When the Independence referendum was lost by the nationalists I noted that this created something of a problem for left supporters of Scottish separation. Their claim not to be nationalist looked threadbare when set aside rallies festooned with Saltires but now they had questions to answer. Today the questions are even harder.
If the pro-independence campaign that they hailed as a genuine left-wing grass roots movement was not nationalist how do they explain that it is the nationalist Scottish National Party that has reportedly grown enormously since the referendum? How do they explain that even within their ranks large chunks of their supporters are now members of the SNP? How are they to explain that figures like Tommy Sheridan are calling for a vote for the SNP in the UK General election? He wants to wipe out the ‘Blue, Yellow and Red Tories’ but not of course the Tartan ones.
The SNP are now regularly reported to be in position to wipe out the Labour Party in Scotland which would be quite a reversal. In fact such a reversal that it overturns one of the claimed grounds for Scotland’s independence – that Scotland is more progressive because it elects predominantly Labour MPs. Shortly it may predominantly elect a party that has gotten to this point by first taking over and assimilating a large part of the Scottish Tory vote, and it will be England and Wales upon which a Labour Government may be elected.
This is excused by the claim that the Labour Party of today is not the Labour Party of yesterday and indeed with the advent of new Labour this is to an extent true. However, it is also true that the Labour Party of 2015 is not essentially different to that of 1975 or even 1945 and the view that it somehow is exhibits a flawed understanding of that party.
And there is another problem. The SNP is making the claim, on the face of it ridiculous, that it will ensure that Ed MIliband becomes Prime Minister through Scottish voters voting not for the Labour Party but for the SNP. How is Tommy Sheridan to justify opposition to the Labour Party, or ‘Red Tories’ as he prefers to call them, by voting SNP? Perhaps it is because depriving the Labour Party of a majority might allow the real Tories into Government again, through some sort of new coalition with what’s left of the Liberal Democrats and support from the Democratic Unionist Party?
The SNP are making this type of claim because on their own they are incapable of offering any alternative effective opposition to the austerity that is the main issue in the campaign. This has already been made clear by their imposition of austerity as the party of Government at Holyrood. Their projections for the financial position of an independent Scotland have already been blown out of the water by the collapse of the price of oil. Their call for full fiscal autonomy is similarly exposed. As I pointed out after the referendum result the only effective opposition to austerity can come from an all-British alternative but the ‘non-nationalist’ ‘left’ has seemed oblivious to this.
The SNP however being a serious bourgeois party is not. That is why Nicola Sturgeon has moved the SNP to take up a UK-wide approach, at least rhetorically, projecting the SNP as a necessary part of a united front against austerity, for example in a possible alliance with the Greens and Plaid Cymru.
Knowing equally that this is not any sort of real alternative has forced her to make a virtue out of necessity and claim the need for the Labour Party to rely on SNP support. It is backhanded recognition that only the Labour Party can blunt the Tory inspired austerity offensive and its intensification should they lead the next Government again.
So the SNP must claim opposition to Tory austerity as its priority when its real goal is to destroy the Labour Party in Scotland, so making continuation of Tory austerity that more likely. That other serious bourgeois party, the red, white and blue Tories, also know this, which is why they have been bigging up the SNP and Labour’ so-called dependence on it, in order to undermine Labour. They do this even while it also undermines the union they support; yet one more illustration of their incompetent character. At least Thatcher’s strengthening of the forces of Scottish nationalism can claim it was unintended.
The two parties feed on each other, illustrating the divisive role of nationalism for the British working class. As this excellent post here points out, a plurality of SNP voters would rather have a Tory Government than a Labour one if it meant more SNP MPs.
The nationalist left’s opposition to ‘Blue, Yellow and Red Tories’ reduces to opposition to Labour since in Scotland the first has only one MP, the second is stuffed across Britain and the third is the single existing disproof of their claim that only nationalist separation offers an alternative to the Tories. It is mightily embarrassing when an election comes long in which it is clear that this is patently untrue. Except of course, as the post recommended above describes, the SNP is on such a roll that nothing will embarrass it, at least not at the minute.
The left nationalist case is that separation is necessary to defeat the Tories and that the UK state is unreformable, in the sense that it will never be social-democratic again. Their enemy is therefore not the Tories, whose existence seems only to confirm this. On the other hand, as even the mildly left approach of Ed Miliband threatens such claims, we can glimpse the fundamentally weak foundations upon which the great surge of Scottish nationalism currently rests and the totally spurious grounds on which left nationalism sits.
The actions of Sturgeon and the SNP demonstrate that in this General election the only alternative to Tory austerity, however weak and limited it is, is the Labour Party.