Music Hall Buildings, Aberdeen, 1885
From Radical Philosophy:
For socialists the question is about whether or not independence strengthens the working class. But the working class with which we should be concerned is not only British, still less only Scottish, but international. Furthermore, the question cannot be posed in a purely economic way: strength comes from ideological and political clarity as much as from organizational capacity. So what, then, are socialist arguments for independence that would meet these requirements? The most obvious is the possibility of breaking up the British imperialist state.
Britain is still an imperial state at war; at war for every single year from 1914 to 2013. (The First World War Centenary commemorations begin a little over a month before the referendum, and the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will seamlessly meld into the opening events of the Centenary across Britain as a whole, with a wreath-laying at the Cenotaph in George Square. This is not an innocent coincidence.) A referendum called while the occupation of Afghanistan was still ongoing, with the Iraqi and Libyan interventions a recent memory, is inseparable from the arguments against these wars and the British state’s subordinate alliance with the American Empire. Scottish secession would at the very least make it more difficult for Britain to play this role, if only by reducing its practical importance for the USA. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has recently been leaking into its favoured urinal, The Telegraph, concerns for the international standing of the RUK, post-Scottish independence. The FCO fears that it might be removed as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – with the power of veto that this position confers – as the result of an Argentinian conspiracy backed by other Latin American states, although one imagines that India might also have good reason to see RUK removed. One Better Together leaflet, handed to me by a Labour activist on the streets of Dunbar, stated, as a reason to vote ‘no’ in the referendum: ‘The UK means Scots get a seat at the top table at the UN beside Russia, China and America.’ Indeed. And the fact that British state managers would find their geopolitical position weakened by the removal of the Rest of the United Kingdom (‘Little Britain’) from permanent membership of the UN Security Council seems an excellent reason to vote ‘yes’.
There would also be difficulties if the SNP were to remain the governing party in an independent Scotland and actually fulfilled its promise to remove nuclear weapons from the Clyde. There are virtually no other deep water bases on the UK coastline where these submarines can be docked, and to construct them would involve massive expenditure. The Ministry of Defence is currently wringing its hands about the potential cost of relocating Trident from the Clyde to England, at a likely cost of £35 billion; although the SNP cannot be relied on to carry through the removal of Trident without mass pressure from below. Finally, in this connection, one immediate consequence of Scottish independence would be to place a question mark over the existential viability of Northern Ireland, since the Union has always been with Britain, not England, and – as Ulster Unionists of all varieties are perfectly well aware – Sinn Fein would almost certainly begin agitation for an all-Irish referendum on reunification.