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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 September 2014

1.6 million vote Yes in a working class revolt against austerity

Scotland Referendum, photo SP Scotland

Scotland Referendum, photo SP Scotland   (Click to enlarge)

Philip Stott Secretary, Socialist Party Scotland

In the teeth of a ferocious campaign from the British capitalist establishment the independence campaign in Scotland won the support of more than 1.6 million people, overwhelmingly from the working class, securing 45%. No won with 55%.

According to the YouGov polling organisation, support for independence stood at 24% in January 2014. This increased by 21% in nine months as hundreds of thousands of working class people poured into the Yes camp seeking fundamental change and an escape from austerity.

There was a very real threat of a Yes majority in the ten days before the vote which rocked the capitalist establishment to its foundations. However, a combination of panicked late promises of more devolved powers for Scotland and the unleashing of "Project Fear on steroids" by big business, the capitalist media and the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem parties, to save their class interests, secured a No majority.

The fact that so many working class and young people refused to be cowed and voted Yes reflected the desire among the "victims" of austerity to use the referendum as a weapon to hit back at the political establishment.


The charge of intimidation aimed at Yes supporters, and made by Labour and the bosses' press, is farcical. Project Fear was real intimidation. As is the savage austerity that is destroying working class lives and communities day-in and day-out.

Moreover, the immediate legacy of this brutal intervention by the capitalist class is a radicalised and energised working class in Scotland who have been "educated" as to the lengths that the capitalist elite are prepared to go to defend their own interests.

The overwhelming mood of those who've voted Yes is naturally disappointment, but also that the fight against cuts and for a new political future for Scotland goes on. Indeed, that the momentum needs to be stepped up in the aftermath of the referendum.

Many of these angry and energised working class people can be won to socialism and to a new mass working class party in Scotland. This task of establishing a new political force for the working class is something that socialists and trade unionists need to urgently turn their attention to following the referendum.

Illustrating this mood, Socialist Party Scotland received this text from a 22 year-old from East Kilbride just after the result: "Disappointed with the result but it has helped me make up my mind, so I have sent you an application to join your party. I am 100% behind the Socialist Party"

Huge turnout

A colossal 3.6 million voted in the referendum, an 85% turnout which broke all records. The turnout in working class areas was unprecedented. In housing schemes across Scotland it reached 70% plus. This compares with average turnouts in council elections of 25-30%. Hundreds of thousands of working class people voted Yes, seeking an escape from brutal austerity and the capitalist political elite who are implementing these cuts.

Working class strongholds including Scotland's largest city Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire voted Yes. Working class communities in cities and towns across Scotland also saw a majority voting Yes.

Some workers did vote No, many reluctantly, when faced by the tsunami of threats and blackmail by big business and the media that jobs would go, companies would relocate to England and that working people would be worse off under independence.

Socialist Party Scotland stall, photo SP Scotland

Socialist Party Scotland stall, photo SP Scotland   (Click to enlarge)

The media was overwhelmingly savagely hostile to independence. Only one newspaper in Scotland, the Sunday edition of the Herald, supported a Yes vote. The naked bias of the BBC caused outrage and exposed the corporation as an arm of big business interests.

The failure of the SNP leaders to respond to these attacks, emphasising their desire to cut taxes for big business and seeking a currency union that would have caught an independent Scotland in an austerity trap, left the propaganda of Project Fear largely unanswered.

Another key factor in the result was a lack of confidence in the SNP leadership's proposals for an independent Scotland, which were predicated on a continuation of capitalism and no clear end to cuts. The lack of trust and confidence in Alex Salmond and the SNP was continually expressed by many during the campaign. Most people, when polled, believed that Scotland and their own families would be worse off economically under the SNP's version of independence.

Build a new party

Had a mass working class party existed it could have mobilised far greater support for a Yes vote based on a clear policy to end austerity, for public ownership, a living wage etc. That means a socialist Scotland that would deliver for the millions rather than the millionaires. The turnouts and mass enthusiasm for Tommy Sheridan and the Hope Over Fear tour, which Socialist Party Scotland played a leading role in, underlines that potential.

