THE naming of a date for the next referendum on October 19, 2023, is a boon to Scotland’s independence movement.

Notwithstanding any setbacks in terms of gaining the lawful authority to hold a referendum, the date now provides a focal point to organise around what has been missing for some time. It will help concentrate minds and begin again a process of local and national campaigning as was seen in the run-up to the referendum on 18 September, 2014.

If the case for independence is to be won this time around, there needs to be greater conceptual clarity over what types of independence are available to choose from. The choices will not be on the ballot paper itself but they will exist in practice.

This clarity is especially important as it seemed in 2014 that not enough people thought they would be better off under an independent Scotland and, therefore, were more susceptible to the scare stories from Project Fear.

With a cost-of-living crisis only set to continue, there needs to be a positive economic and social case for independence – one which is over and above batting back the scaremongering predictions of doom-and-gloom Unionist merchants.

READ MORE: Indyref2: Yes AHEAD in new poll on support for Scottish independence

So, what are the options? There are four which can be characterised as the “faces” of a future independence. They are neoliberalism, social liberalism, social democracy and socialism. Each of them has huge implications for the distribution across the social classes in Scotland of wealth and power.

Let’s start with a neoliberal Scotland

Neoliberalism is more than just the “market knows best”, where free market capitalism is deemed the way the economy and society are organised. Sure, neoliberalism is about reducing the role of the state and privatising publicly provided services (like ScotRail) but it is also about more than that.

The reason why the prefix “neo” is used is that, unlike in the heyday of liberalism before the First World War when the state was much smaller, the state is still to play a significant role. It is to further open up areas of society to the market where the market has not previously existed, like care and education. It is also to organise and regulate capitalism for its own good by way of not just bailing it out of crises – like the financial crisis of 2008-2009 – but also by making it more efficient through “light touch” regulation and financial incentives.

It should be plain to see this would be a Scotland where the value of individuals is measured only by their degree of entrepreneurialism to create wealth for themselves. But the rhetoric is a subterfuge because “money begets money”, so this would be Scotland by the rich, for the rich. It would be classic Caledonian Thatcherism where there is “no society”, to use Thatcher’s famous phrase, just individuals competing against, and with no compassion for, each other or the planet.

There are some small-sized capitalists in Scotland – like those found within the pro-independence group, Business for Scotland – that favour this option.

A social liberal Scotland

This is is similar but also different. While the state seeks to make capitalism more efficient and productive through state regulation, this is not just to enrich individuals but also to create the tax revenues to pay for a limited welfare state.

This welfare state is there to moderate the worst outcomes of capitalism by providing a minimum safety net beyond which people should not fall. This is the meaning of the “social” but that does not mean wealth redistribution of any great extent as private property rights remain unquestioned.

In employment, this would mean employers would still very much have the upper hand.

A social democratic Scotland

This would see the state intervene in the processes and outcomes of the capitalist market to achieve fairer outcomes through a range of measures. Some might include public ownership of key sectors like energy and transport while there would be provision of education, health and social care free at the point of need and paid for out of general taxation of a progressive kind.

Other examples would include price controls on food, fuel, energy and rent. This would be a vastly enhanced role for the state but it would also see the state provide the basis for other groups in civil society to challenge the rich and powerful. So, for example, legislation would protect workers from employers’ unilateral exercise of power over the likes of “fire and re-hire”, as well as see unions have effective rights to both organise non-union workers and undertake industrial action.

A socialist Scotland

This option would see the infringement of the market in quite a different way. It would not seek so much to alter the outcomes of the market after they had happened as a social democratic Scotland would. Rather, a socialist Scotland would intervene in the processes and nature of the market itself. It would abolish the market in a number of areas while in others it would create collective ownership and only permit profit-seeking enterprises on a small, decentralised scale. Here, the likes of Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Tesco, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s would give way to small, locally owned co-operatives. There would be common ownership of all the key parts of the economy and society where the purpose would be provision of services based on need and not profit. Environmental destruction could be halted and reversed.

So which path for Scotland?

Those are the basic characteristics and contours of the four faces of the independence options. Under each, the ruling class, the middle class and the working class would have different places and powers. In the first two options, the ruling class and middle class would dominate. In the latter two, the working class would be more influential, especially in the last one.

Class is an especially important dimension to consider because not only does it heavily influence life chances and power structures but much of the nationalist narrative ignores the internal divisions within Scotland, wrongly seeing Scotland as a united and homogeneous entity.

Where in the world do such countries exist? Full-blown neoliberalism exists in the likes of the United States while social liberalism exists in Germany, with some Scandinavian societies being said to be social democratic and Cuba being, for some, an example of socialism. None of the four faces advocates autarky, so external relations, both economic and political, would see each co-operate with like-minded countries in regional alliances and trading blocs.

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The recent Scottish Government prospectus – Independence In The Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland? – suggests that our Nordic neighbours could be a template as social democratic societies for Scotland.

The problem is that none of these neighbours – including Iceland – is still social democratic in the way they were 30 or 40 years ago when income and wealth disparities between classes were flattened. Sweden has succumbed especially to elements of neoliberalism so that it is better described now as social liberal.

While Scotland being a republic could exist under any of the four faces of independence, no monarchy of any sort could exist under a socialist Scotland. This is because it would typify inequality in wealth and power and be of an unelected nature. But we also have to recall that the Republic of Ireland has no monarchy and that does not necessarily make it politically progressive. Some of the more politically progressive countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden still have monarchies.

One of the crucial questions to ask about these four faces of independence is: where does the SNP sit in this? On the one hand, we have the now notorious Sustainable Growth Commission, published in 2018 and led by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson. It advocated for a mixture of neoliberalism and social liberalism and not any social democracy, let alone socialism. Though we await to see what other documents emerge following the publication of the Independence In The Modern World document, it would surprising is there was any radical shift away from social liberalism.

One the other hand, we have the actions of the SNP Scottish governments to date. The SNP says it is a social democratic party but its actions do not support that claim. The few, small-scale instances of new state ownership (like ScotRail and Prestwick airport) have been reactions to the failure of capitalist enterprises.

Where the SNP has sought to pro-actively create new state institutions like the Scottish National Investment Bank and a state energy company, progress has been fitful. The former is an example of social liberalism because it seeks primarily to help businesses with the hope of mutual gains by employers and employees thereafter. The latter did not come to pass even though it is now needed more than ever with rising fuel and energy costs.

After a referendum is won, there will be an almighty battle to make Scotland into one or other of these options. But the battle to win for the two progressive outcomes has to start now because there will be opposition from powerful vested interests.

Professor Gregor Gall is author of Scotland The Brave? Independence And Radical Social Change (Scottish Left Review Press, 2013) and editor of the three editions of Is There A Scottish Road To Socialism? (Scottish Left Review Press, 2007, 2013, 2016)