Monday, 18 March 2013
WITH LIVING STANDARDS PLUNGING, THE REASONS TO VOTE YES RISE AND RISE
The Independence movement in Scotland is understandably focused, with 18 months to go until the Referendum, on how to turn around opinion polls suggesting only 38% or so intend to vote Yes.
There are those, like the Scotsman columnist and SNP insider George Kerevan, who insist the Referendum is more likely to be won on the back of a growing economy that makes people feel confident about their future. But with economic and social conditions across Britain facing a prolonged deterioration for the working class majority, the key challenge must surely rather be to show Independence offers us the chance to avoid the worst recession in 80 years, to avoid another generation being lost to under-employment, to avoid the further vicious attacks on our living standards planned by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition.
The ‘under occupation penalty’, as the UK Government prefer to call the ‘bedroom tax’, is the latest policy of a Coalition making working class people pay for a crisis caused by bankers and the rich. It is a harbinger of what is to come for more and more of us. It means a cut in housing benefit of up to £35 per week for those least able to weather the economic turbulence. Due to be implemented on April 1st the ‘bedroom tax’ is being compared to the Poll tax because it is again being implemented here despite the opposition of the overwhelming majority of Scots. Yet we remain powerless to stop it because we are at the mercy of a Government we did not elect.
Scotland has rejected the ‘bedroom tax’ as we rejected NHS prescription charges, elderly care charges and university tuition fees. We have, as is plain to see, different political values North of the Border. The Independence movement must therefore explain to all our fellow Scots there would be no bedroom tax and no more Tory Government’s hacking away our standard of living if we were able to make all our own decisions.
But for the Scottish Socialist Party Independence means more than that. It involves a commitment to full employment with everyone earning a living wage and enjoying far better working conditions than is currently the case. It means ending fuel poverty, with our gas and electricity industries returned to public ownership and control. It means ridding our nation of chronic poverty and inequality that brings shame on our international reputation. It means a higher standard of living for the vast majority of us. For the SSP being part of the UK holds Scotland’s working class majority back.
The Referendum is being fought against a background of deteriorating economic and social conditions for millions. Last week for example ‘The Independent’ newspaper warned in a page one headline ‘Half UK children will be living below the breadline by 2015.’ [14/3/13]. And ‘The Scotsman’ [13/3/13] reported Government figures show the standard of living of Scotland’s working class majority has plunged over the last 5 years with household bills up 25% whilst wages increased on average by only 6%.
This then is the context of the Independence debate and we should not underestimate the profound desire for change that is sweeping the country. Independence could offer us the chance to avoid a sizeable fall in our living standards.
All supporters of Independence will have realised, I’m sure, that our opponents pay us a great complement by ditching the central message they used during the last Referendum in the 1970’s. They argued then that Scotland was ‘too small, too poor and too weak to be an Independent nation’. But that argument has been so soundly defeated they dumped it and now claim ‘Of course we could run our own affairs. Of course Scotland could be one of the wealthiest nations on earth, it’s just we will be even better off if we remain within the UK.’ Unfortunately the bedroom tax, rising fuel poverty, falling living standards, rising under-employment, rising child poverty and the worst recession in 80 years make this claim increasingly difficult to sustain.
The choice then is increasingly clear. We can vote Yes and become a nation free to determine our own future or watch our living standards plummet further as attacks on public services and social support take hold as our reward for remaining part of the United Kingdom.