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Monday, 22 July 2013 00:00

Rare clarity from Salmond

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond admits that in a post-independence scenario the nation cannot rely on North Sea revenues.

He suggests that it will simply be a bonus, on top of the harvest of untold riches elsewhere in the economy.

As a former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist, he knows full well that the deliberately loose impression that taxes on oil and gas will pave a path to a Scandinavian-style social democracy is false.

North Sea reserves, although still significant and responsible for 200,000 jobs, are steadily dwindling. The current tax take from the industry - £6.53bn in 2012-13 - and elsewhere is currently surpassed to the tune of billions by the grant handed back to Scotland.

How social spending could be maintained under independence given this gap remains unanswered.

Fundamental questions remain too over the ability to deliver a people-first future in an independent Scotland as opposed to devolution with greater powers.

The trade union movement in Scotland has been cautious in its approach to the referendum issue - and well it might be.

Its stance has been to challenge both the Yes and No sides of the debate to declare actual policies to use the economic levers of power to improve the rights and lives of ordinary people across Scotland.

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This is the nub of the issue whether a stronger part of a federated Britain or whether a tiny player within a European Union superstate whose agenda is defined by the very neoliberal policies that will prevent steps towards a more equal, socialist society.

There are clear warning signs about Mr Salmond's vision of independence. He is a past master of promising all things to all people, yet his background in corporate banking betrays the roots of his ideology and the elite section of Scottish society he is fighting for.

Under SNP rule many public-sector workers in Scotland have faced a three-year pay freeze followed by a pitiful 1 per cent imposed pay award. More public-sector jobs have been cut as a proportion of the workforce north of the border than in other parts of Britain.

Workers in the courts, police and higher education sectors face cuts and centralisation.

The Scottish government remains in a deadly dance with private finance in the public sector, and is zig-zagging towards a Scottish Water sell-off.

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Mr Salmond, whose government has powers over council tax, which it has frozen, and income tax, which it has not touched, has talked openly of a future independent Scotland being a low-tax haven designed to attract private firms seeking a cheap base.

With the Tories in Westminster aiming towards some of the lowest business taxes in the Western world, and Ireland's tax-light "Celtic tiger" credentials in tatters, this model does not sit easily with promises of even a social democratic future.

It is understandably tempting, given the rampaging Tories in Westminster and the betrayals of new Labour, for sections of the Scottish left to say: "Not in our name" and seek an emotional divorce from the rest of Britain.

The Morning Star will continue to give space for proponents of this perspective to put forward their view.

But the omens for a satellite member state attached, limpet-like, to an increasingly brutal free-market European Union bloc do not bode well for ordinary Scottish people.

Far better to campaign for a fully federated Britain that would devolve power and democracy further into our communities and which would allow the people of all its nations to chart a path away from the free-market mantras peddled not only in Brussels but by the current occupants of Downing St and Bute House.

They are the real foe, and should be the main target whichever flag they wear on their underpants.

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