By Jason Michael

Scottish independence is about Scottish independence. When we allow it to be attached to other political ideologies we alienate potential independentistas, and run the risk of losing another referendum. Independence is for all of us.

There was a while in the Yes movement when the term “left” or “radical alternative” was almost synonymous with at least the public face of the campaign for independence. Those voices advocating such political novelties as “progressive politics” and “new leftism,” thanks to the amplifying effect of social media, gave the impression of being at once the heart and the advance guard of the entire movement, but nothing could have been further from the truth. What we have discovered in the pregnant pause between the last independence referendum and the next is that the backbone of the independence movement is a centrist to left-of-centre Scottish working class, not at all always comfortable with the sweeping utopian visions of the radical left.

It may come as a surprise to some, but our movement – like all social and political movements – has a left and a right, with extremes at both ends. These extremes are always dangerous and, if allowed to go unchecked, can rapidly become toxic to the entire movement. We are aware of the ultra-right wing, blood and soil, nationalists; groups like Siol nan Gaidheal and their ilk, on the peripheries of the broader nationalist movement. These are like our embarrassing cousins, but, and however much we may find them and their ideas distasteful, they are part of the Scottish nationalist family.

It’s for this reason I don’t identify as a “nationalist.” Of course nationalism is a broad church and certainly is not limited to the narrow ideologies of Siol nan Gaidheal Scottish nationalism or Scotland in Union British nationalism, but it does have an ugly as hell right wing – small though it may be. Personally, I subscribe to the idea of being an independentista; supporting Scotland’s separation from London rule while still being what one might consider an old school socialist. One does not have to be a nationalist in any sense to be an independentista, thus making this political identification acceptable to Scots right across the political spectrum.

Scottish nationalism – be it civic and voluntary nationalism or ugly blood and soil nationalism – is separatist by default, making all “nationalists” independentistas. But the same cannot be said for the left. Those on the left – on whatever part of the political left continuum – can be, but need not be, separatists. What has become clear is that the majority of those in favour of independence fall within this central band of independentista opinion with a small extreme nationalist element to the right and an equally small radical element to the left. Both are equally dangerous.

While few of us want an independent Scotland run by the extreme right wing – which is not likely to happen, for the purposes of gaining independence it is the radical left we have to keep an eye on. Independence to the so-called radical or alternative left is a means to an end. Rather than seeking independence as an end in itself the radical left sees it as a means to building the socialist utopia which it now and then recognises is impossible within the United Kingdom. Scottish independence is to them the provisional one-state socialism in anticipation of the realisation of their dream of global or universal socialism. So long as any campaign for independence coincides with one of their realisations of their dream’s impossibility within the union we are quids in – we’re all on the same side.

Yet every so often the British left – sometimes even the British Labour Party – coughs up a socialist messiah; a “Corbyn” if you will. This is when they show their true colours. Given the chance of establishing their dream upon the wider canvas of Britain they will ditch Scotland, which was only ever a temporary measure, and trot after their southern masters. This makes the extreme left of the independence movement an unreliable friend.

Thankfully Scotland’s sometimes pro-independence left is not particularly large in terms of numbers. It would not be a significant threat to the stability and cohesion of the wider movement if this element decided to defect en masse to Jeremy Corbyn’s side, but we must also consider the weight this group has on social media. At present it seems safe to say that half – if not, more – of the movement’s bigger pro-independence blogs define themselves as belonging to the radical left, but they have been losing traction in recent months. The defection of these certainly does pose a problem.

While it would be better to keep these people and their massive social media presence on our side, it would be naïve to depend on their unwavering support for independence. Some of their most outspoken representatives have already voiced their support for Corbyn “in a UK election,” in spite of the fact that their votes actually give an unhelpful boost to the unionist Labour branch office in Scotland. It is important that we in the movement are aware of this potential danger and that we begin or continue to think in terms of supporting and shoring up the more dependable pro-independence media in the country.

Scotland’s independence is not a political idea at the service of any grander political ideology – on the right or the left. Independence is about disentangling Scotland, Scottish people, and our resources from Westminster and returning all of the powers of our nation to the people of our nation. When we attach this to polarising political ideologies we run the risk of alienating people on other parts of the political and social spectra who would otherwise support independence. If the radical left is allowed to continue to dominate the national discussion our doors will remain closed to more conservatively minded people, and if this element of the left does jump ship we will lose both.


Radical Independence’s Cat Boyd explains why she backed Jeremy Corbyn

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6 thoughts on “Independence is not a “Left Alternative”

  1. Some people come to prominence because they were identified as being useful for a particular purpose while others sometimes abler never got the opportunity of appearing on TV or radio or being paid by newspapers and magazines for their opinions. other people on the Independence side have come to prominence through sheer ability and commitment, managing to create things like media organisations, public policy think tanks, mobile apps. magazines etc yet they are very rarely asked to appear on television or have very limited access to the papers or TV beyond the few pro-indy ones that exist.

    Of those amongst us promoted from the ranks on the basis that they have been identified as ‘useful types’ suss quite quickly why they have been given the opportunity. I don’t place Cat Boyd in this particular category. Good luck to her. I hope she sticks with us.

    British labour in Scotland during the 80s &90s looking back is a good period of study for identifying the tactics of selection. Independence wasn’t seen as the threat but it was still necessary to ensure that the aims of the State and conduct of politics were aligned.


  2. I’ve re-read that and it’s reads a bit over the top.

    Some people are given opportunities because they are identified as being useful by our opponents. Some of those promoted are cynical enough to know why they are being given those opportunities and seek to make the most of them. I don’t think Cat Boyd is one of them so good luck to her.


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