The key fact that Scottish Labour seem to have missed is,that the SNP are now the Scottish Govt. This level of denial has led them to come up with a suicidal policy switch of now backing a referendum on independence. The Scottish Government will decide the term, timing and process of the now inevitable referendum vote, whatever Labour thinks. They can no more force the agenda than they could prevent people deserting Labour in droves in last weeks elections in England and Wales.
Wendy Alexander’s announcement that she and her immediate colleagues have completely changed their public position on a referendum on independence is not only a catastrophic mistake in political strategy, it is also been implemented in a hopelessly inept manner.
It was a decision that was clearly not made in communication with her Scottish Labour MSPs, her colleagues in the Calman Commission or her Cabinet members at a UK level. When this calamity is combined with her brothers gloriously inept handling of the Scottish Elections, for which he has not yet been held to account, it does look like a spectacular contribution by one family.
One thing that has been forgotten about this by all the media is that this is no blurted out – on the hoof make it up as you go along policy. It is the manner that it came out that gave the impression, disjointed, ad hoc and generally all over the place. Several key Scottish bloggers had the story at the time, while the rest of the media ignored it, but Wendy started her leadership with a ‘slip’ at her very opening speech.
At the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh, when she launched her leadership in September she hinted at how she might be prepared to call Salmond’s bluff. ‘There will be a referendum in 2010,’ she told the delegates. The press ignored this for some reason. So she’s had eight months and three media advisers to stew over this idea.
Tim Luckhurst’s analyis – and the Times publishing of it – is predictably reactionary nonsense seemingly immune to international law. Luckhurst (or ‘Nae Luckhurst’ as he was dubbed after his brief and calamitous reign in charge of the Scotsman) in his argument that all members of the Union should vote on Scottish Independence misses history from his analysis. The Scottish movement for self-determination in various guises is over 100 years old. It has been through an intense period over the last decade. It is for our country to decide its fate. Of course negotiations for settlement would proceed, but that is a separate matter. All else is jangling nonsense.
As Ewan Crawford writes in the Guardian: “The SNP believes that a referendum in 2010 offers perhaps the best possible prospect for a “yes” vote. At present, opinion polls are fluid. What seems clear from the polls is that the preferred current option for most Scots is a parliament with greater powers – for example over tax and benefits – but within the UK. But crucially, when the option of greater powers is removed, the polls show virtually an even split for and against independence. Oddly, Alexander wants the referendum to be on the straight yes/no question, which dramatically increases independence support.”
Crucially also, and this is about the problem of a party that has been so embedded in Scottish culture for decades, the Labour Party confuses itself with The Scottish People. So, when they have a visceral hatred of the SNP they assume that this is reflective of the general will. The reality is that many people – who in no way would have described themselves as nationalists or supporters of independence (not always the same thing) – have been quietly but deeply impressed by Salmond’s administration. In equal measure many have been dismayed by Brown at a UK and Alexander at a Holyrood level. Add to this the dreaded prospect of another Tory Govt waiting in the wings under Cameron and I believe Scotland would win the Referendum vote, and become independent.
One commenter on the Guardian site summed up what many are feeling today: “Financially Scotland would really be no better or worse off out of the UK. Politically though, it would no longer be dominated by the English right, we would no longer have to keep nuclear weapons in our country, we would no longer see our friends and family members in the armed forces packed off to the Middle East to do the dirty work of the American neo-cons and big business and above all we would no longer need to listen John bloody Motson during the World Cup. I will be voting “yes”.
It may not be rational, economically tested or level-headed but it does I believe sum up the predominant mood. As a friend of mine said to me over the top of the morning paper this fine sunny day: ‘Things can only get better.’