Today we are holding the 4th RIC conference. RIC has been very much a contributor to Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’, where 97% registered and 85% voted. Despite the ‘No’ result, politics in Scotland have been transformed. However, both the British unionists and the wannabe Scottish ruling class, who have latched on to the SNP, are trying hard to derail this ‘democratic revolution’.
From the British unionists we had the infamous ‘Vow’, diluted first by the Smith Commission, then further watered down by Cameron’s Conservative government. Little remains of Smith’s greater devolution promise but the Fiscal Framework trap. This is designed to devolve Osborne’s spending axe, and to provide an opening for Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives to campaign on a ‘cut the income tax for the better-off’ ticket. Meanwhile, Kezia Dugdale, for Scottish Labour, is proposing a ‘Union Tax’ to compensate for the lack of the devolved powers they have opposed. And, as for that ‘clean brush’, sweeping in radical new Holyrood candidates – Jackie Baillie, Iain Gray, Johan Lamont, Jenny Marra, Anas Sawar, etc. No obvious Corbyn effect there!
And the SNP leadership has tried to hoover up all the ‘Yes’ voters, either as party members or cheerleaders for their 56, 55 and now 54 MPs at Westminster. The SNP is expected to do well in the May election. Yet they already control Holyrood, so little will change. John Swinney’s punitive attack on local councils, even opposed now by some SNP councillors, will still be enforced. Freezing council taxes is a populist measure; but it ensures that swingeing cuts and privatisation will continue. There are still no plans for a progressive redistributive tax, despite promises made years ago. Whenever it comes to challenging business, the SNP government is nowhere to be seen. However, there is always an open door for corporate lobbyists; unlike for those Dundee hospital workers who had to go on strike and chase around to find their MSPs and MPs to be heard.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s centralised police force, originally backed by both the SNP government and the Labour opposition, seems to be able to evade any responsibility for the death of Sheku Bayoh in custody, their criminalisation offensive against young football supporters under the Offensive Behaviour Act, or their three day neglect of the M9 crash victims. However a new police chief is to be appointed. Philip Gormley has form – he helped the Met run its undercover ‘sex spy’ unit! Fortunately for him, Teresa May’s Pitchford Enquiry into police malpractice doesn’t extend to Scotland, despite revelations about their activities around the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit.
RIC fought the referendum campaign as Scottish internationalists, arguing that another Scotland and another World are possible. Unlike the SNP government, we are not content to leave the rUK in place, but argue that Scotland is currently in the frontline of the struggle to break up the UK state, its subordination to the City of London and its imperialist NATO alliance. This is why we have welcomed speakers from the other three nations in these islands, from those EU countries subjected to Troika austerity, and today the heroic fighters from Kobane. RIC has fought as republicans, arguing that sovereignty lies not with Westminster and the Crown Powers, but with the people.
There is no longer the immediate focus of the independence referendum. However, RIC is still needed as a coalition, organised around our 5 Principles. Inevitably there will be differences over strategy and tactics. We should not be frightened of open and democratic debate. This can lead to a higher level of shared understanding and hence more effective action. Furthermore, if we are all to be involved in the running society in the future, we need to develop these cooperative skills now.