The Point
Last updated: 26 March 2017.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Editorial - Is There A Better, Safer, More Winnable Route For Indyref 2?

"The 'Scottish Question' remains unanswered. Everyone knows that, whether they pretend that this has been resolved for a generation or not. It will not answer itself. If you believe in independence, now would be a good time to start answering the big questions of what scotland is and what it will be. Crossed fingers are neither a tool or a weapon. It will take determination - or our future will be determined for us."

- Robin McAlpine, 'Determinations', How Scotland can become independent by 2021. 

 

The road to independence waters were muddied still further this week, with May and the Tories suggesting that they would ‘allow’ a second independence referendum only after Brexit.

Much as we may dislike it, they may have the strongest suit of cards to play legally.

Westminster remains sovereign, only the Edinburgh Agreement back in 2012 allowed the referendum of 2014 to have the force of law, and the SNP had a clear and unambiguous mandate to hold a referendum.

It would be open to the Scottish Government to challenge such an obstructive Tory decision in the courts, of course, but going to the law could be a long drawn out process, with no guarantee of success, that may drag on beyond Brexit in any case.

Fortunately, there is more than one road to a successful indyref 2 open to us.

Robin McAlpine of the Common Weal Foundation, in his thought provoking YES strategy pamphlet ‘Determination’, argues that going for an independence referendum in 2018 may be too quick, that more preparatory work on key issues like the currency, pensions and other policy issues needs to be done.

Others, such as ourselves, have argued that there is an element of a gamble in going for an indyref 2 in 2018 or earlier that would seem - by design or default - to make the referendum solely or mainly about membership of the EU, when some polling experts have estimated that up to 4 out of 10 Yes voters in Scotland also voted to Leave the EU, a not insignificant proportion of YES leaning voters who desire not only independence from Westminster but also Brussels.

Even putting its own policy of independence in Europe before the unity of the YES movement as a whole, to hold such a referendum – even if it first won the battle over its legality with Westminster – the SNP leadership would need to be sure, beyond peradventure, that it would gain many more voters from the NO camp who would now vote YES as a way of retaining EU membership, than it might lose from previous YES voters who want out of the EU. To date, the data from all published polls has indicated that that appears to be an unlikely scenario. A second indyref lost, however closely, would probably mean all roads to the national and political liberation of Scotland closed off for at least a decade, if not longer.

In ‘Determination’ Robin McAlpine puts forward another route to a successful indyref 2, however, and it is one that seems to have increasing appeal.

He argues that the only certain way to get a referendum from Westminster is to have a clear and unambiguous mandate for it in your hands.

Consequently, he argues that all of Scotland’s pro-independence parties should stand for election to Holyrood in the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections, with a clear commitment for an immediate indyref 2 in their manifesto, to be held in the autumn 2021.

A majority of pro-independence MSPs returned to the Scottish Parliament in 2021 would be a clear democratic mandate to hold such a referendum. This could be could be achieved either by all pro-indy parties standing across constituencies and lists, or by some form of informal agreement between parties, or by a full on ‘Yes Alliance’ type of strategy. The precise electoral tactics would be up for discussion. It means all of the YES family committing to winning a pro-indy majority in 2021, but the momentum from that would then certainly carry over into the referendum itself.

This would mean that Scotland could effectively become an independent country in 2021, and, with full negotiations and formal procedures to take place, become fully, constitutionally independent by 2024 at the latest.

That would also mean, of course, that Scotland would effectively become independent outside of the EU, but it would also be open to both pro-EU independence parties, such as the Greens and the SNP, and anti-EU independence parties such as Solidarity to promise a full Scottish referendum on our relationship with Europe in the lifetime of the new Scottish Parliament once independence was secured.

This is something that could tick all the boxes and keep everybody happy and united in prosecuting the main struggle to win Indyref 2. Those who want independence in Europe could negotiate the best deal they can and put it to the newly independent Scottish people. Those who are more Eurosceptic, but on the pro-indy progressive left would get a chance to put their case against the EU, enencumbered by the xenophobic, Little Englander and racist nonsense that accompanied the Brexit poll. Unity of purpose will be key to winning any indyref 2.

 

"As a kind of personal, anecdotal research project I've asked people how many percentage points out of the 45 secured would not have been secured if it wasn't for National Collective, Radical Independence Campaign, Scottish CND, Women for Independence, Common Weal, NHS Yes and all the rest (not to mention the Greens, SSP and Solidarity). So far, no-one has suggested a number less than five."

- Robin McAlpine, 'Determination'.

 

Other factors could work to make a 2021 poll more likely to succeed than a 2018 one, Robin McAlpine argues. The demographic of the electorate would move a little more in the YES camp’s favour. There would be three more years to get policy preparation right and have convincing answers on key issues that YES failed to convince enough voters over last time – the safety of pensions and the currency being the most obvious two. The oil price will be likely to have recovered somewhat, giving Project Fear less ammunition to scarify people from the increasingly discredited GERS figures.

Perhaps most of all, and wishing our English and Welsh cousins all the best in winning a Corbynite Labour majority at the next Westminster elections, Scotland could be facing yet another five more years of a Tory Government it did not vote for.

Of course, it goes without saying that if the Scottish Government calls and secures a second independence referendum within this current Parliament, the Point will do everything in its power to help win it, regardless of any doubts we may have over the timing or the EU background to it. We will fight for independence wholeheartedly, whenever, and in whatever circumstances indyref 2 is called, while always putting forward our own distinctive socialist and radical vision for an independent Scotland

But it is a foolish army that goes into battle with no Plan B. We believe Robin McAlpine has outlined a Plan B that is exceedingly doable and winnable.

Perhaps it should even become our Plan A.

