it dominates the news cycle less north of the border. When centrist economic policies fail to bring better lives for the working class in Scotland – not just the narrowly-imagined white traditional labour working class but the diverse, multi-ethnic and precaritised working class – we may see exactly the same reactionary backlash which led to Brexit in the first place.

And it is those economic policies which are the most important of all. In the last Scottish election, the SNP had the least redistributive taxation policy of any political party bar the Tories, and given a unique opportunity and mandate to reform Council Tax to something more progressive, the Party’s Commission made the most timid possible proposals. Pete Wishart has already made it clear that he sees Scotland as a possible home for multinationals deserting a disintegrating England, and the SNP manifesto continues a commitment to very low corporation tax. Economically, these approaches are indistinguishable from Blair’s Labour (or for that matter Davidson’s Scottish Tories) – that is, they’re exactly the same neoliberal economics which have inflicted such suffering on the working class in recent decades. Where will people turn after they are inevitably betrayed by a future SNP Government in a future independent Scotland?

The neoliberal wing of the SNP has been strengthened, not weakened, by the Brexit vote. The Party is trumpeting the conversion and membership of former No voters, and if this is true then it represents an influx of members with a tendency towards centre-right economics. The SNP has already shown its willingness to triangulate to the right in the last Scottish election, and despite the electoral failure of this approach it is now likely to be facing increased pressure to do so, both from its new centre-right members, and from the prevailing misguided narrative that only such triangulation wins elections or could win independence. The left-leaning membership of the SNP has done a decent job so far of pressuring the Party leadership, rebelling on land reform and fracking and forcing their hand on tenants rights. That membership will face new challenges to steer the direction of Scotland’s dominant Party back to a progressive course.

Scottish independence seems increasingly likely. It’s not yet a done deal, but with commentators treating it that way, it might yet become one. The question then shifts from if to how. Just our population mostly voting to remain does not mean we’re sorted; just our First Minister showing basic political competence does not mean we’re sorted; just because we have the option of independence does not mean we’re sorted. So what kind of independence do you want? Do you want a reactive independence, brought about with a centrist Party in charge of defining the constitutional convention and with neoliberal economists at the helm? Or do you want a progressive independence, brought about through a well-developed consensus, with greater stability, a diverse Parliament and a strong left-wing grassroots movement?

I want the latter. I don’t want independence immediately or at any cost, but rather a Scottish independence the guarantees a better life for the most disenfranchised people. I think this is best brought about by left-wing people engaging immediately and energetically in the kind of grassroots political organising that can put the right kind of pressure on the Scottish Government. This will take a great deal of work, and a commitment from left-wing campaigners and progressive-minded people to agitate not just for a second referendum but for the kind of society that will make the result of that referendum truly progressive. With that in mind, for those who seek not any independence but radical independence, I have some practical suggestions:

(1) Show solidarity with migrants. As long as Scotland remains in the UK, migrants in Scotland will suffer at the hands of vindictive ethno-nationalist politics, both through reactionary legislation and through a buoyed-up street fascist movement across Europe. This means that migrants urgently need solidarity and support across the UK. And if migrants are not to become a new scapegoat for an independent Scotland, we need to work now to make the positive case for migration. This means organising with migrants to defend their rights, providing material support to the most vulnerable (particularly asylum-seekers), and creating organisations and events which bring different ethnic communities into contact with each other in collaboration. A good place to start is the Unity Centre in Glasgow, which advises and defends asylum-seekers, campaigns for migrant rights and supports community projects.

(2) Join a trade union. Alongside fighting for migrant lives, we have to fight for the lives of the rest of the working class as well – a working class which has been taught to blame low wages and job shortages on unskilled migration. This means arguing for higher wages, shorter working weeks, and better welfare protections: it means making lives better for working class people, not through an imagined future Scotland or a trickle-down economy but through winning new rights here and now. Ethno-nationalism promises the ethnically dominant section of the working class economic gains at the expense of the rest, and so is enticing when there’s nothing else to protect workers’ rights. Historically, only the trade union movement has achieved this across the working class: we have trade unions to thank for weekends, minimum wages, safer working conditions, maternity pay, and much else we take for granted. But trade unions now are weak, and poorly-adapted to a changing and precaritised labour market. That means they need to members more than ever, to strengthen their bargaining power, bring new ideas, and win better lives for us all. Find a union to join with the STUC and . I’m also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, a 100-year-old radical union instrumental in early labour rights struggles which still provides everyday grassroots solidarity to the most vulnerable of workers.

