By Ken Ferguson
THE Scottish Socialist Party has agreed to seek discussions with other progressive parties and campaigns on the pro-independence left to explore the possibility of reaching an agreed set of policies for a post-Yes Scotland.
Agreed by the party’s conference in Edinburgh the approach aims to explore the areas of agreement on a wide range of policies such as housing, jobs and the environment reflecting the left of centre consensus in Scottish society.
It is the recognition that this consensus needs to be more clearly part of the broad campaign for a Yes vote that underpins the SSP’s initiative in order to provide a broad policy programme reflecting the reality of what the progressive left would want to achieve in an independent Scotland. This would help break with the current sterile diet of scare stories and assertions which do little to provide a vision of what the reality of a radically different Scotland could look like.
The approach also recognises that no one party, group or campaign has a monopoly on the answers to the range of problems and challenges that would face a post independence government. Agreeing a policy framework can allow discussions about it without asking participants to break with their current campaign or party.
Certainly the field for the progressive pro-independence left is increasingly promising as was seen again recently with the decision of Co-op party chair Mary Lockhart - announced in Scotland as labour met in Inverness - to vote Yes next year. A Labour stalwart and supporter of the left wing Campaign for Socialism pressure group which presents - sometimes with some intellectual arrogance - the case for voting No and seeking an increasingly illusory British Road to Socialism, her decision is a blow for Labour but will be particularly stinging for the small forces of the CFS.
Ms Lockhart’s decision is the latest in a series which has seen former prominent Labour figures underline their support for independence including Dennis Canavan who now chairs the Yes campaign, former Dundee MP and MSP John McAllion and Dundee University rector Brian Cox, and reflects a gathering trend in the Labour movement.
Plenty of evidence for this could be found in the coffee bars at the recent STUC’s congress in Perth. Indeed one seasoned STUC watcher I spoke to said that union leaders are “between a rock and a hard place” with their own desire to remain loyal to Labour increasingly questioned by a rank and file considering a Yes vote.
The reality for the pro unionist socialists around groups such as the Red Paper Collective is that they are handcuffed to the Better Together cross class alliance and that all three parties in that grouping, Labour and the welfare slashing Lib Dems and Tories back austerity and war.
Few trade unionists for example seriously believe that UK Labour would restore trade union rights under a Miliband government just as they didn’t under Blair and Brown and for Scots a Yes vote looks like an increasingly serious alternative.
If those who back independence from a radical perspective are able to translate their desire for change into a coherent Red/Green policy programme putting concrete proposals into the debate not only would they boost the campaign for a Yes vote but also start to map out the shape of a new progressive independent Scotland.