Alexis Tsipras - Address to the Greek People

 The following is an English translation of Alexis Tsipras's truly historic speech to the people of Greece. The Point is posting this and would like to reiterate our support and solidarity with Syriza and the people of Greece. The EU/IMF are trying to enforce a neo-liberal program on Greece that it has already once rejected at the ballot box. The failure of the EU/IMF to take the democratic mandate of the Greek Government seriously and plough on with neo-liberal diktat endangers the democracy not just of Greece but all Europe. Default will not be easy, but perpetual indenture to the neo-liberal axis will be an even worse nightmare for the people of Greece. The financial state of the Greek economy was not the fault of the Greek people but bankers and politicians. The people have suffered too much for too long and The Point 100% supports the decision to put the bailout conditions to the people to decide on. A deafening rejection of EU/IMF diktat next week can be the beginning of a heroic fightback and the beginning of the end for neo-liberal domination in Europe.'

 

To Greece, In Solidarity.

 

Fellow Greeks,


For six months now the Greek government has been waging a battle in conditions of unprecedented economic suffocation to implement the mandate you gave us on January 25.

The mandate we were negotiating with our partners was to end the austerity and to allow prosperity and social justice to return to our country.

It was a mandate for a sustainable agreement that would respects both democracy and common European rules and lead to the final exit from the crisis.

Throughout this period of negotiations, we were asked to implement the agreements concluded by the previous governments with the Memoranda, although they categorically condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections.

However, not for a moment did we think of surrendering, that is to betray your trust.

After five months of hard bargaining, our partners, unfortunately, issued at the Eurogroup the day before yesterday an ultimatum to Greek democracy and to the Greek people.

An ultimatum that is contrary to the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European project.

They asked the Greek government to accept a proposal that accumulates a new unsustainable burden on the Greek people and undermines the recovery of the Greek economy and society, a proposal that not only perpetuates the state of uncertainty but accentuates even more the social inequalities.

The proposal of institutions includes: measures leading to further deregulation of the labor market, pension cuts, further reductions in public sector wages and an increase in VAT on food, dining and tourism, while eliminating tax breaks for the Greek islands.

These proposals directly violate the European social and fundamental rights: they show that concerning work, equality and dignity, the aim of some of the partners and institutions is not a viable and beneficial agreement for all parties but the humiliation the entire Greek people.

These proposals mainly highlight the insistence of the IMF in the harsh and punitive austerity and make more timely than ever the need for the leading European powers to seize the opportunity and take initiatives which will finally bring to a definitive end the Greek sovereign debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries and threatening the very future of European integration.

Fellow Greeks,

Right now weighs on our shoulders the historic responsibility towards the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people for the consolidation of democracy and national sovereignty. Our responsibility for the future of our country.

And this responsibility requires us to answer the ultimatum on the basis of the sovereign will of the Greek people.

A short while ago at the Cabinet meeting I suggested the organization of a referendum, so that the Greek people are able to decide in a sovereign way.

The suggestion was unanimously accepted.

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will be urgently convened to ratify the proposal of the Cabinet for a referendum next Sunday, July 5th on the question of the acceptance or the rejection of the proposal of institutions.

I have already informed about my decision the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany, the President of the ECB, and tomorrow my letter will formally ask the EU leaders and institutions to extend for a few days the current program in order for the Greek people to decide, free from any pressure and blackmail, as required by the Constitution of our country and the democratic tradition of Europe.

Fellow Greeks,

To the blackmailing of the ultimatum that asks us to accept a severe and degrading austerity without end and without any prospect for a social and economic recovery, I ask you to respond in a sovereign and proud way, as the history of the Greek people commands.

To authoritarianism and harsh austerity, we will respond with democracy, calmly and decisively.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy will send a resounding democratic response to Europe and the world.

I am personally committed to respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever that is.

And I'm absolutely confident that your choice will honor the history of our country and send a message of dignity to the world.

In these critical moments, we all have to remember that Europe is the common home of peoples. That in Europe there are no owners and guests.

Greece is and will remain an integral part of Europe and Europe is an integral part of Greece. But without democracy, Europe will be a Europe without identity and without a compass.

I invite you all to display national unity and calm in order to take the right decisions.

For us, for future generations, for the history of the Greeks.

For the sovereignty and dignity of our people.

Editorial: General Election 2015 - A New Scotland Rising?

 

Where to begin?

So says Bilbo Baggins at the start of Peter Jackson’s mighty Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sextuplet of films. Bilbo however, is looking back on a whole journey, a complete adventure.

Today, in Scotland we know we’ve just witnessed a huge, old politics smashing, milestone of an episode.  We know, however, that we are still journeying, that our adventure hasn’t ended. We in Scotland have had our victory at Helm’s Deep over Saruman – but the Dark Lord still sits in his Tower in Mordor, casting a shadow over all Middle-Earth.

Those of us who sat up all night watching Labour and Lib-Dem MPs fall like the proverbial ninepins in every corner of Caledonia may recall a remark by STV’s resident psephologist for the evening.   ‘No meteorological metaphor is too over-the-top to explain what is happening in Scotland”, he said. A jokey meme-poster put out by The Point on the eve of poll put the question thus:

By our own lights then, what happened in Scotland was somewhere between a supervolcanic  explosion and a mass extinction event. The three unionist parties retained one panda each in Scotland – crumbs of comfort for their talking heads in the studio.  The SNP won 56 out of 59 seats, often with massive swings in what we used to call, quaintly, ‘Labour heartlands’. Taken together with the curt dismissals of Lib-Dem Tory enablers like Danny Alexander by virtually the whole Scottish electorate, it was clear by dawn that three things were happening.

Firstly, the fire, ire and desire of the forty five percent Yes voters had carried over like an unstoppable wave into the General Election vote, and was being added to by significant numbers of NO voters.

Secondly, that the Scottish electorate were using their votes to punish parties they saw as collaborating with the Tories,

Thirdly, a decisive and fundamental shift of working class loyalties had taken place in Scotland, away from a Labour party thirled to the Union and with a misplaced sense of electoral entitlement, to a pro-independence, anti-austerity, left leaning social democratic party, with a leader people genuinely like and trust in Nicola Sturgeon – the SNP.

The overall swing to the SNP on the night was a record breaking 24% across Scotland. As well as winning 56 seats, they took a majority of the popular vote (50.2%).  If you added on the significant votes of the pro-indy Greens, and the less significant votes for the pro-indy socialist groupings that stood in a few seats, then 52% of the electorate voted for pro-independence parties.  

