The longer this referendum goes on, the clearer it becomes that both sides have limited internal common ground. I don’t hold with the SNP attack on Labour’s position – the argument that they’re obviously Tories in disguise because they’re campaigning together on this issue. Were the SSP basically just Tories because they campaigned against the Edinburgh congestion charge with them? No, just misguided.
As discussed before, if both sides are internally indistinguishable, it would also make me essentially Jim McColl, because he’s in favour of independence too. And I could hardly respect him less. In evidence to a Holyrood committee, he said Scotland should cut corporation tax to Irish levels, an approach that suits rich men like him and which plays beggar-your-neighbour with other European countries’ tax bases.
He’s also personally based in Monaco and in the same meeting admitted not paying full UK income tax. His startling reasoning there was as follows: “if you look at the wealth created here by me and my team, it puts into insignificance anything that I might pay if I was a full-time resident here“. Of course, the actual wealth is created by his workforce, not him, and they presumably do pay their full UK taxes. The logic is stark: the richer you are and the bigger the business you own the less important it is for you to pay taxes. Taxes are for the little people.
It’s all quite petty too. My guess is that he’d still be pretty rich if he paid his full taxes here, which should be the minimum requirement before pontificating about Scotland’s future.
His contribution today is consistent with his extraordinarily unpleasant vision for Scotland (if you look beyond the empty guff about compassion and renewables). Independence would, he says, be a “management buyout”. Don’t be led astray: this is not a metaphor, it’s literally what he wants. The thing about a management buyout is you’re left with the same people in charge, but they’re personally doing much better because less of the revenue gets passed elsewhere. Jim McColl and those like him are already the “management”, they are already Scotland’s establishment, and he wants a Scotland where that doesn’t change. In fact, he wants a Scotland even more closely recast in line with his kind of selfish tax-dodging capitalism.
The historic left opposition to independence, which was dominant until the formation of the SSP and its precursors, ran roughly like this. The purpose of independence and nationalism is to divide the working class and to let local capitalist elites carve out more for themselves without interference from the imperial centre. You don’t have to be a Trotskyist to see that’s precisely what Jim McColl wants to see from independence.
Fortunately, though, if we win it won’t just be up to him to shape Scotland, especially if the current SNP leadership don’t get to run that post-independence administration. It’ll be up to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want a Scotland where business pays its fair share, or whether they think Jim’s spot on and the Tories ought to have bent over even further towards the interests of business. Jim McColl may be working for a management buyout, but there’ll be plenty more of us pushing in the other direction, towards a more co-operative Scotland.