An English Labourman Speaks

One Nation Labour

Dave Cohen is an English Labour supporter and he’s come here to look for a genuine way forward that maximises Scottish autonomy.

Last summer in England, many Labour supporters were engaged and enthused by the independence campaign. It seemed to be coming from the same place that many of us had been trying to approach, only articulating our desires with a clearer voice. Sadly, it turns out not enough of us were listening properly.

I remember when I realised the Scottish Referendum would mean big trouble for UK Labour. David Cameron, the SNP’s biggest asset in their arguments for independence, had for eminently sensible reasons been kept about a million miles from the action. George Osborne had already made a few speeches, how Scottish independence would be a disaster for the Scottish economy, and the currency, and their tax revenues – but the entire UK has known for years that when it comes to economics, Osborne has no idea what he’s talking about. No one was going to take any notice of him.

Then in February 2014, Cameron decided he would have to make a speech. He outlined four reasons for the Union to stay together. His first was the one we heard a million times last year, that intangible link that y’know, just is, you can’t be independent because you haven’t been for more than 300 years.

The second was safer Cameron territory, where he talked about how the union was good for business, competing in world markets and so on. He said this was the least important reason but it was obviously the only one he genuinely believed.

Point three emphasised ‘our place in the world’, and it was here he paraded his familiar awe-full hyperbole about Britain in the UN, not forgetting our wonderful BBC, omitting how he and his friends at News International and the Mail have been actively attempting to kill it off for 35 years.
But all three of these, he continued, were less important than the biggie – “Our shared values. Freedom. Solidarity. Compassion.” In case you’re wondering what he meant by those classically Blair-like verbless sentences, he added:

“In this country, we don’t walk on by when people are sick, when people lose work, when people get old. When you talk about an Englishman, a Welshman, a Scotsman, a Northern Irishman it might sound like the beginning of a bad joke but here it’s how we started our NHS, our welfare system, our state pension system. And these values aren’t trapped in the pages of a history book – they are alive.”

He ended with a burst of pure Cameronese – English people, you don’t have a vote, but do me a favour and phone your Aunty Morag in Morningside and urge her to stay in the union – that offered the clearest insight into his patronising view of the plucky wee Scots, and was up there with the kind of folksy hug-a-husky Big Society waffle he no longer has an Andy Coulson figure to restrain him from.

This cavalcade of drivel provided Labour with the perfect opportunity to put their case for the union, an open invitation to stay part of Better Together, while being able to tear into the astonishing hypocrisy of the man whose party fought against the NHS, welfare system and state pensions right up to the point they happened. And who spends every day as Prime Minister shrinking the state, privatising the NHS and demonising the poor, but here champions the things he despises as the best reason for the union. The message was clear: ‘if you want the NHS, welfare and pensions, stay in the union – but if you want to keep them, kick Cameron out in May 2015.’

I’m not saying that response would have dissuaded many ‘yes’ voters, but it would at least have allowed Scottish Labour a way back into the debate, freed from the Westminster death grip. Instead, there was only silence.

I’m not an expert on the Scottish Labour party, but I do know their default mode has for many years been a negativity of the type you get from people who’ve been in power for too long – ‘vote for me because the alternative is too scary to contemplate’ – and the events of the next few months seemed to bear out their thinking on independence: keep playing on fears, keep scaremongering, fingers crossed.

All this time, Ed Miliband had been painstakingly rebuilding Labour, turning it into a modern social democratic party. Leading by example, Miliband had offered us glimpses of what the party could become: he broke with more than 30 years of Labour consensus, daring to attack Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and big energy firms. He refused to back Cameron’s slavish plans to join America in the bombing of Syria, and successfully distanced the party from their disastrous Iraq jaunt.

Meanwhile he was encouraging Jon Cruddas to develop a blueprint for Labour, a new philosophy, passionate and poetic, involving the genuine decentralising of power including local credit unions, devolution of government and taxes to local communities, and an end to the old Labour ways of ‘command and control.’

The problem with politics is that the leader is always balancing long-term ideals with the everyday banalities of the political agenda. While Ed was patiently allowing new ideas to flourish, nervous northern MPs talked of the threat of Ukip and the need to sound tough about immigration. While he was properly working out how to run an economy without sticking to the Tory rules of austerity, members of the Shadow Cabinet were panicking at the ‘traps’ George Osborne was setting.
And in Scotland, people were doing something I’d never seen in my lifetime – talking openly, to each other and to strangers, about the political future of their country. This should have been the point at which Labour joined in, and most of us in English Labour were jumping at the chance to do so.
Instead all we heard was more negativity, anger at the SNP for daring to be more popular than Labour, and Alistair Darling sounding indistinguishable from Osborne, Clegg and at one point, God help us, Farage. The momentum that carried Labour to several big council victories in parts of the country in May 2014 began to stall. It wasn’t enough to be battling the Tories, and Ukip and the media, Ed was now fighting the panickers in his party, and losing.

September’s ‘no’ vote offered Labour another chance to engage with the people of Scotland. Surely even they understood that 45% of a massive turnout is not a defeat. Instead they engaged with Cameron and his equally stupid speech the day after the referendum. There was no need to rise to the bait, it was nonsense and should have been ignored. “David this isn’t about you,” we should have said, “it’s about two progressive parties desperate for constitutional change working out new terms of agreement.”

I apologise for raking over old stories that you lived through and are still fighting with. I mention them not because I intend to wag my finger and tell you sternly that if you vote for the SNP the Tories will get in (irrelevant), but because I come to you as an ordinary Labour voter, for advice. In terms of political debate, Scotland is so far ahead of England at the moment it’s almost embarrassing.

If we can ignore Scottish Labour (well, most of you appear to be doing that anyway), the rest of UK Labour at the moment stands where I would say the SNP were at the start of 2014. Most people were sympathetic to them, but their opponents continued to enjoy all the advantages of a pliant media and the arrogance that power can offer, and people were not quite ready at that point to commit to voting yes.

So I ask you, in all seriousness, what on earth did you do? How did you open the debate in such spectacular fashion? How did you engage people and develop such a positive attitude towards new ideas, how did you circumvent the mass of finance and power pitted against you?

I want to know because I honestly believe such a debate would allow the thousands of Labour supporters knocking on doors throughout the UK to talk about so much more than saving the NHS and not cutting services as gleefully as the coalition. And you may think I’m being stupidly naive here, but I ask you to indulge that for a moment and remember, back in early 2014, a Labour majority at Westminster with or without Scottish representation was still talked of as a possibility.

Of all the outcomes on May 7, I would say the one that best suits everyone would be a Labour majority, plus a substantial SNP presence. Imagine Labour, freed from the baggage of slavishly backing austerity, committed to the Cruddas vision of devolving real significant powers across the UK, pioneering green technology, bypassing the huge banks to help the poor and cementing our place in Europe. Is that so far from your own vision of Scotland’s future?
You may say I’m a dreamer. Please make me be not the only one.

Comments (118)

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  1. A well written piece but unfortunately I disagree with your conclusion.

    I for one hope there is no party with a majority. I hope for coalitions through “supply and confidence” deals. The two party system is what got us into this mess in the first place

    So if you are genuinely asking why we are engaged then the answer is because we all believe we can make a difference and that the voting system employed in Holyrood is a vast improvement (although not perfect) on Westminster FPTP. No more one party or the other in power, its a combination of them all.

    1. Dave Cohen says:

      Thanks Stephen,

      I also would prefer coalitions, but Miliband wants to abolish FPTP, so hopefully this majority would be the last.

      1. David MacDonald says:

        Miliband does not want to abolish FPTP. it gives him 40-60% of the seats on 35% of the vote.

    2. Dave if you want Labour to move forward I think the 1st step is to change the candidate selection process. It is full of career politicians who’s main objective is their own personal fortune. Make sure you have people that understand what the party used to stand for, were respected in their community and had worked in the real world (not the stock exchange) for a minimum of 10 years. Then they have to listen to the people not dictate. 2nd they need to understand in this day and age things they say today will be compared to things they said 6 months ago and shared widely – not advisable to tell so many lies that are easily exposed.. 3rd bring so much terror to the establishment that through the MSM you and anyone who agrees are vilified on a daily basis. This makes people wonder why, then find out facts for themselves This has not been an SNP movement. I have never voted for them before (I am 54) but I will in May. They started the idea, but it’s the people who have made it grow. The SNP have listened, shown they are willing to adapt. I don’t agree with all their ideas but change needs to happen. The politicians should be afraid of the people, not the people afraid of the politicians. As someone else said, there are lots of groups like, Farming for Yes, Nurses for Yes, Firefighters for Yes. Someone else has listed some others. The list is huge, they have not died. For example. Shetlands for yes more that doubled their readers after the no vote. Change happens on the streets, pubs and in peoples home (these days on the internet). Have you ever thought that if Westminster was not seen as so corrupt and self-serving (add in the House of Lords) would Scotland want to go it alone? The MSM go on about the SNP’s hatred for the English. Just another lie in a vast pile which have all been noted. May I also say thanks to Wings over Scotland. Good luck, but I think it’s time for a new party in England which is for the majority not the minority.

    3. Malcolm McMillan says:

      I too disagree with Dave!

      “Dave Cohen is an English Labour supporter and he’s come here to look for a genuine way forward that maximises Scottish autonomy.”

      I take people at face value until proven otherwise.