(3) Campaign for tenants rights and land reform. Living wages are useless without living rents: as house ownership becomes more inaccessible, social housing dwindles and rents increase, rent swallows too much of our pay to make life liveable, and exploitative landlords prey on the most precarious. Meanwhile, Scotland’s economy is still underpinned by the most unequal land ownership in Europe, which restricts land use possibilities, protects resources for the wealthiest in society, and underpins a tenancy-based approach to ownership and taxation. Housing is largely absent from traditional marxist analysis and so often forgotten by left-wing campaigns, but Scotland has a proud history of working-class-led radical movements for rent control and housing protection. Part of improving Scotland now is supporting a resurgence of such movements. One place to start is with the Living Rent Tenants Union, grown out of a campaign which has already won impressive concessions from the Scottish Government.

(4) Defend welfare claimants. Attacks on the welfare state – the NHS, the dole, housing and disability benefits, and other vital resources – will only increase in the coming years across the UK, as the economic costs of Brexit kick in and an ever more right-wing Government further seeks to scapegoat and divide working class people against each other. Scotland too will be suffering budget constraints and will be able to offer limited protections, especially if the SNP remains reluctant to introduce genuinely redistributive taxation. This means we need to be campaigning to protect and extend welfare, and providing practical support to welfare claimants: advice surgeries, food and shelter programmes, emotional solidarity in the face of media attacks. One place to start is the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty which works tirelessly on all these fronts

(5) Support party political plurality. In the second Scottish Parliament, alongside a spread from Labour, the SNP, the Tories and the Lib Dems, there were 7 Greens and 6 Socialist MSPs. Since then, Holyrood has seen greater and greater consolidation, with Parties aiming for the outright majorities which characterise the hated Westminster system. But if Scotland is Europhile, then our Parliament can have a more European character, with coalitionary politics becoming a new norm. With a more diverse and plural left, only electoral pacts and coalitions can succeed in defeating the right, even as the right-wing itself splits over Brexit, and a plural left will also put leftward pressure on SNP policy. This means pro-independence activists ending the kind of electoral nonsense which led to the miserably failed #bothvotesSNP campaign in the Scottish elections, ending talk of “splitting the indy vote”, and working together towards shared and contested ideas of what Scotland can be. As Jeremy Gilbert has pointed out, economic concerns are not the only issue for disillusioned voters: a monolithic Holyrood replicating the failures of Westminster will lead to the same crisis of democracy that Scotland has so far skirted.

(6) Agitate leftwards within your Party. Both the SNP and Labour have centrist economic policies, and both of them will shift further to the right if only the still-minor Greens are applying pressure from the left. Unless there is an electoral threat, a chance of losing left-wing voters to the Greens or another socialist coalition, and without rebellions at party conferences, the rhetoric of triangulating to the right will dominate. So if you are a member of a Party, use that power to pull your Party on a leftward course: the SNP members have already had some successes in this area, and this needs to be strengthened.

(7) Organise locally. I too am full of grief and rage, and am writing in the languages and ideas that feel most comfortable to me. I want to keep writing in different ways for different audiences, but I’ll never have all the answers, and nor will anyone else. What I do have is faith in diverse grassroots movements to organise independently and collectively for better worlds. So here’s the main thing: if you don’t understand what’s happened, and if you’re scared of what’s coming, and if you believe in a better world and don’t know what to do, then set up a meeting locally to talk it through with people who are thinking the same way. Ask questions together, argue together, work it out together. Our political parties and our media institutions have utterly failed us, leading to a wrecked economy, a divided country and a frightened people. This can only be made better through networks of local campaigns working together, defending a school or a library, or providing food and shelter to people who need it, or fighting an eviction, or taking over a local council. People like you will make up those campaigns and networks. You’ve got this. Get in touch with some friends and arrange a meeting in the back room of a pub to figure out what you can do now.

These are strange and frightening times for Scotland and for the rest of the UK, but Scottish people are already talking about our possibilities for hope: independence, or continued EU membership, or both. But our future is uncertain, and constitutional solutions alone will only ever be partial. We must not be complacent, and we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into false security by the promised land of independence: we must work now and throughout the coming years from a more progressive Scotland in a more just world.


