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Scottish independence: Yes campaign should emulate poll tax battles

Poll tax leaflets are burnt on Calton Hill

Poll tax leaflets are burnt on Calton Hill

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

THE campaign for Scottish independence must revive the spirit of the poll tax battles of the 1980s to inspire Scots to vote “yes”, according to one of its key political figures.

Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader Colin Fox also believes that disaffected Labour voters could swing the referendum result in favour of leaving the UK.

But he has warned that the campaign must do more to “inspire” Scots in the years ahead.

The claims were dismissed by Tory Deputy leader, Jackson Carlaw, who insisted that most Scots would turn a “deaf ear” to the Socialist leader.

It follows criticism of the “Yes” campaign’s official launch in Edinburgh last month, when Mr Fox shared a platform with Alex Salmond and Hollywood stars including Brian Cox and Alan Cumming.

The socialist chief has warned: “Where’s the beef? It’s key to the yes campaign’s message – we have to explain what we’re going to do for their living standards, their jobs, their pensions and the circumstances they face and that they’re fearful of.”

The party has a “radical vision” of independence, Mr Fox insists, supporting the creation of a Scottish democratic republic with an end to the Queen’s role as head of state.

But Mr Fox added: “If it doesn’t get real, then it becomes abstract, it becomes a constitutional lawyers’ jamboree, but it doesn’t affect the rest of us.”

The party no longer has any representation at Holyrood after returning six MSPs in the 2003 election. The damaging internal battles with ex-leader Tommy Sheridan over his controversial legal battles with News International split the Left vote in Scotland after the latter left to form Solidarity. But the SSP leader believes backers of the pro-union Labour party could yet have a decisive impact on the poll.

“Within the Labour party support in Scotland, there’s a considerable proportion that support and are amenable to home rule, to devolution and to independence,” he said.

“People like Dennis Canavan and John McAllion from a Labour tradition show this, and if that can be taken to the whole population, then these polls are up for grabs.”

Convincing Scots that leaving the UK can transform their lives is central to this, he said. “If you don’t inspire people to change, you’ll be left with the way things are.

“I’m a veteran of the poll tax movement, when initially people said, ‘you can’t do anything, it’s the law and everything is stacked against us – if you don’t pay you’ll go to jail’. But we galvanised everybody into a spirit that said, ‘actually we can exploit their weakness, they need their money as well’.

“We’re revisiting the spirit of the poll tax rebellion – change, transforming the way things were: the prospects that apparently face you can be avoided.”

Millions took part in a mass non-payment campaign which eventually saw the poll tax scrapped by the then Tory government.

But Scottish Conservative deputy leader Mr Carlaw said: “The Yes campaign is proving to be an assorted rag bag. The more Colin Fox sets out to revive past rants, the more Scotland will turn a deaf ear.

“This is a debate about our future, and what most Scots are looking for from the Yes campaign are answers to basic questions about an independent Scotland – yet answers have we none.”

 

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