2007 - 2022

Indy Max or the Status Quo

This is the second in our series on #IndyMax  (see also Trident Nowhere to Go here)

Four non-nationalist reasons for independence, and one reason against

For those voters who could swing the referendum to independence, independence is not about nations and national pride; it is about society and social justice or – put more simply – about living in a society where people care.

Four non-nationalist reasons for independence

  1. Protecting a social democratic society:

The ‘lost’ referendum for devolution of 1979 meant Scotland was not protected from the ravages of Thatcher’s anti-society policies. The fact the referendum was ‘lost’ despite a majority voting for devolution led to the SNP immediately withdrawing their support from the then Labour government, and the resulting election brought Thatcher and her policies to power. The won referendum of 1997 – following Labour’s 1997 victory as speedily as the ‘lost’ one had preceded Labour’s 1979 defeat – enabled a Parliament that has brought in positive social policies and the best climate change targets, that has resisted the privatisation of health and education, but has not been able to protect us from participation in globally destructive wars. The strongest motivation non-nationalists have for voting for independence is to protect and strengthen a society where the well-being of others – locally and globally – matters, as against a UK state that so obviously doesn’t care.

  1. Challenging British nationalism:

Becoming independent would involve removing the ‘British’ weapons of mass destruction from the Clyde, and refusing to participate in wars that are internationally illegal and immoral. These wars are only made possible by the US and UK maintaining the illusion that they are above the rules that other countries should abide by. Independence would help to shatter the illusion that the UK can act with impunity. It would show that there are direct consequences of such behaviour. That ultimately invading other countries means the disintegration of your own.

  1. Enabling social democracy across the British Isles:

For a decade or more the argument has been that the left can win ‘Britishness’ back, that we can regain the social ideals that created the Welfare state and sought a commonwealth of nations. That argument is over. It is clear that to regain social democracy across these islands requires ditching a Westminster system in which one of three neoliberal parties will always govern us. If we shatter the illusion that that the system is impregnable, if we vote for an independence that can enable Scotland to retain and build a socially caring internationally peaceful society, then we create the possibility that people in England and Wales and Northern Ireland will see that there IS an alternative on their doorstep, will see that they have been conned into a neoliberal path, by being persuaded there is no alternative except more of the same.

  1. Catalysing Transformation through ‘Indy Max’:

Maybe non-nationalists do need a third question on the ballot paper: not one offering ‘Devo Max’ but ‘Indy Max’. A Devo Max question might read: ‘Do you agree that the Scottish Parliament should have full responsibility for of all areas of economic and social policy?’ Independence goes further to reclaims responsibility for defence and international relations. But Indy Max takes independence further still. Nationalists argue that Scotland has the right to be a normal independent country able to decide its own affairs, and that is fair enough. But do we really want to live in a ‘normal’ country given that currently ‘normal’ countries are ruled by a financial and economic system that deepens social and global inequality, accelerates the destruction of ecosystems and rapidly diminishes our chances of avoiding catastrophic climate change? Don’t we need this society to become a trailblazer, demonstrating a socially and ecologically sustainable way forward? Is this the moment to make this possible, given people’s awareness of the destruction the financial system is wrecking, and given that we have so little time to pull back onto a sustainable path? A third question on the ballot paper could ask: ‘In addition to agreeing to Scotland becoming an independent country, do you agree that Scotland should respond to the ecological and economic crises by reigning in the financial sector and rapidly rebuilding community resilience?’

One reason to be against Independence is if independence enmeshes us further in the status quo

Many nationalists argue that the nature of an independent Scotland should be decided by people in Scotland once independence is achieved, and they understandably fear that different visions of an independent Scotland – from low-tax Celtic tiger to Socialist equality – will enable those opposing independence to split the movement and stop independence from happening.

However, how independence happens, the driving force making it happen, determines the kind of society independence delivers. At the moment the driving force from the SNP increasingly promises that independence will maintain the status quo. In which case the status quo – where the financiers have the final say – is what we’ll get; and this could intensify rather than mitigate this status quo. A Scottish elite delivering neoliberalism would do a much better job at ensuring compliance than the clumsy moves of a London elite where we can see the cracks in their argument because they are not attuned to the stories and perspectives of here. There is a reason why Murdoch seems to be backing independence.

The SNP may increasingly focus on maintaining the status quo because they fear alienating voters. They may fear that people who have changed their minds and now support independence will bottle it and vote against when the time comes. But there are not yet enough votes on the independence side, and promising not to replace the Bank of England, not to alienate big business, is no route to securing the votes of the social democratic majority.