Another 5000 votes on top of the 1.4 million cast for the SNP could have seen the party make the full clean sweep, because Carmichael and Mundell held on by the skin of their teeth.

You didn’t need to be someone buying into every message or policy of the SNP to feel a sense of history, of a class and a people shaking off mental and emotional shackles to reach for something new, and potentially better; rejecting the same old guard with same old tired rhetoric and excuses; choosing Hope Over Fear

What a pity then, that tired old, Blairite ridden, Balls talking, triangulating, press baron pandering Labour in England failed to live up to expectations, and landed the whole of the UK with another five years of Tory Government.

 

“Delighted for Scotland...Gutted for England "            

                -  Tweet from Irvine Welsh

 

As progressive left pro-independence activists across Scotland enjoyed our Magrit, Douglas, Danny and Murphy moments we were very aware that the shine was taken off the occasion by the knowledge that Cameron had made it back into number 10 – albeit with a reduced majority. The Point is heartsick for our fellow progressives in England and Wales who fought hard to see an end to the Tories only to see the Labour establishment let them down yet again.

The reasons will be poured over, examined, dissected ad infinitum over the days and weeks ahead. The likeable and honest Labour writer and commentator Owen Jones has pointed out the absolute campaign of hatred and vilification towards Ed Miliband from the usual suspects in the Tory press in England, culminating in the Sun’s disgraceful ‘dog whistle’ anti-semitism front page of May 6th. All this is undoubtedly true – but Nicola Sturgeon also came in for some pretty low and nasty stuff from both Tory politicians and the metropolitan commentariat. Nevertheless, she ended up being the most popular politician of the campaign both North and South of the border. Why? Perhaps because she stuck to her principles throughout and actually came across as a politician who meant what she said.

The Point believes Labour’s capitulation to the Tory party/Tory press agenda, portraying the SNP as some rabid apocalyptic mob ready to soil the playing fields of Eton, did not assist Labour’s cause. Ruling out working with the SNP to the extent of leaving the door open for the Tories to get back into No 10 played to the Tory racist agenda and its ugly stirring up of anti-Scottish sentiment. It also left Miliband looking like he didn’t really want the job.

What is absolutely certain is the new BIG LIE being trotted out by the dimwits of Scottish Labour and their fellow travellers in England – that it was the SNP, and the Scottish voters who dared vote for them, that allowed the Tories back in – will not stand up to even the most casual scrutiny.

Those who put forward such an analysis seem to forget that the vast majority of working class people in Scotland and throughout the UK can actually count. Even if every seat in Scotland had gone to Labour, Labour would still have lost. It was the failure of Labour in England to win around 40 seats they absolutely needed to take that has set the UK up for five more years of Tory reaction. The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens held up their part of the bargain and could have offered 60 progressive anti-Tory votes to lock out Cameron, if Labour in England had done their job properly.

 

“(This is) further confirmation that politics in Scotland and England are now on two

              fundamentally different trajectories."                           

                                                          - Tommy Sheridan

 

There is a new reality that cannot be ignored and the term ‘democratic deficit’ doesn’t even begin to  describe it.   

In Scotland, a majority voted for a party that stood on the following basis – a real tem increase in public spending and an end to austerity; support for the living wage and an end to zero hours contracts; reversing privatisation of the NHS and defending public services; no renewal of Trident; tax increases on the wealthy through restoration of the higher rate, a mansion tax and a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance; a moratorium on fracking;  a moratorium on benefit sanctions; renationalisation of the railways and Royal Mail; abolition of the bedroom tax; abolition of the House of Lords; full fiscal powers for Scotland and locking the Tories out of Government.

These policies were given a national mandate on May 7th by anybody’s book. 

By contrast, in England, nearly half of voters, taking the Tory and UKIP vote together, voted for increased austerity, further deeper welfare cuts, continued NHS privatisation, bigotry and xenophobia, continued rule of the Westminster elites, corporate capital, and the Little Englander.  No fans of the witch-hunting Welshman, we are nevertheless reminded of Neil Kinnock’s most chilling and effective speech...  ‘I warn you not to be poor, not to be old, not to get sick...’

There will also be the little matter of an in-out referendum on the EU, for which there is little appetite in Scotland. Of course, there are real questions for any socialist about the nature of the EU, whether membership benefits the working class and whether it can be reformed or should be rejected...but those are not the issues that will predominate in what will be an ugly and xenophobic campaign led by the far right in England.

The 56 SNP MPs who will go to Westminster will have a job on their hands. Parliamentary arithmetic means they can’t stop the Tories – but they can harass the Bullingdon juggernaut, and present a political alternative to reaction and austerity at every turn. They can and should be Scotland’s voice of opposition to the implementation of Tory policies in Scotland that the Tories have no mandate for.  In fact, Tory policies have been decisively rejected at the ballot box by the Scottish electorate

Meanwhile, more and more Scots will be drawn to the natural conclusion that there is only one final way to deal with this mother of all democratic deficits and ensure the Tories never govern Scotland again – and that is through independence.

 

            “There is a roch wind blowing through the great glen of Scotland this morning....”                                                                        

                                  - Alex Salmond, after Hamish Henderson

 

So what next? 

In Scotland we look forward to our own Parliamentary elections in one year’s time.  The prize for all the pro-independence parties in Scotland is potentially a huge one.  Labour and the Lib-Dems are unlikely to recover in such a short period and the SNP must fancy their chances of taking a big majority of the 72 constituencies that will be up for grabs on the ‘first’ vote. Indeed, would anyone rule out that they could win a majority in the Scottish Parliament – 66 seats – on the basis of the constituency vote alone?

Because of the way the additional member system works this could make it virtually a waste of time for the SNP to stand on the regional list. One huge possibility that The Point will throw out there for activists and party strategists to think about is this: Let the SNP stand unchallenged in the constituency vote (taking all the YES vote and the NO voters who now want Devo Max or full fiscal autonomy) while the SNP does NOT contest the regional list or ‘second’ vote, and a YES Alliance, composed of the Greens, socialists and non-party pro-independence figures, stands on the list.  The SNP could make a clear call to vote SNP in the constituency ballot, and Yes Alliance on the list.