Comments (43)

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  1. john young says:

    Until we sort out a solution to the hugely dis-credited criminal banking/financial institutions then not only Scotland but the world at large are “going to hell in a hand cart”.

  2. K. A. Mylchreest says:

    WTF does ¨precaritised¨ mean? You´re really gonna resonate with the proverbial man-inna-street with words like that. Damn it, I´ve got three degrees and I don´t have a clue what it means.

    1. Alistair Livingston says:

      Three degrees and can’t use Google? Wikipedia is always a useful starting point.
      People who have been precariatised have been forced into becoming members of the precariat.

      “In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. Unlike the proletariat class of industrial workers in the 20th century who lacked their own means of production and hence sold their labour to live, members of the Precariat are only partially involved in labour and must undertake extensive “unremunerated activities that are essential if they are to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings”. Specifically, it is the condition of lack of job security, including intermittent employment or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence. The emergence of this class has been ascribed to the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalism.
      The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat. ”


      1. Alison milne says:

        Thanks for your explanation

      2. K. A. Mylchreest says:

        Sorry, I missed your response earlier, you must have posted before I´d confirmed notification.

        Of course I can use Google and Wikipedia, and I thank you for your information, although TBH I´m not a great deal wiser than before. I take it the word means something like ¨socially insecure¨. Perhaps the phrase ¨social insecurity¨ might have some political mileage given its rhetorical contrast with the bureaucratic euphemism of ¨social security¨. That however is not the point.

        Technical terms are needed for technical discourse between specialists, but that was clearly not the nature of this piece. The moment I encountered this pretentious verbosity I very nearly stopped reading. (In the event I posted my comment and then continued). I can´t have been alone in this. The writer therefore, by trying to be clever, has simply defeated his aim. He simply identified himself as the kind of armchair revolutionary who is so far up his own rhetoric … need I continue?

        1. Jack Collatin says:

          Social scientists speaking here. Nothing to see, we, on the Clapham Omnibus.
          I’m sure this piece will be the talk of the steamie in the concrete hinterlands created by Labour Administrations in the ‘sixties.
          Very Tooting Popular Front Citizen Smith pamphleteering, if you ask me.
          I drifted several times in the reading, but stuck with it.
          I had the sense of being in a mid 20th Century Life On Mars time warp.
          A tiny part of me despairs for the far left in the 21st Century.

      3. Lesley Docksey says:

        Much more understandable for most people if you point out that this odd word is related to ‘precarious’ which describes the lives of far too many people these days.

    2. Josef O Luain says:

      I have more degrees than a thermometer and know, through experience, that sociological jargon doesn’t cut-it with Joe and Josephine. That said, the post, in my opinion, is most thoughtful and far from lacking in merit.

      1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

        However sincere and committed the writer may (or may not) be, the powers that be will see him as the proverbial ¨useful idiot¨.

    3. Harry Giles says:

      “I too am full of grief and rage, and am writing in the languages and ideas that feel most comfortable to me. I want to keep writing in different ways for different audiences, but I’ll never have all the answers, and nor will anyone else.”



  3. JohnEdgar says:

    The leavers think that they hold all the cards in negotiations after they activate Article 50.
    I think not. They have left an organisation; it will not be too disposed, especially after Farage’s outbursts in Brussels.
    The will be no veto from the UK.
    Westminster has no friends across the Channel. The EU have tholed them, but now they can ignore them and no thumping the shoe on the table will make them take notice. ( And we have no gunboats).
    Now the uncertainties lie at Westminster.
    They must be ….it. The poster boys for Engxit have done a bunk!!

  4. Dougie Blackwood says:

    A lot of this article is sensible but not all of it. I look forward to a pluralist Scottish parliament with a more consensual approach. In the meantime, however, the first goal is Independence. We cannot make significant changes to our society while others control the levers of power.

    Like you I want a fairer society where those that have not are given at least an opportunity to cope with the challenges that face them. All too many have an income that does not meet their needs. Those adults working on the minimum wage are not able to support the raising of children. The population is aging and many of our working age people want more reliably paid hours than they are able to find.

    In the end we must first win Independence then we can set about making the fairer society that many of us want. It is not a given the rich should not pay any more in tax; it is not a given that employers squeeze their workforce in a race to the bottom to provide the least payment for their most convenient return.

