Stifling debate in Scotland

Rumours about the content of Labour’s devolution white paper are starting to grow as its July publication date creeps closer.

Recent speculation in The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday suggests that supporters of the Scottish Constitutional Convention’s scheme for a Scottish parliament could be in for some unpleasant surprises, when the final results of discussions between the Scottish office and Whitehall are revealed. Commentators are flagging up the possibility that Labour is considering jettisoning some of the more ‘enlightened and democratic’ aspects (compared with Westminster) of the Constitutional Convention’s proposals. These include the 50-50 representation of women, the watering down of its electoral system through a reduction in the number of SMPs (Blair’s hostility to proportional representation is well known), and a change in the tax arrangements. The reality of such speculation will only be known when the white paper is publicly available.

However, those of us who demand real self-determination for Scotland - a parliament with full powers - and even those who support the Convention, should not be surprised if some or all of the above predictions come true. With a majority of 179 MPs, Blair has almost got a free rein. It is only through mass struggle outside parliament that we can force them to take notice in the real world.

This brings me on to Scotland Forward - or Scotland FORward, as the establishment insists on slavishly representing it. This official, government-backed campaign for a double ‘yes’ vote in the referendum is supported by many of the great and the good across the political spectrum. In effect what it aims to be is an uncritical cheerleader for the Labour Party’s rigged referendum, with the left being the foot soldiers for the campaign and the working class seen as voting fodder. From personal experience I know that Scotland Forward is opposed to any discussion on the specific proposals regarding Labour’s parliament or any other proposal. What it wants to do is channel the energy and drive among those who subjectively aspire to fill the democratic deficit into the narrow fight for a double ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, stifling any debate or discussion on what form that parliament will take and what powers it should have. The Labour hierarchy wants the people to leave all that detailed, complex work to the ‘professionals’ (ie, Westminster and Whitehall).

As the referendum draws nearer, it becomes clearer and clearer that the only principled position for the revolutionary left and those genuine democrats that want real self-determination for Scotland must be to get organised to fight for an active boycott of the referendum, a fight that actually puts at the forefront of its campaign a sovereign Scottish parliament with full powers.

Nick Clarke