2007 - 2021

On Common Ground

An interesting perspective from Neil Davidson, formerly bitterly opposed to independence (see The Politics of Independence here). This takes up some of the themes discussed recently on Bella of how the independence movement (from left, peace movement, green and nationalist) works together, so is worth a read. As the forces of conservatism, reaction and neoliberalism stand together under a Union banner, it’s important for left nationalists, greens and radical forces to explore common ground and develop a shared strategy,

Three elements stand out, on war and the British State, on the role of Labour, and of working in alliance with people from different backgrounds and perspectives:


“Britain is an imperial state at war. A referendum called while the occupation of Afghanistan is still ongoing, with the Iraqi and Libyan interventions a recent memory, would be 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 US.”


“Where is the Labour Party in all of this? The leadership has effectively entered a bloc with the Tories and Lib Dems against both independence and the inclusion of a devo max option on the ballot paper. As a demonstration of Labour’s apparently insatiable appetite for self-destruction this is almost on a par with Ed Balls’s recent declaration that a future Labour government would not reverse coalition spending cuts.”

“Faced with the ongoing self-immolation of the Scottish Labour Party, it may seem redundant to ask why working class people are increasingly turning to the SNP, but there are also what Gramsci called “organic” as well as “contingent” reasons. Like similar social democratic organisations in Europe and Australasia, Labour has moved extraordinarily far to the right, although its attitude to devolution has never been comprehensible in left-right terms.”


“…participation in a campaign for independence will involve revolutionaries working alongside SNP members: what attitude should we take towards them? We approach the Tories and Lib Dems in one way (as open enemies) and Labour in another (as someone we expect to be a friend). Neither approach fits exactly in the case of the SNP, but it would seem more productive to tilt in the latter direction, partly because—unlike the Tories or Lib Dems—there are actual socialists in the SNP, but partly because it claims to be governing in a social democratic model”

“…socialists have to argue four positions. First, only the Scottish people (ie people of whatever origin who actually live in Scotland) should have the right to vote in the referendum. Second, and quite independently of our attitude towards the SNP, the date of the referendum and questions on the ballot paper should be set without interference from the coalition at Westminster. Third, the devo max option should be included on the ballot paper. Fourth, working class people should nevertheless vote for independence. The first three are basic questions of democracy; the fourth perhaps requires further explanation.”

Read the full article here: http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=795&issue=134

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  1. pat kane says:

    Quotation from an original article? Where is link to original article?

    1. cynicalHighlander says:

      (see The Politics of Independence here)

      Can the link colour be changed, please.

      This is what the anti-independence parties are unwittingly protecting.

      The third British Empire

  2. Sleekit says:

    I read their website earlier in full and its a good article…

    Its a bit too much on the “apparently the SNP are progressive” line but given where they are coming from to start with its a massive shift for the good.

    I found the analysis of Labour interesting and pretty on the money.

    Its also nice to see its not just the SNP looking at opportunities of independence.

  3. Macart says:

    Pretty much agree Sleekit. He also draws some strange conclusions on the thought processes of Alex Salmond and the SNP leadership – “In fact, the majority of the leadership of both parties would find a third option, so-called “maximum devolution” or “devo max”, preferable, although for different reasons neither can publicly admit it.”

    But still, no a bad read.

    1. longshanker says:

      Neither side can be seen to lose or actually lose for a variety of reasons. Devo Max fulfils the prisoners dilemma – basic game theory.

      A federalised parliament, if that’s what Devo Max (whatever) means, would make the Scottish Parliament equal to the Westminster Parliament within the frame work of the United Kingdom constitution. It’s a compromise which would help avoid the schism and strife alluded to in the article.

      1. Justin Kenrick says:

        Hi Longshanker (not presumably your real name?)

        I noticed your reference to Game Theory in an earlier post, and would like to suggest a different perspective on it:

        Game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma – the assumption that being ‘rational’ means being driven by a desire to be selfish at others expenses – may describe the mad world of the financial system, but they do not describe an underlying reality (or ‘rationality’) to being human. This is not how humans – in general – actually behave. We act far more out of consideration for others than that, which is why the referendum is likely to be won for independence, and decided in a context of hope rather than fear. Thatcher was superb at summoning up all the fear she could muster at election time, and I’m sure this approach will be tried to its maximum by the powers that be, but there is a far more interesting rule to the game than game theory. This is the rule that – in any competition – s/he who sets the context almost always determines the outcome. A referendum decided in Scotland in reference to Scotland is likely to be won by those seen as putting Scotland first.