    Yes we want to make thing better for everyone and in so doing we may lose some of our more mobile and greedy members of society to another neoliberal regime. In the end however we need to achieve independence and then make it work for everyone, not just those that have.

    The Route to Independence is through the SNP and perhaps the Greens. They must be the focus of our efforts meantime. Once we achieve that goal I want to see a splintering of political parties and a meritocracy running the show in Holyrood. Some of our present MPs elected to Westminster will make a good start when they are repatriated and I am sure that other parties can come up with equally good people to replace the spear carriers that are presently lodged in the corners of Holyrood.

    Perhaps some of this is wishful thinking but we should all put forward our views and argue our case to achieve the ends we want.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      I agree with Dougie, the absolute top priority is independence, and the SNP and Greens are currently the vehicles to help deliver that. Once independence is achieved the scope for more radical and needed reforms would be unstoppable in my view. Everything would be ‘on the table’, to paraphrase the FM.

      As for “The Scottish civil service”, and a bit like ‘Scottish Labour’, it is questionable if such an organisation actually exists. What we have currently is the UK ‘Home’ civil service running things in Scotland and appointing its own people to head up ‘Scottish’ departments – rather like in any other colony formerly run from London. Our MSPs may make nice speeches, pass a few local laws and allocate the cash sent up to Edinburgh, but policy implementation is another matter.

    2. Harry Giles says:

      Hi Dougie, thanks for contributing. I think, as it’s a very common argument, that it would be helpful to hear more about why you think independence must come first and must be the priority above all other priorities. At the moment your only argument in favour of this is that “We cannot make significant changes to our society while others control the levers of power”, but what do you mean by that? It seems to me that there are many levers of power in the world, some big, some small, and those controlled by Westminster are not the only ones.

      My two big concerns are:

      – The Party in charge when independence comes about will have a dominant role in setting the terms of the constitutional convention which shapes Scotland post-independence. What our constitution is will have long-lasting effects on all our lives. I want to see Party plurality and a strong left-wing when that happens.

      – At the moment, an independent Scotland in Europe is being spun as stability and as business-as-usual. This is a deliberate attempt to build pro-indy support from the right and centre-right of Scottish politics, which gives those factions more power in the run up independence and the post-independence scenario. That shift in power needs to be countered now is Scottish independence does not hand power to the right in the same way that Brexit is doing.

      The other argument I’d make is that building a strong grassroots left-wing movement and a diverse Party politics makes independence more likely, not less likely. The first Yes movement did not win. It was not diverse enough, did not win over enough people. In particular, working class people and migrants must be able to see a better future for themselves in independence in order to take the risk. Moreover, some of the anti-indy lobby comes through an emotional/political hatred of the SNP in certain factions: the more party-plural the independence movement is, the more that faction is defanged. Finally, participating in the things that make our lives better now creates networks and reserves of energy which can bolster a future independence movement. In short, I think a strong movement comes through radicality and diversity rather than Party unity.

      So perhaps a better line from me would not be “I don’t want independence at any cost” but “Working for radical independence now makes independence not only better, but also more likely”.

      1. Dougie Blackwood says:

        My views are very much “Left of Centre” while the SNP are a broad church with everything from closet Tories to SSP working for them and voting for them. We have seen the results, all too often, of the splintering of the parties of the left to the extent that they are an irrelevance in the division of power.

        WE all want much the same things: full employment, a living wage and the main contributions from those that can afford it but there is no point in scaring the horses and arguing among ourselves to the extent that we just increase the number of left wing factions and get nowhere.

        Once we gain independence we can argue for the things we want and have some chance of achieving them. As it stands with the Tories and Blairite Labour in England there is no chance whatsoever of making improvements for the main body of the population here. The Westminster parties are little different; they will never increase the contributions from big business and the better off. A pool of unemployed was introduced by Thatcher and has been maintained by both Tory and Labour government to increase the power of employers and to increase their profits.

        My aims are: Full employment, A land tax to supplement Income tax and corporation tax with minimal VAT; a republic rather than a monarchy and really small, really local government run by volunteer councillors rather than people that make a career of creaming off expenses and salaries.

        1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

          I would second pretty much all of that.

          In winning a referendum everyone´s vote counts equally (or at least should). That means that a mildly pro-indy middle-of-the-road person´s vote counts just as much as that of a mega-active seriously politicised pooer-tae-ra-peeple leftie. Except there are many many more of the former than the latter, and it´s a little arrogant to imagine you can think for them.

