Aug 26 2016


Eric Chester warns of the dangers of linking a call for Scottish independence with support for the EU.



In Scotland, the result of the recent referendum has reinforced the widespread belief that its political framework is significantly different from that of the rest of the UK. As the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU, Scotland voted by a substantial majority to remain. This result has provided an impetus to the call for a second independence referendum.

Although the SNP has cited the referendum results as evidence of an enthusiastic endorsement of the European Union by the Scottish people, the fact is that the turnout was quite low with 56% of registered voters casting a ballot and an even lower rate voting in working class districts. Many Scots were unwilling to cast a vote that could be seen as reinforcing jingoism and yet they were unconvinced by the SNP’s lavish praise of the EU.

Since the referendum, the SNP has loudly proclaimed its support for a second independence referendum, although it has been reluctant to set a specific date when such a vote would occur. Arguments around the timing of a second referendum provide a convenient issue to divert attention from the pro-business policies the SNP has pursued in Holyrood.

The reality is that there is no chance that another referendum will occur for the foreseeable future. The Tories will remain in power until 2020 and they have no intention of authorizing another referendum. Furthermore, Nicola Sturgeon has said that she will not push for another independence vote until she is sure that it would be won. The latest polls continue to show that public opinion in Scotland has not significantly changed in the aftermath of the EU referendum and that voters continue to be evenly divided on the issue of independence. Finally, the SNP has made it clear that a vote for an “independent” Scotland will be taken as a mandate to negotiate an entry into the European Union. Since EU leaders are adamant that discussions with Scottish leaders can not begin while the EU is still negotiating the UK’s exit, there is no possibility of another independence referendum taking place for several years.

Nevertheless, the question can not be ducked. Much of the Scottish Left is already arguing for another referendum. Indeed, many leftists see their role as pressuring the SNP to move more quickly toward another vote. Rallies have already been organized to call upon the SNP to set a date in the near future for a second referendum. Socialists need to clarify their view of this complex set of issues.

With all of the rhetorical posturing by those demanding another referendum, very little thought has been given to what entering the European Union would actually entail. EU leaders have made it very clear that if Scotland were to leave the UK and apply to join the European Union, it would have to do so as a new member and not on the basis of its having been a part of the UK when it was a member state. Entry into the EU as a new member requires joining the Eurozone. A country seeking admission must go through a lengthy probationary period during which it must meet five different financial targets before it can be admitted as a full member. Ironically, the UK could not currently meet these targets. It is highly likely that Scotland would have to make drastic changes in its economic policies before it could join the Eurozone.

The UK has a national debt in excess of one and a half trillion pounds, about 90% of its total output. One of the EU convergence targets requires that this ratio be reduced to 60%. Should Scotland leave the UK, a negotiated settlement would determine its share of the UK debt. Given the recent precipitous fall in the price of oil and gas and a share of the debt roughly in proportion to its share of the UK population, about 10%, it is probable that the debt to output ratio of an independent Scotland would far exceed the EU target. As a result, joining the EU would require Scotland to run a sizable surplus in its budget. Efforts to achieve this goal are bound to result in a substantial reduction in social service expenditures. In addition, there would be substantial increases in indirect taxes such as VAT that fall disproportionately on the working class. In the end, bringing Scotland within the EU would require an austerity programme that was even more draconian than the one currently being imposed by the Tories.

Another EU financial target requires a new member to run a deficit in its public sector budget that is less than 3% of total output. The current deficit being accumulated by a Conservative government intent on slashing social services is about 5% of total output. Again, as with the debt to output ratio, meeting this target would require Scotland to cut essential social services while increasing taxes, thus further lowering the standard of living of working people.

