Left-wing figures in the independence movement convened in Edinburgh yesterday for a discussion forum hosted by the Scottish Socialist Voice.
The public event, which took place in the Jury’s Inn Hotel, was chaired by John Finnie MSP and featured Jim Sillars, John McAllion, Isobel Lindsay, Prof Mike Danson, Cllr Maggie Chapman, and Colin Fox on its panel.
Discussion was focussed on Scotland’s Future, the 670-page document published last month by the Scottish Government to lay out the case for Scottish independence and the means through which Scotland would become an independent country.
The panel also considered tactics employed in the pro-independence campaign, the role of the left in the transitional period between 2014 and 2016, and the benefits of independence to the working class and wider public.
Sillars, former deputy leader of the SNP, questioned the Scottish Government’s standpoint on the EU and currency, and called for a more aggressive campaign against Better Together. He also said it had to conveyed that a Yes vote is not “an endorsement of Alex Salmond or his government”.
Prof Danson, who is Professor of Enterprise Policy at Heriot-Watt University and a member of the left-wing Jimmy Reid Foundation’s Project Board, spoke about the economic side of the document and said: “I welcome the White Paper. It’s radical in some ways. It gives us the foundations to build a much more radical Scotland and one that meets the needs of everybody here.”
McAllion, a former Labour MP and MSP, spoke about the “unwritten and infinitely flexible nature of the British constitution”, which he said was designed to entrench a “political elite”.
He said: “One of the best reasons for voting Yes in 2014 is because it will enable Scotland to be a working class break-out from the political and constitutional prison which that elite has trapped working class people on this island in for more than three hundred years.”
And he urged immediate consideration about the kind of convention that will draw up plans for Scotland’s constitution, criticising the lack of detail in Scotland’s Future on this topic.
Lindsay, a seasoned peace activist, said Scotland’s Future is a “mixed bag”, with welcome commitments to the removal of nuclear weapons but a concerning focus on “promoting and developing defence industries in Scotland”. She also expressed discontent with the suggestion Scotland’s defence capability should be expanded to achieve Nato commitments.
Cllr Maggie Chapman, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, said Scotland’s Future is “important” and “a significant platform for us to campaign on over the coming months”, and that it serves as “a foundation for the possibilities that are out there”. She also said that the language used in the document is “hugely significant – it sets the tone of debate in a way that is vital if we are to take this debate forward to Scotland’s people”.
And Colin Fox, having thanked the panel for speaking, explained his party’s stance. He said: “There are some parts that are very good, there are some parts of it that inevitably beg questions […] and I suppose inevitably in a wide independent movement like ours, there’s things that each of us don’t like.”
He also said that he wanted discussion between the broader left, such as that facilitated by the Scottish Socialist Voice, to continue over the coming year.