Sunday, June 17, 2007

Perspectives for Scotland


by London Scot

Communist Party of Scotland: Perspectives for Scottish Independence, Glasgow: CPS, April 2007 pp.31. £1.50 plus 50p P&P. Available from the Communist Party of Scotland 4th Floor, Room 3A, 52 St Enoch Square, Glasgow or from Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX.

THE COVER of this pamphlet states that it "reflects the views of some comrades in the Communist Party of Scotland. We do not offer this pamphlet as anything more than a modest contribution to the debate". However this does not discuss the pros and cons of independence for Scotland, but instead forcefully argues the case for Scotland’s independence. It was written before the recent elections to the Scottish Parliament saw Labour lose control to a minority Scottish National Party administration and it is already showing its age.
For those not familiar with the ins and outs of Scottish politics it is worth noting that the CPS was founded in 1992 by a number of veteran members of the old Communist Party of Great Britain who remained within the party until the CPGB dissolved itself the previous year.
There are three main sections to the pamphlet. In the first CPS general secretary, retired architect Eric Canning denounces the present "neo-imperialist" state British state and the "fractured British left" who seek to capture it rather than break it. One wonders why a body which calls itself a Communist Party refrains from making even the mildest criticism of the economic policies of the main pro-independence party the Scottish National Party. The SNP has been has been promising lower corporation tax to benefit big business. The same party has been bank-rolled by several leading businessmen including Brian Soutar, the notoriously homophobic owner of the ruthless bus company Stagecoach. It is reasonable to conclude that many promoters of independence see it has heralding in a future Scotland very different from that promised here. While the pamphlet makes repeated and justified attacks on Labour Party policies it might be worth remembering that it was the same Labour Party which brought the Scottish Parliament into being.
It is worth noting that some sections of the Scottish trade union movement have toyed with left-wing Scottish nationalism as recommended here. Some branches of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union did indeed affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party. It is not clear what the RMT gained as a result of this dalliance. As a result they were automatically disaffiliated from the Labour Party, thus losing any formal influence. In the event the SSP split as a result of a colourful court case involving their former leader and were wiped out in last month’s elections.
Secondly Maggie Chetty offers "Reflections on an Independent Scotland" in which she finds space to applaud the absurd "Tartan Day" initiative aimed at persuading rich Americans with Scottish sounding surnames to take their holidays in Scotland. The great Scottish communist poet Hugh MacDiarmid rightly poured scorn on that sort of nonsense. Modern Scottish communists should follow suit instead of welcoming it.
The final major article by Rhona Fleming takes an unbelievably rosy view of the Scottish economy, present and in an imaginary future. The author starts by welcoming the fact that Glasgow is a "Fair trade city". This means little more than ensuring that only fair trade tea and coffee is served in the City Chambers. Charity mongering does next to nothing for the tea-pickers of the Kenya and India. The main beneficiaries of such policies are the latte drinking classes who invariably gain a warm feeling of self righteousness. Claims that Glasgow is a presently a "lively vibrant city which has reinvented its image" merely regurgitate the purple prose of glossy tourist brochures. While there are now plenty of trendy wine bars in central
Glasgow, they invariably have homeless Big Issue sellers outside them.
There can be no doubt that Scotland could, if it were carried in a referendum, hold its own as an independent state.
Support for independence can be found among sections of the ultra left and those on the free market. But the CPS assumes far too easily that such a rearrangement of the constitutional furniture will inevitably have progressive consequences.