In this guest post, CATHERINE MILLIGAN, a socialist and community activist who lives in the Castlemilk housing scheme in Glasgow, explains how she has changed her view of the referendum on Scottish independence
I am voting Yes to Scottish independence, and I haven’t come to that decision easily – because I call myself a socialist, and believe I am a citizen of the world, and felt it was ill advised to break up the working class movement
in Britain. I also fear the rise of fascism, especially in England where Ukip have free range to expound their ideas via most established media outlets.
However the young people of Scotland have changed my point of view, in that they are very pro-Yes and their arguments for this are very sound in my eyes.
They are clearly saying that it is not about nationalism: it’s about having a voice that can be heard – which they do not have now. They state clearly that they hate the Tory and Lib Dem government that represents millionaires and the elite, and doesn’t care that children are going without food. The increase in foodbanks, in a country that is relatively wealthy, is shameful.
Young people in Scotland put the blame firmly on the unfair distribution of wealth. They state that it’s not about any politician – it’s about us, the people, having our say in shaping our future.
The talk is not about Scotland and Scottish people being superior, but about the opportunity for real people power.
The queues of people lining up outside the City Chambers in Glasgow last Tuesday, the 2nd of September to register to vote – on the last day that they could – speaks volumes.
There are literally thousands turning out every night, and in the afternoons even, to meetings to engage in the debate.
The meetings I have been involved in Castlemilk have been about the ideas of socialism. This is a poor and downtrodden area, and here people have came out in huge numbers. The campaign here registered 389 people to vote: those are voices that usually go unheard.
One of the initial meetings held here, on “Independence: a case for socialism”, was attended by around 200 people, around a third of them young people. This was followed up by a meeting set up by and for young people which they named the Referenjam, because they wanted to have music, poems and self expression as part of the debate. They designed their own leaflet which was not at all about flags – in fact they made sure that there was no flag waving, just their design in the the colours of red and yellow, traditionally socialist colours. The night was successful. About 30 young people discussed and debated their future and their total contempt of established politics and politicians. They also discussed the idea of nationalism as being backward.
The point being that they want the power to make decisions for themselves.
Another significant fact is that whilst the Orange Order try to create divisions among these young people, this is being challenged and undermined. Some are Rangers [football] fans [i.e. traditionally from Protestant families] who are embarassed by the fact they are being associated with such backwardness.
But listening to them talk about unfairness, about the hypocrisy of the Tories and Lib Dems, about the downright betrayal of the Labour Party, and the need to fight for a better, fairer world were wealth is made for and by the people, was and is inspirational.
So in my eyes the movement here for a Yes vote is strong, healthy and progressive … not what the establishment, or even the Scottish Nationalist party, envisaged at all.
The context is everything. The exposure of capitalism and its greed is so clear in the eyes of these young people. The English people are not the enemies – and because of social media, they don’t rely on the established media (BBC, ITV, Sky, etc) for information.
Young people in Castlemilk are in the process of setting up a youth forum with the aim of uniting collectively – no matter what the outcome of the referendum – to stand against benefit sanctions, zero-hours contracts and other attacks on working-class people.
The whole point is that this debate on independence has taken on a life of its own. Initially, as a socialist I was not particularly interested in being involved; I believed it to be a bit of a red herring and a diversion from what
was really going on regarding attacks on workers and the rights they have fought for and won, the Bedroom Tax and the general dismantling of welfare provision. But now as a result of this debate, political consiousness has been awakened – which Alex Salmond [the Scottish Nationalist leader] and the like did not expect. There is no going back, no matter the outcome.
I see a Yes vote as progressive. It’s a vote against austerity and neoliberal values, and against the whole capitalist state, where every day there is more evidence of its unfairness, corruptness, greed, and inherently inhumane policies.
Afterword by Gabriel Levy. Thanks to Catherine Milligan for this article, which highlights that the discussion in Scottish working class communities is not only about what country they want to live in, but about what sort of country, and about who will take the decisions. The very fact that people are discussing and organising around these issues has the potential to change things, whatever the result of the referendum.
Among socialists that I talk to, whether in England or Scotland, the fear associated with the referendum is the one that Catherine mentions at the start – of nationalism undermining the unity of the workers’ movement. Nationalism is to be feared, of course, but as far as I know – whether in Ukraine, Russia, Scotland or England – the only way to combat nationalism effectively is by strengthening movements around working-class rights, such as those Catherine mentions.
If those movements come out stronger, whatever the result of the referendum, we are in a better position to combat all the odious nationalisms.
Furthermore, a Yes vote would give workers’ movements everywhere the massive fillip of seeing one of the oldest, most durable capitalist states being knocked out of shape. The supposedly God-given power of the London establishment to rule in the way that it decides – which hasn’t been seriously challenged in these islands for the best part of a century – would be disrupted.
Hopefully, that would act as a reminder to working-class people and society as a whole that that establishment is dependent on us. Not the other way round.
That establishment has been thrown into an absolute panic this week by the poll results. It’s funny to watch them writhing. And it’s more serious to remind ourselves that we have the ability to confront them. GL, 10 September 2014.
■ Other stuff about Scotland on People & Nature: