Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Scottish Left Nationalists’ Plans in Ruins as SNP Plans Massive Cuts.

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Book that’s Spawned a Thousand Imaginary Communities. 

Left nationalist supporters of Scottish independence argue that the “breakup of Britain” will be  a major step forward for the left and the labour movement.

The nationalist Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) states,

The Scottish Socialist Party is built on social solidarity and the spirit of resistance to oppression, injustice and nasty con tricks that strangle communities and people’s lives.

Life can be better than this. We have the resources, the know-how, we could be building a world based on people, not profit. We can, and should, be expanding the public sector, because more and more of us need it, and it creates jobs and training, it holds communities together and it supports families.

We should be raising the minimum wage, because we can afford to do this, through cutbacks in the defence budget and the raising of taxes on the rich, and because it helps to build strong, local economies.


The Party asserts,

The single biggest obstacle to the Scottish people building a better society is the British State, the Westminster regime, the Crown Powers.

Genuine independence for Scotland can only come from a break up of the British State but until we get to that point the Scottish Socialist Party campaigns for a programme that can be achieved if our society is run for people, not profit.

Other nationalists even celebrate,

“the revolutionary implications of Scotland’s exit. Over three hundred years the Crown, the City of London and the Tories have been the hegemonic power. This will not be surrendered without a fight. But outside the ruling class and Scotland everybody seems pacified by the SNP selling itself as a safe pair of hands, ready to kneel before the Queen and Bank of England. Neither a post-independence SNP government, nor a Tory government in the rest of the country, will stop the impetus for constitutional change waking the sleeping giant in England and Wales.”

This will kick-start an Island (notice no mention of the rest of Europe) revolution, “….working people need more than simply defending themselves. They are hungry for a real democracy which gives them the power to change the future. If Scotland takes one step in that direction it is for us in England and Wales to take two or three.”

Steve Freeman. Republican Communist Network.

The ideas of the SSP and the RCN suffered a hammer blow when this was revealed (last year) from which they have yet to recover.

The SNP government is privately preparing for the prospect of cuts to jobs, welfare benefits and pensions after independence, amid growing concerns that Scotland faces a bleak economic future, a leaked document has shown.

Ministers in Edinburgh have also accepted the Bank of England in London would still have a controlling veto over public spending after independence under the SNP’s plans to keep the pound.

The emergence of the report, which was presented to the ScottishCabinet by finance secretary John Swinney, comes as a former economic adviser to First Minister Alex Salmond warns in today’s Scotsman that such an arrangement would be little different to the existing “block grant” Scotland gets from Westminster.

The Scotsman

The Cabinet paper reveals the Scottish Government anticipates that in four years Scotland will have a “marginally larger net deficit than the UK”.

This means a bigger gap between public spending and the taxes raised to fund them.

Expected North Sea revenues are set to fall in light of recently revised estimates, the report says, and this will hit the nation’s prospects after independence.

“Given the relative importance of North Sea revenues to Scotland’s public finances, these downwards revisions have resulted in a deterioration in the outlook for Scotland’s public finances,” it states.

The country’s expected net deficit has more than doubled from £12 billion to £28bn as a result of these revisions, the paper indicates.

“This high level of volatility creates considerable uncertainty in projecting forward Scotland’s fiscal position,” the paper adds. “This would, on present assumptions about onshore tax revenues, require some downward revision in current spending.”

This is likely to hit services in Scotland, with a warning that “these pressures could reduce the resources available to provide additional public services”.

The paper says Scotland’s armed forces would have a “much lower budget” than its population share and the SNP has said this would not be any more than £2.5bn.

The report accepts that Scotland’s budget after independence would be subject to conditions and any government at Holyrood would “have to ensure that it remained in line with any agreement on monetary union”.

The SNP has attempted to brush this off saying that

that the paper has been “overtaken by events” with oil revenues having surged on the global market to $115 a barrel. Initial estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility put oil prices at less than $100 in the years ahead, but other forecasters have put it at $130.

They have continued to repeat this message.

But the Better Together campaign has responded by bring up the same topic,

The SNP’s oil fund will put your taxes up

In public the SNP tell us that an independent Scotland could have not one but two oil funds without the need for tax rises, spending cuts or extra borrowing to fund this.

Yet a confidential Scottish Government paper, which we are publishing today, makes clear that in private SNP Ministers are being advised by their own impartial civil servants that our taxes WOULD have to go up, public spending WOULD have to be cut or borrowing WOULD have to rise to pay for an oil fund. In fact, it could mean a combination of all three.

SNP Ministers aren’t just ignoring this impartial advice – they are doing exactly what this advice warns against.

We have also produced a simple document contrasting what SNP Ministers say in public with what they are being advised privately.You can read this here andshare on Facebook and twitter here

Read the Scottish Government’s paper, revealed under FOI law, here.

Looking at how oil money has been needed to pay for public services over the last 20 years SNP’s confidential cabinet paper concludes:

“If the Scottish Government had wished to invest in an oil fund, without having to increase its borrowing, there would have had to have been a corresponding increase in tax receipts or reduced public spending.”

If the SNP are being told this in private why can’t they just be honest with the Scottish people?

Speaking today, the leader of Better Together Alistair Darling said:

“This is the third time in a year that the SNP have been caught out saying one thing in public while knowing the opposite was true in private. The SNP have quite deliberately set out to deceive the Scottish public.

“Scotland doesn’t have to be faced with this choice. Being part of the UK means we have the strength of a bigger economy without the risk of oil volatility.”

