The significance of Unison's decision to endorse IndyRef2
Writing: Rob Bazaral
Recently, Unison, Scotland’s largest trade union, endorsed the ever-increasing calls for a second referendum regarding Scottish independence. Unison is the biggest public sector union in Europe, with 1.3 million members, and about 150,000 in Scotland, making this a rather notable endorsement for IndyRef2 supporters.
Unison was careful to not declare themselves pro-independence nor to speak on behalf of its members in the name of independence, simply stating that its members should have the right to vote for independence. Undoubtedly a large number of Unison’s members do not support independence, but supporting the right to a vote on the matter, especially with the chaos that’s occurred within British politics since the initial referendum, should not be too controversial.
At the very least the endorsement is a confidence boost for the many Scots who support independence
Due to the sheer size of the union, this endorsement is notable, but its potential for effectiveness is certainly murky. Scotland announces time and time again that a sizable portion of its citizens desperately want independence, but with a Tory majority in Parliament and Boris Johnson hellbent on keeping Scotland in the UK - despite his noted displeasure for the country - it seems increasingly unlikely that IndyRef2 will actually occur.
Edinburgh Unison members marching against the Bedroom tax in March 2013. Photo: Brian McNeil via Wikinews
If the overwhelming success of the SNP, a party whose top priority and main reason for existence is to make Scotland independent, in December’s election wasn’t enough to convince Parliament to allow a second independence referendum, it seems unlikely that the backing of Unison will. While many back the party for their insurance of a Scottish voice in Parliament or to oust the Tories from seats rather than out of direct support for independence, their success shows that a great deal of Scots would not be outright opposed to a referendum. And as the UK seems to consistently disregard the interests of the Scottish people through the finalizing of Brexit and the massive Conservative victory in December.
Due to the sheer size of the union, this endorsement is notable, but its potential for effectiveness is certainly murky.
However, just 42% of Scots outright supported another referendum when surveyed in 2018, meaning there certainly is still ground to be gained when it comes to unity on the matter. Considering the SNP received equal support from all social grades in Scotland, an endorsement from a major benefactor of the Scottish working class could help drive support at least a bit, and potentially push other major Scottish organizations and unions in the same direction. At the very least the endorsement is a confidence boost for the many Scots who support independence, but feels it’s too soon for another referendum, or fear holding one in case independence loses again, embarrassing its supporters and likely shutting the door on Scottish independence for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, as the working class is so greatly stifled in the UK, even if 100% of Scotland’s workers got behind a second referendum, it still feels unlikely that this Parliament would ever even consider the prospect without direct action. A Unison endorsement is a step in the right direction for those backers of IndyRef2, but it’s a long ways from a final victory. If Unison can organize their members to truly protest and fight for it, they’ll certainly come closer. In the end, another referendum would be simply allowing Scotland to make a choice on its form of rule after 5 years of chaos from a ruling body that does not generally represent it. A hollow endorsement of such a choice is unlikely to change the tide of IndyRef2’s future.