In a multinational state, a degree of national autonomy is vital for any people wishing to express their own distinctive culture and identity. As nations, Scotland and Wales also have the right to determine their own futures, up to and including separation from England or Britain.

These are questions of principle to which we adhere without qualification.

However, when and how people should exercise their rights is a matter of judgement. As Lenin put it, advocating the right to divorce is not the same as proposing that a particular couple — let alone all couples — should actually get divorced.

For socialists and communists, the fight for social justice and the transformation of society are paramount considerations. Would Scotland’s separation from Britain assist the working class in achieving a radically fairer society? Would it take the people of Scotland — let alone England and Wales — further down the path to a socialist society? Would it help create the conditions for socialist revolution?

Moreover, there is a strong case for arguing that separation would divide the political class struggle — and what has been a largely united labour movement over the past 120 years — in two if not in three. This might create problems for the monopoly capitalists whose interests dominate the British state, but they would remain united in their ownership and control of the economy in all three nations.

Most seriously for the working class, separatism weakens class consciousness and class politics, as shown by the SNP spring conference in Aberdeen at the weekend.

There, the platform politics were entirely those of identity and grievance. Every significant problem faced by the Scottish people is, apparently, the fault of the Westminster government and the union. Capitalism with its class division of society was not mentioned. Big business is blameless.

The SNP does not advocate socialism, nor steps towards it, nor even real independence.

What kind of “independence” craves for continued membership of the European Union?

This is the same EU whose rules have forced the Scottish government to hand over its Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) infrastructure projects to private-sector finance and control. The cost of resulting delays and extra unitary charges will have to be met by the Scottish government, the NHS and local authorities over the next 30 years.

Five major projects must be retained on the publicsector balance sheet, diverting £1 billion from other spending plans.

Despite all SNP pledges to the contrary, PFI is back with a bang in Scotland, where the public will end up paying more than £9bn for SFT projects — three times their capital value. Scotland’s official auditors are investigating.

Yet so desperate is the SNP to leave Scotland’s biggest single market by far, namely Britain, and stay in the marginal European one that it emits not a squeak of protest about these EU diktats.

Its “independence” in the EU means no Scottish sovereignty over public finances, the movement of capital, international trade, the importation of super-exploited labour, VAT or public-sector contract compliance; a Scotland bossed around by the EU Commission and European Central Bank, inside an EU wedded to Nato.

How different that is from the perspective of progressive federalism in a Britain where wealth and power is redistributed to the working class in every nation and region.

This article is from The Morning Star, 20th March 2017

GEORGE OSBORNE’S thumbs-up sign and pat on the back for his successor Philip Hammond after the Spring Budget was announced shows that, for the Tories, it is business as usual.

The usual claptrap about balancing the books, listening to business, living within our means and fairness masks a reality that working people still pay for the fallout from the 2008 financial collapse sparked by the private banking sector’s reckless speculation.

Hundreds of billions of pounds were thrown at the banks, either in direct aid or quantitative easing to guarantee their stability and boost profits.

For banks’ boardrooms and speculative arms, exorbitant rewards are once again the order of the day, but for the public services and their workers hung out to dry by New Labour and then by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.

Moderately paid public-sector workers forced into the straitjacket of a 1 per cent pay cap while inflation soars around them continue to experience a real cut in living standards.

Yet, despite May’s hypocritical words of sympathy for working people who are “just about managing,” Hammond has nothing for them.

Nor does the Chancellor offer any respite to the vital services that he and May, like Osborne and David Cameron before them, starve of adequate finance as they impose so-called efficiency savings.

Hammond has been giving a nod and a wink for days to questions about dealing with the acute crisis in social care.

Theresa May even teased Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions about it, hinting at the bonanza to be announced shortly, but what was the reality?

The Tories, who, with their wretched Liberal Democrat accomplices, had filched £4.6 billion from the social care budget since 2010, have deigned to return £2bn over the next three years.

Hammond’s announcement of a social care green paper is portrayed as a stepping stone to debate about tackling future needs, but it is, in reality, a desperate attempt to kick the can down the road because the Chancellor is bankrupt of any workable ideas.

The National Pensioners Convention demand that social care be seen as concerning us all, like health, and be financed through general taxation is incontrovertible.

The government’s already well-trailed plans to starve local authority schools of vitally necessary funding while throwing cash at free schools and grammar schools indicates its ongoing divisive direction for state-sector education.

Its lurch backwards to the 1950s contradicts professional opinion, educational experience and the wishes of most parents and could prove a weak link, given that many Tories too understand the superiority of comprehensive schooling over selection.

Hammond’s ability to find £320m for this traditional right-wing hobbyhorse while restricting cash for refurbishment of existing state schools to £216m tells its own story.

It mirrors the targeting of £325m to implementation of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) for the NHS in England — known widely as Slash, Trash & Privatise.

Labour Party divisions caused by New Labour MPs’ refusal to accept the leader chosen by the membership have encouraged the Tory government to dispense with any pretence of moderation.

It is pressing ahead with a hard-right agenda, confident that a fractured opposition will be powerless in Parliament and at the ballot box.

Jeremy Corbyn called the Budget correctly as displaying “utter complacency about the state of our economy.”

Last weekend’s quarter-million-strong NHS rally must be followed by more mass mobilisations and electoral challenges to the ever more brutal anti-working-class agenda of this government.