      The opening salvo above suggests Dave is open minded and well intentioned, but break the quote down –

      1. “he’s come here” – sounds like a fact finding mission that those running empire 200 years ago would have undertaken to far flung countries – we know how that ended up, smiles, glass beads, bullets and then rule at the point of a gun. Dave this is 21 century, westminster stinks and labour is rotten to the core!

      2. “genuine way” – what other way would there be? That this has to be stated causes me to be more cautious. Assume this also means that Dave believes the british parties and state have not been genuine to date regards Scotland.

      3. “maximises Scottish autonomy” – we’ve gone past that stage. Dave needs to concentrate on how he can ensure (once labour north and south of borders gets its act together) as Scots near independence that there is a smooth transition and we are not being kicked out like a dog in the night!

      Dave sees the tories as Scotland’s enemy, 30 years ago this was the case, we did something about it and kicked them out. BUT, out with our gift is how the English people will vote, so we vote labour and get tory. The tories are an irrelevance at the ballot, to be pitied more than despised. tories in 2015 are the red tories who participated in BT.

      In parallel over the past 30 years, labour have focused on the SE English electorate to get elected, this failed until blair steered labour right of centre. Roll on the sleeze of Central belt labour, its unholy relationship with Scottish media, basic incompetence, lies / broken promises, poor candidates and policies that do not resonate with Scottish people!

      Enter Rachel Reeves (Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so not a junior MP) her disgusting comments this week – “labour do not want to be seen as the party of the welfare state, nor do labour wish to be seen as the party who represent people on benefits or who are out of work”! Are you proud of Rachel comments, Rachel being hand pick by Ed Miliband!

      As an interested observer Dave, you are probably of the opinion that the labour party delivered devolution, if you had been here, you would have realised that the SNP were the only people on the ground for the 1997 referendum and senior labour figures were then as they are now luke warm if not hindrances to the process.

      I would ask you Dave to reconsider whom you think is the main enemy of Scotland, but more importantly what have you, the labour party or England to gain by being obstacles to Scotland becoming independent?

      Malcolm McMillan

  2. Is this a wind up?

    I think the shallow “… and successfully distanced the party from their disastrous Iraq jaunt” phrase sums up the mentality of the article.

    Is it a “jaunt”* to participate in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians? Having encouraged and participated in an illegal war is it really so easy to “distance” yourself from the aftermath?

    This kind of belief system allows a person to accept just about anything. To simply move on without any deep thinking, reflection or change.

    * “Jaunt”
    a short excursion or journey made for pleasure.

    go on a short journey for pleasure.

    1. Dave Cohen says:

      Murray McCallum I was attempting to convey the sense of how the Iraq war was played out by New Labour. I can see now why you attributed the word to my point of view. Apologies for the poor phrasing.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        I liked the idea of your article but as you’ll see, Labour is the walking dead in Scotland. Just think about this:

        A fifth of current Scottish Labour MSPs are related or married to a past or present Labour representative. The most common previous job of new Scottish Labour MPs elected in the past decade is working in the office of a Scottish Labour MP. Labour in Scotland is an incestuous entitled clique.

        Labour launched the Iraq and Afghan wars, cosied up to big business, did light touch regulation of the banks, introduced tuition fees, introduced privatisation to the NHS, saddled our children with debt for building public buildings at 5 times their cost through PFI…..need I go on?

        The YES campaign was vibrant because a million and half people genuinely believed that it was THEIRS. Each individual genuinely owned the idea of a future Scotland based on a progressive and inclusive politics. Their were more than a million and a half advocates for their own future. People acted on the world rather than be acted upon.

        My advice to you if you wan to achieve this type of idea in England? Stamp on the privileged rotting corpse of the Labour Party, put a stake through its heart and make sure it never rises again.

      2. Corporatist Hell says:

        “Labour in Scotland is an incestuous entitled clique”.

        A bit of pot / kettle / black there, but I take your point.

        “Labour … did light touch regulation of the banks”

        Er, and the SNP were all in favour of that pre-2008, if anything they were in favour of even lighter regulation “Celtic Tiger / Arc of Prosperity / RBS Abn Amro, letters from Alex to Fred Goodwin ‘go for it / Yours, for Scotland, Alex’ etc.

        “introduced privatisation to the NHS”

        Revisionism – the Conservatives did that, Labour embedded and expanded it, Foundation trusts etc.

        (In no way am I trying to defend the Labour Party here, just pointing out some double standards and inaccuracies)


        Yeah. I was involved in some of those myself. I imagine I’ll spend at least some time in hopefully some of the upper circles of hell for that.

        “Each individual genuinely owned the idea of a future Scotland based on a progressive and inclusive politics”

        You don’t and can’t know that. It’s just as likely that many people voted Yes because (as per ‘SCOTLAND’S FUTURE’ they would be getting a liberal economic utopia in some skimpy but attractive social democratic knickers, that they be unthreatened by / would have the opportunity to enrich themselves in.

        (Other people thought they would be getting a socialist utopia, etc. etc. etc.)

        “Stamp on the privileged rotting corpse of the Labour Party, put a stake through its heart and make sure it never rises again.”

        I live in England – Dave, if you or anyone else is up for this, I’ll happily join you.

    2. If you had bothered to read the comment you would have known that this has had a sincere apology.

  3. Doug Daniel says:

    “So I ask you, in all seriousness, what on earth did you do? How did you open the debate in such spectacular fashion? How did you engage people and develop such a positive attitude towards new ideas, how did you circumvent the mass of finance and power pitted against you?”

    It’s quite simple. We had something tangible to fight for, something that was actually within our grasp, and which was straightforward enough for people to understand. It touched people on an emotional level, and most importantly, it was a fundamental change – you don’t capture the imagination by tinkering around the edges a bit. It needs to be something so big that people will give up all their free time to fight for it.

    But it was also 80 years (at least) in the making. There’s no short-cut – although there might have been if we’d voted Yes and forced a proper rethink about how rUK was configured…

    You’re not going to get any of that with the current Labour party. You need a party that isn’t wedded to the idea of the British state, because it is the British state machinery that is at the heart of everything that is wrong, corrupt and sick about the UK.

    Until progressive voices in England face that reality, that the Labour party are part of the problem rather than the solution, you will make no progress whatsoever.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Well argued and spot on Doug!

  4. I believe I’m right in saying the groundswell of political activism didn’t come from the SNP, but from independent activists who united around a common Yes platform. It was the SNP who were the main beneficiaries of this, along with the Scottish Greens and the SSP and the Scottish CND, but it wasn’t started by them.

    I think the small size of Scotland and its population acted favourably for this grass-roots movement. It’s hard to imagine such a passion spreading through the larger population of England, though I hope I’m wrong.

    It was also because the message and the aim were clear and concise. Not everyone in the Yes camp agreed what an Independent Scotland should look like politicially (though there was an astonishing amount of consensus even so) but we agreed that there should be an Indepedent Scotland nevertheless.

    Maybe what England needs is a extra-political-party cause that transcends posturing. I’m not sure what you’re after can be initiated within the context of party politics – though it would benefit it and the supporters would (hopefully) fall within the camps of a range of progressive parties in England.

    Time to start building Yes for England? Get your best progressive thinkers going, your best orators, rabble rousers on the case, throw out the party handbook, forget what you think you can do given the constraints of blah blah blah. Just do it.

    1. Anton says:

      There already is a “Yes for England”. It’s called UKIP.

      1. Adam says:

        I’m not sure racism, xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance are really the model you want to be adopting to engender meaningful, progressive change, Anton.
        UKIP might well pick up protest votes from left-leaning individuals, but they’re so right-wing if they were a plane they’d be doing barrel rolls.

      2. lawrenceab says:

        Oh please lah! (as we say in Malaysia… 🙂

        England can do better than UKIP in the search for its soul. Well,I hope so! C’mon.

        Paulmilnepoetry is right. You need to transcend parties (as Yes did in Scotland) and unite around a cause.

        There are a few green shoots – for eg. I noticed a new website ‘’….They want self-government for the northern counties and have been inspired by what happened across the Border.

        What you need is a country-wide English movement to wrest power from Westminster and its terminally corrupted elite. (I mean, who can take this 30year and going strong paedophilia horror story without gagging?). It could take the form of a coalition of regional movements demanding a federal solution so that – I am just hypothesizing – an upper chamber replaces the useless HoL but has real power, like you cannot pass a budget or declare a war without the regional chamber’s approval. Then you can move on to significant decentralization, as happens v successfully in Switzerland. (No-one can even remember who the President of Switzerland is in any given year but the country seems to work just fine without Presidential strutting, because a lot of the powers that matter are held right down at cantonal and municipal level.)

        For Scotland I fear all that is too late. There was a chance. If Miliband had had the courage of his convictions, he could have clearly demarcated Labour’s position from that of the Tories way back in 2012, and held out a Labour vision of a constitutional convention, to create a federal UK where Scotland, Wales and English regions have voice and power. Instead he just cozied up to the Tories and you backed their worst scare-mongering stunts. Miliband threatened to put in your Labour manifesto a formal pledge that Scotland will never be allowed to use Sterling! Leaving aside the merits or not of currency union (I for one am not convinced we never needed the £), how crass and disrespectful of Scots is that? Really, you slept with the Tories for three years and then claim to be dismayed to find you have a serious dose of the clap?

    2. Dave Cohen says:

      Thanks Paul, that’s a great idea.

