All Under One Banner march, Glasgow. Photo: Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Despite torrential conditions, over 80,000 took to the streets to demand a Scottish independence referendum, reports Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Following last month’s general election, which saw the SNP dominate in Scotland, calls for a second independence referendum have proliferated.

Saturday 11th January saw a massive show of force by the independence movement in Scotland. Despite torrential rains, which caused disruption to transport services, tens of thousands from across Scotland converged on Glasgow for a march called by All Under One Banner (AUOB).

The march was good natured and diverse. There was much chanting and anti-Tory slogans were particularly popular.

There is much anger in Scotland, since it has been ruled by Tory governments in Westminster that it did not elect for much of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the 2010s.

It is obvious that the UK is in crisis following the December election, and Scotland is not alone.

The Tory Brexit deal has already created a border across the Irish Sea, and the DUP’s losses in Northern Ireland in the December poll, suggest that the Irish question may well mature in the lifetime of this parliament.

Moreover, the Scottish question will probably exacerbate the crisis of the UK in other spheres. While its impact on Wales may still be indirect, the popularity of the independence movement has already shaken major British institutions like the Tory and Labour parties.

The Scottish Tories have been at pains to distance themselves from their party south of the border. Meanwhile, Scottish Labour has haemorrhaged support since 2010, becoming Scotland’s third party, after decades of dominance.

Just days before this Saturday’s march, moreover, Scottish Labour appeared to be heading towards another crisis over the independence question. Party leader Richard Leonard called for a special conference on the party’s position on independence.

But Scottish Labour’s executive committee in Glasgow failed to discuss the proposal on Saturday, leading to claims from the SNP that Leonard had taken a ‘huge blow’ to his authority.

The issue of Scottish independence was and continues to be divisive in the Labour Party as a whole, and it was used as a stick to beat the left wing during Corbyn’s tenure.

The crisis of the UK state goes deeper, and the Scottish referendum of 2014 contributed to the falling popularity of the monarchy in the UK.

Although the crisis of the UK is deep, however, there is no guarantee that the country will dissolve into its constituent parts.

There seems to be no obvious route of the stalemate. Even though the Scottish national movement is vibrant, the SNP is offering no obvious strategy to win a second referendum and independence.

It has indicated that it will seek a legal route to a referendum, which means that it has handed the power of veto to Westminster. Boris Johnson continues to refuse a referendum.

How the movement will respond in these circumstances is unclear. No answers were forthcoming on Saturday.

However, the re-launch of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) last autumn with a conference that attracted hundreds suggests that a nucleus exists of a force that can push beyond the moderate leadership of the SNP.

RIC unites forces of the left of various parties that favour a more militant attitude. The independence movement indeed goes beyond the SNP. Should it begin to win the bigger battalions of the working class, a mass campaign of civil disobedience may be on the cards, much as in Catalonia.

That would be the scale of what is necessary to begin to shift the situation more decisively in favour of the independence movement. The argument that a different kind of Scotland is possible is key to winning popular layers to a more combative stance.

Otherwise, the energy seen on protest days like Saturday may begin to dissipate. With the Tories holding power in Westminster – and prepared to use both carrot and stick to crush opponents – nothing should be taken for granted.

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica is a member of Marks21 in Serbia and a supporter of Counterfire. He is on the editorial board of LeftEast and teaches at the University of Glasgow.

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