It's urgent that moves to build a new mass party are taken now to provide a new political home for the working class. The example of Spain and the rise of Podemos in the recent European elections, which came from nowhere to receive millions of votes, shows what is possible.

If there is a delay in this development there is a danger that the opportunity can be lost and the pro-capitalist SNP can gain instead. Even Labour, despite its betrayals, could pick up short-term electoral support in the Westminster elections next year, when the question of removing the Tories from government is posed.

As Socialist Party Scotland predicted, the referendum was used as a weapon by huge numbers of working class people to protest against the political elite and the austerity they are inflicting on communities across the country. There was therefore a marked class differentiation in the vote.

The more affluent middle class and rural areas of Scotland voted heavily for No. As did a big majority of the over 55's. While the turnout was high across Scotland, it was at its highest in middle class and rural areas that were mobilised to try and ensure the defeat of a Yes majority. This included areas where the SNP have had their traditional base of support.

Empty victory

The outcome of the referendum is ultimately an empty victory for the capitalist class and the political elite. It has ushered in a new and unstable situation for British capitalism. The conceding of more widespread powers for Scotland is now unavoidable.

The issue of Scottish independence has not been "settled for a generation" as claimed by Cameron. The demand for another referendum will grow, especially following the Westminster elections in 2015. All the main parties, including Labour, will continue with austerity and Tory cuts.

Most importantly, this referendum has exposed the erosion of support for the main parties of big business, in particular the Scottish Labour Party.

The Tories and the Lib Dems are almost an extinct species in Scotland. But Labour's base of support among the working class will have been undermined even further by acting as the main prop for Project Fear and working hand-in-glove with the Tories. As one NHS worker put it to us: "Labour saved the Union, but it lost the working class."

Incredibly, Labour's leader in Scotland Johann Lamont described the vote as a "victory". Labour's former working class base has been decimated and they will not be forgiven for the role they have played.

There is both disappointment and a real and lasting anger among thousands of working class people at the outcome of the result.

The feeling that the media, big business and the political establishment need to be taken on will grow in the aftermath of the referendum. There is no possibility that the huge radicalisation of working class people that has taken place through the referendum will be dissipated as long as this mood and combativity is built on.

For updates and to read full versions of these three articles go to

Scotland Referendum rally, photo SP Scotland

Scotland Referendum rally, photo SP Scotland   (Click to enlarge)

Launch a new mass working class party now

If the "strategists" of British capitalism believed that the narrow No vote in the independence referendum would allow politics to return to "normal", this illusion has been shattered by the events since. Tens of thousands of working class people, radicalised and angry, are now looking to hit back at the political elite and are seeking out a political vehicle to achieve this.

Huge numbers are now joining political parties that campaigned for a Yes vote. The SNP reported 18,000 new members in five days; the Scottish Greens have had around 3,000 applications to join. Socialist Party Scotland, Solidarity and other socialist organisations have been inundated with interest and requests for membership.

Socialist Party Scotland believes that a new working class party in Scotland should be launched without delay with the aim of building this into a mass party in a short time.

If this call was made in a clear way - including by Tommy Sheridan, leading trade unionists, Socialist Party Scotland, Solidarity and other socialist organisations in Scotland - it would attract thousands of new working class people and young people to its banner: Including many who participated in politics for the first time during the referendum through groups like the Radical Independence Campaign and other Yes campaigns.

There is enormous and justified anger towards the Labour Party who acted as the main prop for Project Fear in Scotland. The best way to channel that anger and hit back at the Labour leaders is to ensure a new party for young people, trade unionists, socialists and the wider working class is built: A party that can both stand in elections and help lead mass campaigns against cuts in communities and workplaces.

The SNP offers no way forward. The numbers joining the SNP, a party that has passed on the Tory cuts in Scotland, is a warning of the dangers of delaying launching a new working class party. The SNP are benefiting from having been seen as standing up against the onslaught of Project Fear.