This could mean that we end up not only with a Scottish Government committed to independence, but a pro-Scottish opposition committed to independence.  Three to four seats on the list would be winnable for independence in every region on this basis, taken up by Greens, socialists, and non-party talented folk from Women for Independence, the Yes movement, Business for Scotland and so on.

Could it happen? Of course, if our movement is prepared to think ‘outside the box’.

Yes, it would involve some horse-trading and organisation, but it’s doable. It would strengthen the momentum for independence, give kudos to the SNP, cut across opposition jibes about a ‘one party state’ and leave the Unionist parties in the Scottish Parliament as a rump. An inspiring and radical common program would have to be arrived at, and I suspect that parties and individuals within any Yes Alliance would want to preserve the right to pursue their own particular politics over and above any common program that was agreed.  It’s certainly not something that should be rejected out of hand.

The first step in any process for socialists, though, and whatever strategy is settled on at the end of the day, is for all the various socialist and left party groupings in Scotland to unite in one left, pro-independence  coalition themselves for 2016. The Scottish Left Project appears to be the main vehicle seeking to achieve this at the present time and we wish it well.

 

“Our priority remains: to put an end to austerity"       

 - Nicola Sturgeon, May 8th 2014

 

Beyond the electoral tasks and responsibilities here in Scotland there is a job of resistance and civic protest to be done across the whole of the UK.  Tory slash and burn will have to be opposed on the streets and mass protests built against welfare cuts, continued NHS privatisation and the pampering of the wealthy elites while working class folk are reliant on foodbanks.  A second major recession in the period the Tories are in office – likely because their economic ‘recovery’ is based on a new housing bubble and speculative sand – could throw everything into sharp relief. The Point fights for independence for Scotland, but we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters across these Isles in resisting Tory attacks on living standards and basic decency.

A different Scotland is rising.  It is a Scotland that is challenging the ideologically crazed orcs of the Bullingdon club, and giving hope to people elsewhere in the UK that politics can move and change in a progressive direction as it undoubtedly did on May 7th in Scotland.

Let’s make that the enduring legacy of the historic General Election of 2015.

 

Editorial: Welcome to the new Point

Great events require great changes; great change requires fresh thinking from those who observe, interpret and try to influence both events and change.

Up until now, The Point website has existed as part of our broader platform – including facebook and twitter – and has taken the form of a quarterly in depth magazine. Over two and a half years we published dozens upon dozens of articles covering a huge range of subjects from a left perspective – local and topical, international and historical, cultural, philosophical and scientific. As a non-party Scottish publication that supports 'socialism, independence, the environment and peace' our 'issues' averaged latterly over 30, 000 unique readers per issue, and our articles from a wide range of the left spectrum, sometimes controversial, sometimes against the grain, often saw heated debate on their accompanying threads.

We promised 'red sky thinking for an open and diverse left' and by and large we believe we delivered. Averaging 16 articles per issue that would cover ongoing and relevant debates within the movement, we would also cover stuff not normally covered in other left publications and we avoided simply being a digest of what the various left groupings were saying. We had articles written by seasoned activists from the SNP, SSP, Greens and Solidarity, as well as leading left thinkers and academics – and just as importantly had articles from first time writers and grass roots innovators.

It is our intention that none of that will change. But, like everyone else who was involved, The Point was also affected by being part of one of the greatest campaigns any of us have ever been involved in – the Scottish Independence Referendum.

The NO vote in that referendum may yet prove to be the biggest pyrrhic victory the British State and its political agents and apparatus have ever 'enjoyed'. A deafening cacophony of lies, half truths and distortions from a compliant press and a treacherous Labour Party saw an 11-9 win on September 18th for No. But far more importantly, it saw a decisive change in consciousness among whole layers of the working class in Scotland who now identify themselves with the democratic aspiration to run their own country, and who identify that aspiration, not with national chauvinism or exceptionalism, but with a desire for radical social and economic change and a passionate internationalism.

Commentators beyond enumeration have written and talked about how politics in Scotland has undergone a seismic change; on how it is that it is the pro-indy parties in Scotland who have taken on swathes of new members; about how aliens landing from Proxima Centauri might mistakenly conclude that YES had won – such is the buoyancy of Yes campaigners, of the 45%; that this May's General Election might yet see an unheard of thing: Labour losing the General Election in Scotland to the SNP, perhaps even while winning or forming a minority government at Westminster.

It became necessary in the course of that great campaign for YES for this publication – which has always supported Scottish Independence – to nail its colours firmly to the mast, to become, not a just a commentator, but an active persuader, and while this was principally done through the immediacy of our facebook page, the online magazine also in the final months of the campaign became essentially a tribune for a YES vote. With our facebook page regularly getting 50, 000 plus interactions a week, and top pro-indy articles in the magazine being read by thousands, we became a highly effective social media pump for pro-indy memes – second in Scotland only to the established 'Big Three' platforms; Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland and Newsnet.

But a price was paid, of course. More immediate pro-indy stuff meant less time and space (and energy) for articles on other subjects. This is an imbalance we will now strive to redress. The Point will always be committed to Scottish Independence – but we have a wider audience that also wants to see those articles on UK politics, Green politics, international developments, on history and culture and science and socialist ideas, who want reflective, critical writing as well as call to action pieces.

The issue we face then is how to move to the next level, and combine the popularity and immediacy of our facebook page with the quality and unique virtues of The Point online magazine at its height. After some deliberation, it seemed clear to our editorial board that our signature 'quarterly' magazine style format, which had served us well, was no longer fit for purpose. How could a quarterly magazine keep up with a new, faster moving zeitgeist, both domestically and internationally? Why attempt to attract the attention of thousands every 16 weeks for a great product when it is possible to have an ongoing updated product on a weekly or twice weekly basis?

All of the Point platforms - webpage, facebook, twitter and blog - are produced entirely on a voluntary basis by a small handful of individuals, most of whom are in full time work. How best do we use the time and energy available to us collectively in a way that maintains the ethos of the Point but updates our format that allows our broad left and socialist readership to have an ongoing, engaging and participatory experience?