A third financial target set by the EU requires a probationary member to maintain a stable exchange rate for two years. Even before the EU referendum vote, the pound was sliding downward in value versus other currencies as oil and gas prices dropped precipitously. Scotland would confront an even greater challenge than that faced by the UK given its greater dependency on oil and gas production. (It is very unlikely that the Bank of England would permit an independent Scotland to remain within the pound sterling zone.) A likely result of an effort to maintain a stable currency value would be the setting of high interest rates in order to attract a flow of speculative funds into Scottish banks. The result could be a perfect storm where cuts in government spending along with high interest rates trigger a downward spiral in output and employment.

In spite of the many problems inherent in joining the Eurozone, the SNP remains committed to a strategic vision of a Scotland inside of the European Union. Contrary to the image it seeks to project, the SNP is not interested in a truly independent Scotland. In fact, like the Unionists they despise, SNP leaders believe that the only future for Scotland is as a small component of a larger economic entity. The argument between the two sides comes down to the SNP’s desire to see Scotland end its dependent status within a UK dominated by the English to instead become a subordinate unit within a more integrated European Union dominated by Germany.

SNP leaders are convinced that Scotland’s economic viability depends on its becoming a member of the European Union, where it could carve out a niche in the global economy by luring banks and other financial institutions from London to Edinburgh. In their view, once the UK has left the EU a segment of the financial sector currently based in London would look for a new location within the EU.

Alex Salmond outlined this argument in a recent article printed in the Scottish Sun (June 25, 2016). (The fact that Salmond chose the Sun, a Murdoch paper, to present his article is indicative.) The decision of the UK to leave the EU would provide the opportunity for Scotland as a member of EU to become “the new pole star of the north.” Instead of the past, when “talented young Scots” were “heading to London, the pendulum would swing” and the talent flow would switch directions. The goal would be to initiate an “exodus of key companies and talented people from London to Scotland.”

Of course, the “talented young” that Salmond is so eager to attract are those who are most avaricious, driven to make huge sums in the shortest possible time and with scant regard for the consequences. It was exactly these “talents” that precipitated the 2007 crash that shook the world economy. Beyond this, Salmond’s strategic vision is highly dubious. Ireland has long pursued a similar strategy. Although it succeeded for a few years, the boom was soon followed by a monumental bust. Furthermore, for this strategy to have any chance of success, Scotland would have to implement policies designed to encourage businesses, especially banks, to relocate. This would require low income taxes on the affluent and wealthy, low corporate profits taxes and minimal government regulations. Indeed, very much the strategy that has been followed by the Tories in their effort to keep the financial sector in London.

Needless to say, the activists clamoring for a second independence referendum are not doing so because they share Salmond’s view of a future Scotland. Both the SNP leaders and the nationalist rank and file share the conviction that Westminster is a burden and that Scotland must cut its ties with it, but the underlying arguments diverge from there. For the activists, this is a time to reverse a series of national defeats. From this perspective, the English are the prime oppressors. Breaking up the UK would represent a significant step forward for the oppressed here and abroad and yet to accomplish this Scotland needs allies. In the distant past, Scotland had forged an alliance with the French against English rule, but now, Scotland needs to join the European Union, thereby gaining Germany as a counterweight to a UK dominated by England.

This is the actual argument lying behind the bland, nebulous platitudes about moving beyond a narrowly focused nationalism for the internationalism of the European Union. Mired in a long lost history, those advancing it are totally out of touch with the current reality. The Jacobite rebellion continues to hold a fascination for Scottish nationalists more than two hundred and fifty years later. Then, Scotland could receive aid from the French with few strings attached. Now, joining the EU will entail entering a tightly integrated economic unit in which Scotland’s ability to determine its own affairs will be drastically curtailed.

Furthermore, the UK ceased being a world power seventy years ago. Westminster carries little weight in world politics and it continues to decline as an economic power. In this context, the UK government is on the defensive and willing, albeit reluctantly, to concede a considerable autonomy to Scotland. Instead of pushing for a spurious independence as a member of the European Union, Scotland could be demanding a further devolution of powers as an immediate stepping stone toward a genuine independence.

