We can do better than either Scottish or British nationalisms, argues the latest pamphlet from the Red Paper Collective, as STEPHEN LOW explains


People Power” is the latest publication from the Red Paper Collective – a grouping of Trade Unionists, academics and left activists.  The stance, Fighting for Real Power for Scotland’s People,   is outlined by Neil Findlay MSP and Tommy Kane. They examine the unholy alliances that make up the Yes to Independence campaign and its Better Together mirror image. They believe  neither campaign is capable of articulating any sort of vision or  programme which can address the reality of a country crippled by inequality, dominated as both these campaigns are, by “business friendly” ( ie, worker-unfriendly) interests and attitudes.

The focus throughout the pamphlet is on social change; the worth, or otherwise, of constitutional change is measured by what contribution it will make to advancing the interests of working people.

With that aim in mind Richard Leonard examines the reality of ownership in the Scottish economy and what independence on a Murdoch-friendly, pound-retaining,  Salmond ticket would mean industrially and economically for workers. He discusses the “unfinished business” of the Scottish Parliament advocating, amongst other policies, a Scottish style “Marcora law”.

Dave Watson examines the fiscal implications of constitutional change   examining not only independence but also Devo-Max and the Devo-Plus scheme favoured by Reform Scotland. While he has little time for the SNP’s Laffer Curve-driven low corporation tax economic policy, he also criticises the limitations of the recent Scotland Act, making the case for more borrowing powers and the devolution of all property taxes and income tax.

Pauline Bryan makes an explicit appeal  for a labour movement alternative  to the nationalisms  currently dominating the debate, stressing  the history of the movement’s approach to home rule, a

…position which, unlike the nationalist one, acknowledged the bonds the British working class had forged in two centuries of struggle and recognised shared class interests over and above the shared interest of living in Scotland. Far from wanting to separate from the English they wanted to join with working people across the islands in creating a socialist alternative.

The question of class and class power, and the lack of consideration of these, by nationalists in general and mystifyingly, by nationalists who claim to be on the left, is tackled Professor John Foster. He outlines some of the circumstances that have combined to produce a Scotland that is a bit (but not much, look at British Social Attitudes Surveys – SL) to the left of England. He examines how such values are to be sustained concluding

The process of negotiating independence would itself tend to shift attitudes away from those of class solidarity. …economic policy, as set out by the SNP, is based on attracting investment away from other parts of Britain. Given the virtually complete control of Scotland’s press and media by external big business, the potential for the further erosion of progressive and socialist class values would be considerable.

Throughout all of the contributions are the twin concerns  of avoiding turning the UK into “four neo-liberal economies vying with each other to be the lowest taxed and the lowest paid”  and of outlining what is needed to make Scotland a better place. Something that will take more than constitutional change, or no change. As (red paper collective member) Stephen Smellie from UNISON told the STUC Congress in April: “The answer to all these questions is not a flag, a border or even a list of powers in Edinburgh and London; it is what you intend to do with these powers and for what purpose.”

Stephen Low is a member of Unite,  the Labour Party and is part of the Red Paper Collective. He has wisely avoided being on Twitter so far.