Scottish Referendum

Referendum on Scotland’s Independence

The Call for a Modern Sovereign Scotland

The referendum on the independence of Scotland on September 18 presents a very exciting prospect for the Scottish nation-building project, and for opening a path to empowerment, not only for the people of Scotland but for the working class and people of Britain as a whole.

The exercise of Scotland’s sovereignty is crucial to the renewal both of Scotland and of Britain as a whole and the national question is of concern to everyone. The fight for sovereignty in Scotland will contribute to the fight for the sovereignty of the working class and people throughout Britain.

The opportunity which the Scottish people are presented with is to take up their nation-building project in earnest so that the future will be under the people’s control. The working class must take the lead in building a sovereign Scotland which defends the rights of all. They must take the lead in defining a modern sovereign Scotland as a central part of fighting the anti-social offensive and the neo-liberal policies which international monopoly capital seeks to impose throughout the world, including in Britain and the EU.

The issue presented in this referendum is that the future of Scotland should be in the hands of the people of Scotland. In our opinion, the working class of England, Scotland and Wales, as well as the people of the island of Ireland, should support the Scottish people in the exercise of this choice to vote Yes. This is a fight for something new, and it this aspect of opening the path for the New that is something which is the crucial aspect of the referendum.

The referendum on devolution in 1997 itself, though Westminster then deliberately did not raise the question of the independence of Wales and Scotland, reflected the demand for national self-determination of the Welsh and Scottish peoples. It established that to oppose this demand reflected the chauvinism of the Westminster ruling elite.

Even should the No vote prevail, the path to national self-determination for the Scottish people is unstoppable. The rich and the monopolies may do all they can to continue to deprive of empowerment not only the Scottish nation and its working class, but the working class and people of England and Wales also, while the Irish people continue to work towards the unification of their country as a whole. However, the fact that the issue of rights and a modern constitution has been put at the centre of the campaign to say Yes to an independent Scotland has established these issues in the consciousness of the Scottish people as fundamental. The struggle will continue to establish new state arrangements which favour the nation-building project led by the working class.

To take a stand for Scotland’s independence is a just stand, a stand to right the historical injustice of the subjugation of Scotland by the English ruling elite over centuries. Once this injustice is overturned, not only does it open the path to ending inequality and class privilege in Scotland, but it will strengthen the fighting unity of the working class in England and Scotland. The working class will also be in a position to advocate a voluntary union of modern sovereign states which will be an 
Glasgow protest August 28, 2014
advance when sovereign peoples are in a position to block the power of the state arrangements to deprive the working class and people of decision-making power.

The way the establishment parties of Westminster have combined to advocate a No vote has shown the self-serving nature of these parties and their vested interests, which have nothing to do with guaranteeing the rights of the people, not least the right to participate in governance. The objections that have been put in place from Westminster have demonstrated the ill-will towards the people sorting out problems in the course of the Scottish nation-building project. No doubt to sort out outstanding problems will require new thinking and new ways of organising, but this is precisely the motion of the Scottish working class and people which the referendum represents.

A Yes vote is the most practical step the people resident in Scotland can take right now to open the door to resolving problems of governance and of conditions in favour of the working class and people, and opening a path to a future where the rights of all are defended!

Draft Scottish Constitution Declares: The People are Sovereign

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A fundamental issue facing the working class and broad sections of the people across Britain is to bring about a political system based on rights, closely connected to the question of where sovereign power lies and the need for democratic renewal of the political process. One important feature of developments in Scotland is how these issues are actually being argued out in the course of real life, rather than remaining abstract questions.

Ensuring the funding of Scotland’s institutions under the austerity programme enforced by Westminster has posed these issues as concrete problems. The argument that the process of devolution has put Scotland in control of its health service, for example, no longer holds water. It is to the credit of the independence movement that out of this problem it has placed the need for a constitution that embodies rights, including the right to healthcare, on the agenda. The Interim Constitution proposed in the draft Scottish Independence Bill published in June this year reflects this in its section on rights, which states that every person has certain rights and freedoms (for this it defers to the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR]) and that “Scots law is of no effect so far as it is incompatible with those rights and fundamental freedoms”. Further, “the Scottish Government and public authorities must, in carrying out their functions, respect and comply with those rights and freedoms”.

The explanatory notes to the draft Bill raise the following significant point: “In addition to first-generation civil and political human rights – which apply to Scotland through the ECHR – there are some second and third generation human rights on social and economic matters which the Scottish Government would suggest for inclusion in the permanent constitution. These would cover areas such as the right to education for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole, the right to healthcare and protections for children. This would also cover the ‘Youth Guarantee’ as discussed in Scotland’s Future. This would establish access to education, training or employment as constitutional rights for young people up to the age of 24.”

Of even greater significance, the Draft Interim Constitution opens with the sentence: “In Scotland, the people are sovereign.”

This principle, a radical break from the present British constitutional arrangements, is linked in the Constitution with self-determination:

“In Scotland, the people have the sovereign right to self-determination and to choose freely the form in which their State is to be constituted and how they are to be governed. All State power and authority accordingly derives from, and is subject to, the sovereign will of the people, and those exercising State power and authority are accountable for it to the people.”

