As the Yes campaign edges ahead in the polls Chris Bambery looks at the crisis in the No campaign
The sun shone on Glasgow this morning as the city awoke to the news that for the first time in the Scottish referendum campaign that the Yes vote had edged ahead in an opinion poll, by a mere one percent it must be admitted, but a lead is a lead is a lead.
The news must have come as a thunderclap in Westminster where for a long time Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem politicians have assured all who’d listen that a No vote was in the bag.
Within hours the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, was promising that the Scottish parliament would be given extra powers and that if the Scots voted No they could get “the best of both worlds,” remain within the union and get further devolution.
Unfortunately for Osborne, former Labour Chancellor, Alastair Darling, now heading up the Better Together campaign stated:
“So, it's not new powers; the powers have already been announced. What it is, is about the process and timetable so that people can see quite clearly how quickly these powers can be introduced."
Nothing new there then! Many Scots grasp that extra tax raising powers for the Holyrood parliament will be matched by a cut in the money allocated it by Westminster.
As the referendum campaign enters the last lap UK prime minister, David Cameron, must be wondering if he has entered a nightmare world. He has said Britain will carry out air strikes but there is no sign of public support for this. On Saturday The Guardian reported British airstrikes in Iraq will be delayed until after the referendum vote on 18 September. That smacks of cynicism.
At last week’s Nato summit in South Wales Cameron was hectoring European leaders about raising arms spending while at the same time backing austerity measures at home and across the Continent.
Meanwhile the Tories seem set to lose the Clacton by-election to Douglas Carswell who quit their ranks to join UKIP. Renewed focus on UKIP can only remind many Scottish voters why they don’t like the sort of xenophobic racism which lies behind the success of Nigel Farage.
Meanwhile the momentum is with the broad pro-independence campaign. Everywhere you see Yes posters in windows but few if any No. Its as if No supporters are ashamed of standing up for the UK, as well they might.
The mass canvassing of working class estates initiated by the Radical Independence Campaign has taken on a life of its own as the pro-independence campaign realises the greater the turn out the more chance of a Yes vote because support for independence is greatest among working class people.
It’s hard to see what the No side can do to reverse this. Last week we had Ed Miliband up attacking the Tories and promising he’d remove Cameron from Downing Street. That was a damp squib because that’s not what’s of concern now in the myriad of meetings, debates and discussions taking place in every nook and cranny of the land. That centres on creating jobs, stopping NHS privatisation, no further involvement in military adventures like that in Iraq and so on.
Now its been announced former Labour leader Gordon Brown will be sent on a tour of the land to rally No voters - but he has nothing to say on these issues.
What Labour, and it is effectively now a Labour campaign against independence, will not do is allow its trade union supporters or working class councillors to speak. They are sidelined while they push forward Darling, Brown, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander to drastic effect.
A decade ago Scottish Labour took Muslim votes for granted. On Sunday I spent the day talking to Scottish Muslims, who every poll indicates are two thirds in support of independence, and they repeatedly pointed to the contrast between the position of the British and Scottish government’s on Israel’s recent assault on Gaza. Cameron backed Israel to the hilt and dispatched his foreign minister to Tel Aviv in solidarity. The Scottish government dispatched aid to Gaza, offered to treat wounded Palestinians in Scottish hospitals and demanded United Nations action.
The bitterness towards Tony Blair over the 2003 invasion of Iraq was palpable, even among those who were small children at the time.
But they were also concerned over preventing further privatisation, maintaining free education and promoting welfare not the free market.
Labour and Better Together are now reduced to telling pensioners their pension is at threat if Scotland opts for independence (I have friends whose parents have retired home to Jamaica who get their state pension paid to them over there).
And even if such scare tactics work a No vote is likely to be very narrow, and that’s of little use to Westminster because the independence issue won’t go away and can only gain in strength simply because the No support is greater among the elderly.
The story flying around last week was that Tory backbenchers will stage a leadership challenge if he loses the referendum. Anthony Eden lost Suez and had to go. Cameron might be best remembered for losing Scotland!
But that could pale beside the civil war already simmering in Scottish Labour. They have not held their support and the knives are already out for Darling. Joining a pan-Unionist coalition, Better Together, has been a disaster for them.
All in all this is not good news for Britain’s elite. For all who want greater social justice and equality it's reason to raise a cheer!
Chris Bambery is an author, political activist and commentator, and a supporter of Rise, the radical left wing coalition in Scotland. His books include A People's History of Scotland and The Second World War: A Marxist Analysis.
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