It would be nice to win a fortune. Not just a poxy wee quarter million on the National Lottery, if you’re going to fantasise about something which has a probability as near to zero as makes no practical difference, you’re as well to fantasise about a serious jackpot – £150 million with a superdooper Euromillions multirollover, like those jammy jammy folk from Largs. You’re more likely to be struck by a meteorite, so you may as well indulge yourself in a decent daydream while you’re on a bus that’s stuck in traffic.
Enjoy the wee fantasy while it lasts, rumour has it that BetterTogether are preparing a press release claiming that an independent Scotland won’t be allowed to join the Euromillions lottery. We’ll be vetoed by number 10, and number 11 won’t pay out any prize money in sterling. And we’ll never see any bonus balls, those are reserved for city bankers when they get their annual wad of extra dosh.
Some people on the left of Scottish politics have their own lottery jackpot to fantasise about -only it’s not so much Euromillions as Parliamentary Road to Socialism Lotto. Both involve paying your subs every week in the hope of a big payout, but only one of them gives you the occasional tenner back as a consolation prize. The other gives a booby prize in the form of Johann Lamont’s rapidly evaporating proposals for further devolution.
Writing in the organ of the Socialist Workers party, left stalwart and Labour member Vince Mills points out that working class Scots are on the same side as working class folk in Liverpool, Manchester, or the impoverished estates of London’s poorer boroughs. We all have a common foe in the banks, big business, and the conservative establishment.
No one on the left of Scottish politics is going to argue with that, although we might mutter that working class people in Dublin, Madrid or Warsaw have the same foes too and point out that solidarity is not dependent upon the Westminster Parliament. The real problem comes from what Vince sees as the logical consequence to working class Scots having so much in common with working class people elsewhere in Britain and Ireland-apart-from-the-independent-bit, this being his belief that we should vote no in the referendum.
Vince argues that it’s only if the working classes of Scotland and England combine forces that capital in the City of London can be challenged. He admits that this will be difficult, but says there are no shortcuts. He goes on to call for a UK wide grass roots movement to challenge the hegemony of the City of London.
Which is all lovely and rousing and let’s get out the red flags, but at the moment the closest thing to a grass roots mass political movement in England is UKIP. The socialist strategy is nowhere to be seen, there’s Ed Balls lined up with George Osborne preaching austerity and slapping down Scotland for having the temerity to insist that the people are sovereign not the Westminster Parliament. The UK left is in retreat, and has been since the 1970s. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown proved that it’s only by aping the freemarketeers of the Tories that Labour has any chance at all of forming a majority government. And we all know how that worked out. Looks like it’s still working out that way, and is going to for the foreseeable future.
The UK left isn’t even promising jam tomorrow, they’re just expressing the hope that at some point sometime in the future, there may be lots of lovely sugar based conserve of an unspecified nature. But if idle daydreams are your thing, there’s always fantasising about the Euromillions jackpot, which at least has a probability which can be calculated.
The independence of Scotland is not a shortcut to challenging the power of the City of London. It is however the only means to challenge it within Scotland, since there is no British left strategy which has the remotest chance of success. In fact there is no British left strategy at all. There’s only Ed Miliband.
A vote for independence does not mean a vote for a socialist Scotland. But it does mean a country where the left has an influence and clout far exceeding that of its British counterpart. An independent Scotland is more likely to hold a referendum on the future of the monarchy, and there’s a greater likelihood of us voting against having Charles as king. Scotland would succeed in getting rid of nuclear weapons from our soil, a goal which the UK left is no closer to realising after 60 years of campaigning. Scotland will abolish the bedroom tax and resist the privatisation of public services which is being inflicted on the rest of the UK. Scotland will renationalise the Royal Mail and will keep the National Health Service as a publicly owned national health service. The chances of Holyrood introducing tax and benefits policies which reduce inequality are far greater than a Westminster which has presided over increasing inequality, with the gap set to widen even further.
The minority of Scottish leftists who still back the Union are dreaming of the day that their lottery numbers come up. The prize of a socialist Britain is so large they have blinded themselves to the reality that it’s not going to happen.
In order to continue dreaming their dream, the unionist left is asking us to take a leap of faith into a very dark deep Tory chasm, even though Westminster is destroying the ragged remains of what was once a safety net, even though we’ll be the plankton in the City of London’s food chain, even though the votes of Scotland make little or no difference in UK Parliamentary elections, even though the only vehicle for hopes of anything better is a venal Parliamentary Labour party which has long since died inside and which has lied to us repeatedly in the past. And worse, the unionist left asks us to endure this fate for generations still to come with no guarantee that it will ever come to an end.
No. People in poverty, people who struggle with challenge and adversity without the advantages of wealth or social status deserve better than to be told to have faith in an miraculous future that won’t happen until after they are dead. That’s not the job of socialism. We have religions for that sort of thing.
Politics is about hopes which can be realised. It’s not about getting down on your knees and praying to St Johann the Invisible to intercede with the gods of Westminster for our salvation. The choice facing those of us on the left in Scotland is simple. We can either hold out for the hope of changes which will never happen, or we can make change happen ourselves, here, and now.
Most people on the left of Scottish politics have worked out the answer already. That’s why they’re going to vote yes.