Under what conditions – say, the next 24 months leading up to the most important political event in 300 years for Scotland – could a “Labour for Independence” exist?
One basic argument for the existence of Labour for Independence is the need for strategic thinking about the party’s survival, if a majority for independence is achieved. If the current Scottish Labour leadership’s claim is sincerely held – that is, willing to serve Scotland, no matter the constitutional arrangement – then it seems somewhat reckless for the Scottish Labour movement not to develop some sense of their platform in a future independent country.
Many on the Scottish Left have given the SNP our crucial votes, regarding them as the main instrument towards achieving full sovereignty (though with the Greens, and in past years the ultra-left parties, as other options).
But post the Great Day, would we necessarily wish to find ourselves with a “National Party of Scotland”, to quote Salmond’s words immediately after the May 2011 victory: a party fully vindicated in its mission, and awaiting a electoral mandate which might even extend (according to some recent polls) their current command of the Scottish polity?
I don’t question the talents, commitment and values of the SNP Cabinet, MSPs and wider membership. But one-party dominance would not be healthy for a newly independent country, which would need all available minds and talents on hand to steer us through the rapids of realpolitik, geopolitics and globalisation.
Would Scottish Labour – or at least some significant chunk of it – really want to be on the sidelines at this vital moment? Despite the fury this would cause in the current leadership, would it not be prudent for some groupuscules in the People’s Party to start brewing up some wisdom, strategy and research around their post-independence existence?
Of course, in an earlier, less acute stage of the “process-not-event” of Scottish self-determination, we have seen innovation of this kind from the Labour Party in Scotland. Jim Sillars famously broke off from being a hammer of the Nats to found the Scottish Labour Party, and thence to the SNP itself (his old compadre in the SLP, Alex Neil, is now a well-behaved Enterprise Minister for the Scottish Government).
From the 80’s, the ginger-group Scottish Labour Action once contained both Wendy Alexander and Jack McConnell in its ranks. SLA produced confident pamphlets about Labour’s “home rule” traditions which envisaged much more “fiscal autonomy” than anything proposed by the Party at present. And of course, not forgetting the mavericks of old, like John McAllion, Dennis Canavan and (perhaps) Malcolm Chisholm, dormant volcanoes of “independent-mindedness” in the Scottish Labour party.
In this current vertiginous stage of the “process”, is Scottish Labour capable of the same kind of innovation? Certainly, if the Labour leadership line holds against constructing an answer to the SNP’s “Devo Max” proposition, Labour for Independence might become a necessity for some.