Save Scotland from the British Union – Not Britain from Brexit

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In a timelyintervention this week one of the Scottish National Party’s longest servingMPs, Angus MacNeil, sought to remind his parliamentary colleagues in bothWestminster and Holyrood that the SNP stands for Scottish independence and isnot the ‘Scottish Stop Brexit Party’ https://www.thenational.scot/news/17291135.the-snp-must-focus-on-independence-not-stopping-brexit/. Writing in The National newspaper on Wednesday, December 12th,Angus put the whole British Brexit mess in context for those of us committed tobreaking up the British union not saving it:

“Against all of this, the SNP has to refocus and has to be clear on its demands, given the ruling from the ECJ (the European Court of Justice ruling that the UK Parliament can unilaterally revoke the Article 50 process of exiting the European Union). The demand has to be to revoke Article 50 or we hold our mandated independence referendum, as the SNP manifesto stated we would do, if we were taken out of Europe against our national sovereign will.”

“Independence is the core policy of the SNP. People’s Votes and even votes of no confidence are merely rabbit holes to get lost in …”

Not for the first time I applauded Angus in his forthright, correct and utterly appropriate statement. I well recall speaking at scores of meetings during the 2015 General Election campaign urging socialists and Indy supporters to unite behind the SNP as the vehicle most able and likely to deliver IndyRef2 and ultimately independence. I took a lot of flak from fellow socialists who felt I was selling the socialist jerseys by supporting a party that was tied to the free market not committed to overthrowing it.

My position then, as now, was the interests of the Scottish working classes are best served by the break-up of the repressive, restrictive and exploitative British union and that meant supporting the party of independence best positioned to win.

Some good comrades of mine disagreed and even left Solidarity, my socialist party, in protest. I don’t hold grudges against those comrades. They are class fighters and in 99% of battles we will be on the same side of the barricades.

However in a General Election scenario, with a deeply flawed First Past the Post electoral system, every vote cast for the SNP was a vote for independence and against the British union. The fact the SNP manifesto was explicitly anti-austerity, anti-nuclear weapons and anti-privatisation of the NHS and other public services made the decision easier to defend as they were clearly standing on a left of centre manifesto. Not a socialist manifesto but definitely a left of centre one.

Faced with the choice of Meek Milliband and his Blairite band of austerity apologists it was a no-brainer for me. It would be an unnecessary and unwise division of the Indy Family to stand against the SNP. The strength of the unionists in uniting for Britain in the 2014 referendum could become the strength of the YES Movement in 2015 by uniting behind Scotland’s left of centre party of independence.

That unity strategy required other parties to lower their flags for the good of the bigger cause. Sometimes your own party political interests must become subordinate to the bigger interests of the cause. It was hugely successful. The SNP won an incredible number of Scotland’s Westminster seats, 56 of the 59 contested. Indeed had the Green party stood aside in the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale County Constituency and urged their supporters to back the SNP at that election the supine and supremely slavish and anti-Scottish interests Tory MP, David Mundell, the only one elected, could have been ousted. The Greens only attracted 839 votes but those votes diverted to the excellent SNP candidate, registered nurse Emma Harper, instead would have been enough to prevent Mundell being elected and going on to become the Scottish Secretary of State. Instead of one MP in Scotland the Tories could have been reduced to none https://www.dgwgo.com/regional-news/general-election-2015-results-for-dumfrishire-and-dumfries-and-galloway/ .

I travelled to Dumfriesshire to support the SNP campaign there and to several other key target seats. Alongside my United YES Movement message was the clarion call to all SNP representatives sent to the Westminster Parliament:

“We are sending you down there on behalf of Scotland to settle up, not to settle down.”

In the course of the last three years I sincerely hope that clear statement of intent has not been forgotten by the band of SNP MPs. There were 56 of them elected in 2015 and 35 of them elected in 2017, more than all the unionist party MPs combined. Frankly I couldn’t care less if they secure positions on parliamentary committees or turn up to more debates than any of the other MPs. They are there with the goal of disruption and destruction of the British union in mind not to make it work better or run smoothly.

Westminster has exploited Scotland’s abundant natural resources for years and squandered our vast oil wealth on enriching the few while impoverishing the many. They have treated Scotland and her people with utter contempt. It is an institution which deserves no respect from us or our representatives.

