Workers Hammer No. 238

Spring 2017


Labour spits on Scottish self-determination

MARCH 13 — In response to Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement today that she will seek to hold a new referendum on independence, Scottish Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale rallied to the Union Jack. Dugdale tweeted, “we firmly oppose a second referendum and Scottish Labour MSPs will vote against the SNP’s proposals next week”. Dugdale’s months of campaigning for a “new Act of Union” speak to her commitment to uphold Westminster rule, a system based on English domination through which the imperialist bourgeoisie, centred in the City of London, bleeds workers in Britain and throughout the world.

The Spartacist League stands in the tradition of Lenin’s Bolsheviks, who fought for the equality of all nations and the right of national self-determination in order to advance proletarian unity and the struggle for socialism. Thus, we uphold the Scottish people’s right to choose independence (or not, as they did in the last referendum) including defending the right to hold another independence referendum. In 2014, we did not advocate either a yes or no vote, while supporting the right of the Scottish people to decide.

In February, Scottish Labour held its conference under the slogan “Together We’re Stronger” — echoing the 2014 “Better Together” anti-independence campaign in which Labour joined hands with the Conservative and Unionist Party, a campaign which contributed to Labour’s near extinction in Scotland. At the conference, Dugdale hailed Sadiq Khan as “the pride of London” after he piggishly likened supporters of Scottish independence to racists. Kevin McKenna captured the irony of the situation in an article in the Herald Scotland: “Scottish Labour, impoverished and deluded, chose to become champions of a union with a country that lately has failed to acknowledge that Scotland even existed” (11 February).

Jeremy Corbyn’s 11 March statement, “I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda” immediately got blowback from the Scottish Labour leadership. Corbyn’s spokesman quickly clarified: “Labour continues to oppose a further referendum in the Scottish Parliament and would campaign against independence if one were held” (, 11 March). Corbyn’s opposition to Scottish independence amounts to support to the reactionary United Kingdom.

Corbyn’s Unionism sticks in the craw of Scottish workers who resent Westminster’s chauvinist overlordship. Likewise, by campaigning for remain during last summer’s Brexit referendum, Corbyn left the almost 40 per cent of voters in Scotland who voted leave with no working-class based political expression. In recent years, the SNP has gained from Labour’s loss of support in Scotland, campaigning on a range of populist measures from free prescriptions and free personal care for the elderly to a council tax freeze. The SNP is tapping into hatred of Westminster rule and austerity policies, the better to win voters to their own version of capitalist oppression. The would-be imperialists of the SNP — whose vision of independence in 2014 included keeping the Queen, a joint military and the pound — want an independent Scotland to participate in all the major Western imperialist clubs, including NATO and the EU bosses’ and bankers’ cartel. For its part, the EU, which considers the national borders of Europe to be sacrosanct, opposes Scottish independence.

Sentiment for independence has been growing ever since Thatcher decided to throw Scotland on the rubbish heap, gutting industry and using the Scottish people as guinea pigs for the poll tax. Laying waste to Scotland while lording it over the population from their landed estates and grouse moors, Britain’s imperialist rulers have also devastated Wales and northern England. To avenge the bourgeoisie’s crimes against the Scottish, Welsh and Irish peoples and to end the exploitation of the English working class requires sweeping away capitalist rule through socialist revolution. Fighting against English chauvinism and all varieties of Labourite backwardness is key to building a Leninist vanguard party that can lead the working class to power. For the right of independence for Scotland and Wales! For a voluntary federation of workers republics in the British Isles!