:: Saturday, January 09, 2010 ::

Frontline Out Now

I am the editor of Frontline magazine, a socialist journal from Scotland. The new issue is out now on the web and the print edition will be out soon.

Read it here.

Here is my editorial for this issue.

A Question of Independence

Scotland’s unionist parties – Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems – put up a united front when First Minister Alex Salmond brought forward his proposals for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held in 2010. The White Paper, launched on St. Andrews day, put forward independence as the favoured option of the Scottish National Party which currently forms the minority administration in Scotland.

Alex Salmond also held out the possibility that other options could be included on the ballot, such as increased powers for the Scottish Parliament. He said “The debate in Scottish politics is no longer between change or no change - it’s about the kind of change we seek and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum.”

However, for now, the unionist parties have refused to back the bill, virtually guaranteeing its failure. The main strategic hope for the SNP now is to wait for the next Holyrood elections. They will hope that they have a stronger majority and that a deal can be struck with a smaller party, most likely the Lib-Dems.

SNP Decline

At the moment this seems like a tall order for the Scottish Nationalists. With an unpopular Labour government in Westminster they must have been hoping for an electoral boost that would see them rise in the polls. Instead they have suffered embarrassing by-election results and even seen support for independence begin to fall.

In 2008 the SNP achieved a great victory in the Glasgow East by-election, securing a 22% swing. However by late 2009 the shine had clearly come off with by-election failure in Glenrothes and Glasgow North-East. The Glasgow North-East by-election saw Labour gain more than double the votes of the SNP, albeit on a pitiful turnout of only a third of the electorate.

There are some good reasons for this. At the heart of it lies the fact that the SNP have no vision of an economic future for Scotland that challenges capitalism or provides any kind of alternative to the neo-liberal consensus. In fact if anything the opposite is the case. The SNP have put forward an economic policy which is a vision of business-friendly nation with low taxation for businesses on the model of Ireland, the ‘celtic tiger’. This policy particularly focused on the financial sector which was seen as key to the economic future for Scotland.


Mr Salmond infamously pointed to the “arc of prosperity” of small countries, many of these are now near-bankrupt. Ireland in particular provides a dire warning of the consequences of the capitalist crisis. The article about Ireland’s Lisbon Treaty vote in this issue of Frontline gives an outline of the depth of the crisis in that country, a crisis which the working class is being forced to pay for in cuts and job losses.

The massive worldwide economic recession has mercilessly exposed this policy. The SNP sought to portray themselves as ‘fit to govern’, however their starry-eyed belief in the unfettered power of the market no longer seems very visionary.

The Scottish economy has suffered badly in the recession, worse than other parts of the UK. This is partly because of its high dependency on financial services. Output in financial services dropped by 8.4% in Scotland whereas across the UK the figure was 0.8%. Overall growth slumped to -5% in 2009 and is set for only a very shallow recovery in 2010. Unemployment in Scotland is expected to continue to rise, reaching 8% in 2010. Once again Scotland faces the prospect of mass unemployment, especially amongst young people, and all the misery and poverty that will bring. Cuts in public services will mean tough times for working people and unemployed alike.

SNP in Government

The SNP in government have put forward many popular measures, not a few of them stolen from the policies of the Scottish Socialist Party. However they have often failed to deliver on these. In education ambitious plans to cut class-sizes to a maximum of 18 for Primary children are in disarray, with targets for smaller classes cut from 100% to 20%.

Where the SNP are in power in local government the results have often been worse still. The results of the Glenrothes by-election were in no small part due to unpopular cuts carried out by the SNP administration in Fife. In Edinburgh the SNP are junior partners to the Lib-Dems and have presided over cuts in schools and major attacks on striking bin workers, with threats to permanently privatise their service.


Whoever wins the next Westminster election, and at the moment the Tories look to be the likely victors, they will certainly implement big cuts in public spending to try to claw back some of the money spent on bailing out the banks. The financial pressures on the Scottish Government will only increase as Westminster restricts the money paid out to them.

Of course the SNP can always, and with some justification, point to Westminster as the source of the nation’s pain. If the Tories do win the next election the national question may ignite once again. Our minds will recall the 1980’s and Thatcher wreaking industrial devastation and the poll tax on a Scotland that did not vote for her.

A ‘Bolivarian Constitution’ for Scotland?

In these circumstances socialists have to be clear that they stand for independence, but not the vision of independence put forward by the SNP. Instead we stand for real independence. That means independence from the markets and the multinationals. It means putting forward a socialist vision of public ownership and the rational planning of our resources.

Socialists in Quebec have been involved in drawing up a ‘people’s constitution’ – their own plans for the type of constitution an independent Quebec could have. They took as their model the Bolivarian constitution of Venezuela which provides the foundation of that nation’s effort at constructing a socialist society.

Scottish socialists should follow their lead and bring forward their own vision of how an independent Scotland could look.

:: Alister | 9:35 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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