In June this year the SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, led a walkout of SNP colleagues in protest at Westminster stealing powers from the Scottish Parliament https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/13/snp-mps-walk-out-of-commons-in-protest-over-brexit-debate . Last week he implied Theresa May was a liar in relation to her Brexit deal while speaking in Parliament and went further on the BBC Question Time show by actually calling her a liar https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/uk/1625678/you-lied-snp-westminster-leader-tells-may/ . These actions and condemnations are justified and welcome but both were in relation to the Brexit mess not in relation to the scandal of Universal Credit imposition, swingeing real terms reductions to the Scottish block grant leading to deep cuts in essential local government services or the continuing and shameful rise in in-work poverty due to inadequate pay and insecure working conditions. Scotland’s poorest citizens are protected from Tory policies like the Bedroom Tax by the Scottish Government diverting funds from one budget to another but they are the equivalent of an Elastoplast being applied to a gaping stab wound.

While Westminster runs the show Scotland as a nation will experience stunted growth and increased poverty and social inequality. That’s why Angus MacNeil’s words this week are so important and timely.

The SNP has to stop expending valuable time and energy trying to save Britain from Brexit and start spending more time and energy rescuing Scotland from the British union. Their very reason for existence is the pursuit of independence. From Twitter feeds to Facebook posts I want to see SNP politicians devote more space and time to the cause of independence and less to the Brexit shenanigans.

Sure Scotland voted decisively to stay in the EU by 62% but poll after poll indicates up to one third of independence supporters also voted Brexit https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/scotland-blog/2016/may/12/eurosceptic-snp-voters-could-influence-eu-referendum-result-polling-data-shows. Perhaps they see the fundamentally undemocratic nature of that institution and its willingness to impose austerity measures on member nations like Greece, Portugal and others while standing idly by in the face of fascistic repression and brutality against the Catalan people by the right wing state of Spain.

The SNP was for many years opposed to membership of the EU as it was interpreted as a body interfering in Scotland’s sovereignty. Some rejected the idea of replacing London rule with Brussels rule. That changed in the mid-1980’s around the ‘Social Europe’ project of Jacques Delors, the French Socialist President of the European Commission, whose concerns for the poor and poorer countries of the EU contrasted with the cold and cruel chauvinism of Thatcher in Britain http://ukandeu.ac.uk/brexit-reigniting-old-scottish-grievances/.

The left may have held some sway within the EU of the 80’s but today it is a predominantly centre right institution pursuing austerity and free market liberalisation at every opportunity. It is no cuddly friend of the poor or the workers. Nor is it a supporter of national self-determination as the Catalans have found out to their cost.

Socialists like me supported Brexit for radically different reasons than bam pot millionaires like Boris Johnson, racist Farage and double-barrelled Mogg. Just like Remainers supported remain for different reasons than Cruel Cameron, Malevolent May and war-criminal Blair. I am satisfied that the clear majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU but they are being dragged out against their democratically expressed will. In an independent Scotland a straightforward and inclusive referendum can be held to determine whether we apply to re-join or not. Some whom I fight alongside for independence may be on a different side to me in that campaign but that is fine because it will be Scotland deciding for herself not England deciding for everyone else.

In common with other big issues like membership of NATO, recognition of the Monarchy and a distinct Scottish currency I am prepared to postpone final decisions until after our independence is secured and Scotland alone will be allowed to decide. Those united for independence may have different views on those matters but we are absolutely united on independence. Imagine a country being able to decide such issues? Imagine a country getting the government it actually votes for? That is not crazy notion that is a normal state of affairs and that is what we seek for Scotland.

The SNP may be hesitant about ringing the bell to announce IndyRef2 in the midst of the Brexit chaos but it must quickly comprehend that Britain’s mess is not of our making and our energy has to be focused on breaking up the unfair and exploitative British union not keeping it together. Opportunities like this to face up to a weak and divided foe will not last forever.

I implorethe SNP leadership to heed the plea of their own senior Member of Parliamentand concentrate more on pursuing IndyRef2 and less on People’s Votes andWestminster chicanery. They stood on a clear IndyRef2 mandate in 2016 and 2017and won both times. Those standing on a Brexit2 platform in 2017 were trounced.The democratic mandate for IndyRef2 was fought hard for and won. Use it now andconfirm we will get the chance to vote for our freedom from Westminster in theearly part of 2019.

Tommy Sheridan 

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Posted in Tommy Sheridan's Columns.

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