  5. goldenayr says:

    Dear Dave Cohen
    Simple answer about how the conversation was engaged.We were kicked in the nads so often by Westminster parties the grumbling became a roar in 2011.That momentum,when we realised there was an alternative,swelled our ranks.Those of us who called for change were no longer “weirdos” with daft ideas above their station.We were the voice of reason and the alternative people were looking for.
    Sad to tell you this but it was your party and its arrogance that was the catalyst.Its why you’re seeing so many turn to UKIP.Milliband might have vision and purpose in your eyes.But I suspect for the vast majority of voters in England,he’s just another posh boy talking ephemeral concepts.
    If you want to galvanise the labour vote.Find a message you know will resonate.It might be unpalatable for you but as far as I can tell from comments online.The one thing that will get them talking is federalism.Once you start a conversation just be sure you keep control of the main message.Leave everything else to those who carry the banner.Let the people decide direction.If you control too much,you’ll lose.
    Oh,one more thing.Find anyone but your front bench to articulate it.
    You’ll need someone the people can trust and put their belief in,a figurehead if you will.
    Good luck with England.You’ve lost Scotland.

    1. Dave Cohen says:

      Thanks goldenayr

      Am flattered you call it ‘my’ party. I only rejoined a few years ago. And genuinely, I’mnot seeing many Labour people turning to Ukip. The posh boy jibe works on Miliband partly because the party gets jittery when he talks about himself as second generation immigrant. He would possibly lose some votes for that but personally I wouldn’t want to be in a party that tolerates such an attitude.

      1. goldenayr says:

        A political party belongs to its members,not its leaders.So it is your party.And that’s not why the posh boy jibe works.
        Its because there are few in labour that have done anything more manual than open the marmalade jar.

  6. Murray McCallum says:

    Is this a wind up?

    I think the particularly shallow phrase “… and successfully distanced the party from their disastrous Iraq jaunt” sums up the mentality of the entire article.

    Is it a “jaunt” to encourage, organise and participate in the illegal invasion of a country that results in the death of hundreds of thousands innocent civilians? Is it really so easy to be “successfully distanced” from such a grotesque stain on democracy by simply electing a new leader and making a few speeches? I don’t think so.

    Some of us aren’t quite as willing to participate in such a happy-clappy, control-alt-delete mindset. There seems to be a total lack of self-awareness in the Labour Party.

    By the way. “Jaunt” definition:
    a short excursion or journey made for pleasure.
    go on a short journey for pleasure.

  7. Pam McMahon says:

    You need some socially-just policies which do not exclude the working class for being unemployed and disabled (Rachel Reeves) and you need a stranglehold on the BBC and print media, as the Labour party in Scotland currently has.

    Unfortunately, the Labour party is seen as the shadow face of the Tory party now – same policies, same mindset, same troughers, same rewards for toeing the establishment line.
    The Labour party is a deid craw, having flown with the Westminster flock for too long, and abandoned the nestlings in their heartland.

    We already know that, here in Scotland. You have a rude awakening coming to you down south.

    1. Dave Cohen says:

      Thanks Pam,

      As I say in the article, and as happened in Scotland, you don’t need a biased media to get your message across.

      I agree that the party is seen as ‘having flown with the Westminster flock too long’ – except for those moments when Miliband takes on the people Labour cosied up to for so long, and there’s a genuine sense of excitement (plus an increase in popularity).

  8. Corporatist Hell says:

    Loads I could counter here, but starter for ten:

    “committed to the Cruddas vision of devolving real significant powers across the UK”

    What chance does that vision have of being implemented though? On devolution / decentralisation or whatever you want to call it, Ed Balls has said ‘OK, but we will go at the pace of the slowest’.

    What use is that? Here in Greater Manchester, Labour (as in the Labour Party in the national / London-centric / Metro elite PPE degree crowd bubble sense) are increasingly seen as part of the problem, not the solution.

    Totally agree on the state of the political debate point – even politics.

    Related – look at Manchester itself, look at some of the MPs – Graham Stringer, Lucy bloody Powell – I mean, really? Vice-chair of their General Election campaign? She can’t even remember her parties own policies or key messages – if you can’t remember them, write them down.

    There are problems on the horizon for the GM ‘project’ around democratic deficit; in many ways its been technocratic thus far (though cross party MPs have been able to get together and agree on things that will benefit GM and put the party politics to one side)

    But I can’t see Labour even pretending to deliver Cruddas’ ‘vision’. They cannot resist the urge and temptation to centralise, and they will … I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they even try to reverse the devolution commenced in GM, even if its just out of spite because Osborne agreed to it. Becoming a bit of trend with the Labour Party, spite, isn’t it?

    1. Dave Cohen says:

      Thanks for that. I understand your misgivings. But I am, as I say, a dreamer. Cruddas’s vision is a powerful one, and it’s out there. We can all give examples of poor politicians, and lousy politics – but just because the Greens have done so badly in control of Brighton doesn’t make me no longer believe in the best of their policies.

      1. Annette says:

        I am given to understand that the Greens could have done a lot better in Brighton if they had not been spitefully undermined by Labour supporting the Tories.

    1. Dave Cohen says:

      Thanks Peter. I look forward to more of your excellent blogs.

      1. lawrenceab says:

        Yeah. I think we are giving Dave a hard time here!

        Wish you luck in mobilizing the progressive elements in Labour but I think, as I posted earlier, that you need to escape the straitjacket of party altogether and fan the flames of regional movements England-wide to wrest power from Westminster.

  9. ecruden says:

    I really think it was quite simple. The people were allowed to discuss and the many voices of discussion simply found and connected with others’ voices. The Westminster/Banker/Media agenda was so obviously, hilariously, breathtakingly biased that people turned off from it quite early and the only voices that mattered any more were each others’.

    Labour’s serious problem is communication. They just don’t do it. They think they do. But one way communication is not communication, that’s why there’s a “com” in the word. Getting some focus group to move policy a millimetre’s distance away from a Conservative policy and then telling their own party members what the line is is not communication, it’s dictation. And it’s not even impressive dictation; it’s vacuous because it is based on nothing. This means that by the time they’ve reached near an election they have a big nothing to tell (that word again) the electorate and they’re reduced to blackmailing them.

    The SNP, under Sturgeon, have simply listened to the narratives of the many-branched multiple trees of the Yes movement and said enough bits and pieces of them back to the people and the people have responded. THAT is communication. Who does Labour listen to?

    Labour can’t communicate because they are terrified that if they do (with the people who are their genuine core vote, the working classes) they will have some Michael Foot-esque disaster. What’s tragic about this is that this is a Conservative narrative – “The Longest Suicide Note in History” etc. They’re haunted by that. Why? Ok, the media demolished you because of it. Would they do the same now? Probably, so forget them. Distance yourself from them! Give the people the tools and listen to them. They want the pain to stop. They’ll tell you that. Because newspapers tell idiots your leader looks like an Aardman animation doesn’t mean you should kowtow to them, the newspapers or the idiots.

    Labour’s historical mistakes are its own, not the people’s. Dare to trust the people!

  10. Good piece, really interesting to hear this perspective from south of the Border. There are others more eloquent about the machinery which brought us to where we are, and you have confirmed what I suspected, that Scotland is far ahead of England, but the referendum was the catalyst.

    People were learning slowly and piecemeal, and perhaps about 3 months before the vote, learning, activity was at breakneck speed. Folk like me were arguing on line until 2am on a regular basis, debating, and sharing info etc. because at that point, the fight to convert and persuade was on. Every single day, it was refuting the latest lies – too wee, too stupid etc

    It was a huge grassroots of people giving their canvassing time free in a huge variety of ways, and of course a great deal of those people, like me, are still working, just slightly differently organised, as I’ve joined SNP.

    Just as a general comment about Labour. The loathing that Scots feel for them in this country is irreversible. It would only come, IMO, in a generation, with new people, and they would have to work at building up the party again. Trust has been absolutely destroyed here. Whatever you do, hold your elected member to account. Demand the best from them in all aspects.

    Although people like me have joined SNP, we won’t sit back. SNP will be held to account, so in that respect they have a tough gig, but that is as it should be.

    1. Malcolm McMillan says:

      V wrote:

      “Although people like me have joined SNP, we won’t sit back. SNP will be held to account, so in that respect they have a tough gig, but that is as it should be.”

      This is key!

      Yes the SNP must be held to account, I think in Nicola that we have a smart cookie who will ensure that this is the case. Her condemnation in Parliament yesterday was indication of this! Rightly, short term discomfort for doing the right thing quickly, but being seen to do it by the people!

      Contrast this with labour who would have reserved judgement until they had an inquiry and fudged outcome.

      labour have forfeited its right to be trusted to hold the SNP to account, we see this in Miliband’s “Weaponising of the NHS” being adopted by labour in Scotland (& bbc colleagues).

      Lastly, I too share your view of the labour party. I like many in the nationalist moverment were soft on labour for years. But there behaviour of the past 10 years and their glee at jumping into bed with the tories and selling their country down the river will never be forgotten!

      Dave has probably had his eyes opened, too late for him or his party

      Malcolm McMillan

    2. YESGUY says:

      Bang on the money valerierooney.

      Much of what’s been said by the commenters is good. Doug Daniel mentioned reasons and the emotional element was a biggie.

      People spoke together, keeping things simple and we grew . slowly to start with but eventually gathering enough steam to scare the hell out of WM.

      We looked around us and asked , are we proud of this country with foodbanks ? benefit sanctions ? and our disabled being abused by the people who should have been there to support and protect the ? . Folk got angry and with no one listening a few started organising gatherings and boy the turnouts were staggering.

