Saturday, 1 November 2014

Was the referendum just the start for Scotland's independence campaign?

Below is the full text of an interview I did with Press TV on the consequences of the Scottish independence referendum.
The abridged version can be read at this link:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/11/01/384423/majority-of-scots-back-2nd-referendum/
Press TV Question : 
An independence referendum was held in Scotland on September 18, with No winning by 55% to 45% for Yes. Despite the No campaign’s victory, we still see that majority of Scots want another vote on the independence. What’s your take on that?
What is the benefit of independence for Scots?
My Answer: Many people, not least those in the British political and state apparatus, believed that the no vote on the 18th of September would be the final nail in the coffin for the Scottish independence campaign. And in the depression of the immediate aftermath, for many independence campaigners, it did feel it could be that way.
However, only a few weeks on and we are seeing the opinion polls showing there is now a small majority in favour of independence, and a substantial 2/3rds majority who believe there should be another referendum on independence within a decade.
This turnaround is not actually very surprising. The No vote won by a margin of just over 5%, and did so on the back of a massive media campaign of fear mongering, particularly by the BBC, who were fully exposed as not a public service broadcaster, but as the British state broadcaster, which were especially targeted at older voters who were led to believe they would lose their pensions in an independent Scotland. Similar claims were made about the future of the NHS in Scotland.
This was combined with vague promises of extra fiscal and political powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament that were dressed up, with no actual formal commitment, as “Devo-Max”, the idea that Scotland could have full control over its finances and resources, with just foreign affairs and the military kept under British state control.
This was backed up with "The Vow", published in the most widely read tabloid in Scotland, the Daily Record, which was allegedly made by the three main UK party leaders, Miliband of Labour, British Prime Minister Cameron for the Conservatives and Deputy PM Clegg for the Liberal Democrats. “The Vow,” which implied a “Devo-Max” settlement is widely accepted as swinging the vote to a No, seen as a safe half-way house option by many voters.
However, within hours of the referendum result being announced, Prime Minister Cameron was already back tracking on any promise of new powers for Scotland.
And in the last week it was exposed that the so called “Vow” was a fabrication, compiled not by the Party leaders, but by the editorial staff of the Daily Record newspaper.
Along with this was the announcement by Cameron that UK military forces would once again be bombing Iraq, made within days of the referendum result, and privately admitted by government insiders that it was a decision made before the referendum, but not announced until after in order not to influence the result.
And the cost of the bombing campaign was touted at £2 Billion, a cost greater than that which was suggested as being the "unaffordable" cost of Scottish independence.
Then was the announcement that rather than state pensions being safe in the UK, they are to be cut drastically, plunging many pensioners into even deeper poverty.
And then Lloyds TSB's announcement of 9000 job losses. Much was made by the No campaign of Lloyds and other banks threatening job losses as a result of Scottish independence. In fact those job losses were already planned.
And the privatisation and dismemberment of the National Health Service, a process started under the previous Labour government, is stepping up a gear now.
So with all this in mind, it is hardly surprising that many of those who voted No to independence are now feeling cheated and betrayed.
The most obvious expression of this has been in recent opinion polls which are showing that the Labour Party has lost all credibility in Scotland, and is heading towards disaster in its Scottish working class heartlands in next years UK general election.
Meanwhile, the pro-independence Scottish National Party, is soaring in the polls.
So rather than the referendum being the end of the Scottish independence campaign, it now appears to be just the beginning.
The most striking feature of the independence campaign was the way that ordinary people became politicised and energised about politics in a way that has really never been seen before in this country. And that shows no sign of dying away. The SNP has seen its membership triple from 25,000 to over 80,000 in the weeks since the referendum. Political debate is still very much a major topic of conversation for ordinary people in Scotland now.
And so it is becoming ever clearer to the majority of Scots, particularly working class Scots, that the only way they can guarantee that the resources of Scotland are used in the best interests of the people of Scotland, and not squandered on endless wars and subsiding the greed of the wealthy, and the corrupt banking system, is through full independence.
If, as looks likely, there is a large number of SNP MP's elected to Westminster in 2015, and another SNP majority government in Holyrood in the Scottish elections in 2016, this creates a major headache for the British political establishment, who would have no legitimacy to continue their rule and their austerity policies in Scotland. This headache could quickly become a major political crisis if, as is expected, there is another hung parliament in Westminster, where no one Party has a majority, leaving the Scottish Nationalists holding the balance of power and potentially forcing Labour and Conservative parties into a pact in order to maintain a functioning government.
This will be exacerbated further if the promised UK referendum on leaving the EU takes place and the majority of English voters choose to leave the EU, but Scottish voters choose to remain.
What would be the legitimacy then of the British government to decide Scotland's future? With no political mandate in Scotland the mainstream UK parties have lost their moral right to rule Scotland. The political battle to end their rule has in reality only just begun.

James Stuart political commetator from Edinburgh

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