Scots need a people's constitution, not an SNP one
The deal struck between Edinburgh and Westminster to hold a single question referendum on independence in the autumn of 2014 should not obscure the fact that the needs of ordinary Scots are secondary to this political manoeuvring.
Even though it seems most Scots would like to have the option of greater devolution as an alternative to independence, this will not be on the ballot paper. The Tories, who have no support whatsoever in Scotland, want the electorate to face a stark choice – “in or out”. New Labour supports that position.
The big three parties are united on the need for a strong, united British state – not for the benefit of the people, but as part of feverish attempts to hold the crumbling economy together.
The big question facing people in Scotland is not “do we want independence from England” (a completely inaccurate and historically wrong formulation) but what kind of society do we want? What kind of economy, what kind of politics, what kind of life for the people? And these are the same questions that face people everywhere, in this unprecedented economic and ecological crisis.
None of these questions will be on the ballot paper, nor raised by Scottish National Party. The SNP makes the right to self-determination of the Scottish people synonymous with a crude nationalism that masks its reactionary policies.
The referendum campaign presents a massive opportunity to build something genuinely new and independent and we should not let it pass us by. We should refuse to spend two years as onlookers as they haggle over a constitutional settlement that will still put the needs of the corporations above the needs of the majority.
The argument put forward by some on the “left”, that if we get independence within the framework set out by Salmond and Cameron, that will somehow strengthen the power of the people for the future is unbelievable.
How would a Holyrood Parliament organised on the same lines as its counterparts in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland save us? And if an independent Scotland is still using the pound, as SNP leader Alex Salmond says it would, then the Westminster Treasury would still call the shots on spending, interest rates and borrowing.
For the next two years the SNP government and local councils of all stripes will go on cutting health, education and the voluntary and community sector. They will destroy further education colleges and oversee rising youth unemployment and destitution for families.
Whatever their disagreements over independence, all the parties agree there is no alternative to this. Labour in Scotland wants to remove universal benefits not enjoyed elsewhere in the UK right now. The SNP wants to keep them as a kind of bribe.
But for independent thinkers, the question is why are these benefits not rights? Why do people not have the right to work, to adequate food, to a home, in our rich country? Why are these subject to degrading rules, and dependent on whether capitalism decides to afford them or not?
If we are really talking about an independent future, let’s plan for a society where dependence on benefits is eliminated, where everybody participates and in return receives a share of the collective wealth that is enough to live well.
Salmond’s top priority for a post-independence constitution is keeping Scotland in NATO. We should develop a constitution that rejects NATO and its corporate-sponsored wars.
All Scotland’s politicians and businessmen want the corporations to drill for oil in deep water off our coast, and they support more open cast mining. We should demand an end to fossil fuel burning and a rapid transition to renewables. Let’s plan to place all land and sea in Scotland into a new commons, where it can be used for the benefit of all.
Those who want to bring about such real, fundamental changes should get together and write a people’s constitution. Then we can support and promote local initiatives that build into a network of democratic People’s Assemblies – in Scotland and beyond – striving for real political change. That would give real meaning and a modern content to the right to self-determination.
15 October 2012