      We looked at our govt in Westminster cow towing to bankers and financers ignoring the needs of the voters. We knew a big change was due, no tinkering here and there.

      Biggest reason is we had the SNP. They acted as the political side. The YES movement represented the people.

      Unlike UKIP and the other ” protest parties” we had good leadership and a Scottish govt that ran our devolved services better than anything else on offer. Nearly 8 years in power and easily the most respected party in the UK , they will route Labour in the upcoming elections of 2015 and2016.

      Finally and easily the best bit about the whole YES campaign. Everyone had a voice, point of view or belief. We were inclusive. We had the same aim, Independence. That was the bottom line. The WM way was wrong and we needed change , real change.

      We lost the referendum by a small amount and no one, and i mean no one, gave up. We lost the battle but not the war. We kept talking.

      Labour are despised here now. We cannot give you advice on how to make Labour votable as they have sickened many and we only want the party to die. My advice is to start a new inclusive movement in England with ideas to change the political map . Work on a new union of independent states and work on our common issues. You’ll have huge support here in Scotland.

      You won’t find that with labour as they are part of the problem..

      I wish you all the luck in the world tho. And thank you for taking the time to show us your views.

  11. bjsalba says:

    The Labour party is not the way to go. It has sold its soul for a mess of pottage. It is the establishment elite to the core.

    What England needs is a new party, an organization that will represent people from Carlisle to Dover and Berwick to the Scilly Isles – not just within the M25 or the square mile.

    It needs a centrist party, not ideologically right, not ideologically left. A party that has objectives for the benefit of the majority, not an ideology for the benefit of an elite few. A party that understands that U-turns are perfectly acceptable if your first method does not achieve the desired result.

    You will have to do it for yourselves. The best time to get started is now.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      Such a new party also needs to treat England as a nation as a nation (you know, like Scotland or Wales), and not plan to govern us as a bunch of ersatz regions that almost nobody outside the political class wants.

    2. Corporatist Hell says:

      “England needs is a new party, an organization that will represent people from Carlisle to Dover and Berwick to the Scilly Isles – not just within the M25 or the square mile. ”

      That will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The hard reality is that what for example a low / medium skilled public sector worker or manual private sector worker living in the North; and what ‘mondeo man’ in middle england / homes counties wants, are very different. The former wants ‘left’ centre left or social democracy; the latter wants low taxes, small state and minimal interference.

      in fairness, one of Blair’s successful tricks was to capture the votes of both of these groups with a sell of ‘progressiveness’ that convinced man in the north that he was on his side, and mondeo man that he wasn’t ‘the looney left’ and that he wasn’t a threat to him.

      I don’t think anyone could pull the same trick twice, not now.

      I think england needs new parties; for the existing parties to fracture into two or more pieces, and new ones to emerge. (and no, that does not include ‘a syriza’ or ‘a podemos’)

      The european country that the UK is most like culturally and economically is actually Germany.

      I think the German model of leftwards / rightwards shifting coalitions as needs must / voters see fit as is seen in Germany could be a solution for the UK (or rUK if Indyref 2 is going to be in 2021 if not sooner) alongside decentralisation, possibly on city-region level a la Manchester.

      “A party that understands that U-turns are perfectly acceptable if your first method does not achieve the desired result”

      You mean like the SNP, with cuts to corporation tax one day, and ‘an end to austerity’ the next? With freedom and liberty one day, and ‘state guardians for every child’ and holding increasing amounts of data about every citizen the next?

      Like that you mean?

    3. Kevrenor says:

      Berwick really should be returned to Scotland, and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly are not England! What you do with England itself is up to you lot upcountry!

  12. Drew Campbell says:

    I’m a former Labour activist and not a nationalist but voted Yes, so let me explain to Dave Cohen – who seems genuine enough – just why his party is not worthy of support, far less a majority at Westminster.

    1) The Blair/Brown Labour Governments were neo-liberal, authoritarian, war-mongering disasters.

    New Labour prosecuted neo-liberal economics unapologetically and with gusto, introducing its skewed logic even to public services, notably the internal market ot the NHS and preparing Royal Mail for its sell off under this Government.
    – Labour courted the City, soliciting donations and maintaining “light touch” regulation – i.e. turning a blind eye to the deeply corrupt and nihilistic practices. When the crash came – predicted by many, despite Gordon’s continual denials of that fact – his solution was to bail them out but not take true ownership or control (a Labour dream since its foundation) and to protect the perpatrators of industrial scale larceny and fraud.
    – Labour piloted the bedroom tax and raided pensions funds with little consideration for the consequences to individuals or the economy now reaping the whirlwind.
    – Labour colluded in the greatest imperial folly in post-war British history, costing tens of billions of pounds and upwards of a million lives. Oh, and precipitating the civil war, terror and chaos now engulfing Iraq and Syria.

    Ed’s mealy-mouthed apologies have been constrained by his own culpability as much as the conintuing influence of Brown and Blair and their inheritors Balls and Umunna.

    2) Labour doesn’t want an “open debate”

    Along with too much baggage from the points above, Labour North & South of the border have absolutely no desire to engage with hoi polloi. They don’t even know how to any more. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re repelled by people on low incomes, earned or unearned.

    Back in 2012 Labour had a golden opportunity to “open up the debate in such a spectacular fashion.” They could have defined a ‘Devo Max’ position and amended the Referendum Bill in the Scottish Parliament to include this, then campaign for it as “The Labour Option”. That would have won that referendum hands down, and rebuilt the party’s dying support in Scotland.

    Across the rest of the UK it could have built a campaign around genuine democratic reform – abolishing the Lords and replacing it with a chamber representing all the constituent parts of the UK, championed a Scottish-style system of PR for Westminster elections, enfranchised 16 & 17 year-olds, built a grassroots movement for regional and/or city assemblies across England, led on reforms to press and media ownership (on the back of Leveson), set out radical reforms to political party funding based on state matching (audited, verifiable) membership receipts. They could have set the agenda and rode the wave of a resurgence in Scotland all the way down through the North of England and into the Southern Tory heartlands.

    Instead they collaborated with the Tories to ‘weaponise’ the referendum to kill nationalism and ended up scribbling “Home Rule!” on the back of fag packet as Cameron hatched his plan to stitch them up once and for all with EVEL.

    They could have talked about investing in a 21st-century economy, creating credible apprenticeship alternatives instead of the all-consuming university path dicatated, and taken banks and railways into public ownership. Instead it’s been supporting the Tory austerity cuts, renewing Trident, backing the bedroom tax, and generally appeasing the Tory press when there was an open goal to fire a great debate across the UK, harnessing the growing disgust and discontent with the entire Establishment.

    Timidity and expediency was only part of it, however. The real issue is this: The Labour Party is not and never has been socialist (to paraphrase Tony Benn).

    3) Labour are NOT where the SNP were at the start of 2014

    Since Blair tempted the party to sell its soul in ’94, Labour is a no more than a husk, a brand name at best, populated by careerists who have no roots, no principles that mean anything to ordinary people. Internally they are so venal, so craven and so corrupted they cannot unite around anything but tribal hatred for the thing they used to be; Scottish Labour hate the SNP in a way they could never muster for the Tories even when Thatcher was at her height. In Scotland that has perverted every decision for the past three decades and this, Dave, is where it has led.

    In the death rattle voices of Murphy, Brown & Labour’s you would need to be deaf and daft not to hear the visceral hatred of “the Nats” that has perverted the devolution settlement from the outset and led directly to the present situation. Declarations like “the settled will of the Scottish people” and “we will not create a shibboleth for the nationalists” (John Smith and Donald Dewar respectively) and more particularly George Robertson’s “Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead” betrayed the real agenda – Scotland and its Parliament was to be Labour’s fiefdom where they would rule for evermore. Like Glasgow and all the councils of West Central Scotland a corrupt, incompetent and self-serving group of monkeys with red rosettes would fill their boots, throw crumbs from the table and reduce any political discourse into sneering and vicious personal assault. Gerrymandering, vote-rigging and cronyism would be the order of the day and all the days into the future. Happy days

    I’m a Green, not SNP but let me explain something very few down south seem to grasp: The SNP are principled and clean. Its dominance may lead it to the hazards of a one-aprty state that snared Labour but for now they are demonstrably more principled than anything – anything – Labour can offer.

    This is because each and every one of the SNP leadership, for all their faults and shortcomings, joined the party more than 20 years ago out of principle and a belief in a cause that was little more than a fringe. They worked with virtually no prospect of holding elected office or personal gain, and they maintained discipline because they knew their manifesto was so dangerous to powerful vested interests in the UK that even the slightest whiff of taint would be the end of them.

    Contrast that with the corrupt cronyism of Labour in Scotland, rotten to the core with unprincipled careerists and a vicious culture of bullying and intimidation I have experienced first hand.

    4) Labour will die in Scotland, its birthplace, and Scotland shall not mourn.

    Last October they could have been bold and lived up to their fag packet “Vow” by working with the SNP, Liberals and the Greens to secure a genuinely worthwhile advance of powers. Instead they chose to be the most grudging in devolving any further powers, even torpedoing previously agreed and crucial points in the last 48 hours before announcement, then tried to sell us the resulting runtish pup through their Scottish mouthpiece, the Daily Record.

    Labour is tribal for a brand name. Their arrogance and contempt for anyone outwith their tribe causes them to underestimate people and distorts their every calculation. Well, they’ve triangulated themselves into a neo-liberal nightmare and, I hope, deserved and permanent oblivion.

