Scotland: For the Right of Self-Determination!

No Support for Brexit or Remain!


Article by Joseph Adams, RCIT Britain, 4th March 2020,




Since the General Election of the 12th December there has been a war of words between Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon’s demands to be allowed to call another referendum for independence. Britain has the constitutional (yet undemocratic) power to either grant or refuse another referendum on independence for Scotland irrespective of the demands of the Scottish people. The RCIT fully supports the right of Scotland to decide by its own if it wants to become independent. We oppose the reactionary rule that a referendum on independence can be rejected by Britain.


Sturgeon is counting on Brexit to drive divergence to the point where independence feels irresistible. Two-thirds of Scots wanted to stay in the EU, and their ejection from it on Boris Johnson’s terms reinforces old resentment of rule by remote English Tories. Sturgeon hopes fresh anger will keep her party buoyant through next year’s Scottish parliament elections despite a heavy freight of incumbency. The SNP has been running Scotland for nearly 13 years”. [1]


The Brexit referendum in 2016 showed that support for Brexit was centered in England. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly for the remain position. Over 62% in Scotland voted to stay in the European Union. The popular sentiment in Scotland against Brexit is fueled by the fear of becoming more dependent by London's rule. The public sector accounts for 22.5% of jobs in Scotland, which is even more compared to the average 18.9% for whole Britain. In England spending on the public sector is 3% below the average of Britain while Scotland spends 17% (!) above the average. Scotland spends also 7% more for the NHS than England does for its health system.


The independence movement in Scotland gained momentum around 2014 when the SNP linked Scottish independence with a better chance to save the health and social system against privatizations.


This strategy of the SNP completely destroyed the Labour party’s electoral campaign in the 2015 general election and every general election since. Many Labour party members are now supporting the independence movement. This development is being driven by Sturgeon and the SNP. However, today it is noticeable that the working class and the oppressed are far less involved in the independence movement than it was the case around 2014, when bigger and active mobilisations took place in the streets of Scotland. There is a clear shift towards arguments about economic strength of business in Scotland if it remains in the EU, instead of the former focus on health and social demands.


The arguments by Sturgeon are for a European-driven capitalist block in which Scotland can benefit from the markets in Europe. Combined with the weakness of the Labour Party in Scotland it is no wonder that the influence of the working class and its active participation decreased inside of the independence camp.




Political Changes since the last Referendum in Scotland




The clamour for independence in Scotland commenced when Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were given devolved powers by the Tony Blair Government. Since then independence and the fight for self-determination have become more and more of an important issue for the working class and the oppressed in Scotland. This had its peak in the last Referendum on independence. However, the majority vote rejected independence and favoured to stay in the union irrespective of the larger number of working class people and organizations at the forefront of the campaign for an independent Scotland. Real self-determination for Scotland would most likely have turned the independence movement into a small minority because the biggest motivation for working class activists in Scotland was not to rally for a nationalist agenda. It was to rally for the defence of the achievements of the labour movement in Scotland. However, the nationalist influence took its toll on the centrist forces in Scotland.


Centrist organizations were mainly influenced by the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), which was created after Scottish Miliant Labour split from the CWI and became very active with its leader Tommy Sheridan. Sheridan had earned his fame from his role in the important Poll tax non-payment campaign which eventually led to the resignation of Margaret Thatcher. The SSP in Scotland supported the call for independence and many left activists - driven by their own opportunist politics - joined the SNP. There were protests and demonstrations and a social movement organised by activists of the working class and the oppressed. However, the SSP has collapsed since then and Sheridan and others do not appear today to have anything to say and have been fully integrated into the SNP as straightforward nationalists at the cost of their former socialist ideology.




For a Workers Government in Scotland




The RCIT in Britain at the time of the 2014 Referendum for Scotland and at all other times supported the just demands of the workers and oppressed to defend the achievements of the labour movement. We, as Revolutionary Marxists have always supported the right for self-determination of oppressed nations. We also defend the right for self-determination of discriminated nations like the Scottish people, who are dominated by the English rule.


