This is in part a response to Jeff’s piece over at the brand new Better Nation (is there room for some kind of ‘Alasdair Gray inspires Scottish digital media’ thesis here?). He argues that the delay in a referendum is a) a mistake b) a disappointment and c) a missed opportunity (based on the idea that Labour are a shoe-in for Holyrood 2011.)
The debate is currently being framed by the Unionist press (examples too many to mention by I do always like it when Lorraine Davison, Labours hagiographer-in-chief, re-appears, she was leading the fray for The Times).
So let’s re-frame it. What chance is there for Scotland to transform itself under the Union? What are the competing visions?
The election in May will be decided on three issues: the SNP’s record in office, Labours record n office at a UK level, and their alternate plans in Scotland, and the Scottish electorates response to the Tory governments austerity measures, by then slashing public services across the UK. I think Salmond’s move is actually a bold one as he is effectively gambling his political career on the next 12 months. Political cowardice this is not.
The SNPs record in govt is one of quiet competence partly engineered but mostly just the reality of minority government. The achievements will be disputed but highlights for me are ceasing the sale of council houses, halting the further privatisation of hospitals, the Climate Change Bill, continuing the campaign against Trident and holding fast against new nuclear in Scotland. To this I’d add the attempts to deal with Scotland’s alcohol problem, despite the appalling political intransigence of the opposition. Disappointments are many, I’d include the minimum class sizes and food policy. Their failure to deliver the referendum is a matter for the opposition unionist coalition to answer, as they are awash with hypocrisy on this subject. None of this can fairly be disputed.
Labour’s time in office at a UK level may still come under scrutiny. Partly because of the civil war re-ignited by Blair’s effing Journey, and partly because of the gerrymandering of electoral timing they’ve created. If we vote on the same day we’ll vote on the same issues. On the plus side there’s the minimum wage. On the downside there’s the Iraq War costing three trillion dollars and the lives of between 97,000-110,000 civilians, the complete failure of constitutional reform, the abandonment of cabinet government, a deluge of sleaze, a wholesale assault on civil liberties and the privatisation of public services to an extent that Thatchers regime could only have dreamt of.
So what of Jackie Baillie and Ian Gray’s alternative manifesto? What is their vision for Scotland?
I looked here but couldn’t find any. Open to suggestions.
There’s Calman, which promises some measure of control over air-rifles by 2015, the promise of new nuclear and a renewed enthusiasm for Trident nuclear submarines. And the impact of the Tories austerity package? Perhaps hospital closures and cuts in public services will be deemed as ‘a price worth paying’ or Labour who landed us in this predicament and complete political failure allowed the Tories back in may be regaled as the peoples champions.
I suspect that even Gray’s charisma and rhetorical skills, backed by the wonders of the Scottish press will not be able to sell that in May.
The responsibility of the independence movement – and this goes beyond any one party – is to combine to make the positive case for a better alternative. Just as Calman with hand-me-down constitutional change is not the answer, neither is a passive outreached handout of a referendum.
The reality is that Labour have blocked a referendum somersaulting their position on the issue they are electoral contortionists resulting in the following exhanges:
28 September 2009
Q: So, which day do you want a referendum?
A: Iain Gray: “I’m saying to you there may well be a time, certainly not in the middle of a recession.
29 Sep 2009
Jim Murphy – A referendum on Scottish independence could be considered by Labour “at some point in the future.” Scots Secretary Jim Murphy said.
But now was not the time as a referendum in the middle of a recession would be “ludicrous”, he insisted.
4 Sept 2010
Scotland has officially emerged from recession, figures published yesterday revealed.
This is some time in the future and Scotland is certainly not in the middle of a recession. Every political party frames and times a vote for maximum benefit. This is the reality that really annoys the baying unionist mobs. They are not in control over the timing or wording of this event.
Salmond today made his position very clear stating:
The London parties have said that they will vote down the right of the people to decide, despite the ludicrous position of the Tories and Lib Dems in wanting a referendum on an AV voting system that no-one supports on Scottish polling day, and the Labour Party pursuing a referendum next spring on more powers for Wales, while denying a referendum for Scotland. The hypocrisy of all the London parties will be well and truly exposed, as will their lack of any coherent policy to generate new wealth to offset public spending cuts.
What is less clear is how this is going to be achieved. He continued: “It is clear from press reports today that we will now have to appeal over their heads of the unionist MSPs to the people of Scotland next May.” Over their heads – but how and through what media?
For these reasons a, b, and c are mistaken.