    A few years ago Margaret Thatcher said her greatest achievement was Tony Blair and New Labour – “We forced our opponents to change.” Earlier this week Rachel Reeves declared the Labour Party as not there to represent the people on benefits. They’re both right, of course, but it does beg the question:

    Just what the fuck IS the Labour Party for?

    1. Andrew Brown says:

      Drew, I was going to add my tuppenceworth but you’ve just put what I would’ve said much more succinctly and eloquently than I ever could. Spot on analysis.

    2. Juteman says:

      Superb reply, Drew.
      It deserves wider attention.

      1. Valerie says:

        The best example of SNP principle is when either Wishart or Robertson said, I long for the day when I’m redundant. They see it as going home – job done.

    3. John Rattray says:

      Agree with everything you say , this is a comment that Dave Cohen should really take time to contemplate as it is the reality of what is happening, and will continue with the power of the people proving mightier than the established media which continues to embarrass itself with its servitude towards the Westminster buffoons who act so ridiculously childish each week at PMQ’s

    4. Annette says:

      Very well said. And a good point about the SNP. Like you, I’m a Greenie and therefore much further left than the SNP, but I see them as our allies, because they have what all the Westminster parties lack: integrity.

    5. MBC says:

      Hear, hear, you said the truth.

      We in Scotland became progressively sickened by Labour during the Wilderness Years as we call them (1979-1997) when we voted Labour in increasing numbers when England voted Tory (at least, under the FPTP system) to the point that by the 90s we had voted in 50 Labour MPs out of our allotted 70-odd, (as was, in those days), yet what did they do for us? Zero. Not a cheep out of them. The most desperate things were happenning in Scotland, the miners’ strike, the privatisation of nationalised industries, the loss of Ravenscraig, the theft of our oil, the suppression of the McCrone report, the poll tax, yet where were Labour?

      The SNP called them, ‘the feeble fifty’ and they were right. It was at that point the worm turned. OK, Labour were in opposition, and so out of government, but they were not out of the country. They could have still offered leadership, speeches, solidarity, campaigns, they could still have had some principle, back bone, and fire in their belly.

      But they sat tight, said nothing, did nothing, took their salaries – then abolished Clause 4. They did not fight Thatcher, they actually joined her revolution. They sold us out, good and proper. How can you possibly defend them? The party of Blair and Brown? You need a new party of the left.

      You must have a grass roots campaign of the kind of thing David Babbs at 38 degrees is organising, for the right to work, for the right to a decent wage and a decent house, the right to an NHS, to free university education, all guaranteed in a written constitution, abolition of the House of Lords and replacement with an elected Senate, and above all – proportional representation so that new parties of the left have some chance of emerging and gaining some traction.

      You must expose injustice, hypocrisy, and be really, really, angry about it.

      You must tell people to stop being slaves, that there is another way. If we fight and dream together for it. You must smash neoliberal shibboleths like ‘the market decides’ in favour of ‘the people decides’. The fight for justice must burn bright in you. You have grown dull with contentment. Maybe you haven’t suffered enough? Maybe being fracked will wake the English people up? When people see the truly ugly face of naked greed deface their lands, their air, their water, maybe then you in England will wake up from under this miasmic spell you’ve been under for the last 40 years?

      1. MBC, You have it in a nutshell. Great post.

    6. FrankM says:

      Excellent reply Drew.

    7. A solid, trenchant opinion; well expressed, although I think the Anglo-Saxonism in the last sentence was redundant. I am old-fashioned.

    8. muttley79 says:

      Drew, that is a superb post. Outstanding.

    9. SquirrelTowers says:

      Well said Drew, well said

    10. Jim Bennett says:

      Drew, Great stuff!

    11. YESGUY says:


      You have just become my most liked commenter,( sneaks past Doug Daniel by a whisker.) Brilliant comment.

      Dave, we really don’t have any time for Labour . Your wasting your energy supporting them. It;s a shame as you deserve more.

      Again Drew , brilliant stuff. 🙂

    12. lawrenceab says:

      Wow. Excellent response.

    13. JGedd says:

      Have you only recently started posting comments or is it that I have just started to notice you? Your recent posts here, including this one, have been excellent. I join the praise.

  13. John Page says:

    Was there hope that Scotland could be a better place? Safeguarding the NHS and banning WMD in a written constitution for a new nation that would be governed from the off in a radically different way from Westminster?
    I think you will have to find your own source of hope. I doubt you will find it in the Labour Party……I doubt you would have had your pink van if you had had anything as effective as WfI
    John Page

  14. Dan Huil says:

    “Imagine Labour, freed from the baggage of slavishly backing austerity, committed to the Cruddas vision of devolving real significant powers across the UK, pioneering green technology, bypassing the huge banks to help the poor and cementing our place in Europe. Is that so far from your own vision of Scotland’s future?”

    Well, you must have a hell of an imagination. Labour shows no sign of adopting these visions. Labour in Scotland were very keen to do the Tories’ dirty work during the referendum, yet now they want everyone in Scotland to forget about that. Get real. Vote SNP.

  15. CJK says:

    What galvanised Scotland was the binary nature of the referendum. Even though it was a no vote it built the much more believable articulation of politics within an independent nation compared to the archaic and grubby nature of Westminster. Dave you will get your chance to reform the labour Agenda when Scotland walks away from the rUK. Unfortunately the Englush left will not muster anything any sooner than that.

  16. Kenny says:

    “September’s ‘no’ vote offered Labour another chance to engage with the people of Scotland.”

    I don’t think you understand the role of the Labour Party in Scotland. The role is to act as a tool of the unionist establishment. Nothing less. If you do not understand that, then you cannot understand Scottish politics at all and why the Labour Party acts the way they do.

    By the way, if you want “old labour” policies, socialism, there are lots of fine alternatives in Scotland — SSP, Tommy Sheridan, Greens… Why would anyone even waste any time over Labour? Their new leader is even more right-wing than the Blue Tories.

    Anything else is naivety and wishful thinking.

  17. Dave Cohen says:

    Thanks for all your replies. They are genuinely appreciated. I’m going to have to write another piece to answer them.

    1. FrankM says:

      Thanks to you as well Dave for your original article and engaging us in this.
      Many people from various parts of rUK, such as Cornwall, the Dales, the Midlands and Wales, came up to support our efforts during the referendum and I made new friends from these areas. There are people down South who do want something different, but the Labour Party is NOT it. It cannot and will not change.
      Milliband has his work cut out with the careerist politicians he is surrounded with – people who are very unprincipled. I hope they have the audacity to appear at my door during their campaign. I am waiting to engage them.

      1. Annette says:

        Frank, this seems to be a wide-spread sentiment. I recently came to somebody’s door to pick up a member of the family for a meeting, and the person opening the door was dead disappointed it wasn’t SLabour canvassers. Me, I’m planning to call my kids and ask the canvassers to explain to them why we need weapons of mass destruction more urgently than schools and hospitals.

    2. muttley79 says:

      Dave, thank you for your thoughtful article. I think if Labour had offered a significant amount of more power to Holyrood, instead of campaigning together with the Tories, it would likely have won the day. They would have had to address the English Question as well, as it is the Tories seized the initiative with their policy of EVEL. To be more reactionary than the Tories on this issue shows the problems that are there.

    3. Heidstaethefire says:

      Good luck, pal.

    4. Alastair H says:

      Dave, you are to be congratulated for exploring these issues and I am sure that many in England who share your approach have been pondering the same questions.

      One thing that the London media entirely failed to grasp is that the Scottish focus has been on self-determination, no more, no less. We were told, even by commentators and editors who normally know better, that we were engaged in an atavistic nationalism or that this was all about a search for identity. Identity? Good grief, whether it’s Burns’ poetry, romantic landscapes, scientific invention or deep-fried Mars bars, the notion that we had an identity deficit was utter tosh.

      The starting point, I think, is that Scotland has a parliament, albeit one that we wish had more muscle. That in itself has enhanced our practical ability to influence our national direction. People realised that and saw that they liked it. What the Yes referendum campaign did was build on that good experience, though – as others have said – the foundations have been under construction for many, many years. We have had, and we continue to have, a lively, informed, passionate conversation about what sort of country we want to be. In a narrower, party sense, what current polling indicates is that the SNP’s success (shared, albeit with smaller numbers, by the Scottish Greens) has been to knit the strands of that vision and make from them a reasonably coherent manifesto. But of course the discussion in the run-up to the referendum engaged all sorts of folk who’d no connection with, and indeed no great affection for, the SNP. The debate was far bigger than one party; that was of the essence but, again, was sometimes wilfully misunderstood by the traditional media.

      The No campaign could have put forward a constructive alternative. It could have recognised the appetite for more autonomy and it could have created an alternative vision that would have delivered devo-max in Scotland (which would, according to the polls at the time, have satisfied a large majority of Scots). It could also have set that in the context of a federal UK, suggested that a federal solution was a sensible way forward for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and proposed a constitutional convention. It would have been perfectly possible to construct a plausible and attractive narrative along those lines. But instead, the No campaign embarked on Project Fear, and Labour – entirely complicit in that – was used by the Tory government to further its entirely cynical ends.

      In parentheses, it’s perhaps worth noting that, having been denied a devo-max option by Cameron, the Scottish Government’s white paper was far, far closer to a federalistic solution than it suited either the Yes or No campaigns to admit. I lost count of the number of cross-border links, compromises, joint arrangements and whatnots that it proposed, and the commentariat ought to have tumbled to all this when Scottish Ministers were so willing to admit that, yes, sharing the pound did involve a significant restriction on sovereignty. Big clue. But they didn’t and everybody kept believing or pretending that what was on offer was full independence.

