Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Scotland Debate

The irony of the British establishment's attempt to keep Scotland within the UK from an economic perspective is that it is also an argument why the 'rest of the UK' should get rid of Scotland as an economic burden on the rest of the UK! Whether they note how population trends in Scotland make pensions less affordable, or the risk of North Sea oil revenues running low, or being volatile, or the fact that public spending per head is 10% higher in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. This might backfire, except that the rest of the UK does not have a vote on getting rid of Scotland.
My guess is that Scotland will vote for keeping the union with the UK they have benefited from. This is not such a brave gambit, given that polls in Scotland still suggest a majority in favour of maintaining the status quo, although there are plenty of 'undecideds'. The brief period when the British establishment went for intimidation and threats to the Scottish nationalists is over. Instead there are promises of more goodies to win over those who are recalcitrant. They will benefit more from extra policy autonomy from the London-based regime and do not have to answer for the local, professional prejudice against outsiders if they stay inside the club. A wild card is the vote of those aged 16-18, whose opinions appear to be less carefully tracked by the regular pollsters, and who may know what they don't like (London rule), but are unsure what might happen at the start of their real lives under a fishy Salmond regime.
When all is said and done, for 'auld lang syne', it comes down to the status of the UK as a world power. Losing 8% of the UK population in Scotland might be a misfortune, as Oscar Wilde might have said, but losing part of an internal market, territory that includes mineral rights, a nuclear base and a ready supply of aggressives for external combat (the internal requirement having long been redundant) will look like carelessness in the eyes of other major powers. This is the basis of the countervailing offer by London.
A Scottish 'Yes' vote (in favour of separation from the UK) can hardly be characterised as a vote against British imperialism, even if it would cause the British ruling class some problems of management. The Scots are part of the privileged imperialist elite, and the demand for 'independence' is essentially a demand for privileges to be improved, not really independence. That is why the 'Yes' campaign wants to keep the Queen, the pound sterling, etc, etc. The 'Better Together' campaign argues that the structure of privileges will be more secure with a 'No' (continued union) vote, because they are backed up by a united, British power. That is the referendum debate, and it is a mistake to try and give the 'Yes' side a progressive veneer, as do some misguided radicals, both in Scotland and without.

Tony Norfield, 16 August 2014

(resubmitted after some amendments)


  1. I have no say in this matter but I want a yes vote because I think that will stir things up!

    I have no other reason but given your ambiguity isn't this reason enough?

    1. I agree that there would be a certain amusement value in seeing the discomfiture of the British with a 'Yes' vote. However, nothing would really change in terms of imperialist power. The biggest effect would be some embarrassment for the many Scots working in BBC radio and television broadcasts, and (rest of) UK weather reporters wondering if they should talk about the wind, rain, snow or sun in Scotland. The referendum, in my view, only serves as a distraction from understanding what is really going on in the world.
      It is not necessary to take part in this debate on the terms in which it is presented. I am not eligible to vote in the Scottish referendum, but if I were I would not see it as necessary to come down either on the 'Yes' or the 'No' side. In other words, I would abstain. People on the left are often against an abstention position and, in this case, are taking sides in a reactionary debate by making a 'Yes' vote (with the usual caveats) seem to be the radical option. This fails to address the pro-imperialist politics of the UK working class, Scotland included.