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The Declaration of Calton Hill and the Scottish Independence Convention

Text of leaflet produced and distributed by RCN (Scotland) for the Declaration of Calton Hill event on October 9th

Today’s Declaration of Calton Hill will be welcomed by freedom-loving democrats. What a contrast to all the toadying surrounding that alternative event - the royal opening of the Westminster sub-office next to Holyrood Palace and its forelock-tugging New Labour management. This devolved Scottish ‘parliament’ has no power to prevent her majesty’s Scottish regiments imposing the British imperial will, whether in Basra or Belfast. It has few powers when it comes to any meaningful redistribution of wealth.

The Scottish Socialist Party has made a significant political step forward by giving its support to an independent Scottish republic built on the principles of liberty, equality, diversity and solidarity. It has taken quite a political struggle to get the SSP to adopt republican principles. The RCN is proud to have been in the forefront of that struggle. Now that the SSP has nailed its colours to the mast, with the support of others, in framing an explicitly republican Calton Hill Declaration, it must ensure that its other political initiative, the Scottish Independence Convention, is also built on republican principles.

Building the Convention on democratic republican principles

The RCN has always placed a high priority on contesting the British state’s Crown Powers. Consistent democratic republicanism challenges all the state’s anti-democratic powers. Just being anti-monarchist means you only challenge the UK’s hereditary office bearers - the power structure is left intact. This is why at SSP Conferences we have proposed that any elected MSPs should refuse the oath of allegiance which gives sanction to these powers.

The RCN believes a widespread republican sentiment already exists in Scotland and if we build on firm democratic republican principles, this sentiment can be organised as a practical force demanding a Scottish republic. This should be the aim of the proposed Convention. That would end the prospect of anti-democratic powers being transferred to the new representatives of a Scottish ruling class. Whilst a Scottish republic isn’t socialism, it represents firmer ground on which to advance than devolution, federalism under the Crown or ‘independence’ under the Windsors.

There are sentimental republicans in the SNP, but under Alex Salmond, republicanism remains just a sentiment, like that old ‘May Day socialism’ under Labour. Inthe meantime the SNP supports knighthoods for the rich and famous and gives its support to Scottish regiments which haved served British imperial interests faithfully from Culloden to Crossmaglen and from India to Iraq.

A practical republican strategy for the Convention should seek the widest participation from the beginning. This means rejecting a narrow cross-party pressure group approach, with its emphasis on party political representatives supplemented by the ‘great and good’. Our aim should be for a Constituent Assembly with wide-ranging popular representatives drawn from the network of trade union, community and cultural campaigns, as well as supporting political parties and individual representatives.

Internationalism from below

We must also realise that the British ruling class strategy to maintain its control covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland, not just Scotland. Jack McConnell can get support from Labour and other unionists throughout the UK, when necessary, to prop up his administration in Scotland. The British and Irish governments have their own Council of the Isles, with representatives from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The Convention proposals can only meet with hostility from the rulers of the UK and their state.

We also need to unite our forces throughout these islands. Here again the Calton Hill Declaration points the way forward. Our aim is not to erect walls of separation but to build an outward Scotland that will extend its hand of friendship. This points the way to an internationalism from below strategy. We need to form a republican Socialist Alliance covering Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. There should be a joint platform which recognises the full autonomy of socialist organisation in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. The political aim should be the abolition of the Crown Powers, the breaking of the Union and the ending of Partition in Ireland.

This point can not be emphasised too strongly. Time and again the British state has created suspicions, divisions and even hatreds between sections of the working class throughout these islands. They have set Scots and English against each other, Highlander and Lowlander, Catholic against Protestant, Rosyth dockworkers against Devonport dockworkers. The state will respond to any moves by us to establish a Scottish republic by whipping up anti-Scots feelings amongst the working classes of England, Wales and Ireland. An independence convention with nothing to say to the mass of people in England, Wales and Ireland is going nowhere or worse - it leaves the door wide open to the forces of reaction.

John Maclean, James Connolly and the Workers’ Republican Tradition

As socialist republicans we welcome the support of all genuine democrats who are interested in winning a Scottish republic. However, we are also clear that only the uprooting of the capitalist economic and social relations can bring about real emancipation and liberation. This is why we follow in the tradition of Glasgow’s John Maclean and Edinburgh’s James Connolly, two great socialist republicans.

This is why our political aim is a Scottish Workers’ Republic as part of an International Socialist Federation. Only then we can end those remaining forms of slavery - wage, domestic and debt - and bring about the society we really need, built on the following communist principles:- from each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs and where the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all.