      The difficulty in England seems to be that calls for English self-determination have come in the form of incoherent screams from the far right and the notion of an English nation has been seen in that light. Notwithstanding the antiquity of the West Lothian Question, I have a nagging sense that some in England assumed that they had a parliament, and it was really only when the issue crystallised in EVEL that they began to sit up and take notice. I don’t blame those who are not very politically engaged for thinking that; the media in England often presents Scotland as a foreign country with a lot of autonomy and it’s easy to imagine how complacency would set in.

      What of Labour’s potential for change? Tony Blair added a further shot of neoliberalism to add to the one administered by Thatcher. Fearing allegations of party division, Ed and Ed have shrunk from anything by way of a radical shift in direction and, whether or not with gritted teeth, have actively or passively supported welfare cuts and austerity. They have also completely failed to counter the Tories’ rewriting of history in relation to the responsibility for the national debt, which of course arose mostly because the Tories’ banking pals created a casino economy that had to be bailed out. In Scotland, Labour has often appeared willing to do anything, however reactionary, to spite the SNP. The Labour Party’s whole decision-making apparatus – once chaotically but endearingly democratic – has become increasingly managerial and remote. The conference is now as smoothly-run as the Tories’.

      None of this gives me any confidence in Labour’s ability to ask the fundamental question about the kind of country England should be. It seems to me that, at leadership level, they simply don’t have the wit, insight, courage or confidence to do so. Especially the courage: Ed Miliband was brave to take on Murdoch, but I suspect he and the party fear, above all, the Daily Mail.

      In any case, Dave – and this is where I suppose I challenge your basic premise – to believe that change should flow from one party is completely to misunderstand the nature of what happened in Scotland. It’s can’t be about a single party, or indeed about parties. (I think it was Annette who made this point earlier, and very well). There is a need to mobilise people at grass roots level and to set up fora for discussion, in the way that so many people and organisations in Scotland were either created or energised. Trying to do that when people have so little trust in most political parties is hardly likely to be successful.

      Rather than think in party terms, it would be worth exploring as a case study (say) the experience of National Collective, especially given the attacks on culture and the arts in England. But every other area can be explored on the same theme: what sort of country do we want in terms of health provision/transport/supporting the disadvantaged/equal opportunities/higher education/etc/etc.. There are Scottish exemplars in just about every area of life.

      Anyway, I wish you luck. And if we did end up in a federation, with mutual respect, a progressive agenda and no Trident, I’m one Scot who wouldn’t shed too many tears.

  18. macwhirter says:

    I agree with Paul Milne. The media tried to represent it as SNP and nationalism but it was a heart cry for justice and equality from people who began to wake up to the insidious neo-liberal stranglehold on the UK.
    Mums for yes, veterans for yes, farmers, artists, etc. thought they had a chance to do things differently.
    I knew the vote would be won or lost in London – that’s the power Westminster has – even down to their civil servants weighing in and abandoning impartiality.

    Here’s a thought – instead of Labour and SNP trying to agree on where their policies meet/how they can do a deal… why don’t they take a hard look at the population (and listen) and see where the greatest need is. Then agree on a way to meet that need. Politics is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around.

  19. lastchancetoshine says:

    “and successfully distanced the party from their disastrous Iraq jaunt.”

    That’s a mind boggling bit of self delusion, if there’s one thing that defines the Labour party over the last 3 decades it’s war (obviously we have other hang ups here as well) and it’s going to take an awful lot more than Ed can do to successfully distance the party from it.

    Little short of putting Blair and Straw in Jail will hide that stain.

  20. Th says:

    The people of Scotland have been woken up from the long slumber they have been in for years. They are fully engaged in the political process and see the SNP as the party for the people. Worst mistake Labour made was fixing a result that put a red Tory in charge of the Scottish Party. A career politition who knows nothing of hardship and has continually fed from the Westminster trough.As they say you reap what you sow and Labour in Scotland are finished after siding with the Tories in the Referendum. Brown and Darling both know this and that is why they are standing down as the people of Scotland will never forgive them for their betrial .

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      What do you mean, Murph knows nowt about hardship? He found it hard enough to study at uni, didn’t he?

      1. Dean, He so called studied for 8 years and left with nothing. all paid for by the state, But he thinks that today’s students should pay for their tuition. – Go figure!

  21. John says:

    I think you are wasting your time trying to convince us jocks that it is just labour in Scotland that are negative. Don’t you remember Ed telling us about the big wall he was going to build at the border to keep us out if we had the audacity to vote for independence? Didn’t you know that Lamont and other senior Scottish labour people ask him to stop showing his face in Scotland as it was helping the YES campaign? There is no such thing as Scottish Labour it is just Labour and they are finished in Scotland.

  22. Hilary Finch says:

    Over the last 8 years people have come to trust the SNP rather than Labour. SNP have conducted themselves well in the Scottish Parliament: free prescriptions, no tuition fees or graduate endowment tax, free care for the elderly within their own homes, a freeze on council tax, genuine commitment to NHS investment etc. We have learned that SNP can genuinely DELIVER and put people first, at the heart of government.
    These are the ideals of the old left, traditional Labour, which has long since disappeared…

  23. JGedd says:

    Such a good article and with such a good grasp of what went on in Scotland that it would be churlish to find disagreement. I would say to you though, one thing – if I were you, I wouldn’t have started from here.

    Unfortunately, the Labour party is so tainted by their recent history and their fond embrace of neoliberalism that they became toxic to many former Labour voters like myself in Scotland. There are so many Labour members of the Westminster Parliament and Holyrood, both past and present, that I can’t think of without loathing and too many to mention. Although the rot began before, I would still think of the advent of Tony Blair as the leader of the Labour party which marked the watershed. With him, it was then obvious how many careerists and entryists had secured advancement with him and whose New Labour project changed the party ineluctably into a travesty of what many of us wanted it to be.

    You obviously know your own country better than I do so it would be presumptuous to suggest what you could do about the present malaise of the Labour party. By that, I am not talking narrow nationalism. I believe that people are intrinsically the same, only circumstances make them different. And that is the point, I would think, England, with Wales, is just a bigger polity than Scotland and despite imbalance in the economy creating a North/ South divide, there doesn’t appear, as yet, a cohesive voice uniting the disenfranchised in the whole of England ( and so UKIP steps into the void.). It might be an idea to actually start with the grass roots, rather than top down change. Something like Radical independence might be the way to go.

    I would think that most people in Scotland experienced, as I did, the surge of political engagement as something wonderfully unexpected. Suddenly it seemed that flourishing around us was a movement which jaded old souls like myself had thought impossible. To encounter so many people who had the same feelings and ideas about a possible future for the society we lived in was energizing. It appeared that with one vote we could embark on something new, with many possibilities open to us and escape from the corrupt stranglehold of the Westminster establishment. It blossomed spontaneously and I would like to think that you could experience the same fresh engagement in England, but how it is created, I wouldn’t really know. Perhaps begin by jettisoning the barnacle-encrusted Labour party and embark on building a new party?

    Good Luck.

  24. Labour is dead

    Long live SNP.

  25. Hilary Finch says:

    Also, people genuinely HATE our country being dragged into illegal wars. Alec Salmond won many a heart and mind in Scotland when he stood up in the chamber in Westminster and told them they would answer to a higher power. Also, most of us do not want Trident renewal. WMDs on the Clyde are unacceptable. Furthermore, blatant ongoing corruption at Westminster, from 1980s pedophile ring (covered up) to tax evasion and bankers’ bonuses… Enough!

  26. Ben Donald says:

    Dear Dave Cohen – you’re clearly a decent and sincere person. Go back to Drew Campbell’s post above (17:47). Read, mark and inwardly digest.

  27. David,

    You’re like the captain of the Titanic, asking how to plot a new course to avoid disaster, as the third funnel slips under the waves. Your party hit the iceberg a long time ago.

    Listen to Ed Balls stating there is nothing in yesterday’s budget he would change…. is this indicative of the painstakingly rebuilt Labour Party of which you write.

    You won’t find solutions to Labour’s problems up here – try looking a bit closer to home, the Labour party HQ might be a good place to start.

    Maybe you just need to rephrase the question. Instead of wondering how Labour can rejoin there debate you might want to ponder ‘what are Labour for’?

    You ask us to “imagine Labour, freed from the baggage of slavishly backing austerity, committed to the Cruddas vision of devolving real significant powers across the UK, pioneering green technology, bypassing the huge banks to help the poor and cementing our place in Europe”.

    OK, or how about I imagine UKIP fighting for immigrants rights or St Johnstone winning the Champions League, both being more likely.

    Naive!! Which the f++king rock have you been living under for the past twenty years?

    Awa hame and prepare to grieve.

  28. arthur thomson says:

    Scotland will not progress meaningfully until the existing Scottish Labour Party is obliterated. It has for years degenerated to the point that it is no more than a protection racket that preys on the vulnerable and the poor. I am sorry if this offends those decent people who are and have been trying for years to change SLAB but it is time you stopped defending it and brought it to an end.

  29. … or to put it another way. You’re like a salesman wondering why nobody will buy your bottles of rancid racoon urine. The problem is your product, not our inability to imagine it’s lemonade.