        2. Harry Giles says:

          Hi Dougie,

          I like your political aims (though I’d prefer Basic Income to full employment.) None of your aims, however, are supported by the SNP, and nor is your desire for corporation tax to make a greater contribution to our society. How do you think your aims will be achieved through the SNP, or how do you think they will be achieved after independence with the SNP in control?

          I sympathise with your concerns about left factionalism. However, this is why we have a partly proportional electoral system, which allows for a wide range of concerns to be represented in Parliament. Indeed, having a range of parties and coalition governments is a norm across Europe: it is the UK/US two-party system which is a global anomaly. Why do you think a single broad-church party is preferable to this, and why do you think it will lead to independence quicker? Indeed, a common effect across Europe now is the collapse of broad, centrist, social-democratic parties, from Pasok to Labour: the SNP can hold together its internal tensions for now, but the European trend is for such parties to fail. Why do you think diverse left coalitions aren’t more preferable and a more reliable way of achieving independence?

          Lastly, there are two questions I’m still keen to hear answers on: How do you plan to counter the influx of centre-right and right voices into the SNP post-Brexit, and how will you ensure strong left influence in an indy constitutional convention, if not through strengthening diverse left-wing movements now?

          1. Dougie Blackwood says:

            The truth is that the SNP are a means to an end. They are the party of Scottish independence. As I said in an earlier post I hope and expect that they will splinter after the main goal is achieved. Everyone has different aims and we must hope that, given our existing parliament shape where we will not have one party rule, we can make changes by campaigning and persuasion rather than having a few leaders that make the decisions.

          2. alison says:

            I too see SNP as a means to an end. When they have achieved their main goal then they will need to redefine themselves and I would hope for a multi party system or coalitions representing the many voices we have. A Euro style of politics where we can think beyond neoliberalism. And for me a move towards environment politics.

  5. Cobby says:

    Nicely explained, but it stil is a load of gobleygook to this prole

  6. MVH says:

    In the absence of Westminster Tories, possible scapegoats are corporations, EU policy, the global elite, neo liberalism. Who knows, some might blame the illuminati. I think English Scots or black Scots or EU migrants will be pretty far down the list, in the circumstances.

  7. Alistair Taylor says:

    Aye, very fine article and great discussion.
    It’s a sair fecht as my father would say.
    I have always felt that the Scots are decent people. We have that element of “we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns” about us.
    It’s a turbulent time in the world. (Maybe it always has been). What can we do?
    Less greed and selfishness? More empathy, decency and community? Balance. Work for peace.
    All the best.

  8. manandboy says:

    ” I don’t want independence immediately or at any cost, but rather a Scottish independence the guarantees a better life for the most disenfranchised people”


  9. tartanfever says:

    Again, some points i like, but on the whole, reading this, I feel like I’ve just been plucked off the street by two ‘Better Together’ polis for carrying a Saltire and most of this is the spiel from the ‘good’ cop out of the two.

    Any chance of another article Harry and you can write it as the ‘bad cop’ ?

    PS. This just make me feel utterly depressed. This is soul stabbing guff:

    ‘The future of the EU and of the Eurozone is in doubt, as is the future of the pound. All of this makes it harder than ever to make the economic case for Scottish independence’

  10. Onwards says:

    “Over a third of the SNP membership voted for Brexit, which means that a significant proportion of the ruling Party’s electorate either buys into xenophobic fearmongering about migrations or was willing to throw migrants under the bus of street fascism in order to hasten Scottish independence. ”

    No, it doesn’t.
    There was a chance they saw Norwegian style access to the EEA as a better option for Scotland after independence. That would include full freedom of movement.

    I voted Remain, but I can see the logic of this for many, especially with the opportunities for fishing and offshore energy.

    I think in England where UKIP is far stronger, the Leave vote was far more likely to be about xenophobia and immigration, but the Scottish Leave vote, especially the SNP Leave vote isn’t so easy to figure out.

    1. Harry Giles says:

      Hi Onwards, thanks for contributing. Let me expand this point a bit, to try and move it beyond “All Leave voters are racist!” vs “No we’re not!”

