Scotland - nothing to choose between these two nationalisms

17 September 2014

If opinion polls are anything to go by, the outcome of this Thursday's referendum over Scotland's independence will be very close. So much so, that the three main parties in Westminster made a last-ditch, frantic attempt to shore up their anti-independence campaign by promising a far more comprehensive level of autonomy for Scotland should the "no" vote prevail.

In any case, despite what both sides claimed during the campaign, this referendum has little to do with the interests of the Scottish population, let alone those of the Scottish working class.

What lies behind the Scottish nationalism championed by pro-independence politicians is their aspiration to be the chief managers of the interests of big business. And since they don't have the electoral weight to do it in London, they're willing to limit their ambitions to doing it in Edinburgh.

As to the anti-independence politicians, their opposition to Salmond's national flag-waving is like the pot calling the kettle black. Aren't they resorting to the same kind of flag-waving when it comes to the EU, for instance? What really lies behind their anti-independence stance, is their own narrow British nationalism - which only reflects their wish to retain their monopoly over the management of the interests of big business across the whole of the British isles.

The mirage of Scottish nationalism

One thing's for sure, though: whatever the outcome of this referendum, little Scotland, with its 5.3 million inhabitants, will remain just as much a backyard of London's City. Any future horse-trading between Cameron and Salmond will be conducted with this in mind.

Financial institutions like RBS, Lloyds and Standard Life, will carry on running the show in the financial sphere, using the City as their main business hub. Oil companies like BP will carry on making billions out of North Sea oil. Engineering firms, like Weir and Babcock, will carry on doing work for the Navy. Above all, the fact that 3/4 of Scotland's economic activity is tied to the English market will ensure its continuing dependence.

So, while Cameron mobilised many companies behind the "no" vote, many others indicated their backing for the "yes" vote. For instance, the CEOs of IAG (owner of British Airways) and Ryanair have both endorsed Salmond's policies because he plans to abolish air passenger duty. Jim Ratcliffe, the union-bashing CEO of refinery company Ineos, stressed how much more helpful Salmond had been compared to Cameron. Others still, hailed Salmond's plan to cut the rate of corporation tax by an additional 3% on top of Osborne's cuts!

In fact, Salmond's plans couldn't be clearer. He wants to make Scotland attractive to foreign investors while building a fully-fledged state machinery, complete with its own army and NATO membership. This will come at a price. And since the capitalists won't be made to foot the bill, for fear of deterring foreign investors, it's the working class who will be paying the cost of independence.

Workers of the world, unite!

The Scottish nationalists rely heavily on the accumulated frustration of Scottish voters. Not only do voters have accounts to settle with the three main parties for their policies since the beginning of the crisis. But in addition, for decades, they elected Labour majorities, only to be ruled by the Tories or by Labour with Tory policies. Salmond's party rose on this frustration, especially after 1997, when it filled the vacuum to the left of Labour, following Blair's right wing shift.

8 years after devolution, in 2007, Salmond got into office. Instead of implementing all the cuts decided by Westminster, he took "old Labour" measures which were not too costly - such as abolishing prescription charges (as in Wales and Northern Ireland), charges for elderly personal care and university fees.

These measures didn't prevent workers from being hit just as hard by the crisis. But combined with North Sea Oil, they were used to substantiate the illusion that Scotland would be better off ruled as an independent confetti state.

But the real issue for the Scottish working class is not which institutions are running society - whether independent, devolved or otherwise. It is what class interests they represent.

Whichever way the vote goes, Scotland will be managed in the interest of the capitalist class. For workers there are no "good" capitalists, whether they come from Scotland, England, or anywhere else for that matter. They are all enemies and should be fought as such, by both English and Scottish workers, joining ranks together.