  30. kininvie says:

    We had – and have – an idea which goes beyond party politics. Irrational, probably….mad, possibly, but one which united those of us who believed in it and compelled many previously uninterested people to join us.

    Until you find an idea like that, you won’t engineer change. Your model is the Suffragrettes or the Chartists, possibly even the Obama campaign – not the Labour party circa 2014…..

    You won’t find that idea inside a political party – Yes was never a party movement, despite what the MSM might claim….

    Many of us up here have been waiting for that old English radical streak to re-emerge. Is it cowed? Has it been spun away? What has gone wrong?

    Who will throw themselves under a racehorse for an idea these days?

  31. Annette says:

    Kudos to you, Dave, for approaching the topic in this open and honest manner. I agree, it would be wonderful if England could see the same level, the same quality of political engagement that Scotland has enjoyed since the referendum campaign took off. I am sure very many people in England would welcome that.

    I have some doubts about much of what you say, though. For a start, you make it seem as if the problem was only with Scottish Labour, as if Labour in England was all fine and dandy, full of Miliband’s great new ideas. Granted, I don’t really know all the ins and outs of the Labour Party the way you do, and I’m willing to believe that Miliband has his merits. But I know for a fact that Labour – UK Labour, not just Scottish labour – supports Trident and plans to continue austerity. I know that UK Labour abstained from the vote on the fracking moratorium. I’ve visited Vote For Policies and none of my policy choices were Labour’s. I’ve looked at the Political Compass’s latest update of UK parties, and yes, Labour have moved to the left a little. But it’s way too little. They’re not even half-way back to where they used to be in 1972. Labour are nowhere near left enough for me and they are nowhere near Green enough for me. Neither is the SNP, but at least they are a step in the right direction. What I really want, though, is best represented by the Greens, and more and more people in England are coming to the same conclusion.

    So, what advice would I give you? Well, certainly get more people like you to speak for Labour, and fewer people like Jim Murphy. Get Labour to be open, to be honest, to stop patronising people, to listen for real instead of just claiming to listen. Get Labour to understand that women are interested in all political issues, not just “women’s” issues and that they most definitely do not need a pink van inviting them to “kitchen table talks.” And get Labour to stop lying and then going in a huff because they are swiftly found out by people on the internet. That would be a really good start.

    But ultimately that won’t help unless Labour can be seen to represent what progressive people want. Progressive people don’t want More Of The Same – that’s the Conservatives. We don’t want some patches on a broken system – that’s Labour. Some of us don’t even want the system to be fixed and working at its best (that’s the SNP), because even at its best it would still be unfair and unsustainable.

    Some of us, more and more of us, want a different system altogether. A system where politicians will never be able to play the middle class against the working class and vice versa, because such distinctions have become meaningless. A system where the economy is there for the people, not the other way round. A system, in fact, where the economy isn’t the first thing that always gets mentioned. A system that we could feasibly imagine to endure for the next three or four hundred years without wrecking the planet or creating endless misery for those who are less lucky than others. We don’t have it all sussed out yet, but we are asking some very far-reaching questions. Could we live happier lives if we consumed less? Can we imagine a society without money? Can we imagine a world without nation states? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t claim to have the answers. But this is the horizon that is touched by our political discourse. Meanwhile, Labour are trying to score with some lame points about parliamentary arithmetic: vote SNP get Tories; vote unicorns, get fired onions. Vote for Labour and get slightly less NHS privatisation. On a scale of 1 to 10 for inspirational value, Labour score about minus 2. It’s not because of how they sell themselves. It’s because of what they’ve got to sell.

    So, to be honest, if you want to ride this wave, you would have to get Labour to shift their position dramatically. Or just join a different party. The Greens spring to mind.

  32. JOhn Gourlay says:

    Yes, you need to believe you can make a difference. If the establishment had to run the referendum again they would be keen to get rid of Scotland. Why? Because the interest of the English people once they see Scotland achieve something better then they will also want something better. If we keep the N H S nationalised, England will rise to keep their N H S nationalised. May is only the start of change for the whole of the U K. Milliband though may have missed the party by aligning himself to the right wing by ruling out a coalition with the S N P . He did not need to do this and it makes Labour in England less electable as a lot of people will want a stable government and his actions have ruled that out for the Labour party.

  33. Simon Brooke says:

    The point’s been made by others above.

    “So I ask you, in all seriousness, what on earth did you do? How did you open the debate in such spectacular fashion?”

    The SNP didn’t do it. The political parties didn’t do it. The political parties cannot do it, in England any more than they can in Scotland. Even the official Yes campaign didn’t have much to do with it. What did it was Radical Independence Campaign, Women for Independence, Common Weal, and ad-hoc groups all across the country. That was possible because we had a simple, clear, common cause: we wanted to create a different polity.

    For me the leaflet of the campaign was the black Radical Independence one which read ‘Britain is for the rich: Scotland can be ours’. That was the message which communicated and resounded, which gave the Yes campaign its power: we could, together, reinvent our polity. And the truth is that even though we didn’t get more votes, we won the campaign. Because the people of Scotland now know that our polity is ours to reinvent, and we shall reinvent it.

    In England you do not have ‘independence’ to unite around. But you do have the battlefield which ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and ‘Time for Outrage’ paint for you, and in fact it’s not a very different battlefield to ours. The fortresses you must build and defend are a free, publicly owned and publicly run health service; universal benefits without means tests; universal free education at all stages and an outlawing of fee-paid education; and end to inherited privilege and titles; an end to tax loopholes for the rich, and far more progressive taxation; a greener economy; equality of gender, sexuality and race; and, last but not least, an ethical foreign policy and a much reduced military posture. That provides you with a broad platform around which many people can unite. Do not allow it to be captured by a single party, but rather keep it as a broad, loose alliance.

    The Labour Party has been able to ‘triangulate’ to the right over the past twenty years so that they’re now a long way right of Thatcher, and they’ve been able to do that because they thought the left had nowhere to go. You do have somewhere to go, but that place is out on the streets, not into the Labour Party.

    The SNP could not bring change. Labour cannot bring change. The people bring change. So raise the scarlet banner high, and have faith in your comrades; the left is very far from dead.

    1. muttley79 says:

      Simon, that really is garbage. Can you explain why we had a referendum on independence in the first place?

  34. Dale says:

    Triangulation is your problem. Blair started adopting right wing policies to win over “key marginals,” since then, both Labour and Tories have been relentlessly triangulating. It wins elections in the short-term, by trading long-term support to buy fickle voters in the marginals. The Tories have lost support to UKIP and Labour to the SNP.

    If you want a left wing party with social democratic principles, you need to form a Podemos. Labour have many creditors and much debt, and these people want to be able to dictate policy. While the working class could buy their party back and pay off the debts run up by the Blairites, you’re better off in a new vehicle as after buying the party back from the paymasters, you’d then have to spend a not insignificant amount re-branding.

    One line I keep hearing from south of the border is “I want to vote, but I don’t have anyone to vote for”

    Both Labour and the other Tories have memberships in long-term decline, suggesting an activist base in long-term decline. Labour struggled to compete with the Yes campaign in fielded activists, even when they were able to ship activists up from England. In this election campaign they can’t do that without abandoning the “key marginals” none of which are in Scotland.

    Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics. To win elections you need activists and money. Activists come from your core vote, and your core vote are the people who share your principles. Labour, headed up by the king of political fratricide, blatantly have no principles beyond exercising power. Activists can help raise money, and the two synergise better than either operates alone.

    If you’re stuck on saving Labour, you’re looking at wiping out all the party’s assets as the chancers you need to get rid of asset strip whatever they can carry on the way out, paying off the party debt, rebranding to attract activists and sticking to the principles you rebrand around.

    All, in I’d guess a ballpark figure somewhere between mid 8 figures and low 9 figures. And you won’t get it done by the election. You could still get a Podemos-style vehicle running before the election if you’re prepared to attract support from anti-austerity groups, for mid 6 to low 7 figures. Possibly even lower.

    Basically, it’s all about how much sentimental attachment you have to the name Labour. Fewer and fewer people see it as a vehicle of social justice like you seem to think it can be again if only you didn’t have people like Rachel Reeves in the Shadow Cabinet. The juggernaut is heading for disaster and won’t be easy to stop.

    If you have more of a sentimental attachment to your principles than to the name Labour, you should consider dropping the name and forming a new vehicle to represent all the left leaning English voters who currently have no-one to vote for. Particularly in the North, you could easy destroy UKIP North and hoover up enough votes to shake up the Labour party enough that they see the problem. It still won’t be cheap to fix the Labour party though.

    1. Corporatist Hell says:

      “The Tories have lost support to UKIP and Labour to the SNP”.

      You were right up until this point. UKIP are also drawing support from Labour, indeed they are drawing as much or even more support from Labour than from the Tories in some areas. UKIP are drawing support from all three ‘main’ UK parties – there are actually people who previously voted Liberal Democrat who intend to vote UKIP.

      It is over-simplistic to think that UKIP support is composed entirely of ‘far right former Tories’.

      “If you want a left wing party with social democratic principles, you need to form a Podemos”

      I’m not sure what’s ‘social democratic’ about a bunch of mad hard-left isolationist populists (for whom there are also whiffs of corruption in the air).

      There will never be a Podemos (or a Syriza) in the UK, for which we should all be thankful.

      “you’re better off in a new vehicle”

      Is this the new mass socialist party that the likes of TUSC, Left Unity etc. keep banging on about ? No chance.