There is surely a much greater danger than not securing independence. Like the long awaited and long struggled for Labour Government of 1997, the danger is that, when it finally comes, independence will turn out to be no better than what went before. Or will be even worse because – like New Labour – in place of its previous role (Labour then, SNP now) as a rallying point for opposition to the steamrolling of society and care by the greed of the powers that be, it will become a powerful conduit of the latter: in the process removing the one place in the mainstream that seemed to be holding out against the greed logic.

Believing that the milestone achieved (Labour in 1997 or independence in 2014) means job done and we can let them get on with it, was and would be to totally mistake how power works, and how such moments are only beginnings, opportunities, possible openings for radical change to the kinder society we want. If we leave it up to them we just get more of the same: an intensification of dystopia.

The SNP, despite being in Government, is still in many ways in opposition to the destructive status quo, still articulates people’s increasing sense that their voice is not heard, that current arrangements deny people sovereignty.

For those voters who could come in and swing the referendum to independence, this is not about nations and national pride: it is about society and social justice. Or – to put it simply – about living in a society where people care.

If that deep care – that affinity between a Government promising the removal of Trident and a people passionate about being better than the toxic policies of greed and division that have emanated from the Government in the City of London since 1979. If that deep care and connection continues to deepen post-2014 then that will be a move as liberating for people in England and Wales as for people in Scotland.

If it doesn’t (in other words if we miss the nature of the hopes that could swing the referendum) then 2014 will bring us back into the era of a parcel of rogues not a parliament for the people.

The current parliament is aligned with the people. It may be a mild form of radicalism that unites the parties in the Scottish Parliament who try so hard to sound in opposition to each other, it may not be the radicalism we urgently need – but it nevertheless is a parliament speaking in opposition to the destructive logic of the City of London and Westminster.

Ironically post-2014 Holyrood could stop being a Parliament of opposition and take its place as a ‘normal’ Sovereign Parliament doing what normal Parliaments seem to do: which is to role onto their backs and obey the wishes of the financiers through perpetuating the myth that being out for yourself builds a better future than building a society in which everyone has a real stake.

How do we ensure that a Yes vote in 2014 means the continuation of the struggle for humanity – for a humane politics in a humane society – rather than the end of the current coalition between society in Scotland and parties in the Scottish Parliament? How do we ensure 2014 helps spring us free, not entrap us further?


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  1. Galen10 says:

    Whilst I agree with many aspects of this (frankly overlong) article, I think that point 2 relating to Challenging British Nationalism is somewhat overdone.

    Assuming independence is achieved in 2014, it is obviously going to be difficult if not impossible for the rUK to continue with Trident. Whether this leads them to abandon the independent nuclear deterrent altogether, to try and find a cheaper alternative, or to move mountains to retina Trident even at the cost of reducing other defence spending remains to be seen.

    Even if rUK chooses to unilaterally disarm however (which I’d say is unlikely on balance), I’m not sure we can be as sanguine as you are that it will lead to such a sea change in rUK’s global position, it’s own world view, or it’s appetite for intervening abroad. A tory or New Labour style government for the rUK could very well carry on much the same with respect to intervening abroad, supporting the USA at all costs etc.

    Granted the reduction in the Scots share of defence spending, the loss of some bases and infrastructure and even weapons systems and materiel to an independent Scotland would have some impact on the rUK’s forces…. but you are deluding yourself if you think that it will lead to some Damascene conversion to non-intervention.

    1. David Smillie says:

      The rUK are putting in place contingencies that will see the nuclear facilities on the Clyde redefined as rUK territory in the event of Scottish ‘independence’. Hence the establishment last week of 43 Marine Commando on the Clyde, 790 highly trained and aggressive troops, mainly recruited from S England. They did this in Ireland with the so called Treaty Ports (Spike Island etc) which were effectively UK military bases. The emergent Irish Free State knew it could do nothing militarily to expel these troops so these enclaves were written into the British-Irish Treaty that was signed off by Collins and co. I presume in the Scottish situation the Union will end with a treaty as it began with one, so this could be an article in a new treaty that consigns the UK to history.

      1. fourfolksache says:

        Are you kidding? The SG might want to negotiate a phased exit but the idea that Westminster would try to deny Scottish sovereignty over current Clyde bases is fantasy. There would be rioting in the streets!

      2. Eric says:

        Any politicians who agreed to such a treaty (rUK enclaves) would never return to parliament again. And yes there would be riots!
        It is more likely that reasonable timeframes would be agreed.

