WeeklyWorker

21.08.1997
‘Yes’ men line up. From left to right: Neil Smith, chairperson of Scotland Forward, with Alex Salmond, Donald Dewar and Menzies Campbell

Scotland’s rogues united for ‘Yes, yes’

Referendum battle begins with Dewar and Salmond joining forces and the CGSD sends the white paper up in flames

With less than three weeks to go to Scotland’s Referendum Day the different campaigns are moving up a gear in an attempt to grab the headlines.

Last Thursday the Campaign for Genuine Self-Determination turned up the heat in Edinburgh. In reply to the government’s launch of its White Paper leaflet in Perth, the CGSD staged a dramatic protest outside New Parliament House.

The Union flag and Dewar’s White Paper went up in flames to signify the contempt for the British state, Labour’s rigged referendum and their sop talking shops. The symbolic burning was preceded by an updated version of Robbie Burns’s ‘Sic’ a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation’.

As the protest ended, controversial Scottish actor, Tam Dean Burn declared: “Both the White Paper and the Union Jack deserve burning. We are standing up for the democratic rights of ordinary people against Blair’s and Dewar’s sell-out. We demand a parliament with full powers - nothing less!

By contrast, on Tuesday Scotland Forward had yet another launch of its campaign for a ‘yes, yes’ vote, with Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar sharing a platform with Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, and Liberal Democrat Menzies Campbell. The following day Labour launched its own ‘yes, yes’ campaign with Dewar playing host to John Prescott and the much-reviled Peter Mandelson later in the week.

Much of the impact of these events will be overshadowed by the ongoing investigation into the suicide of Paisley South MP, Gordon McMaster. This tragedy and McMaster’s suicide note have opened the clinched can of Labour worms that paints a very disturbing picture of the Labour Party in Renfrewshire. Internecine warfare, personal vendettas and grudges, smear campaigns and various other unsavoury events are being alleged, including the laundering of drugs money.

These are strange times for Labour: a record parliamentary majority on May 1, followed by police investigations and the suspension of Glasgow Govan MP, Mohammad Sarwar, investigations into the conduct of some Labour councillors in Glasgow and now Paisley. Dewar and the Labour hierarchy are anxious that the seamier side of Labour Party activity should not taint the government or hog the media spotlight to the detriment of their campaign for a double ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.

Such is their concern that Dewar missed an appointment at a conference organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, supposedly to try and resolve the problems of Paisley. In relation to these events it is the name of Tommy Graham, MP for Renfrewshire East, which keeps coming up in the frame. By suspending the whip from him, Labour hopes to deflect media criticism. While it conducts an internal enquiry in an attempt to distance itself from this scandal, the people of Paisley must have the right to know of the activities of their elected representatives - whether councillors, MPs, or MEPs. Only through having accountable and recallable representatives can such a process take place, not having to wait four or five years for the next election to come along.

These problems for the Labour Party have got the prehistoric status quoers in the Think Twice (‘no, no’) campaign all hot and sweaty. They charge that any Scottish parliament will be dominated by Labour and therefore Paisleyesque morals and conduct. This is a bit rich coming from a campaign staffed by Tories, whose government and party were riddled with contless instances of corrupt practices and self-advancement.

With such a negative image, it is no wonder that large sections of the working class in Scotland and across Britain are disillusioned with all politicians and political parties. It is important that this disillusionment does not express itself in a passive boycott of the referendum, as media pundits are now beginning to suggest. It is crucial that a real socialist alternative that puts people before profit is constructed that can actually build a movement where the majority take control of their own lives, and collectively make decisions that benefit the majority, not a small elite. By refusing to offer the people of Scotland the option of a parliament with full powers, the Labour Party is saying we don’t completely trust you. Yes, you can have some say over certain issues, but not fundamentally over the way you are governed: sovereignty stays at Westminster.

The Campaign for Genuine Self-Determination, by demanding self-determination, nothing less, believes that it is the democratic right of the people of Scotland to have a parliament with full powers that can decide which powers to retain. It is for this reason that we are fighting for an active boycott of Labour’s referendum that can actually mobilise the people of Scotland against the sleaze and corruption which is endemic to the fundamentally undemocratic UK state constitution

Nick Clarke