      It was clear to me before the vote, and clearer to me now, that a Brexit vote would mean deep insecurity for migrants across the UK: both insecurity in their legal status and risks from an empowered far-right street movement. I listened to many arguments from left-leaning Leavers and sympathised with many of them, but I think that those voting Leave have to accept that their vote had this effect on our migrant population and that they considered other political advantages worth this cost. Whatever Leave-voters views on migration and race, they carry a responsibility for this effect on migrants, and it would be good for them to face up to it and participate in the defense of migrants now. I feel anger about this, hence my intemperate words in the article.

      Those who were voting for Norwegian-style EEA access with free movement also need to be able to organise to make that happen now, because the reality is that this vote has empowered the political right and strengthened political opposition to free movement: to my mind, it is now harder, not easier, to secure such EEA participation.

  11. James Dow OZ Scot. says:

    “So what kind of independence do you want” ? Reactive independence, progressive independence?
    I’II take any kind of independence that results in my land becoming a Sovereign Nation again.
    For that day I will be reunited with my land and people, and as is our custom being prone to the melancholy I will cry a lot, not salty tears, joyous tears.

    1. Harry Giles says:

      Hi James, thanks for contributing.

      What do you think it is to be a Sovereign Nation in a globalised world? What does it mean to you? It’s clear to me that all nations now, to some degree, share sovereignty, whether that’s through international institutions like the UN, the influence of multinational corporations, or through financial structures and trade agreements that cross borders. Some of these shared sovereignties seem, to me, to have enhanced peace and justice worldwide; otherwise have increased insecurity, inequality and conflict. To me, the question is not “How do we become a sovereign nation?” but rather “Where should sovereignty be held on particular political issues, and how can that be structured to further peace and equality?”

      I lean towards as much devolved sovereignty as possible, not just through Scottish independence, but through empowered local authorities and radical democratic participation. But I also lean towards shared international institutions which can mediate conflict and work towards greater equality. I think the EU has some aspects that have been beneficial to Scotland and the world and some which are very detrimental. I think the international project that is the UK has largely been a disaster for Scotland and the world, which is why I think it should be broken up.

      What does sovereignty mean to you, and why is it so important?

  12. johnny come lately says:

    Problem is that with a corrupt and dysfunctionel media pushing the narrative, the idea of a Scotland outside both the EU and the UK would be unsellable to the vast majority of the electorate.

  13. Crubag says:

    “Over a third of the SNP membership voted for Brexit, which means that a significant proportion of the ruling Party’s electorate either buys into xenophobic fearmongering about migrations or was willing to throw migrants under the bus of street fascism in order to hasten Scottish independence.”

    I think this attitude is exactly why Remain lost. It’s the tone deaf politics of a Brown or a Cameron dismissing the concerns of people as simply being bigots, insulated as they are by inherited and politically acquired privilege.

    It also ignores the growing rejection of a centralising political project where even the voice of whole nations (Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland) are ignored, or if noticed are pressured into compliance.

    Whatever the impact of BREXIT on the Scotland and the UK, it is also a check to that centralising project. Whether the remaining members now jump ahead to complete the project (which I’d measure by the EU institutions taking effective control of national budgets, making fiscal transfers to struggling countries, and the forced transfer of immigrants) or step back to a looser national approach, where countries control their own budgets and borders remains to be seen.

    1. Harry Giles says:

      Hi Crubag, thanks for contributing. I’ll copy some of my answer to Onwards above:

      Let me expand this point a bit, to try and move it beyond “All Leave voters are racist!” vs “No we’re not!” It was clear to me before the vote, and clearer to me now, that a Brexit vote would mean deep insecurity for migrants across the UK: both insecurity in their legal status and risks from an empowered far-right street movement. I listened to many arguments from left-leaning Leavers and sympathised with many of them, but I think that those voting Leave have to accept that their vote had this effect on our migrant population and that they considered other political advantages worth this cost. Whatever Leave-voters views on migration and race, they carry a responsibility for this effect on migrants, and it would be good for them to face up to it and participate in the defense of migrants now. I feel anger about this, hence my intemperate words in the article.

      It’s not clear to me from your response where you stand on free movement. You seem to be saying that national and sovereign control of borders is important to you. Well, if so, you and I are politically opposed: retaining free movement for EU citizens and expanding it beyond the militarised EU border is very important to me. I do regard an obsession with national border control as economically ill-advised at best and outright xenophobic at worst. I do sympathise with the economic concerns of those worried about migration, but believe those should be addressed through such measures as higher minimum wages, rent controls, social housing building projects, renationalisation of key industries (particularly transport and energy), and increased social security. I believe this is more effective than rigid border control, which I think has not yet been shown to improve lives across the working class and indeed has, historically and currently, tended to be part of a project of privatisation and austerity.