The RCIT would argue that the Scottish masses have the right to decide their own democratic future. Although the referendum for an independent Scotland failed, the SNP itself was greatly strengthened during their campaign and on the average won around 25% more in wealthier parts of Scotland and gained even around 35% and more of the vote in working class areas. In addition their membership rose from 25,000 members at the end of 2012 to more than 100,000 members today. Both the election results and the size of the party’s membership is a new historical mark for the SNP as well as for Labour in Scotland”. [2]


However, we don't give any political support for the SNP which is a bourgeois force and an enemy of any working class organization. Any political affiliation with the SNP leads straightforward to a development like the degeneration of Tommy Sheridan and his comrades. Authentic revolutionaries rather understand and rally for the formation of a new workers party, including the fight for a left wing in Labour to split and join such a project.




Are we also supporting the independence for Scotland?




It is for the masses in Scotland to decide their own future and the RCIT as revolutionary Marxists argue that if the Scottish masses wish to separate, we would support that move although we do not raise the slogan for independence. We said so in 2015 and we reiterate our position:


Again, we would argue that the Scottish masses have the right to decide their own democratic future. It is absurd that the referendum about the question of Scottish independence is limited to “once in a lifetime”. The RCIT is not in favour of separation of the Scottish working class and the English working class. However we support the right of the Scottish workers to separate if they want to. Labour was punished by the Scottish workers during the elections because of their refusal to campaign for more democratic rights for Scotland. Revolutionary Communists in Britain have to support the right of the Scottish people to have as many referenda on at least every bigger democratic question as they want. In addition revolutionary communists, like every honest democrat, have to support the right for an independent Scotland if this is the wish of the Scottish working class. On this question the RCIT is on the side of the working class and masses. We would support a programme calling for the expropriation of the means of production and capital by the working class. We would advocate joint action with the English working class so that workers can speak as a single class together with English in their demands to defend jobs and services. While we would prefer to and try to win the Scottish people to separate if it so decides. Therefore, we would campaign for joint action of the entire British working class even if the Scottish workers decide that they want an independent Scotland.”[3].


However, the political situation in Scotland has changed since the emergence of a social movement back in 2014 when independence was more of a burning issue for the working class. The issue of independence of Scotland today is more influenced by the bourgeois capitalist politics of the SNP and the imperialist agenda of the European Union. In addition to this, no bigger rallies of the working class and oppressed have been organized since the last ones in 2014. In such a situation, the progressive nature of a wish for independence by the working class and oppressed is linked to a renewal of a broad protest movement linked with social and democratic demands.


The RCIT clearly opposes both camps, Brexit and Remain, as they mean to choose between an imperialist Britain as part of the imperialist European Union or as an independent national state. Both decisions mean the same for the life of the working class people and oppressed. One has only to look at the case of countries like Norway or Swiss until today or Britain until Brexit is implemented. The only difference is that it suits the political calculations of this or that camp of the ruling class.


However, it is noticeable that the right-wing bourgeois media is stirring up stories that Nicola Sturgeon is being challenged as First Minister. There is constant gossip about Sturgeon resigning. This of course is being used by Boris Johnson to ensure that there is no opposition to his drive for the Brexit irrespective of any deal with the European Union. The recent resignation of Derek McKay, Sturgeon’s finance Minister has put further pressure on the SNP government. Although we do not give support to any of the imperialist camps and do not support the SNP, we clearly oppose any chauvinist attacks against the Scottish nation if it occurs in the current conflict.




RCIT’S Positions on Scotland




The RCIT in Britain puts forward the following demands as a first step to unite the working classes in both England and Scotland.


* For the right of self-determination of Scotland! Support the implementation of the wish of the Scottish working class and oppressed, even if it would mean independence! However, this wish is in the current circumstances only authentic if it is also expressed by rallies and mobilisations of the masses!


* No support for the Scottish National Party led by Nicola Sturgeon! However, no support for Boris Johnson and his attacks on the SNP either! Oppose any chauvinist attack against the Scottish nation!


* Defend the NHS and the social system in Scotland not by creating illusions in the imperialist EU or the imperialist Britain! Instead it is important to organize rallies and strikes up to an indefinite general strike to oppose any cuts respectively privatizations! Workers in England – support the Scottish workers in this fight irrespective of their stance on independence!


* Fight for a new workers party in Scotland! Fight for a split of the left wing in Labour to participate in the building of such a new workers party! Authentic revolutionaries argue in favour of a revolutionary program for such a new workers party!


* Fight for a Workers Government in Scotland instead of the SNP government!


* Neither Remain nor Brexit! Fight for the Socialist States of Europe and for Scotland being a workers republic in such a federation!


* Join the RCIT!