        Eric Ooms and Saskia Pennings have a great comment on Game theory here:

        “Can you direct me to the railway station?” asks the stranger. “Certainly,” says the local, pointing, in the opposite direction, towards the post office, “and would you post this letter for me on your way?” “Certainly,” says the stranger, resolving to open it to see if it contains anything worth stealing. (McQuaig, 2001)

        Ooms and Pennings continue:
        “This quote, posed from Amartya Sen in the book ‘All you can Eat’ by Linda McQuaig, is one that shows the absurdity of the rational choice. Rational choice is the idea that all behaviour is fundamentally rational in character. People calculate the likely costs and benefits of any action before deciding what to do. They only act from the principle of self-interest and egoism, and not with the idea of what is best for others, the whole society or the environment. The local in the quote is an example of a man fully acting out of self-interest. He is deceiving the stranger and tries to steal his goods, without considering helping the stranger. In the real world, if someone asks you to the railway station, you will never, or hardly ever, get sent to the post-office. You will not be deceived because a local is trying to steal your things. Therefore rational choice and the whole theory that is using rational choice to explain economic or social behaviour is fundamentally wrong.”

        1. longshanker says:

          Tell that to the boy who got all the stuff stolen out of his bag after having had his jaw broken during last August’s riots. The muggers didn’t help him, they helped themselves.

      2. Macart says:

        Nope, devo max does not mean a federal solution and it would almost certainly mean more, not less constitutional strife in the UK. All devo max would mean is that the two main states achieve a form of parity within the union which would not be enjoyed by either Wales or NI. In fact a goodly number of large English regions would have more than enough grounds to feel grumpy with both Holyrood and Westminster should this unlikely event occur.

        First thing to remember is that south of the border sovereignty is derived from the crown and the state. North of the border sovereignty is derived from the people and that is the secret to federalism working properly. True federalism would require a complete overhaul of British politics which would probably include:

        True devolution of powers down to possibly regional parliaments (nobody understands local problems like a local).
        Politics would have to change from adversarial, as now, to a consensual form.
        Most likely a form of PR would have to be adopted nationwide.
        There would of necessity still be a central parliament but it would be multicameral and fully elected (no hereditary/bought seats anywhere in sight) which would form check and counter check on the actions of the elected bodies. (nothing gets done unless all houses agree). No excursions in Iraq comes to mind.
        All taxes and resources raised and managed at said regional levels.
        A written and codified constitution agreed upon by all parties to enshrine the rights of the people.

        Now here’s the elephant in the room (not the only one but certainly the biggest) – Westminster (which is still a top down establishment) will never, ever let that happen. There is not a snowball’s chance that Whitehall’s mandarins will ever allow the people to dictate the actions of the state and will absolutey not initiate voluntarily steps toward devolving powers from the centre towards all states or regions. They are the establishment and they, like all turkies, will not vote for Christmas. But Scotland is already suffering death by a thousand cuts (pun intended) and we have an out. We can choose to end the treaty of parliamentary union and give the people of Scotland a chance to recover and in fact prosper. This is, IMO, the only option which is fair to all parties, the alternative is to do nothing and let Westminster asset strip and bleed the country till it’s dry.

        Not an option.

        Of course I could be completely wrong, and Westminster will gladly start throwing powers about will he nil he, federalism will prevail as a great idea and I get a hot tip on the next winner of the Grand National, but until then I’m voting for independence and a fighting chance.

        1. longshanker says:

          I don’t know what Devo Max (whatever) would entail either. Who does? I don’t particularly care. I only put that forward as a potential option of what it could look like.

          I agree with the International Socialist piece and the reasons given that a second question is a must.

          You could argue a lot of what you said about Devo Max (whatever) could also be said for independence. I’m not really that interested.

          One of the things I hadn’t really given much thought to, which the International Socialist piece covered, was the effect Scottish independence could have on Ireland.

          This piece was one of the most succinct and perceptive polemics on present and potential political circumstance, I’ve seen in a long time.

          Bella Caledonia are to be commended for posting and linking to it.
          It’s the second instance of a Bella Caledonia post providing progression, for me at least, in my current thinking.

          The International Socialists appear to want a ‘revolution’ of a type I don’t. I don’t think the SNP will give them much truck either.

          Despite being a good deal more sympathetic toward the idea of independence than the spirit crushing force of Unionism, I don’t want social unrest occurring on the streets with the potential of setting Scot against Scot.

          There is historical precedent for such a scenario, bonkers as it may sound. And I hope it stays sounding bonkers.

          Presently, people are coming onto the streets throughout Europe and venting their fury against the withering injustices of plutocratic rule and international finance. The closer we get to 2014 the more we’ll see the rawer side of these forces at work.

          You’re right though to bring up the analogy of betting on the Grand National while espousing your voting intentions.

          IMO the independence horse is more likely to fall at Beecher’s Brook than it is to come home a winner.

          Turkeys and voting for Christmas. Come on. You’re trying to pull my leg with that one. Aren’t you?


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