      Lastly, I sympathise with your concerns about political centralisation. I too am against this aspect of the EU from a left-wing standpoint, and do not know whether it is better addressed in or outside the EU. However, in terms of real material politics, it was clear to me that the referendum was not going to shift political power in favour of federalists and decentralisers, but rather in favour of a brutal, hawkish and determined English nationalism. So I’m not sure how you see a decentralising project now continuing or how you plan to address that power shift.

      1. Crubag says:

        If you control your own borders, you are a state. If you don’t, you are a region. Or an anarchy.

        On decentralisation, we leave behind us a union where the core (Commission, central bank, parliament) appear to be looking for greater federalisation, so power and money taken from the nation states. The richer nation states, who would be expected to pay for these transfers, appear to be getting restive. My guess is it will fail and revert to nation states, national feeling trumping an abstract administrative ideal that is leaving too many people poorer.

        1. Harry Giles says:

          Hi Crubag,

          What do you mean by a state, and why do you think border control is its necessity? Do you think the USA was not a state prior to 1882, when it enacted its first border controls? Do you think that most European countries were not states prior to the First World War, which is when border controls became common? Free migration was the global norm prior to the late Victorian era: it is the era of border control which is the historical anomaly. Even now, many if not most physical state borders have no formal control measures. Why should border control be central to political organisation?

          I would dispute your overview of historical trends as well. It seems to me that we are seeing the fracturing of the modern era nation state, through European regional autonomy movements, indigenous nationhood movements in the Americas, among other effects, and at the same time we are seeing a trend towards mechanisms of supra-regional and global governance. I see this as largely desirable and containing the seeds of a more peaceful and just world order, allowing for greater local autonomy on the one hand and shared management of common resources on the other, though ensuring that this happens and that power is not merely aggregated and centralised is a constant struggle. Why, against this background, do you see (and advocate) the resurgence of the modern European nation-state formation?

          1. Broadbield says:

            I think free migration prior to border controls was colonialism in its various forms, not always military, such as by the Romans and UK, but starting in pre-history in response to various pressures including population, food supply, climate change and other externals when hominids migrated to virgin areas and later to areas already occupied by other hominids to maybe 40K years ago when groups migrated to Australasia for the first time and later to the Americas also for the first time and thereafter violent migration where groups of modern humans colonised areas where other humans were settled, displacing them through disease and violence. Human migration has been anything but unproblematical for other hominids and fellow humans and causing catastrophic extinction of flora and fauna at the same time.

            One would hope lessons have been learnt.

  14. Ciara says:

    Fantastic thought-provoking article.

    I want politics to veer towards the Green. Everyone is talking about he Economy at the expense of the Environment. Our off spring will pay for this.

    I like your call to postive action. I’m new to your poetry and love that too.

  15. Davie Park says:

    No nation on earth is, or will ever be, ‘sorted’.
    We can, of course, strive for that. We now have to decide whether our striving will bear more fruit inside the UK (and therefore outside the EU), or outside the UK and inside the EU.
    Personally, I’m convinced that we must leave the UK as a matter of priority.

  16. liz Gray says:

    Harry I am at a loss as to your reasoning on this.
    The whole UK is in flux,with it would seem, no strategy to repair the damage and it would seem are, acknowledging more to come.
    The only stable part didn’t cause this ,and had no power to prevent it.
    More importantly the most competent part are never never ever going to be allowed to step in and limit the damage.
    Since this country can’t realistically expect to be involved in any meaningful or acknowledged way of getting something sensible up and running .
    Are you really saying let’s stay and help sort this?
    I am not being sarcastic please believe me,I am giving my point of view based on what I have observed and do not claim anymore insight than anyone else. Its just my humble opinions make of them what you will.

