Scottish Independence as an anti-fascist act

Siobhan Tolland

Politics writer Siobhan Tolland explores the prospect of independence as a declaration of anti-fascism.

For those of us who were watching, it was clear Brexit would unleash unprecedented right wing monsters. For those of us watching the events surrounding the Conservative Party conference last week, we could no longer deny that inevitability. For, as Mhiari Black forcefully points out, what we witnessed was an emerging fascist government.

Unfortunately, this is no longer an exaggeration to say this. The post-Brexit government, swept in by Conservative party submission rather than an actual democratic vote, is unrecognisable to voters of the UK general election. It threw out all remnants of the Cameron government and installed an ultra-right wing cabinet, with the admiration of Farage.

There is a genuinely authoritarian feel to this government. Tory MP Stephen Phillips even accused the government of ‘tyranny’, adding that the negotiation of Brexit without any regard for parliament is ‘fundamentally undemocratic’ and unconstitutional. Parliament’s authority, as representatives of the people, is being dismissed by the government on the biggest economic, constitutional and political decision since the Second World War. We are looking at authoritarian rule now.

“Tyranny”: Stephen Phillips MP (

And, of course, alongside that authoritarianism lies a cataloguing of foreigners, including children and talk of foreigners who ‘consume’ our wealth. Checking passports of women coming into a maternity ward seems the most insidious yet. The process of leaving the European Union, then, is to do this with little regard for discussion or opposition as well as through a racist hierarchisation of society.

As economic, political and humanitarian crises deepen in Europe, the middle ground seems to be crumbling. There are pockets pushing forward a social democratic and socialist vision, through parties like Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain. But events are very much marked by the rise of the ultra-right and the neo-fascist. The National Front is making considerable electoral gains within France. Austria teeters on the brink of a fascist President and far right politics is gaining credence in Germany. On top of this, the ultra-right are making gains in countries like Hungary, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland.

Brexit positioned the UK in the European limelight, by breaking the European social contract and lurching the UK to the right. More so, as the ultra-right are gaining power the ultra-right in the UK have already gained power. Surreptitiously, but they are now in power. Against the European context, Westminster has just powerfully aligned itself with the European ultra-right and neo-fascist movements.

What this does for us in the Scottish left is place a significant responsibility on our shoulders. A responsibility that we must accept. Because as we now sit tethered to a bordering on fascist authoritarian state, we have no choice but to fight against that. More than that, our need for self-determination is now inextricably intertwined with the anti-fascist struggle that awaits us.

This occurs for practical as well as ideological reasons. Practically, we are the only movement with the power, strength and unity to pose any challenge to Westminster.  There is no other movement in the UK that can come anywhere close to do this. The traditional left will argue that the movement gathering behind Corbyn can. But they have only just survived their own coup and are still subject to even more manoeuvres to undermine them. Their movement is neither united nor strong enough to take this on. The independence movement, then, with the SNP at its helm is the only credible tool to posit a challenge.

But this is much more than just practicalities. Since Thatcher, Scotland has stood strong in the social democratic ideology. As Westminster broke further and further away from the social contract, ripping up the health and welfare structure in a neo-liberal frenzy, Scotland has, by contrast, increasingly aligned itself with more social democratic ideals.

Grounded in civic nationalism, the independence movement is, at its very ideological core, libertarian and social democratic. And as the UK and Europe lurch more and more to the extreme right, these ideals have never been so important. Indeed, in post-Brexit UK those ideals have become the only discourse through which an anti-fascist challenge can be launched. Our struggle for self-determination inevitably becomes a struggle against fascism.

Never has that been so obvious until now. And never has our movement been so important. Given the UK’s importance in Europe’s push to the right, our relationship with Westminster means how we react to that is vital. Because, as a strong, credible opposition to Westminster we can powerfully contribute to the wider European democratic struggle. And the actions we take then, tethered to this neo-fascist state, can bring a significant victory against ultra-right xenophobia.

For me, then, the answer is clear: at this juncture in our history, a declaration of independence also becomes a declaration against fascism. Independence, in fact, is the only tool at our disposal where we can pose any real and credible challenge to the rise of fascism. Self-determination for Scotland is not just about us becoming independent as a nation any more. It is a historic break from a neo-fascist state. And that act of cessation doesn’t just affect Scotland: it sets out victory for social democracy in the wider international struggle against fascism.

Photo Credit:
Independence campaigners (

The independence movement now has an obligation to align itself with the European anti-fascist movements. Because as the UK takes centre stage in the push to the right, an act of independence becomes an act of solidarity across Europe. A solidarity for social democratic Europe: acting in complete contradistinction from the ultra-right. Indeed, Scotland’s act of independence could build a tangible, sustainable social democratic alternative: pushing forward a significant victory for the international left.

Reflecting on this then only makes the timing of the next referendum more urgent. The Conservative Party conference set out their vision for Britain (dragging us with them). It was ugly, it was xenophobic, and it was terrifying. We have no choice now. Talks about whether we are ready, or whether we have we won the arguments or whether we might ruin our last chance become increasingly irrelevant against the post-Brexit government. Neo-fascism is right on our doorstep and the struggle against that needs to happen now. Our push for independence will facilitate that struggle.

The urgency of the political struggle across Europe, then, is now felt within our independence movement. More than that. Our movement needs to become a loud voice within that struggle. Building the momentum of our independence movement is critical at this juncture. But the act of independence will strike at the heart of the corrupt increasingly fascist British state. And, as such, it becomes Scotland’s most potent contribution to the international anti-fascist struggle. Anything less will be an act of acquiescence.

Siobhan Tolland is a member of the SNP and writer of politics, contributing to various organisations and websites including Commonspace. Siobhan has a PhD in History, looking at the feminisation of socialism in the life and works of Mary Brooksbank.

Disclaimer: articles published on Red Thistle are the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of SNP Socialists as a whole.

2 thoughts on “Scottish Independence as an anti-fascist act

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  2. A comment by Siobhan Tolland.
    This is a text, every Scottish person And everyone living in Scotland should read.
    The Westminster government has aligned itself with the European Ultra-right and Neo-fascist movements.
    We are not just fighting against a unelected Tory government. We are tethered to and bordering on a fascist
    Authoritarian state We have no choice but to fight against it.
    For me the answer is clear. A declaration of independence. Becomes a declaration against fascism.
    In fact Independence is the only tool at our disposal where we can pose any real threat or challenge to the
    Rise of Fascism.
    Self determination for Scotland is not just about becoming independent. As a nation anymore it is a break from a Neo-fascist State.
    The act of cessation doesn’t just effect Scotland It sets out Victory for Social Democracy in the wider
    International struggle against fascism.
    The independence movement now has an obligation to align itself with the European Anti-fascist movements. Because as the UK takes centre stage in the push to the right.An act of Independence
    Becomes an act of solidarity across Europe. Acting in compleat contradistinction from the Ultra-Right.


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