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Radicals threaten Salmond and Scottish independence campaign

Activists gather in Glasgow to try to steer breakway movement sharply to the left
  • @hamishmacdonell

Alex Salmond will tomorrow face a major challenge from leftwingers in his  attempt to win over moderate Scots to the independence cause.

More than 650 activists will gather in Glasgow to form a group they hope can push the Scottish independence movement to the left.

The Radical Independence Conference has brought together the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Socialists, some of the more militant trade unionists, nuclear-disarmament campaigners and anti-monarchist republicans. They are all part of the independence movement but they disagree with the moderate approach Mr Salmond and his Scottish National Party (SNP) have adopted for the campaign.

They see Scottish independence as an opportunity to create a radical, left-leaning society rather than the watered-down version they believe Mr Salmond wants to offer Scots.

Mr Salmond has made it clear he would keep the Queen in an independent Scotland, that Scotland would retain the pound and also apply to join Nato – all of which have sparked fierce opposition from left-wingers in the independence camp.

Jonathon Shafi, one of the organisers, said: “We are against austerity, we want a modern republic, one not tied to the monarchy, we oppose discrimination, Trident and nuclear weapons. We think these are very appealing ideas and could contribute towards strengthening the vote for an independent Scotland.”

The well-known Scottish author Iain Banks was one of the first to sign up to the new campaign group.

He claimed that Scots were motivated more by co-operation than competition and were more interested in “societal support for our fellow citizens” than other parts of the UK.

He said: “The Scots, for all their long, proud history of inventiveness and entrepreneurialism, just seem to be more communitarian than the consensus expressed by the UK population as a whole, and it’s time our greatest and most powerful democratic institutions – our parliaments – reflected this.”

Patrick Harvie, the co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, made it clear he would like the Yes Scotland campaign for independence to have a more radical agenda.

He said: “There is a growing group of people who are not content with the SNP’s version, with the SNP’s policy agenda that they are attaching to the independence cause. These are people who want to get a different message across so it’s not just about the Greens, it is about a wider group. I think that over the next few years, you’ll see that grouping grow.”

The Greens would ditch the monarchy, have no nuclear weapons or nuclear power stations, end Scottish membership of Nato and look to develop a distinctive Scottish currency, rather than taking either the pound or the euro.

The Yes Scotland campaign has always insisted that it is a “broad church” and it is not its role to come up with policies for an independent Scotland. A spokesman for the campaign said yesterday: “We are happy that there are people with a whole range of views and visions for Scotland backing Scottish independence. All they need to join Yes Scotland is support [for] independence.”