IT is more than two years since the Red Paper Collective came together to consider the implications of constitutional change.
The book Class, Nation and Socialism: The Red Paper 2014 is, we hope, a timely contribution to the Scottish constitutional debate. Featuring prominent trade unionists, politicians, political activists, academics and researchers it takes an unashamedly class-based perspective on the question of constitutional change. On that basis the central question the contributors address is how best the interests of working people are served and advanced.
The Red Paper Collective is critical of the stagnant debate of the competing nationalisms and poses a political challenge to both the Yes and Better Together Campaigns. It also goes beyond the limited procedural and technical perspectives of devo plus and devo max with their thinly-disguised commitment to neo-liberalism. Hence, the primary concern of the Red Paper is to win powers for a purpose: powers that will enable us to tackle the huge social and economic problems that Scotland, shamefully, still faces.
It is quite understandable that people may want to escape the possibility of a further assault on our public service and welfare services by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Many suggest we have nothing to lose from a Yes vote. The evidence presented in the Red Paper is unequivocal; we actually have a great deal to lose. Not least, as a Yes vote would break Scotland away from the democratic structures of the UK without breaking the control of Scotland's economy that is overwhelmingly situated in London and other centres of global capital.
Constitutional change does not in itself mean social change and many of the promises of a progressive Scotland coming from the left of the Yes camp are more reflective of their own hopes rather than current political and economic realities. It is the case that the party that delivers independence will deliver the constitution and put an ideological stamp on the future development of Scotland, which would be hard to undo. The SNP will not conveniently dissolve itself and create space for a left-based alternative. Its very strength lies in its cross-class alliance that is committed to lowering corporation tax, keeping the monarchy, being part of a sterling zone and remaining in Nato and the EU.
The referendum could, however, be a turning point in Scotland even without a vote for independence. The remaining 12 months before the referendum provide an opportunity to raise fundamental questions about current political and economic conditions and to explore political alternatives which would be beneficial for people across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The Red Paper argues that any constitutional change must be measured against its potential to challenge the power of international capitalism and deliver greater democratic control of our economy. Democratic control could encompass a variety of forms of public ownership including co-operatives and mutual ownership which would help build a sustainable and secure economy and redistribute wealth from the rich to the rest of the population and geographically from areas of greater wealth to areas of need. In short, developing a society founded on social ownership will help to build an economy in which we all have a stake and from which we can all benefit.
The Red Paper Collective argues that the answer to the real problems facing us all will not be found in constitutional change, but in political change. If we can find a constitutional solution that enhances our capacity to make that political change, which maintains our class alliance with our brothers and sisters across the rest of the UK, and that meets the majority demand for greater devolution, it will allow the energies and imagination of all those concerned with a progressive future for Scotland to be put to more effective use. We could then begin to turn back the tide of austerity and rebuild a base for socialism in Scotland and across the UK.
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