But, in practice, their pro-big business policies and the fact that they are carrying through cuts means they do not offer any way forward in fighting for the interests of working class people in Scotland.

Indeed the Scottish government plan to implement at least 2 billion in Westminster cuts in the next two years. This act alone will repel many workers and young people who are initially attracted to the SNP.


If a new working class party is launched it could transform the situation and allow a real socialist alternative to austerity to be built into a mass force. A party that would actually oppose cuts in practice, rather than words alone; that would stand for public ownership; for a real living wage of 10 an hour; for an independent socialist Scotland and whose public representatives would stand on a worker's wage.

Socialist Party Scotland believes that such a party should be broad and fully democratic. This means it should have a federal structure that would allow members to join as individuals as well as encouraging existing socialist organisations to take part while retaining their identity and structures.

Crucially, this would also allow trade union organisations to affiliate to a new party. The potential to attract trade union organisations to such a party is considerable.

This unique political opportunity must be seized. If it is, thousands of working class people who voted Yes in the referendum would be given a chance to carry on that struggle in a mass movement to oppose cuts and austerity and for a socialist Scotland.

Tommy Sheridan speaks at a Hope Over Fear meeting, 2014

Tommy Sheridan speaks at a Hope Over Fear meeting, 2014   (Click to enlarge)

SNP - no way forward

Unfortunately, instead of leading the call for a new party for the working class in Scotland, Tommy Sheridan has since released a statement to the press - in a "personal capacity" and without consultation with leading members of his own party - calling for a vote for the SNP in the Westminster elections next year.

Tommy states: "I suggest that we in the Yes movement promote continued unity by backing the most likely Independence supporting candidate at next May's election. In concrete terms that means advocating an SNP vote to try and unseat as many pro-No party supporters as possible".

He also adds a caveat that pro-independence parties should not stand against SNP candidates if those candidates commit to "fight all Westminster cuts to welfare and public services". The SNP have in fact implemented the Westminster cuts to the penny in Scotland since 2010.

This statement is a terrible political mistake on every level. Not only has Tommy turned his face against building a new mass working class party, within which he could have played a leading role. Even worse, by calling for an SNP vote he is encouraging working class people who look to him to give political support to a party that is implementing Tory austerity - not fighting Tory austerity.

Socialist Party Scotland understands the huge mood that exists to hit back at Labour and the political establishment. We share that desire. However, we cannot support a call for a vote for a party that in a few weeks' time will be implementing a budget of yet further cuts to public services in the Scottish parliament.

The SNP-led Scottish government has carried through over 3 billion in Westminster cuts since 2010. They claim they can do nothing about this: "Our hands are tied". But we have explained many times that if the Scottish government and local councils refused to make the cuts, demanded a return of the billions stolen from Scotland by the Con-Dem's and helped build a mass movement for the money for jobs and public services the Tories could be defeated.

Instead we need to build our own party and stand independently against the parties who are implementing cuts, and this includes the SNP.

Tommy should withdraw this call to vote for the SNP and use the tremendous standing he has among working class people to help build a new mass working class party which would represent a massive step forward in building a mass movement against austerity and for a socialist Scotland.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 24 September 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

We need 10 an hour now!

Labour to continue austerity offensive

Climate change: Summit for nothing

Academies lead to nepotism and profit making

Them & Us

Scottish referendum

1.6 million vote Yes in revolt against austerity

After Scotland revolt: all capitalist parties in crisis

Scotland Poll: Electric mood among YES supporters

International socialist news and analysis

Millions on streets for Catalan independence

Sweden: Conservatives collapse, extreme-right gains

Socialist Party workplace news

United strike action can win

NHS workers vote to strike

College lecturers join 14 October strike

Care UK: 'We'll fight them all the way'

Croydon leisure centre strike for decent wages

West Midlands fire engine cuts

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Tenants threatened by 'feudal lord'

Global day of eco action

Round up: Socialist Students at the freshers fairs

Socialist Party comments and reviews

The struggle for decent social care - a personal account

Tony Benn: Will and testament

Obvious Child


Front row fury


Home   |   The Socialist 24 September 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

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