All of these questions seem to 'point' us to one answer: dispense with the quarterly magazine format and become a constantly updated, day to day, week to week site in the same way that Wings, Bella and Newsnet are; mixing digest type posts from a wide range of sources, linking with our own fb and twitter feeds, as well as original written material on a regular basis that maintains the high standards of ideas and discourse we have set for ourselves in the past. This will be our aim over the weeks and months ahead, and we hope you will join us in that endeavour, as readers, debaters and writers. We hope to continue to grow, and to grow organically.

Much has happened since the last 'issue' and the post-referendum Point editorials and articles; Alex Salmond has resigned and been replaced by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland now has a daily pro-independence newspaper, the idea of a YES Alliance was widely discussed and supported and didn't happen, Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba; Syriza has been elected in Greece, genetic modification (of a strict type and for strict medical necessity) has become legal in the UK. It can seem as if we are living through developments at an accelerated pace. But it is no 'curse' to live in interesting times.

Not at all.

We hope you enjoy the new format Point, and, as always we'll be very interested to hear what you, our readers, have to say.

We've Won! Scotland will be an Independent country!

 

Here's a little bit of YES futurism. Let's wind forward 10 years and see the kind of editorial The Point would like to be writing on the morning after the second Scottish Independence Referendum in 2024.

 

 

YES wins. Scotland votes for independence by a landslide.

The sun is rising over Scotland and the world on September 19th, 2024.

In a stunning victory against all odds, people power has triumphed over corporate and state power; hope has triumphed over fear. History has been made, not just for Scotland and the rUK, but for the world, and in a way that will shine like a beacon to all of those who want to change the global order, and the lot of the mass of humanity, for the better.

At the second time of asking the people of Scotland rose to be a nation again, asserting their democratic right to sovereignty over themselves, their resources and their affairs.  On 16th March 2026 Scotland will take its rightful place amongst the family of nations and its rightful seat at the United Nations in New York. Seven weeks later, we will elect in a Scottish General Election our first ever sovereign Parliament.

Without a shot being fired, a nation has freed itself from the shackles of an outworn, outdated and class ridden Westminster system which had increasingly served the vast majority of its people ill over the last 50 years. The crumbling British State and Establishment have been fractured and shaken to their very core.

Make no mistake; just like the great movement that came so near to victory ten years ago, this was a national movement, but not a Nationalist movement in any traditionally used left sense of the term. This was a victory won from the left – with the idea of an independent Scotland firmly thirled to the memes of a modern, progressive and socially just Scotland. Underlying issues of class, democracy, public ownership, inequality and democracy ran through this campaign and through our modern Scottish Saltire like red threads.

Those whose interests lay with the status quo again had all of the traditional weapons of power behind them:  a servile media, corporate capital, and the vast apparatus of the BritishState itself, fighting for its very survival. Against those arrayed forces the YES movement created a vast people power army, diverse in nature, multiple in leadership, visionary in expression, combating the most disgraceful campaign of misinformation, scaremongering, vilification and downright lies ever mounted. It found ways to articulate a different vision, through street stalls, door knocking and thousands of public meetings, setting a positive agenda with a million conversations face to face and in social media. 

History and the ballot box now tell us clearly who won that final battle. Karl Marx was right when he said that an idea, once it is taken up by the mass of people, becomes a material force. No power on earth can withstand an idea whose time has come.

There will be future moments to recount the huge role played in this victory by parties, organisations and individuals – but right now is the time to assert a more fundamental truth. This is a victory that belongs to all of us. 

And all of us fought for an independent Scotland not just as an end in itself – though democratic sovereignty alone as an end more than justifies independence – but also as a means to improve the lives of our people and the health of our nation (in the most catholic sense); as a chance to begin rolling back 50 years of relentless Westminster neo-liberalism which laid waste to the social and economic fabric of our society, and a chance to build a new country, firmly left of centre, and rooted in a wholly different value system.

Now we must make good on that promise to ourselves.

For that reason it is imperative that the broad unity of purpose defined by our great YES movement is maintained.  Independence is not the destination.  It is the start of the journey.

Inevitably there will be political realignments, re-inventions and rebirths in our new independent Scotland. The Point firmly hopes a new united electoral alliance of the left will emerge over the coming months, and we will play our part in trying to make that happen.  However the friendships, connections, mutuality of purpose, and tolerance of diversity engendered by YES must not now disappear. If anything, we should look to find ways of strengthening those bonds and fleshing out the sense and shape of the new Scotland we all want; and set to it with hearts, hands and minds.

But for now the sun is rising. Look out of your window. It doesn’t matter if it’s misty, or cloudy, or pouring sweet, wet rain. That sun is rising on a new nation, and a world of possibility that you helped to win.

So eat your fill, have a wee dram, or a good toke, if that’s your thing.  Throw a party or a ceilidh. Invite your NO neighbours and give them a hug. Dance till the next dawn in humungous celebration with a hundred songs of freedom beating in your chest.

This is 2024. This is YES. This is our moment. We deserve it, we folk of the new Scotland.

Tomorrow, our real work begins.

No wins narrowly

 

Scotland votes No...for now.

This is the editorial that we at Point Central did not want to write, but write it we must. Its official, Scotland has voted no. The yes campaign has talked this country up, and as a movement whose aim was national independence this was the right thing to do.

We have celebrated the fact that we in Scotland are left of centre, social democratic and most definitely anti-Tory. There has hardly been a town hall in the country where the democratic deficit argument – the fact that Scotland is stuck with Tory governments it did not elect – has not been made. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the yes campaign has been one of the best things ever to happen to modern Scotland. Yet we lost. By the narrowest of margins albeit. But defeat is defeat, and as Burns said, facts are chiels that winnae ding.

