Despite its appalling social problems, Scotland has a lot going for it. Now resident in the South of England, I miss the scenery and the familiarity of 'home', if not the weather. When I play Fifa on the Xbox, Scotland is the team I opt for - often with calamitous consequences. Scotland is an 'imagined community' I care about. And which other small country has produced such a roll call of geniuses and luminaries across so many fields of human endeavour: David Hume, John Logie Baird, Nicky Campbell - the list goes on. But I can't get behind the left-liberal argument that independence will make Scotland a better place, heralding a revival of social democracy and an end to Westminster-imposed 'neoliberalism' (what is this 'neoliberalism', by the way? Britain is a state capitalist country characterised more by cronyism than 'free markets'). I am appalled, moreover, by the proposal of many Yes-ers that Scotland should go its own way and abandon its southern neighbours to the resurgent political right - not only is this notion premised on the fantasy of a kinder, softer Scottish capitalism, but surely this also exemplifies the kind of 'I'm alright Jack' attitude that leftists are supposed to reject?
Scottish workers are poor and exploited because of the existence of a ruling class. What reason is there to think that the addition of another, more local ruling class is going help matters? Why should one imagine that a Scottish political class endorsed by reactionaries like Brian Souter and Jim McColl will attack workers any less vigorously than the current one? If independence happens, there will, as Dick Gaughan sings, be 'nothing much to choose 'tween the old laird and the new. They still don't give a damn about the likes of me and you'. Independence will not bring about a semi-socialist Gemeinschaft in Scotland; if anything, in fact, it may serve to fragment the working class of Britain at a moment when it faces ruinous attacks on its standards of living. And what kind of 'independent' Scotland will it be that (as the Scottish government's white paper on independence envisages) retains the Queen as head of state and preserves the monarchy - a totally undemocratic institution of inherited wealth and power?
The only positive outcome of a Yes vote - unlikely as it is, this time around at least - is that the continuing oppression of Scottish workers will teach some on the left that ours is a society based on class exploitation and that workers will be free only once that exploitation is ended. Establishing more borders and more states - in a word, nationalism - is definitely not the answer. But then again, leftists never learn: capitalism, they argue, can be made better by 'nicer' leaders and the social democratic dawn is just around the corner. And when the sun doesn't rise, another Great Hope - a black president, a female Prime Minister, a 'small nationalist' state or state-in-waiting - is proferred, from New Labour to Barack Obama to Hamas and Hezbollah. It is a shame that even many of those who call themselves Marxists and anarchists cannot grasp the point that nationalism - however progressively it presents itself - is poison for the working class.