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Left Unity statement on the Scottish Referendum 

22 September 2014
The Scottish referendum has to be understood in the context of a capitalist society which is now not merely somewhat rotten, but actually in a state of decay and threatening to disintegrate in many parts of the world. The move to finance capital effectively announced by the end of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 resulted in Britain and other advanced capitalist countries removing much of their industrial base and marginalising from society large sections of the working class. The parasitic nature of the dominant finance capital is absolutely clear to anyone with a basic Marxist understanding of society and both could and should be pointed out to the mass of society.


The move to Scottish nationalism is instead a dead end – part of the process of disintegration of capitalism. However, the campaign was effectively posed by both the populist leadership of the SNP, and by the section of the left which supported the nationalist campaign, as a means of escaping the effects of capitalist crisis by declaring a separate state. Effectively the message of the Yes campaign for Scottish separation was that the local capitalist class in Scotland would guarantee a type of social democratic paradise in one country in contrast to the austerity attacks in the rest of the world. 

This was clearly an illusion – the viability of the new Scottish state was predicated on the provision of a competitive tax system and flexible labour market in an attempt to attract investment and engage the rUK in a disastrous race to the bottom – and the promises of the SNP administration to maintain the entire existing economic, political and military structures even attempting to retain the currency marked it out as an absolute falsehood. 


The collapse into left-nationalism of much of the Scottish left stems from an inability to grasp the nature of capitalism today, an abandonment of the belief in the political agency of the working class and the resultant toxic mix of opportunism and desperation. As socialists, the only independence we should advocate is the independence of the working class. Supporting the creation of a new capitalist state, and the concomitant nation-building project, results in the binding - and ultimately the subjugation in the name of ‘national interest’ - of the interests of labour to capital in the vain hope that the new Scottish capitalist class will be more benign than the British capitalist class.

Beyond ignoring the global nature and strength of finance capital which will resist even the most modest reforms, the collapse into populist nationalism has resulted in the division of the working class in both Scotland- between yes and no supporters – and between the working class in Scotland and England: a division which makes a united socialist movement all the more remote. 


Rejecting Scottish nationalism should not lead us to embrace any variant of British chauvinism or nostalgia for the Britain of 1945. Instead, we should reject nationalism in all its forms, work to overcome the division sown by nationalism and fight for the political independence of the working class across Europe and a united European socialist movement.

Left Unity should therefore:

  • Oppose nationalist and separatist projects where no national oppression exists, while supporting the right to national self-determination;
  • Commit to the political independence of the working class and the unity of the working class across national borders;
  • Affirm Left Unity’s commitment to building a united Europe-wide socialist movement as a matter of urgency.

Statement agreed at a branch meeting of Left Unity Glasgow South on 19/9/14.

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