      3. Galen10 says:

        I agree with fourfolksache; your Free Ports scenarion seems vanishingly unlikely to me. This isn’t the Free State in the 1920’s – if the rUK were so determined to stop independence, they wouldn’t have let it get this far. Things have moved on in the past 100 years, and if a post independence Scottish government tells rUK to get the WMD’s the hell outta dodge, they are going to have to do it, no ifs no buts no maybes.

        Not sure where your fantasy (nightmare?) scenarion really came from, but think you missed your calling as a Daily Mail Scottish independence myth fabricator!

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      It is true that a more benign Scottish state would be no guarantee of a less gung-ho interventionist England/rUK. But two points suggest it might. 1) the statistical over-representation of Scots in armed forces 2) the physical geography of Coulport: “The U.S. Trident ballistic missile program could be seriously impacted if Scotland chooses to evict British nuclear-armed submarines from its territory following a vote in favor of secession from the United Kingdom”.

      “In the absence of a suitable option for rebasing the submarines in England or Wales, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy must consider a range of alternatives — including disarmament,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in advertising the Tuesday seminar in Washington with St. Andrews University professor William Walker.”

      1. Galen10 says:

        Still not convinced by either of those points, sorry. Some Scots will probably elect to stay in the rUK forces in anycase… either just because they want to, have ties in rUK and/or their prospects are better in a larger organisation – I doubt it will worry the rUK much, as that already have large numbers of commonwealth nationals in their ranks.

        Secondly, I don’t think Trident IS actually that central to their general strategic vision, or whether they are still as inclined to intervene overseas as heretofore. An independent nuclear deterrent may be partly about sitting at the big table, and having the equivalent of a big red sports car in late middle age, but removing Trident isn’t going to change everything…it’s only part of the equation.

      2. David Smillie says:

        Thanks for the comments guys. Scotland stands on the brink of entering the real world of power politics. The marines could just be an extra bargaining chip. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out. By the way, there have always been troops from southern Ireland in the British Army, especially during WW2. Apparently they prefer the greater range of opportunities for actual soldiering. And Eric, surely you’re aware of the domestic effect of the British-Irish Treaty in Dublin i.e. civil war in the Free State, not just rioting in the streets.

  2. Derick fae Yell says:

    “beginnings, opportunities, possible openings”

    good enough for me.

    1. Eric says:

      And me!

  3. Siôn Jones says:

    I agree, (I think) with the ideas behind your over long article (to parrot another poster), but as someone who has managed change for large organisations, I suggest that debate about your finnessing of what will happen after independence should be left until -er – independence i independence is won. What is certain is that when that day comes, politics in Scotland will change forever, and all of a sudden, parties espousing truly radical visions for the new state, whether from left or right, will emerge, and then it is up to the people of Scotland to choose between them in the ballot box.

    1. Galen10 says:

      I think this is right on the money. Supporters of independence, whether within the SNP or not, need to ensure over the next two years a narrative is developed that ONLY independence can both protect what we already have, but also move on from this towards a more equal social democratic model.

      It is folly to get too hung up at this point, or over the next 24 months, about the minutiae of what Scotland will look like after a “yes” vote. The answer is that nobody knows. The main issue is that “we” need to ensure that enough people who are currently undecided or hostile can be convinced that the risk is worth taking, and is in fact a better bet than staying with the status quo.

      That narrative needs to involve both the positive things that can only be achieved with full independence, but also the negative things that will ensue if we stay with the status quo, which is hardly risk free either.

      1. Justin Kenrick says:

        Hi there Galen10 and Sion,

        Glad to see Bella has solved the ‘overlong article’ problem by cutting out the send second half and reposting it as ‘Deep Democracy’!

        Sion you write that “What is certain is that when that day [independence] comes, politics in Scotland will change forever”, and so we should leave deciding what Scotland will be like as an independent state until after independence. But I am not convinced that independence will come unless there is a clear vision of why people should vote for it, what kind of society it will enable.

        Galen10 you write that: “The main issue is that “we” need to ensure that enough people who are currently undecided or hostile can be convinced that the risk is worth taking, and is in fact a better bet than staying with the status quo”.

        This is why I have given a 4-point argument for why non-nationalist social democrats should vote for independence, and I am also acknowledging that there is an issue of much greater importance – the survival of our species – which means we need to use this opportunity to do something much more than just become another sovereign state.

