Scotland’s Road to Socialism
Scottish Left Review Press (2013), £7.99, available from www.scottishleftreview.scot
Scotland’s Road to Socialism: Time to Choose is essentially a follow-up to the 2006 book Is There a Scottish Road to Socialism? as referenced by the editor of both books, Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations at Bradford University in his introduction. Of course times are very different now. In this new book, Gall writes that at the time of the 2006 work, as to whether or not there was a Scottish specific road to socialism, “the feeling at the time on the pro-independence left was that while the issue was still of importance, it was no nearer in reach”.
The intervening period has seen not only the first ever election of an SNP Government in 2007, but that Government being re-elected in 2011, and securing the first single party majority in the history of devolution and of course the coming referendum next year, which forms the backdrop to the writings of the various contributors to Time to Choose. Indeed, the changed circumstances of 2013 compared to 2006 are perhaps most starkly demonstrated by Pauline Byran’s introduction to her chapter (Chapter 4: Socialism, social democracy or at least resisting austerity) where she writes, “as this chapter was being written, Alex Salmond and David Cameron have signed the formal agreement giving the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a binding referendum”.
Gall’s introductory remarks also cite the changed times, where he refers to the tectonic plates of Scottish politics having moved considerably, although he does seem to have made the mistake of believing the Sunday Sun’s inaccurate “scoop” that the referendum would be held on 18th October 2014.
Another feature of many essays within Time to Choose is that other huge change from the time of the publication of Is There a Scottish Road to Socialism, namely the economic downturn sparked by the financial crisis of 2008.
Although the referendum and Scotland’s constitutional future form the clear basis on which this book has been pulled together, it avoids being exclusively polemical in nature. Rather it has a plurality of views expressed from a broadly left perspective and a variety of perspectives as to the achievement of Scottish socialism – which Gall defines “as the search for social justice, whether in its forms of social democracy or revolutionary socialism, or anything between”. Perhaps the various writers can agree to the idea posited by contributor John Aberdein that they are the basis of his coalition working for the cause of social human decency which he styled as “Up For It”.
There is a wide range of people who have written an equally wide range of short essays including two parliamentarians, my friend, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland Bill Kidd, and Labour MSP for the Lothians, Neil Findlay, who writes in conjunction with his research assistant, Tommy Kane. There are contributors from a variety of parties, and of none.
If someone is looking for a book that will provide one fixed opinion on the constitution and how that will help achieve social justice in Scotland, then this is not the book for them. Rather, it provides a diverse mix of views, some of which this reviewer found more compelling than others, but then it may not be the most surprising revelation to find that I disagree with those who argue that independence is not the best way to pursue that end. In this sense it should be viewed as an interesting contribution from a left perspective in these most interesting of times.
Different readers will doubtless draw different conclusions, but my reading of Scotland’s Road to Socialism: Time to Choose has served to reinforce my own belief that the only way we can achieve a fairer and more compassionate society – the thread that binds the essays in the book together – is through independence.
Jamie Hepburn is SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.
Labour MP Katy Clark reviewed the book in the last issue.