The EU referendum has brought all of these issues into a sharper focus. Socialists need to state clearly that they will not support the SNP as it pushes for another referendum since this will not lead to a genuine independence, but rather, by bringing Scotland into the Eurozone, will result in further attacks on health care, schools and other vital social services. A republican Scotland independent of the European Union and NATO is worth fighting for; a Scotland embedded in the EU and NATO is not.

Instead, socialists in Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, need to strengthen a meaningful internationalism by forging closer ties with radicals throughout Europe, and beyond, who share a belief that the creation of a just society is an immediate project, not just a distant goal. This will require breaking from the European Union, as well as all of the other organizations that sustain the global capitalist system.



also see other articles by Eric Chester:-

Leaving the EU: A Socialist Perspective





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Aug 05 2016


Allan Armstrong (acting convenor of RSA-Scotland) attended the RSA meeting in Wakefield on 23rd July. Steve Freeman (RSA-London) has written the following report of this meeting.




The meeting had a thorough discussion on future perspectives for republican socialism in the light of the Brexit vote. It began with a general discussion about the meaning a consequences of the Brexit vote. In terms of the voting all three options of remain, leave and abstain were reflected in the discussion. There was general agreement that this was significant event with revolutionary implications, not least because of the situation in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

RSA constitution

After discussion it was agreed to amend the RSA constitution clause 5(ii) which says “The RSA aims to develop activity and discussion aimed at:” and section “ii) Discussing the idea of a republican socialist party”.

It was agreed unanimously to amend this clause to say “ii) Promoting the idea of a republican socialist party” In discussion it was agreed to add the descriptor – “party of democratic revolution” to this clause.

The Brexit vote meant that the RSA had to go further. The argument was made that a republican party was the means of winning or achieving a republic and now was the time to make this case more strongly. This did not mean deciding what way such a party might arise nor of setting this slogan against all existing parties. Such a party might come from within Rise, Left Unity, the Labour Party or none of these.

Future campaigning work for republican socialists

A number of items were raised which might be important over the next period. First there would be consequences of Brexit in defending the rights of working class people and the possibility of a recession impacting on austerity. The question of opposing racism and defending free movement of people were discussed.  In both Edinburgh and London there had been protest demonstrations involving EU citizens and disaffected remain young people.

Nobody called for a ‘rerun’ of the referendum but it was agreed we should raise the issue of 16-18 year olds and EU citizens not having a right to vote in all UK elections and referendum. The outcome of the referendum was biased by the exclusion by the Tories of both these groups. In addition both Scotland and Northern Ireland had a significant position having voted to remain in. This created a big problem for the Tory government. If there is another Scottish referendum we had to do much better in England in building a solidarity movement.

Should we support a referendum on any proposed Exit Agreement? There was no agreement on this and it agreed discussion on this should continue.

Assemblies for Democracy

Brexit had raised expectations over the restoration of “sovereignty” and it is important work RSA supporters had done in the A4D, campaigning for a citizen led constitution. RSA supporters have been active in this campaign. How can our politics help to move this campaign forward?

Paul reported on the work this campaign had done and agreed to circulate the call for a new constitution published recently in the Guardian.

It was recognised an ongoing debate in A4D between Process and Programme. The question is whether A4D should have any policies on the constitution or whether it should merely facilitate other people coming up with their own ideas and not try to influence the process.

A4D has adopted one principle on “sovereignty of the people”. This is a republican principle although A4D does not identify itself as promoting a republican constitution. Are there other republican principles we should seek to get adopted? Three points were raised

  • “All representatives should be elected, accountable and subject to recall”
  • “Self determination for nations” – an application of the “sovereignty of the people” – the right of a given nation/people to call a referendum on separation”.
  • “Abolition of all undemocratic institutions and laws” This includes opposing all the Acts of Union. This could mean separation or federalism.

A4D Geographical structures

In recognising the national dimension in the United Kingdom should we call for national A4Ds – i.e. A4D (England) A4D (Scotland), A4D (Wales) and A4D (Ireland). We should recognise A4D at regional and local levels so in theory A4D (North West England).