        Having said that I like Derick’s statement: “beginnings, opportunities, possible openings” – good enough for me’. And it’s good enough for me too, but I just don’t think it is good enough for the social democratic majority who need to be persuaded. And they will be much more persuaded by arguments that acknowledge difficult issues than ones that just assert a bright new dawn (“Things can only get better” still echoes in my head, and it hurts)

        Best, Justin

  4. James Coleman says:

    People. I’ll bet this “David Smillie” is the same English troll who posted on earlier articles in Bella as langshanker (the w…..?) and did the rounds on other Scottish Independence and The Scotsman web sites with the same nonsense. He certainly has the same fantasies about Westminster’s intentions on his mind. Best to ignore him when he posts his tripe. And I suggest Bella has a good look into his credentials.

    1. elphinstone says:

      Sorry to have upset you so much James. I was just picking up on Cruddas’ reported comments about London perhaps conceding Scottish independence. The last part of his quote interested me, where he then said ‘but you can’t have this, you can’t have that’ which made me think they are preparing for the worst as they would see it. Unlike some posters here I think the nuclear weapons are important to Westminster’s sense of their own power and influence in the world. I do think that London is very experienced in international power politics and Scotland’s politicians, by definition, are novices. So we may be shocked by what happens in any future negotiations. If I remember rightly, the UK also retained military bases in Cyprus when it got its independence.

      David Smillie is not a pseudonym, I am not English and I am not a ‘troll’. Indeed you are quite possibly a troll yourself, or just very naive.

  5. douglas clark says:

    David Smillie @ 9:28 am.

    Just how, exactly, is the Former UK, going to do that? Do you assume that we’ll just give in to whatever Westminster says?

    1. elphinstone says:

      Douglas, do you assume that Westminster will just give in to whatever Scottish negotiators say?

      1. Galen10 says:

        Anyone who actually thinks negotiations (however rancorous they become) are going to descend to the level of the use of force, or some re-run of the situation in Ireland post 1916 is deluded.

        In the Irish situation the UK state was ultimatley prepared to go to war to stop the Irish declaring a republic, force them to remain a dominion, swear allegiance to the king, and not be a strategic threat to the UK (hence the Traty Ports debate). And of course there was always the Ulster question, and the ultimate Civil War between Free Staters and bitter ender Republicans.

        Scotland isn’t Ireland… and nor is this the 1920’s. It is fanciful to believe that the people of eithe Scotland or rump UK would stand for Westminster threatening the use of force or strong arm tactics to achieve their goals, whether relating to Trident or any other negotiable item.

        Of course there may have to be compromise; it is not realistic to expect the whole Trident system and infrastructure to disappear on the morning after independence, but a timetable is certainly feasible, and it should be as aggressive as is practicable and safe. I doubt the Scottish people or government would accept an over-long withdrawal process, but they certainly won’t accept sovereign base areas on the Clyde a la Cyprus. The RUK need time to prepare an alternative home for the Trident infrastructure, or come to some arrangement with the Americans for them to host them short term, but we’re talking a few years max.

        Countries much smaller and with fewer advantages than us have achieved independence; to maintain that “waur ain folk” are not capable of standing up to the devious and experienced English simply demonstrates the attraction of the “to wee, too poor, too stupid” meme, and the hold it has on some people. No potential nightmare scenario, or improbable “future history” is too outlandish for them to brandish in support of their atavistic need to tug their forelocks.

  6. Galen10 says:


    As I said, I agree with much of what you have written. I do think however that attempting to appeal to undecided voters on the basis of such long term concepts as the survival of the species, deep democracy, constructing more than just “another” sovereign state (however laudable as aims in themselves) is probably unrealistic in the short term, and may even be a distraction or a hindrance.

    People need primarily to be convinced that an independent Scotland will be better for them, their families and communities than the alternative. In the past, that perception was always outweighed by a combination of the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” meme, the fact that most of the people thought things were mostly OK, most of the time, and a generational aspect of attachment to the union (with a small “u”). Much of that has changed, and that change has accelerated since 1997… but be under no illusion that in 2014 people will decide primarily on the basis of whether they think the balance has tipped far enough to make taking the plunge worth while.

    I’m not saying that emotional factors, the “hail Caledonia” factor, and the desire to see Scotland as a beacon for progressive social democratic government (rather than a guttering candle in the Unionist candelabra) are unimportant, or play no part. Rather, we need to recognise that independence will be achieved by appealing to people wallets and heads more than their hearts.

  7. James Coleman says:

    Galen 10. You’re feeding the troll. Didn’t you notice it’s now using the name “Elphinstone” to post instead of “Smillie” (I wonder if it thinks it’s in the Westminster Secret Service?)

    1. elphinstone/david smillie says:

      James, you’re quite right. Using elphinstone was a typing error. Sorry for confusion, but I was under time pressure.

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