In response to Colin Fox

Stephen Low, Labour party Member

The Morning Star carried an adulatory assessment of the Scottish Government’s White Paper by Colin Fox of YES Scotland and the SSP. (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-c07d-Theres-much-to-commend-in-the-SNP-white-paper#.UrIV__RdW0g)

The following is a longer version of a letter to the paper in response that was printed later in the week …

Colin Fox has read the Scottish Government’s Independence White Paper and is keen to tell Morning Star readers that it has a vision of independence that offers ‘a significant advance’. Unfortunately he seems to have been reading the 600 page document whilst wearing a wearing a pair of spectacles so rose tinted as to set new standards in florally shaded visual aids

Of course we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised at this as Mr Fox sits on the advisory board of the YES Scotland campaign. That sitting alongside him is former RBS Chairman and hedge fund executive Sir George Mathewson might just be the first reason to ponder just how significant any advance is likely to be. Not least given that a recurring theme of the document is warm words for the workers and firm commitments for business.

The White Paper’s commitment on childcare is mentioned by Mr Fox. This is certainly a good thing and to be welcomed. It might though be reasonably pointed out that childcare is already a Scottish Government responsibility. So why wait for independence? Luckily Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s Deputy First Minister has explained. The aim of the policy is to make it easier for women to return to work and “If we did that now, then the revenues would flow straight to the UK Treasury rather than staying here in Scotland”. How very progressive.

Focussing on the brand new bright tomorrow of Independence also means that the inconvenient fact that SNP Government in Scotland currently delivers two fewer hours a week free childcare than the Tories currently do in England can be glossed over . That the pledge is no more extensive than that given by Labour for England is of course not to be mentioned either.

Nuclear weapons will be removed from Scottish soil it is confidently asserted. The actual commitment is merely to negotiate with a view to removal (anyone who can’t see a deal whereby missiles stay on the Clyde until alternative facilities are built, in return for a reduced share of UK debt is reduced isn’t paying attention). Scotland may, eventually, be nuclear free – people who think this will disarm the UK are kidding themselves.

The pledge to reduce fuel bills is similarly open to some critique given the response by the SNP’s energy minister to Ed Milibands’s pledge to freeze fuel bills was that it would be “completely unworkable”. Since then the response by the SNP to rising fuel costs has been exactly the same as the tories – protect the profits of the big six by shifting renewal responsibilities on to the taxpayer.

He is inaccurate in stating that there is a proposal ‘to give seats on company boards to workers’. There is merely a commitment to consult with business and unions on this. Two points are relevant here. The first is that in the example given which the Scottish Government describes as being ‘good practice’ the worker on the company board had as a precondition to give up all of their Trade Union responsibilities. We can also perhaps gauge the extent to which the SNP is committed to making a difference here by their actions. The Scottish Government recently passed legislation on Post 16 Education – in the course of this the SNP ( and the Greens) voted down a Labour amendment to put Trade union reps of the Boards of Colleges. This is not a party who are interested in Industrial democracy or worker representation

Mr Fox doesn’t like the proposals to maintain the Bank of England – but as a tiny appendage of a bourgeois project he can do nothing about it. The reality is that Independence means Scotland will be using the pound as its currency with even less democratic input into fiscal and monetary policy than at present. It is a recipe for Euro style disconnect.

The Corporation Tax cuts, which are so fundamental to the SNP’s Independence plans they are actually given a timetable are (thankfully) condemned by Mr Fox . Yet the implications of these for workers in the rest of the UK aren’t something he spares any concern for at all. Introducing tax competition across the UK will just result in a race to the bottom, hardly a gain for working people either side of the border.

The situation brings to mind the adage attributed to GK Chesterton, “The problem when someone stops believing in God isn’t that they believe in nothing – it’s that they believe in anything.”
Many on the Left in Scotland, having written off the working class as being an agent of social change, have latched onto independence. They have flung themselves into the campaign for a ‘free Scotland’ in a bid to radicalise it. Since they have done so, the number of political parties committed to NATO has increased by one, leaving George Osborne in charge of monetary policy and financial regulation has become Scottish Government policy, the SNP have embraced the concept of cap on benefits and rather than using their current powers to ameliorate the Bedroom Tax, the Scottish Government prefer to use it as a political football which will remain in play until after the referendum.

Questions of democratising capital at the level it is owned and controlled, of settling accounts with our own ruling class where they are, of reducing the number of, rather than merely shifting nuclear weapons – only have meaningful answers at a UK level. Those who think the SNP’s independence proposals offer a radical option in these circumstances are customers at the same optician as Mr Fox rather than looking at the world as it is.

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