Just as devolution was ‘lost’ in 1979 and disappeared until 1997, many will believe that this defeat represents the parking of the independence argument for a generation. For some that’s a relief, for others, especially those hurting just now, it’s unfinished business. But whatever your view, today’s defeat changes the psychology of modern Scotland. Simply put, Scotland has lost its innocence. No voters ensured that no more can we say, with the same defiance and moral outrage that, ‘we’ do not support the Westminster establishment. No more can we say that they have ‘no’ mandate. Scotland didn’t vote Tory, that’s true, but when our chance came to reject the Tories, pink, yellow and blue, too many showed conservatism with a small c instead of bravery. Fear instead of hope. On September 18th 2014, for every lion rampant who roared there was a mouse who squeaked and ran for cover under the skirting boards.

Today is not the day for in depth analysis. That will come in time. But we say this. The reasons we lost are complex and do not warrant any single explanation. Any attempt at serious analysis today would result in findings too raw and emotional as to be rational. We are hurting.

Whatever the intention of our fellow country men and women who voted no ( and we know that for a few at least their intentions, if not their actions, were progressive) they have nevertheless delivered a boost of confidence to a British establishment and the neo-liberal driven austerity project. Had the vote went the other way there is every chance that the odious Tory Prime Minister David Cameron would have resigned. Today, he is celebrating.

Despite the incredulous claims of Scottish Labour that we are better together, it’s not the forces of progressive change celebrating but those who defend reaction, wealth and privilege.

Perhaps, in the end, the forces ranging against the yes campaign were just too strong and powerful – the power and the grip of the Unionist parties, especially Scottish Labour, which despite decades of betrayal continues to have influence over significant sections of the working class cannot be ignored in the face of this result. The supine pro-establishment nature of the main stream media and its ability to distort and bend debate and opinion has been exposed for millions to see.

Then there is the power of the big corporations and financial institutions who bullied and blackmailed the Scottish electorate the week before the most important referendum in Scotland’s history. How dare they threaten the people before a democratic election? But they did. And not only did they get away with it, for some it worked. For every person who stands up to bullying and intimidation there are always those prepared to run and look for cover or do the bidding of their masters. For every person who stands up to the boss there are those who seek a pat on the head. It is a familiar story throughout humankind’s long slow crawl towards civilisation and progress.

The Point would also like to note that it was disgraceful for the three unionist parties to announce a pledge committing themselves to more powers for the Scottish Parliament only three days before the referendum. How on earth could these pledges be subject to debate and scrutiny in just three days? Compare these disgraceful and anti-democratic tactics to that of the Scottish Government, whose White Paper, Scotland’s Future has been debated endlessly for the best part of nine months.

But that is the past and this is now. The yes campaign is not above criticism and only the most ruthless of propagandists can say that in the end their side was faultless. But today is not the day for navel gazing. These wounds run deep and it will take time to recover.

But we want to end on a positive note. The movement that is the YES campaign should not, must not, go away. To every single supporter of the campaign we at The Point salute you; generation yes, RIC, the national collective, the common weal, women for independence, business for independence, trades unionists and so many others, too many to name, you did your country proud. Socialists, greens, feminists, environmentalists, and those with no ‘ism’ to speak of whatsoever other than a desire for social justice and peace and a better world for your children – you gave your all in the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen. Regardless of this setback each and every one of you changed has changed the face of modern Scotland. At the start of this campaign it had been the case for decades that about a third of the electorate supported independence. No it is nearly half – and that idea of independence has become firmly linked to a left of centre political agenda

Today, we hurt in the face of our defeat as we should. Our pain is real. But in time our collective forces must organise to ensure that real powers – true devo max, not the poisoned chalice the Unionists are proposing - are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and delivered as quickly as possible. A movement that is almost half of the population cannot be wished away. They may have won the popular vote today by the most invidious means but, in the longer term, it will prove a pyrrhic victory. The British establishment cannot ignore this movement for democracy.

And as for the radicals outside of the mainstream parties, we say this. This referendum has been good for the left. After too long in the wilderness, we have finally turned a corner. A new generation has come to the fore. The referendum debate has focused attention on our national parliament. RIC, Common Weal, anti-cuts campaigners, trades unionists for independence, and others, we must find a way of getting our voices organised inside Holyrood. We may not constitute a majority but this referendum has proven that our views chime with significant sections of modern Scotland that needs representation. The Point will continue to support all efforts that seek to maximise that unity.

Finally, we leave you all with this thought, and another quote from Burns. The ground has been irrevocably broken, the seeds have been planted. A five percent swing could win it for YES in 2024. In ten years time the current demographic will have changed in our favour.

Despair not, friends and comrades. You have been magnificent. And history and time is on our side.

It’s comin’ yet for a’ that.

Editorial: A Victory Already Won...

 

It won't be too long at the time of writing this editorial before the Fifty Days to Go mark is reached.

18th September will be on us before we know it, and the YES movement should go into that last 50 day period proud and with all guns blazing; on the ground, in the meeting halls, in the streets and pages of the press, in the TV studios and in social media.

NO - whose sole tactic has been to scare the scareable from day one - are giving out big hints that they've done enough to save their precious Union, but with one last huge effort - including an effort we've yet to see in full flight from the official leadership of the campaign - this is a battle that can be won.

The polls, taken in total, indicate that a 4 to 6% swing in these final weeks of the campaign - a period which will still be twice as long as a General Election - could see Scotland vote for independence, and wake up the world.

In other editorials and other places The Point has been critical of some aspects of the official campaign - the lack of big spending by YES in critical opinion forming stages; the timidity of certain sections of the SNP leadership in both taking on NO arrogance, and putting forward the economic case for independence in terms the majoriy of voters can readily understand - but now is not the time to navel gaze over potential or past lost opportunities, but to gird our collective Lion for the final push. If just 1 in 10 of those voters currently not convinced can be brought over to YES in that final 50 days, we will make history, and free our nation to a better future through the ballot box.

There is an important sense however, in which a victory has already been won, in which a new nation has already been concieved and is in gestation.

The YES nation has awoken to its historic task, has embraced thousands of new political activists, has seen ordinary men and women of all ages from all parts of the country, from different poltical parties and traditions and, often, from no previous political background or experience at all, coming together in an unprecedented grass roots campaign which is unmatched. Even the huge anti poll tax campaign which got rid of Margaret Thatcher - the so called Iron Lady - over 20 years ago, has been dwarfed by YES. Thousands of citizen Scots who had never organised anything poltical in their lives before have suddenly found themselves organising street stalls, public meetings, canvassing, YES coffee mornings, rock gigs and ceilidhs, protests and demonstrations.