The explanatory notes elaborate:

“That sovereignty lies with the people will be the fundamental political, constitutional and legal organising principle of an independent Scotland. It is a principle charged with historical resonance, affirming the ancient Scots constitutional tradition that Monarchs and Parliaments are the servants of the people. Sovereignty of the people was clearly set out as early as the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, refined in the writings of George Buchanan in the late 16th century, declared in Scotland’s first Claim of Right in 1689 and proclaimed again for modern Scotland by the Constitutional Convention in 1989. …

“The referendum, and becoming an independent country, would be an act of self-determination by the people of Scotland. However self-determination is permanent and that principle would continue to be respected following independence by the on-going democratic nature of government in Scotland.

“… to be sovereign entails being autonomous from external control or interference and having the capacity to make decisions about your own society without being contradicted or having your decisions set aside. That authority is limited only by the sovereign power of the people to bind themselves by such agreements as they choose freely to enter into … Therefore the constitution is a manifestation of the people’s sovereignty which, once it exists, sets parameters for the exercise of that sovereignty.”

On this basis, the Draft Constitution contains sections on state accountability to the people. As the notes explain:

“Section 12 proposes making explicit constitutional provision, for the first time, that the Parliament and its members collectively, as the elected representatives of the sovereign people of Scotland, are accountable to the people for their actions. It also provides that the Scottish Government and its members – the First Minister, Cabinet Secretaries and Law Officers – are accountable to the Scottish Parliament and, through the Parliament, to the sovereign people of Scotland. … This provision is also a practical articulation of the sovereignty of the people – Parliament and Government are subject to the people and their authority derives from the people.”

The Draft Constitution illustrates how forward-looking an independent Scotland could be. Though still bound to the party-dominated system of representative democracy, and though it contains the contradiction that the head of state remains the British monarch, preserving the Union of Crowns, in obvious tension with its core principles of popular sovereignty and self-determination, it opens up the real possibility of fighting for the alternative and for direct decision-making power in Scotland.

For such a written constitution to be brought into being in opposition to the archaic United Kingdom would send shocks waves through Britain. Its core principles put it both in direct contention with the British establishment and in unity with the people of Britain as a whole. It is certain to have a profound effect on the political life of all nations of this island, and is itself a reflection of the developing alternative.

Wilful Obstruction from the “No” Campaign

In the last few weeks before the referendum on Scotland’s independence, those who oppose an independent and sovereign Scotland have stepped up their campaign of disinformation. What has been demonstrated is that all of the major parties at Westminster, including their Welsh and Scottish sections, oppose Scotland’s independence. Instead of treating the issue with seriousness and recognising that, like all nations, Scotland has the right to self-determination, the No Campaign has done everything to confuse the issue, attempted to create hysteria and done everything to place obstacles to prevent the emergence of an independent Scotland.

The No Campaign has focused on scaremongering about various economic issues, for example claiming that independence will mean increased job insecurity, lower wage levels and higher unemployment. At the same time, particularly during the televised debates, Alistair Darling, the leader of the “Better Together” campaign has placed particular emphasis on which currency an independent Scotland would use following earlier comments from George Osborne, the 
Chancellor, that “if Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the pound,” and similarly hostile comments from the Governor of the Bank of England. The opposition to an independent Scotland presents itself on the one hand with disinformation and scaremongering and on the other with obstacles and threats.

The fact that there is a Westminster consensus opposed to Scotland’s independence, to the right of the nation of Scotland to self-determination and the people of Scotland exercising their sovereignty, exposes the reactionary nature of the entire Westminster political system. It highlights the fact that there is an urgent need for democratic renewal and modern political arrangements not just in Scotland but also in England, Wales and Ireland too. The aim of the Westminster consensus is to ignore the question of where sovereignty should lie in a modern state and reduce the discussion to one of whether Scotland “is better off in or out”.

Such pragmatism attempts to negate the aspiration of the Scottish people for their own modern nation-building project. For such a project to succeed, it must set a new direction for the Scottish economy that is human-centred, not bound by neo-liberal assumptions that favour the interests of 
Teachers for independence
the monopolies. Its aim must be to guarantee the rights of all, which importantly includes the collective rights of the workers to job security, and standards of wages and working conditions. To end the perpetual worry of job losses and destruction of the productive forces requires a self-reliant, diverse economy.

A pillar of the disinformation campaign is therefore the attempt to keep all discussion of the economy in particular bound by the neo-liberal assumptions and the capital-centred outlook. From this starting-point, so-called fatal problems are placed in the way of independence and self-determination, which are rather problems of the neo-liberal economy.

The question must be asked why should obstacles be placed in the way of Scotland’s independence, why should threats be made against the people of Scotland exercising their sovereignty and becoming the decision-makers in regard to their country’s future? The answer raises further questions of what is meant by sovereignty and where sovereign power should lie in a modern society.

The referendum therefore presents an opportunity for the working class in Britain and Ireland to take up all of these questions from its own standpoint. This means starting to discuss and begin to build the new mechanisms required to renew democracy on the basis of the sovereignty of the people, breaking the stranglehold of the big parties on politics. The disinformation and threats of the No Campaign aim to prevent Scotland exercising its right to self-determination, and deny the people of Scotland their sovereign rights. At the same time the aim is to preserve the status quo not just in Scotland but also in regard to England, Wales and Ireland

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