The possibility of a majority ‘Yes’ vote for Scottish independence has produced panic and trepidation among the British capitalist establishment and their counterparts internationally. Polls which now say the referendum outcome is neck-and-neck have led, in the last few days, to an unprecedented assault by big business, their mouthpiece politicians and the media against independence. Project Fear has become Project Terror. Now the kitchen sink, as well as most of the contents of the living room, is being thrown in an attempt to secure a ‘No’ vote and avoid a catastrophe for British capitalism. The Financial Times newspaper accurately described the last few days as a “big business onslaught”.
It would be difficult to see UK prime minister David Cameron survive the fall-out from a defeat on the referendum. The loss of prestige for a British Imperialism – who once held one quarter of the globe – would be disastrous. From the US to Europe – and in particular in Catalonia – the outcome of a Yes majority would introduce a new period of instability and challenge to capitalist elites internationally.
As we commented in our article on Monday this week: “Project Fear will be ratcheted-up again in the run-up to next Thursday…Dire warnings of the threat of financial meltdown and the collapse of the economy will also continue.”
As predicted, and in a choreographed move which also coincided with Cameron (who didn’t even dare to appear in public), Miliband and Clegg’s visit to Scotland on Wednesday, the big banks – including RBS, Lloyds, Tesco Bank, Clydesdale and Standard Life – all announced an intention to move their registered HQs to London in the event of a Yes vote.
Asda, John Lewis and other retail stores claimed “prices would rise” in an independent Scotland. A willing billionaire owned press regurgitated these stories with sensationalist headlines. “Billions wiped off the value of Scottish companies” and “Pound falls after fear of Yes vote.”
Bob Dudley, head of oil giant BP, came out again against independence, as did the boss of Shell. Dudley, who was the recipient of a £5.2 million pay-out in 2013/14, insisted that the prospects for the North Sea “are best served by maintaining the integrity of the UK.”
Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT, deputy chairman of Barclays and president of the CBI (how many jobs does one person need?) told the Financial Times that the break-up of the UK will mean that “uncertainty will last for easily 10 years…and this will lead to a slowdown in investment in the UK as a whole as well as Scotland.”
Some bosses in Scotland have been piling on the pressure among their workers. Typical of such action was McAlpine plumbing company, who sent out a letter to all its workers which said; “A vote for independence would without doubt put the future prosperity of this company at risk and this has obvious implications as regards employee security.”
There has been huge anger, including among journalists and employees, at the BBC’s scandalous partisan role in acting as an uncritical mouthpiece for Project Fear. Any pretence at impartiality and balance has gone as the corporation has acted in the interests of British capitalism in its time of need.
Both the Scotsman newspaper as well as the FT has formally come out for a No vote this week. Only one paper, the Sunday edition of the Herald, is backing Yes, thus far.
Even former ‘lefts’ like George Galloway have become advocates of Project Terror. Galloway, incredibly, claimed on the BBC’s Question Time that Britain had now “escaped from austerity”. He’s certainly not living on the same planet as working class people including in his own constituency of Bradford West, who face savage attacks on their wages and benefits by the Con-Dems – which Labour have promised to continue.
The “economic Armageddon”, “flight of capital” and “corporate exodus” line of attack – as opposed to the pleas from the discredited Cameron and Miliband – have shown some signs of having an effect.
There may have been some movement in the polls away from Yes in the last couple of days. The blackmail, intimidation and scaremongering can, if it goes unanswered, raise doubts in the minds of some who have been thinking about voting Yes.
Indeed, polls regularly show that most people think that an independent Scotland will be worse off economically. For example, the YouGov poll on Thursday reported that 48% thought that Scotland would be worse off, compared to 37% who believed it would be better off under independence. When asked if they personally would be better or worse off, 42% said worse off, and only 21% better off.
This reflects the impact of Project Fear on the one hand, and the lack of belief that the SNP’s policy of continuing with pro-business policies, and the austerity that goes with it, can offer any way out for the working class.
The SNP leadership have uttered barely a word in response to the onslaught from big business. They are desperate to avoid a collision with the same capitalist interests that they are promising to work with, post-independence, including pledges to slash tax for the major corporations.
Fight to the finish
Salmond and Co. still seem unaware that for British capitalism this is a fight to the finish. It is a no-holds-barred struggle for the class interests of the corporate elite who are prepared to go to great lengths to secure a defeat for independence.
The only way to defeat Project Fear is to convince a majority of the working class that under independence austerity would end. That the major sectors of the economy will be taken out of the hands of the blackmailing corporate elite through democratic public ownership of oil, banking and big business. And that the profits will be used as part of a massive public investment programme in affordable housing, jobs, public services and a living wage and income for all.
The working class produce the wealth through their labour. By placing the productive resources of the economy into the hands of the working class as a whole, it would be possible to plan an economy to meet the needs of all, not to feed the greed of big business.
If there is any attempt to move business and capital out of Scotland, this should be met with the nationalisation under democratic workers’ control of those economic resources. Support for workers in occupying their factories and workplaces to prevent asset-stripping by the corporate elite would also be essential. A socialist government would ensure that capital controls and a monopoly of foreign trade be exercised to prevent a flight of capital and profits.
These measures would need to be linked to an appeal to the working class in England, Wales and Ireland to take similar measures. This would lay the basis for a voluntary and democratic socialist confederation of nations as a step to a socialist Europe and beyond.
Such steps are not only possible; they are the only way out from a rotten and wasteful capitalist system that aims to consign the majority to long-term austerity and poverty. To achieve this a new mass working class party needs to be built, with the trade unions playing a leading role, alongside socialists and anti-cuts campaigners.
Build a working class alternative
The hatred of the establishment politicians is evident every day in Scotland, and has been highlighted even further during the referendum campaign. The same YouGov poll from Thursday found that David Cameron’s trust rating was –46% in Scotland. Miliband’s was –45%. The combined standing of the three Scottish leaders of the Project Fear triumvirate – Labour, Tory and Lib Dem – was an incredible –96%. Even Alex Salmond is sitting at –20%.
A new mass workers party, armed with fighting socialist policies and a democratic structure, could become a mass force almost overnight. This would then provide a real and lasting answer to the lies, blackmail and fear of big business, the media and the main capitalist parties. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, steps should be urgently discussed by trade unionists and socialists following next week for the building of a working class party/coalition to challenge the parties of austerity in Scotland.
Between now and next Thursday the socialist case for Yes should be taken to every corner of Scotland. The case for using the powers of independence to end cuts, for a living wage not zero-hour contracts, for public ownership instead of privatisation and a massive investment in public services is gaining huge support. The Hope Over Fear tour with Tommy Sheridan, which Socialist Party Scotland plays a leading role in, has attracted tens of thousands of working class people to meetings all across Scotland.
A colossal 97% of the population in Scotland – 4.2 million – have registered to vote in the referendum. That’s 370,000 more than were on the register for May’s European election. Despite the fear campaign, there will be a huge deluge of opposition to austerity and the political elite next Thursday in the working class communities of Scotland.
This underlines the potential not just to defeat Project Fear and the capitalist elite who lead the No campaign, but to also build after next Thursday, whatever the outcome, a mass movement against austerity and for socialist change.