by Katie Bonnar
In the aftermath of the EU referendum, the political atmosphere has become electrifying. In the space of a few days, we have witnessed a vote to leave the EU, the resignation of a Prime Minister, demands for a second referendum on independence in Scotland, calls for a united Ireland and all of this against the background of markets and a currency in freefall.
Events are evolving quickly. The vote to leave the EU has struck a blow at the heart of the political elite who did not see it coming. It is now apparent that there is a massive chasm between the Westminster establishment and the working class, particularly in England. This attack on the neoliberal policies of the EU is also an attack on similar policies from our Government which is challenging its legitimacy. Cracks are increasingly appearing.
An immediate reaction to Brexit was to label the communities who voted to leave as racist, xenophobic and anti-immigration. Undeniably, there was an element of this during the campaign, driven by UKIP. However, to blame it on xenophobia alone lacks any real analysis.
Many of the communities that opted for Brexit are completely disconnected from politics. These post-industrial areas suffer great levels of deprivation, alienation and are thoroughly depressing areas to live in.
Some of these areas have high level of immigration and people feel overwhelmed by it. Unfortunately, they blame immigrants rather than the Government who have failed to regulate or plan. These communities have received a lack of investment for years and their infrastructure cannot cope with the demands. There has been no coherent plan to integrate immigrants into the host communities. This should not be dismissed as racism but rather, misdirected anger. It is our task as socialists to form a better narrative around this issue of immigration and direct this anger towards those responsible.
Although the Scottish Socialist Party campaigned for a Remain vote, we recognise the Leave vote was a channelling of this anger. It was partially a vote of protest. The EU is viewed as an extension of the political elite in Westminster and the referendum was a chance to strike a blow.
The whole chain of events has thrown up more questions than answers. The first is the possibility of an early General Election. With David Cameron’s plan to leave in October and the fact that many ministers were on the Remain side, it is fair to assume a general election is on the cards. The people should have a say in who our next Prime Minster will be instead of it being decided by out of touch, Tory politicians.
The Labour Party’s failure to address concerns of the communities reflects their inability to understand the voters in Scotland. The only hope for their party is if Corbyn can survive the Blairite coup and articulate a strong narrative on the future of the country.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has responded; Scottish independence has been thrown on the political agenda and has become irresistible to many people, including some who voted No first time around. It seems like the only option for Scotland to address the democratic deficit – both at Westminster, and the near two-thirds Remain vote – and gain control over her own affairs.
We urge that the SNP proceed with caution as losing another referendum would kill the issue. The Scottish Socialist Party will be consulting its membership, relating to the wider community and workplaces to discuss the issue of independence. Similarly to the last referendum campaign, the Scottish Socialist Party will map out the socialist case for independence which will differ from the SNP’s.
Hopefully, this fresh campaign will reflect the diverse nature of the previous campaign and include many voices from across the political spectrum. Now, there is a growing need for a revival of the Radical Independence Campaign to run alongside the SNP campaign which will dominate.
Katie Bonnar is the joint national spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party