A left wing campaign to vote No to membership of the EU has recently been launched in Scotland. Left Leave consists of some of the Labour Party left, the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.
Most of the rest of the Scottish left, including the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), Greens and RISE, support staying within the EU. They argue that it would be wrong to line up with narrow British nationalism and they believe that the EU is better on immigration, and that the Social Chapter offers some protection for workers. Clearly, some on the left in Scotland have not learned the lessons of Greece, where the EU institutions, far from protecting workers’ rights, imposed austerity, pay cuts and the neoliberal demands of the European Central Bank.
When it comes to an argument about immigration the EU referendum will play out a bit differently in Scotland from the rest of the UK. The debate will likely not be as rabidly racist and anti-immigrant as in England, because the two main contenders, Labour and the SNP, are fighting on an electoral territory to the left of the Tories.
Some portray membership of the EU as a form of internationalism compared with Cameron’s support for the EU on the basis of making it as difficult as possible for migrants to enter the UK. However, the EU is no better than the UK on immigration. The refugee crisis is a result of Fortress Europe — and we can see how easily the “open borders” within the EU can be closed when states such as Austria and Hungary decide to close their borders to refugees.
The SNP wants to break away from the British state, but within the framework of the EU.
Yet taking an independent Scotland into the EU would mean the SNP being forced to reverse its positions opposing TTIP and fracking. Staying in would mean an independent Scotland governed by a European coalition of capitalist governments dedicated to running capitalism.
Scotland would become a eurozone offshore financial centre and a haven for tax dodgers. The Scottish people would have no control over this. The EU’s austerity policies, so brutally imposed on Greece, could just as well be imposed on an independent Scotland.
Hence the slogan of the SNP, “Independence in Europe”, is a fiction. The massive pressure towards austerity would apply just as much to Scotland in Europe as within the UK.
The EU is an imperialist power, promotes neoliberalism and pushes through long-lasting austerity measures. It is wrong to see the EU as the guardian of the welfare state in Scotland and a source of progressive policies.
If the UK votes to leave the EU it is very likely there will be a second referendum in Scotland. In this scenario socialists in Scotland should vote for Scottish independence, but not for rejoining the EU.
Support for independence in Scotland stems from disillusionment with the neoliberal policies pursued by the UK government and the EU. Arguing for rejoining the EU would not be a break with neoliberalism. As socialists our opposition to the EU is on the basis of internationalism, anti-racism and being on the side of the working class. We would be allying with the workers in Greece and the miners in Spain striking against austerity.
The Scottish independence Yes campaign was radical because it was also a vote against austerity and for the break-up of the British state. We believe in genuine internationalism, not a Fortress Europe of barbed wire which excludes people with dark skins. The EU is a capitalist project and leaving could open the possibility for socialists to reshape the political terrain.
The formation of Scottish Left Leave has the potential to put anti-racist, genuinely internationalist arguments into the referendum campaign.