In traditional campaigns in the past it has been the cadre of political activists and leadership who have made the slogans, designed the poster, forced the agenda - not so with the YES movement. Go online any night of the week and you'll see that for yourselves. A new generation is being trained in what is needed to take on the might of the British State, its corporate backers, and its servile right wing media. A new generation has discussed not just independence, but independence leading somewhere else, somewhere away from Thacherism and neo-liberalism, somewhere towards a modern left social democracy in which genuinely radical left ideas are up for grabs as common currency. They have discussed public ownership, and the living wage, green politics and social housing, nuclear disarmament and the means and forms of democracy. These gains must not, and will not, be lost - regardless of the referendum result.

A new nation is first of all made in the collective imagination, and once so made, is not easily unmade.

The barbarous con man David Cameron has already been seeking assurances that 'even a narrow victory' will be the end of the matter. The Scottish Secretary aka 'colonial governor' Alistair Carmichael has said a NO vote must ensure that ' the question is never put again'. How about that for democracy?

YES can and must win on September 18th. But the idea that the Union clinging onto Scotland, against the will of the most radical and active section of the population, would be anything other than both a phyrric and temporary victory needs to be grasped by both sides in the struggle. 

All out to win for YES - absolutely. However, a NO vote would simply ensure that demands for political parties to promise a referendum on devo max in their 2016 manifestos (the real version, not the pretendy version) became deafening and unignorable. Young YES activists would take it hard at first, of course - as would we all - but they would quickly realise, that as time naturally takes its toll on an older generation who have always lived with a British identity, their time will inevitably come again - perhaps within as little as 10 years.

In all of these important ways a victory has already been won that can't be taken away. Beyond helping to secure a YES vote in the referendum, the task for the left in Scotland is to build on that 'already won' victory. It is to try and maximise support for a new left consensus, with a radical socialist core, to the left of the the current Scottish Labour Party and SNP - while still being able to reach out and work with the best left elements of both.

There is more than one article in this issue of The Point where left thinkers in Scotland are trying to grapple with this issue.

Our own position is clear: we support a single left electoral alliance or platform for the 2016 Scottish Elections around a common program, such as, for example, the Common Weal program developed by the Jimmy Reid Foundation. We believe that electoral platform should involve those in the Radical Independence Campaign, the SSP, the Greens,and Solidarity, as well as independent left leaning activists and thinkers.

Wishing does not make it so, of course - and such a thing is not in our gift. But we consider it to be in the best objective interests of the majority of Scots and it is what we will continue to argue for and promote.

But let's end by going back to the observation that opened this editorial: 50 days or so to go, and winning just 1 in 10 voters who are not yet convinced about Independence could see a stunning outcome: one that would reverberate for years, not just in Scotland and these Isles, but across the face of the planet. And like the apocryphal American Football coach whose team is down by just a single score in the last quarter we say:

Team Scotland, find a way. Win.

Just win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The European Elections - The Progressive Dilemma?

The European elections present a tricky dilemma for socialists and progressives regarding the question of who do we vote for? On Thursday we know what it is we are against. That one’s easy. It’s UKIP and their odious brand of vile and racist politics. We start this editorial by congratulating our friends and comrades in the Radical Independence Campaign who turned out in force to protest at Nigel Farage’s recent visit to Scotland. Everywhere this man goes he should be reminded of the simple fact that he is the leader of a racist party.

But who, and more importantly what type of Europe should we be voting for on Thursday?

Narrative and tone are important here. The Point seldom gets into the messy business of preaching to people who they should vote for. Indeed, even within our small editorial group there is not unanimity over who we will be casting our ballot for, but we sometimes offer advice and on Thursday our advice is this – in the year of Scotland’s historic referendum socialists and progressives should support those parties and candidates that are anti-racist and stand for Scottish independence.

Every vote for pro-independence parties helps the general case for Scottish independence and undermines the No Campaign.

Furthermore, the pro-independence parties contesting these elections have struck both the right narrative and correct tone on both the EU and the fundamental rights of people to move freely within the EU.

Scotland’s pro-independence parties are converging on a common position in regards to Europe – that is we support in principle the idea of a European Union. This is why the Yes Campaign has been correct to dismiss the scare mongering of those who say that an independent Scotland would not be in the EU.

Of course we must also remind ourselves that not everything about the EU is positive. It requires fundamental reform. We know that the parliament is bereft of any real power and that the Commission and Council of Ministers, who are appointed and not elected by citizens, have too much power, especially when it comes to blocking legislation. We also know that the EU is being used to implement austerity from above.

But the fight we need to fight is not against the EU per se but a fight against neo-liberalism. And that means linking arms with other socialist and progressive voices from across the EU.

We should also remember that the potential break up of Britain on September 18th is a dent in the armoury of both global neo-liberalism and variant on offer via the EU which has been promoted by the British state at every turn.

An independent Scotland has the potential to be a leader in Europe advocating a new type of politics based on co-operation and mutual respect. We also want to be clear that many of the anti-EU sentiments we here in the media, or on the streets, are also codes for anti-immigration.

It is worth remembering what we wrote in an editorial in the DGS (the forerunner to The Point) at the last round of European elections:

The EU is more than just a ‘bosses club’; it is also an alliance of twenty seven nation states and home to almost five hundred million people. We also need to point out that not everything about the EU is bad. Its development has been uneven and contradictory (‘dialectical’ as Marxists might say). And whilst this uneven development has encouraged neo-liberal directives the EU has also pursued policies that are progressive (which Britain normally tries to opt out of).

We then argued:

The creation of a single market has allowed freedom of movement within the EU bloc something that anyone who calls themselves an internationalist should welcome. Any attempt by capitalism to use the age old tactic of using one group of workers to undercut the wages and conditions of another needs to be challenged on a socialist basis – but that should not mean reducing the question to participation or non-participation in the European political process.

