Disappointed Yes supporters

Lindsey German’s take on the changed political landscape in the wake of the Scottish referendum result

The independence referendum is a clear victory for ‘no’ and as such a disappointment for those who wanted independence, but it has changed politics in Britain. In Scotland the largest city Glasgow voted yes, as did Dundee, the fourth largest. The other ‘yes’ areas were essentially the working class areas around Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire, which are heavily Labour.

The ‘yes’ vote was centred in the working class, traditionally a stronghold of Labour. The Labour leadership’s support for the Union – along with a very clear and ideological ‘no’ from big and small business, Unionists and conservative opinion generally – ensured that enough Labour votes went behind no. But this campaign will further Labour’s decline and has dealt it a body blow.

It is striking that many who voted ‘no’ did so out of narrow fears and worries which were stoked by those who cynically did so to scare people into that camp. In periods of mass consumerism and atomisation this is hardly surprising in the absence of a mass campaign. Where that campaign broke through it was able to convince enough to bring a yes vote.

The UK establishment and the Tories will now try to punish Labour by restricting Scottish MPs’ voting rights in the Westminster parliament. Labour has been weakened by this vote and has relied on conservative fears about finance and bullying from big business to get its way.

The plus sides are that 1.6 million voted for yes, many of them working class and many of them young. Their campaign galvanised the best of Scottish politics: young, principled, optimistic, multicultural and internationalist. The turnout at well over 80 percent is good for democracy, and the debate has been involving and engaging.

The challenge now for socialists and radical independence campaigners is to harness the energy of their campaign to fight against the wars and austerity which have become the standard fare of Westminster governments. Labour’s inability to speak or act for the poorest and most deprived people will mean it will continue to erode. New movements and organisations will have to be built to genuinely represent the feelings of those who want fundament social change.

In England and Wales, we have a major task in opposing right wing constitutional change which will will give more powers to the little Englanders and Tory shires. We should also take heart that Scotland shows people will engage in democratic political debate when they feel that they can make a difference. 

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.