Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Galloway 'with Sillars on sensible socialism'

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Media captionJim Sillars and George Galloway took part in a Newsnight Scotland special

George Galloway has said he and former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars are in agreement that Scotland's future needs to be shaped by "sensible socialism".

The two left-wing politicians went head-to-head in a BBC Scotland debate on Scottish independence.

Pro-Union Scotsman Mr Galloway said there was nothing for "Scottish working people" in what the SNP had to offer.

Independence campaigner Mr Sillars said he believed a "rejuvenated Labour party" could win a post-Yes election.

Voters in Scotland go to the polls on Thursday, 18 September, when they will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Newsnight Scotland has been running a series of debates where a panel of three journalists quiz two politicians or experts involved in the independence debate.

Respect MP Mr Galloway, who does not have a vote in the referendum but believes Scotland should remain part of the UK, said he backed the idea of "sensible socialism" outlined in Mr Sillars' book.

But Mr Galloway said sensible socialism was not on offer in the referendum.

Image caption The two former Labour MPs faced questions from three BBC journalists

"This is about a referendum in which it is Yes or No. Yes to nonsense on stilts, or No to nonsense on stilts," he said.

"Jim can whistle in the wind but he knows that Alex Salmond will be the first prime minister [in an independent Scotland]. And he knows that Alex Salmond and his party, with their addiction to nonsense on stilts, will keep the Queen, will stay in Nato, will do everything that they can to keep the pound, governed by the Bank of England - the clue being in the name.

"There's nothing in that for the Scottish working people."

He added: "There might be something in Jim Sillars' proposals. I haven't read his book yet but I will. But that's not what we are voting for."

Mr Sillars, who was a Labour MP in south Ayrshire in the 1970s but later joined the SNP, has written a manifesto for a socialist independent Scotland.

When asked if he saw the SNP as a socialist party, he said: "Of course it's not and it has never pretended to be.

"They call themselves 'social democratic" which most people will find very hard to actually define but it takes them away from the Tartan Tory idea that was flung at them for many years.

"So it's not a socialist party, and that's one of the reasons I am quite convinced the SNP will not win the 2016 elections."

Mr Sillars said he believed a "rejuvenated, left-wing Labour party" had a very good chance of winning the first election following a vote in favour of independence.

He added: "George keeps going on as if it's Alex Salmond who is the issue here. It isn't. It is my grandchildren and everyone else's grandchildren who are the issue in this election.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Galloway and Mr Sillars were quizzed on the issue of Trident in an independent Scotland

"If we remain part of the United Kingdom, in terminal decline, then we will go down the tubes with them."

The pair clashed on the issue of Trident and Scotland's membership of Nato.

Mr Sillars said: "I've got very good news for George. When we are independent Trident goes and when Trident goes we have been told we can't join Nato."

But Mr Galloway demanded to know: "Goes where and when?

"How much safer are we with Trident on the Tyne than Trident on the Clyde?"

Mr Sillars said he had seen Mr Galloway on television being dragged out of the Trident base.

"At least if we vote Yes, Scotland has made a contribution to the worldwide anti-nuclear campaign by getting rid of it," he added.

On the matter of a currency union Mr Sillars said he had anticipated the Chancellor George Osborne's announcement that the UK Treasury would not agree to such a deal.

Mr Sillars has argued for a separate Scottish currency.

He said: "We do not need a currency union. It is perfectly possible to run a Scottish currency, on the basis of our huge trade surplus, on a one-to-one basis with sterling south of the border. No problem. We already do it."

Mr Galloway said he would not argue in favour of a currency union in the event of a "Yes" vote as it would "not be in the interests of his constituents in Bradford".

He described the idea as "nonsense" and said it could not possibly be achieved.

He added: "Nobody in a divorce allows the husband or wife that walked out on them to continue to use their joint credit card."

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