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Veteran campaigner Tariq Ali: 'Vote for Yes would end decrepit Labour's stranglehold'

A vote for an independent Scotland would be a rediscovery of hope for a better future and finish off the ''decrepit, corrupt, tribal Labourist stranglehold on some parts of Scotland forever", the veteran far-left campaigner Tariq Ali will tell audiences in Edinburgh and Glasgow this week.

Tariq Ali says a vote for Scottish independence would open a path for new politics across the UK
Tariq Ali says a vote for Scottish independence would open a path for new politics across the UK

The Radical Independence Campaign's call for a Yes vote in 193 days is set to be bolstered this week by Ali's appearance at the first two of a series of debates organised by the campaign.

Ali was one of the key figures in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, which saw tens of thousands march on the US embassy in London's Grosvenor Square in the 1960s. He went on to play a key role in the turbulent decade which saw Europe-wide student revolts which peaked in 1968, and was heavily involved in British revolutionary politics until the early 1980s.

He is no stranger to the experience of achieving independence. Born in Indian Lahore in 1943, his birthplace became Pakistani when the Indian sub-continent was carved up in 1947 as Britain relinquished its empire.

He enrolled at Oxford University's Exeter College in the early 1960s to study PPE, and has been based in London ever since.

Now 70, Ali says his own political views have changed very little over the years. He has not been a member of any party for many years, preferring to keep his ideas fresh via his key roles in the New Left Review and Verso books.

His believes the referendum could trigger the process of dismantling the British state. "At present UK politics are dominated by the extreme centre." A vote for Scottish independence would amount to a rejection of the extreme centre, and would open up the path for a "new politics" throughout the UK.

"England has been politically petrified since the Thatcher era." Although the Tories were soundly beaten by New Labour in 1997, Blair was the heir to Thatcher, he says. "An independent Scotland could also lead to something quite new in England; but not something nutty like UKIP."

He will tell his Scottish audiences that a vote for independence would " enable the rediscovery of hope of a better future, provide a much greater say for people over what their country looks like, and would finish off the decrepit, corrupt, tribal Labourist stranglehold on some parts of Scotland forever".

Ali is not much exercised by suggestions by businesses that would leave Scotland after a yes vote. "Large corporations are trying to frighten people,'' he said. ''But there are opportunities for investment from Scandinavia and the far east."

Ali's visit will not be welcomed by the SNP leadership. He will argue that an independent Scotland would need its own currency, and would require a state Bank of Scotland to be established. He says the new currency could be informally tied to sterling, but that all economic decisions would be taken in Scotland by a sovereign Scottish parliament.

He envisages a parting of the ways in the SNP ranks in the event of a Yes vote, with many SNP members rejecting the neo-liberalism of the extreme centre, which he argues dominate western politics.

Neither is he concerned about Scottish membership of the EU, which, a touch ironically, he is little more enthusiastic about than UKIP. "The German elite in particular are very nervous about admitting new members, and extending and weakening the Euro."

He is speaking at Edinburgh University's Appleton Tower at 3.30pm this Friday on Dismantling the British State, and at 6.30pm later that day at Glasgow University's Boyd Orr Building on Scotland: Between Past and Future.

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