    If we stayed and helped ……what are the outcomes bearing in mind this country has NO real power?
    Will we be told look at the storms we weathered aren’t we sooo Better Together?
    Of course Only under the Current Constutional arrangement,I mean no one wants any more Instability .
    Now about that velvet separation you had in mind for when the island was stable again …..well em…look you are the most powerful em Scottish politicians in 300 odd years.
    No where on the globe are em Scottish politicians more powerful than in Holyrood, why would you give that up just to be normally… powerful politicians, like in other wee countries, madness frankly!!!
    While, like you Harry, I would not have chosen this route (irony is that neither did Scotland) my view is, to stay , would be hurting Scottish democracy needlessly.
    If we are indeed to stay then we must vote.
    To stay and be involved in the outcomes managed mainly by the Westminster elite’s THEN leave trouble’s me most.
    To stay ,help,and risk being a prisoner of our own success. Why should we ???are there indeed people crying out for us not to go ….Who are these people….what do they need form us? That seems like a choice we should then , and I don’t know how, deffer to the generation who will have to live with it.
    To leave and make a success of it…..well then… everything is again possible…..
    AND I hope I see the day the Countries to the south get there too.
    Jist Sayin

  17. Julia Gibb says:

    You can “over analyse” a situation!

    Scotland and its citizens is being dragged in the wrong direction. The only solution remains full Independence as soon as possible.

    We need to act to gain control to stop the drift in the wrong direction first. The details of the new direction comes later and will evolve via a few changes of course as a better/fairer political balance is established.

    Unfortunately we remain in endless debates about which political party (or combination of parties) offers the best solution. The answer remains none of the above BUT as in every struggle uniting under one banner is far more effective and I care not if it is YES / SNP or any other label.

    I am fed up with the constant stream of “go canny” and my (and MY parties) version of Utopia is best.

    Future generations of Scots deserve better than this endless navel gazing.

    Politics dictates the quality of life citizens enjoy. We can only impact those choices AFTER we have nationhood re-established.

    Those who promote further delay until Maggie Thatcher 2 wrecks havoc should be shunned.

  18. Camie McCain says:

    The relationship with Engalnd will sort itself out when Scotland is independent.

    Look at Ireland, despite England occupying nearly a third of its land mass, there is a grown up business like relationship between the English and Southern Irish, more so tha England’s relationship with either if the communities in the north of Ireland.

    Key point is that England does not occupy the South.

    Regards Scotland, how can we rid ourselves of an occupier by being welcoming and kind to them? By them I mean their politicans and establishment and not English people living in Scotland. Collectively Scots have have every much duty of care over English people as we do over people’s from the EU.

    By being welcoming and kind to England’s politicians and establishment, they just take that as satisfaction expressed by Scots with the occupation while England’s placement and women in the labour and tory parties bleed Scotland dry!

    1. Alf Baird says:

      A very good point. We often forget the UK has a land border with Ireland.

  19. Fiona Grahame says:

    For 2 weekends I have been on the Yes Orkney stall in Kirkwall answering people’s concerns about Brexit and talking to them about options for Orkney & Scotland. The only reactionary comments have been from Leave voters from England- who did know what they were voting for. In fact I have had previous No voters now explaining to me their reasons for moving towards a Yes vote in indy ref 2. Their reasons are in no way reactionary but a desire to remain part of Europe as an independent Scotland. I’m not sure how many people Harry Giles has spoken to before coming to his conclusions. I am finding, being on a street stall and talking to a large number of people, that his views on a reactionary nationalism in Yes voters is not borne out by my experience.

  20. Alan says:

    The neoliberal wing of the SNP has been strengthened, not weakened, by the Brexit vote. The Party is trumpeting the conversion and membership of former No voters, and if this is true then it represents an influx of members with a tendency towards centre-right economics.

    Which means what exactly? Throwing out labels such as “neoliberalism wing” is easy but vacuous.

  21. Ian Kirkwood says:

    I was shocked to be reminded in a video clip how vehemently opposed to EEC membership the SNP was in Ted Heath’s day. Quite how that view was historically reversed I shall leave to others to explain.

    In a time of upheaval it is right to explore all options and acknowledge failure of the policies that have brought us to the present. As the author states, the “economic policies …are most important of all”. Should we again be looking to review long standing assumptions of what will work best for Scotland?

    What if there were a policy that would entice enterprises to Scotland by cancelling corporation tax but that promises to deliver Scotland a doubled growth rate and a sustainable, healthy annual surplus (independent of oil rents)?

    There is. It’s called AGR (Annual Ground Rent). See http://www.facebook.com/AGRforScotland

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