Scottish Labour for Radical Democracy
In December 2019, following Labour’s nationwide defeat, almost 200 signatories signed an open letter calling for Scottish Labour to recognise the people of Scotland’s democratic right for their voice to be heard in a second independence referendum. Labour members from across Scotland formed Scottish Labour for Radical Democracy to campaign for the Scottish Parliament’s right to hold a second referendum. Here’s a statement they released in response to recent positions of Labour and Scottish Labour. Their role may become interesting over the coming year.
“Unlike the leadership of Scottish Labour, we recognise that there is still a clear appetite amongst the Scottish people for a second independence referendum, registered in consistent opinion polls and election results. With a radicalised Conservative majority at Westminster aiming at a hard Brexit while refusing further devolution to Scotland, we also respect and sympathise with that demand. We believe that our position reflects that of the mainstream of the Scottish labour movement, which is being ignored and let down by its parliamentary representatives.
But Scottish Labour’s leadership aren’t the only ones frightened of democracy. While the SNP claim to speak for the people, they have centralised power at Holyrood and repeatedly sided with landlords and multinational corporations against the demands of trade unions, tenants unions and local authorities. They have often done this against the wishes of the SNP’s many left-wing members, while arguing that real change is only possible with independence. Yet as it stands, the SNP’s vision for independence swaps dependency on Westminster for dependency on foreign investors and NATO, promising self-determination in name only.
The Scottish people are trapped between two political systems: a British system dominated by rentiers, bankers and a right-wing media which barely acknowledges Scotland’s existence beyond the SNP; and a devolved Scottish system defined by self-congratulation and complacency, where radical initiatives are stifled by the need to react to whatever Britain’s dysfunctional government and economy does next. These systems are at odds with each other, but at the same time they reinforce each other, keeping Scotland stuck in two minds, neither of which has any good ideas.
The limited constitutional reforms made after the last independence referendum have clearly failed to resolve this, and we have no faith in the even more limited constitutional reforms Scottish Labour now proposes. The sabotage of Jeremy Corbyn by the British media and political classes has demonstrated just how inhospitable the British system is for the politics of basic human decency. The popular demand for a new independence referendum reflects a deep frustration with this situation. It also provides the best democratic means of seriously discussing and deciding on a way out of it, whether it be through a radical constitutional transformation or Scottish independence.
By setting themselves against a new referendum, Scottish Labour’s leadership are forfeiting any right to be listened to by those voters who once placed their hopes for social change in the Labour Party, and now place their hopes in independence and the SNP. By refusing to allow a nationwide, democratic debate on Scotland’s future, Scottish Labour’s leadership are depriving the labour movement of a voice in the narrow, elite-level debate that does exist.
We know that many Scottish Labour members do not share the tribalism and fear of debate that now characterises party strategy. We also want to move Scottish politics beyond the dull speculation over the timing and possibility of an independence referendum, without denying the popular aspiration for a different kind of state. And we know that we are not the only party where members are frustrated with the timidity of their leaders and the failures of the Scottish Parliament. We will be organising a public meeting in the next fortnight to bring together grassroots socialist activists and trade unionists from a range of Scottish parties to discuss the prospects for radical co-operation across party lines as a new Holyrood election approaches.”