By pooling and sharing our resources across the whole of the UK we are best placed to get the benefit from the North Sea.

The basic contours of these problems have not changed since.

So, one thing is clear, the SNP is as much as obstacle to left politics as the trinity of, “British State, the Westminster regime, the Crown Powers”

We hope that the left nationalists will not descend into arguing over the ownership of “their” nation’s oil as a way out of their problems – to avoid addressing the right-wing pro-market nature of any feasible ‘independent’ Scotland. .

But once you’ve gone down the nationalist road it’s hard to know exactly where you will end up.

For a detailed critique of how Scottish left nationalism is far from left politics and far from any form of critical left approach to capitalism and globalisation, See: The Break-Up of Tom Nairn?

Tom Nairn, Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom, Verso, 2002. Hardback, 300pp, £15.99. Reviewed by Andrew Coates. What Next? 

Also see: Paul Tesdale. Yes Means Power to Capital. Chartist May/June 2014.


2 Responses

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  1. Andrew

    When did you write the review of Nairn’s book?

    Mick Hall

    July 29, 2014 at 11:39 am

  2. Around 2004, though I’m not sure.

    I’d change many things in this, but not the attack on Nairn’s kaleyard nationalism,

    Different Modernities

    Pariah concentrates on the political contradictions inherent in the British State. Its focus is on its Imperial, aristocratic, anti-democratic, historical legacy, superautonomy, and failure to adapt to modernity. All are features undergoing profound change. For Nairn the universal domination of the “dismal science” of “reactionary economism”, has “caused retrograde states and paleo-economics to bond” (p.154).

    From another standpoint neo-liberalism may be seen as far from archaic: it is the conscious development to the limit of tendencies inherent within capitalism. Blair’s inner Court appears carried away with this highly ambitious aim of attaining what Marx called the “highest development of capital”. That is when “capital has subjugated all conditions of capital production to itself”. Circumstances in which “social productive wealth has been capitalized, and all needs are satisfied through the exchange form; as well as the extent to which the socially posited needs of the individual … are likewise not only consumed but also produced through exchange, individual exchange”.15 Perhaps we have yet to attain the neo-liberal utopia in which the “real community” is “constituted in the form of capital”. We certainly engage in private exchanges for many formerly public services (utilities, transport). Today’s dominant trend, however, is towards transactions between state and company, a transfer of unproductive (in Marx’s sense) activities to Capital (Contracting-Out, Public-Private Partnerships), financed through the market, but underwritten, and eventually paid for, by public revenue.

    These developments are not specific to Britain: they are at the core of capitalist state formation across the globe.

    Faced with his own assessment of global changes Nairn focuses on national identity as “a necessary condition of tolerable modernisation”. In his latest pronouncements this is democratic nationalism, “interlocking human experience”, in tune with true globalisation, opposed to the “legacy of Empire” incarnated in the United States and “cosmocracy” (cosmopolitan élites).16 Pariah’s criticisms of the “metaphysics of globalisation” rest on challenging the “supposed dissolution of nations”, as opposed to an “actual extension of the world market and transnational industry” (p.156).

    We should, by contrast, follow Emmanuel Todd’s affirmation of nationality as the source of agency. In his L’Illusion économique (1999), Todd calls for “un protectionnisme intelligent” which Nairn translates as “protection” (p.156). This should be “intelligent”, allying economic and social protection, yet not hostile to private enterprise and the free circulation of capital, with flexible exchange rates.17 Nairn does elaborate on the details of these less-than-modest proposals, or om whether his national agents should follow suit. One assumes, however, that, as for Todd, since the extension of the world market is ineluctable, he favours what is in effect a moderate nationalist version of the “reform and regulate” stand on globalisation.

    Pariah, however, does not primarily convince anyone for a comprehensive course of action – a middle-of-the-road prudential nationalism – but tries to overwhelm with revolutionary rhetoric. The reader is wearied by constant recourse to striking and radical phrases. Proud of his label, “Ukania” (by analogy with Robert Musil’s description of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as Kakania), for decades Nairn has rarely missed an opportunity to wheel out that cack-handed comparison between the UK and a genuinely feudal régime. What serious links are given between globalisation, neo-liberalism, state backwardness, and the failings of New Labour, are similarly decked with distracting fioriture, the “ancien régime” birthing a family of Unwritten Mysteries, and, now, Blairland.

    In Immortality (1991) Milan Kundera described the process by which socialist doctrine was simplified by its ideologues down to a collection of six or seven slogans and images, different coloured hands linked together, the dove of peace rising to the sky.18

    No-one would accuse Nairn of simplicity. Yet, like any ideologue, he never seriously considers alternative views. For example, that the equality of a collective identity within a universalist social republic might be preferable to the “obverse of democracy”: a self harnessed to group particularity. Or that a social system that extends democratic control over the economy can’t be one that leaves small polities and nationalism at the mercy of capital. That economy is not one ideological “ism” that will automatically evaporate with the political and cultural hegemony of another, nationalism. Or that repeating the same attacks on the “ancien régime”, Parliamentary Sovereignty, Great Britishness, Labourism and international socialism may tarnish their objects, but only obscures the dilemma of a thinker whose central thesis, that these are “exceptional features” of the United Kingdom, is breaking up and being redefined in the face of neo-liberal globalisation.

    In the end we are left with only one unchanged image: Nairn holding on to the Saltire.”

    Andrew Coates

    July 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

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