Campaigning for a European republican socialist party

There was a good discussion on the idea of promoting a European republican socialist party. It was generally agreed we should work for this around the slogans the RSA adopted for the referendum. These included a European democratic revolution, European federal republic, secular and social, the right to self determination [The slogan of a United states of Europe was not discussed].

The following resolution was adopted:

  1. This RSA meeting recognises that as an alliance and discussion forum, it is not our purpose to impose policies on the RSA. RSA national meetings enable discussion and facilitate activity amongst those members who wish to act together, as we did during the EU referendum.
  2. Taking account of the policy passed at the least RSA meeting concerning a European democratic revolution and European federal republic etc, this meeting agrees that those RSA members who are exploring setting up a campaign for a European republican socialist party can use RSA discussion lists to promote this idea and discussion around it.
  3. This meeting agrees to encourage RSA members to support such a campaign.

In addition it was agreed that we should adopt the descriptor – a European republican socialist party, the party of European democratic revolution.

Future activity

It was agreed that we would work to launch this campaign in the autumn at a meeting in Scotland.  Allan said he would ask for the support of RSA (Scotland) to organise a meeting for comrades throughout these islands to take forward the RSA project of advancing the European Democratic Revolution. He suggested October for this.



also see:-

EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION – A statement from the Republican Socialist Alliance





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Aug 03 2016


David Hopper died on July 16th. He was the General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association and last spoke on Saturday July 9th  the Durham Miners Gala. This was attended by 150,000 people. David Hopper was central to the revival of this major working class political and social event, after the defeat of the heroic miners struggle in 1985. Dave Douglass, an ex-miner from County Durham and a member of the IWW and NUM has written the first piece posted here about David Hopper. This is followed by David Hopper’s own last speech given at the Gala.


1. DAVEY HOPPER , 1944-2016

Davey Hopper addressing Durham Miners Gala

Davey Hopper addressing Durham Miners Gala

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the role played by the ‘two Davies’ – Davie Guy and Davey Hopper, respectively the late president and general secretary of the North-East area of the NUM and Durham Miners Association.

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Aug 03 2016


The RCN has been debating the EU referendum both amongst ourselves and in wider arenas.  Here Murdo Ritchie provides an argument in favour of voting ‘Leave’. This was first posted as a Comment after the article by Allan Armstrong at:-

This is followed by an extensive commentary by Steve Freeman (RSA and LUP) 



Firstly, I was always clear about what the issues were in this Referendum. The issues in the forthcoming referendum have little to do with wider issues such as immigration, European unity, greater trade and economic co-operation, more mobility, and the right to work and study in other European countries, but are:-
Continue reading “IF NOT NOW, WHEN?”

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Jul 27 2016



Julia Bard and Tony Greenstein have written their own responses  to the official Chakrabhati Report into Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Julia Bard is a freelance journalist, a member of the NC of the Jewish Socialists’ Group and the Editorial Committee of Jewish Socialist magazine. Tony Greenstein is a log standing Jewish anti-Zionist and currently suspended member of the Labour Party. Julia Bard’s article was first posted at and Tony Greenstein’s at

Shami Chakrabati and Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the report

Shami Chakrabati and Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the report



Julia Bard dissects the issues in the recent anti-semitism furore in the Labour Party and finds the issue is being instrumentalised for other political purposes.

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Jul 18 2016


Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance, Left Unity and RISE  gives his assessment of the state of the UK after the Chilcot Report.


Pointing two fingers at the guilty

Pointing two fingers at the guilty


The UK is a conservative country where republicanism, the sovereign power of the people, exists in disguise. It is a love that dare not speak its name. The issue of sovereignty appears, for example, in the Labour Party in the contest between MPs and rank and file members over who can elect or remove the Labour leader or deselect local MPs. The coup against Corbyn is an attempt to overthrow the sovereignty of the members.
Continue reading “THE UK AFTER CHILCOT”

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Jul 16 2016


We are posting two pieces from Ireland in the aftermath of the UK Brexit vote. The first is by D.R. O’Connor Lysaght, a member of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) written soon after the result was announced. The second is a collective statement from Socialist Democracy (Ireland). 