This is still our position. We welcome immigrants to Scotland and The Point is pleased that the general tone of political discourse, especially around the independence debate is inclusive. That does not mean to say that every shade of opinion in Scotland is progressive. It is not. Whether we like it or not anti-immigrant sentiment exists in Scotland as it does elsewhere on these islands. A recent You Gov poll, conducted across Britain, revealed that more than 70% of respondents were opposed to immigrants receiving benefits. These views are dangerous and reveal the extent to which the narrative of anti-immigration and anti-welfare has been successful, especially in a British context.

But in Scotland it’s important that such views do not find political representation. This is why we should vote on Thursday in order to prevent UKIP sneaking an MEP in through the back door.

The Point would have preferred a Red-Green Alliance. This time around that was not to be. However, at some point, the left must engage in a serious discussion about unity. In the meantime, we should use our votes on Thursday to vote for pro-independence parties. Whilst we don’t suspend our critical facilities regarding the SNP, we should remind ourselves that the party behind the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, is on the right side of the immigration debate. Below is a brief sample from the White Paper on immigration.

One of the major gains from independence for Scotland will be responsibility for our own immigration policy. Currently immigration is a reserved matter…Westminster has adopted an aggressive approach to immigration, asylum seekers and refugees….Healthy population growth is important for Scotland’s economy. One of the main contributors to Scotland’s population growth is migrants who choose to make Scotland their home…We welcome people who want to come to work and live in Scotland.

This is a message we share. Of course there are areas where we disagree with the SNP but on the fundamental issue of welcoming fellow EU citizens their message is a sound one. We should not forget the role The Greens have played in building both the Yes movement and the Radical Independence Campaign, the latter of which has breathed new life into a Scottish left, which until very recently was in danger of becoming irrelevant. No2EU – Yes to Workers Rights are unlikely to register very highly in the polls but their Scottish Regional List contains pro-Independence socialists and trade-unionists committed to arguing for socialist policies and against UKIP’s scapegoating of immigrants.

So, the advice to our readers is this: take part in the elections on Thursday. Keep UKIP out and vote for pro-independence candidates.

Editorial

Left Unity after the Referendum – Is there a vision?

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

 

                                                                        -  William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

 

 

There has been much recently that might give pause to anyone on the left to stop and reflect on what it means to engage in struggle and in progressive politics; the sad passing of two giants of our movement in a single week – Bob Crow and Tony Benn; the recent closing of the gap in the polls in the independence referendum , meaning ‘game on’ for a huge transformation in our politics; the increasing hysterical tribalism and fundamental dishonesty of the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.

 

The Point would be the last to suggest a new period of navel gazing for the left’s constituent elements in Scotland. We have a referendum to win, and when the prize is so huge – national sovereignty for the first time ever in the democratic sense, the end of the British State as we knew it, the opening up of a period of optimism ripe with possibilities for the left – any serious socialist suggesting that winning the vote in September is anything other than priority number one surely needs to wake up and smell the proverbial Java.

 

Nevertheless, we do believe that, while the imperative is to actions that can win us the referendum in September, it is time to at least start to think and maybe have a few conversations around the question of developing a left unity, or at least a left consensus, post referendum, and the possibility of a single united left – or left/green – electoral challenge for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2016.

 

Let’s face it: whatever differences we each may hold with one another pale into insignificance compared to the objective need of the Scottish working class and progressive politics for left consensus and unity.  The same objective need exists for a single left challenge for seats in the Scottish Parliament.  And we would argue that that will be the case whatever the result of the referendum on September 18th.

 

If YES wins – and we believe it can – the first elections to a sovereign Parliament in 2016 will take on the optimistic, open character of the first two elections under devolution, if anything more so. The possibility of a ‘rainbow parliament’ with significant representation from forces to the left of the SNP and Labour will be inherent in the situation.  If the referendum is lost,  any mood of despair will be temporary before the left has to come together again: to fight for what would then, clearly, be the preferred option of a Scottish majority – real devo max, with power over all taxation including oil and gas, welfare, broadcasting,  etc, with only foreign affairs and defence reserved to Westminster. This would be in sharp contrast to the paltry, ‘poisoned chalice’ of Calman plus being proposed by the Labour Party that would see a so-called devolved Scottish Parliament control just over a fifth of its potential income from revenue.

 

So either way, a united and effective electoral, campaigning challenge to the left of Labour and the SNP in 2016 would be a very desirable thing to achieve. Could such a thing happen in Scottish politics?  The SSP in its golden years proved that it can – winning almost 140, 000 list votes in 2003. The Greens have also shown a consistent vote on the same scale over a longer period of time. But The Point is going to lay its cards on the table here.  We believe the objective possibility and objective necessity exists for a new uniting left electoral and campaigning initiative that would be broader and deeper than the SSP was – even at its height.

 

We believe that the basis for a post referendum electoral and campaigning alliance already exists in embryo and has evolved organically as a direct result of the referendum itself. We believe that potential exists in the huge success of the Radical Independence Campaign, which at a local level across the country has started to put real meat on its bones and attract participation from left independents, greens, left nationalists, left social democrats and revolutionary socialists. We believe the potential is inherent in the excitement created and the work done by the Jimmy Reid Foundation and others in the ‘Common Weal’ project.  We see the appetite for a left politics and for public ownership in the facebook pages of many pro-Yes groupings.  We see its potential in the way that disparate voices from different traditions have been able to come together for a single cause. 

 

Can it happen?

 

There’s nothing as divisive as a call for left unity’ goes the old saw, but it really is a matter of choice.  Can we collectively summon the vision and the will to meet the objective political need for a single left electoral alliance in Scotland?  Can we collectively set aside the differences that exist, and coalesce around a consensual program for radical change that we could take to the Scottish electorate in 2016? Such a movement/alliance, by definition, would have to be broad and inclusive, not narrow and exclusive.

 

Common Weal Alliance (greens, socialists, progressives)?  

 

Imagineering the future, it’s possible to envision those six words, or something very like them, on the list ballot in 2016.

 

It is a thought, at least. 

 

Readers, it’s over to you.

 

 

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books