The good news is that the British electorate has dealt a major blow to the liberal capitalist consensus that has guide the politics of western (and, from 1991, eastern) Europe since the Second World War. How bad the damage is uncertain, nonetheless Brexit has brought to the surface a crisis comparable to that which destroyed the Soviet Union. The citizens of the country with the second strongest economy in the European Union have voted to leave it. This is a serious vote of no confidence in the status quo.
Continue reading “BREXIT – VIEWS FROM IRELAND”

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Jul 15 2016


A young comrade after reading the UK State, Britishness and the ‘Racialised’, ‘Ethnicised’ and ‘National’ Outsiders ( has asked Allan Armstrong to clarify the differences between Nationalities, Nations and Nation States. Here is a section of Allan’s book, Internationalism from Below, volume 1, which explores these concepts.




Nationality, nation, nation-state, nationalism and nationalist are five words that can provoke very different responses on the Left. In a world of officially recognised nation-states and national movements seeking UN approval, both nationalities and nations are often seen to have collective personalities. When asked to describe a particular nationality or nation, the response can be enthusiastic – “I support the Palestinians”; or hostile – “I oppose the Americans”. There is another response, the loftily aloof – “I’m above such petty nationalist concerns”. This view appears to rise above the fetishisation of national identity. Yet those who adopt this distanced attitude usually find others very easily give them a national identity, usually by virtue of the language, dialect, or even the accent they use.

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Jul 04 2016


Allan Armstrong, who first became politically active in 1968, gives his political assessment of the political situation in the aftermath of the June 23d EU referendum.  Allan is on the Editorial Board of Emancipation & Liberation,  a supporter of the Republican Socialist Alliance, the Radical Independence Campaign and, in the ‘Spirit of 68’, a dissident member of the SSP and RISE. The International Revolutionary Wave from 1968-75, encompassing the world from Vietnam to Paris, was contained. However, a group of socialists helped to put some new life into the possibility of a social order beyond the discredited models of Social Democracy and official Communism. Sadly today, we have one of 1968’s leading proponents, Tariq Ali, in his role as a prominent Lexiter, reacting to the situation created by the EU referendum more in the manner of the French CP in 1968, diverting a potential European Democratic Revolution on to the path of national reformism. Today this can only reinforce the Right across Europe.  However, others of Allan’s generation, including  Bernadette Devlin/McAliskey, have seen a very different potential in the current situation.

It is to be hoped that the short-lived International Revolutionary Wave of 2011, encompassing the ‘Arab Spring’ and the Indignados of Greece and Spain, will prove to be a 1905 International Revolutionary Wave-style prelude to a new revolutionary wave. For the moment the 2011 wave has ebbed back to the communities of resistance in Palestine and Kobane, and to the electoralism of Syriza and Podemos.   Allan’s contribution is based on a talk he gave at the Edinburgh RISE circle on June 28th and has been extended, updated and written in the form of an appeal from a member of the 1968 generation to those of the new young 2011 generation. 

(* FUKers are supporters of a ‘Free UK’. They stretch from the Fascist and Loyalist Far Right, through the Right populist UKIP to the reactionary Right Tories.)

The demonstration of the Migrant Solidarity Network on the streets of Edinburgh on June 24th



The significance of Friday June 24th

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Jul 03 2016





Dear comrades,

June 24th hasn’t quite panned out as you Lexiters claimed it would. All those workers “justified” in supporting Brexit have not followed up their crushing victory over Cameron by taking to the streets or striking against the Tories’ austerity drive; nor does Jeremy Corbyn led Labour look particularly likely to replace the Tories in any immediate general election.

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