      “One line I keep hearing from south of the border is “I want to vote, but I don’t have anyone to vote for”

      Really? Who from? I don’t feel like that. The above tiny socialist parties that no-one votes for are still around, and for those who want a more ‘left wing; (as much as left and right means anything these days) then I THINK the choice is clear – vote Green (notwithstanding the policies of the Green party)

      There are three parties I could vote for in my constituency (I like to wait, and I’m not a tribalist)

      “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics”.

      Tactics are still pretty important. The SNP clearly understand the importance of tactics; beyond the single aim in their constitution, everything they do is just tactics (cuts in corporation tax one day, demanding ‘an end to austerity’ the next)

      I agree with you that for now and the foreseeable future, the SNP are going to easily win any ground war, and of course with Brian Souter pumping money in, you’ve got plenty of cash for the air war too.

      If you’re stuck on saving Labour

      I don’t think Labour can be saved. They would be better off focusing on a new mass socialist party. Oh ..

      Seriously though, I think we need the ‘main’ parties to split (some into more than two parts), and look to a more ‘continental’ approach, including in fairness PR. (You wouldn’t get me out on the streets for much but I might be persuaded to campaign for PR)

      You could still get a Podemos-style vehicle running before the election if you’re prepared to attract support from anti-austerity groups

      No chance. Things are not tough enough for anywhere near enough people for such a thing to happen in England. For most people in England, they are thinking about the summer holiday they’ll be taking (which they have been taking and will continue to take).

      The juggernaut is heading for disaster and won’t be easy to stop.

      Yes, I think ultimately the Labour Party are finished, whether they win / form a coalition or whatever for the next Government.

      “forming a new vehicle to represent all the left leaning English voters who currently have no-one to vote for”

      There’s this thing called “Left Unity” (oh the irony). It’s a joke.

      particularly in the North, you could easy destroy UKIP North and hoover up enough votes to shake up the Labour party enough that they see the problem.

      Mirroring the accusation that people in England don’t know whats going on in Scotland, this shows that people in Scotland don’t know what’s going on in England, and how conditions, circumstances and events are different.

      My ideal outcome? Lib Dems survive, form part of a coalition and base their platform on electoral reform. I’m a dreamer, of course.

      1. Dale says:

        Tactics are important, they’ve killed the Labour party. Labour’s top-down nature means Rachel Reeves has taken a position that the remaining Labour activists won’t be happy selling to the electorate anywhere in the UK, since she’s written off a full quarter of the electorate. And not only that, but a quarter that the Tories have already written off. Where are those votes going?

        Left Unity seems to be a similar, top-down vehicle.

        UKIP are so populist and policy light that their campaigners can agree with the prejudices of a black homophobe on one doorstep and a gay racist on the next.

        The SNP aren’t that populist, but they do have a mechanism where any member can feed policy suggestions to the leadership. This doesn’t compel the SNP leadership to adopt any suggested policy, but they do have a better idea what policies their activists will happily support while canvassing.

        A new left vehicle would have to find activist support from the already organised anti-austerity groups, who are not going to campaign for policies they don’t believe in, so a degree of populism with the party activist base would be necessary. Without activists to carry the party message to doorsteps, no party can survive.

        There’s plenty disenfranchised voters in England, but even if the Lib Dems attempted to reposition to take those votes, who is left believing any Lib Dem policy will survive into their next coalition? Their activists can’t be having much fun on the doorsteps either.

        Say what you like about Syriza and Podemos, your chatter won’t change the fact that they have an activist base, and see the importance in keeping their activist base happy. By contrast, the Lib Dems at their Aberdeen conference passed a constitutional reform on just 63 cast votes. They barely have a membership left to engage with.

        Syriza, Podemos and the SNP don’t look like disappearing any time soon, because they have the logistical strength of a large and engaged membership. I don’t see how the same can be said of any party active in England.

  35. “So I ask you, in all seriousness, what on earth did you do? How did you open the debate in such spectacular fashion? How did you engage people and develop such a positive attitude towards new ideas, how did you circumvent the mass of finance and power pitted against you?”

    We decided to circumvent party politics and talk to each other directly. The thing you’re missing is that the referendum was not about the SNP or Better Together or Labour or the Conservatives. It was all down to the Scottish people. We made the choice.

    We decided the SNP should have a chance at government. And the sky didn’t fall in. So we gave them another chance. The SNP achieved the majority they needed to hold the referendum because even unionist voters recognised the SNP were our best bet at giving Scotland a voice. They also knew they could vote no in any referendum the SNP held.

    In other words we understand that when we vote on something in Scotland; our vote matters. And because people understand that. They engage in politics at the Scottish level. The next step for us is to make our voice heard in Westminster. And it will be heard.

  36. Golfnut says:

    There have been many good comments, all worthy, heartfelt even if some appear negative, contrary to what you want to hear.
    The one. Great strength and core value of the Yes campaign was simply people.
    People first, people before party, people before profit, people before power.
    The people we send south in May ( SNP MP’s ) will be there to represent and serve to the best of their ability all of the people of Scotland.
    Not corporations, not bankers, not tax avoiders and tax evaders.

    Westminster has forgotten, indeed if it ever new, that it is there to serve and not to rule – People.

  37. Bill Andersen says:

    The only problem I see with this is that this guy is a Labourite and if there is one thing he should be well aware of, it is that we no longer trust ANY Labourite in Scotland! They have caused more damage to our country than anyone else except Thatcher.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Except in this instance Dave wrote a commissioned piece that has enriched our debate. He’s very welcome here – especially with the tone of openness and warmth he brings and most people have responded well to.

  38. stilbury says:

    Give people something to believe in, and people will amaze you.

  39. epicyclo says:

    It’s dead simple.

    Scottish Labour (and LibDem) supporters still have the same values they had 20-30 years ago.

    The Labour (and LibDem) parties have changed their principles to match the demands of their corporate sponsors.

    The only party supporting the those basic principles now is the SNP.

    The voters have woken up to it because of the information revolution represented by the internet. They no longer expect to hear facts from the MSM and so distrust it.

    The Labour (and LibDem) buses have gone on a long journey but forgotten they need paying passengers.

    1. Corporatist Hell says:

      Hold on – I thought that 55% of voters were brainwashed by the right wing mainstream media, and the brainwashing caused them to vote No?

      Or are you saying that non-mainstream media via the internet has only only reached them since the referendum?

      Sorry, I’m being facetious, I agree with you, I just find it interesting that the normal accusation about the media is the one above (and is used to provide a simple – and ridiculous – blanket explanation why the referendum result wasn’t ‘Yes’

  40. emilytom67 says:

    The SNP won,t be allowed to become “just another political party with just another political agenda/s” we who voted YES will not tolerate it,the people will demand that everything is honest and open and will be to the benefit of all of Scotland,we have had so many wonderful movements that have sprung up since the campaign,full of people young and old that have visions and dreams of an inclusive fairer society,we with Gods will can become a shining beacon in an ever darkening world an example of what can be achieved with/for the common weal,the downtrodden peoples of the continent of South America are already resisting the coterie of corrupt multi-national/government psycopaths that have all but destroyed the world.

  41. MoJo says:

    What wasn’t generally understood across the UK, due to the distortions of our mainstream media is that 1,600,000 Scots voted Yes , and only 100,000 are now SNP members.( some of whom voted No)
    The campaign for Scottish independence was about self determination and democracy not tribal party politics. That is why it was so refreshing and attractive.
    It was a grass roots movement which brought people together, after decades of disillusion and distrust in politicians from Thatcher on .
    Scots were fed up with the self interest,careerism and corruption which we see in our politicians both at Westminster and in the old post industrial Labour strongholds where a bullying arrogant macho culture still prevails… The ‘ wee lassie with her tin helmet’… comment at the Scottish Labour conference the other week was a telling illustration of what is wrong with the Labour Party and why it is no longer fit for purpose. Scotland is ahead of England in the respect that it has recognised that the Labour Party is not working for ordinary ( non rich) people and thus no longer relevant. Rachel Reeves comments this week are surely the last nail in the coffin.
    England needs a new politics of the left and it will have to be built from the ground up….

    My advice to anyone keen to re engage ordinary people with politics is to welcome the SNP to Westminster and watch and learn from them after May 7th …

  42. Corporatist Hell says:

    “The SNP won,t be allowed to become “just another political party with just another political agenda/s” we who voted YES will not tolerate it,the people will demand that everything is honest and open and will be to the benefit of all of Scotland”

    Yeah, I think you might be setting yourself up for a big disappointment there.

    For example, even the social democratic high tax high public spending utopia of Denmark isn’t entirely ‘equal’, in fact it’s got quite a lot of poverty, only slightly less than the level found in the UK or Germany.

    I am concerned that a substantial number of people (who think they have been promised / think they are entitled to the type of utopia of their desire) are going to be disappointed and very unhappy when once Scotland does become independent their expected utopia doesn’t materialise in the expected period of time.

    I think you’re expecting a green-socialist utopia, and you are going to be very disappointed.

    1. Davie says:

      You may well be right; I don’t think so but you raise a fair enough point. But if that happens it will be our own failings as a country that enables it and not some selfish ideology inflicted upon us.

    2. JGedd says:

      Actually, Corporatist, what many of us who voted Yes were hoping for, was a sea-change in the political landscape after independence. You are aware that we already have PR in Scotland and the hope was that, with an independent country, the absence of the intense pressures of a hostile media and the Westminster establishment, would free up our political scene. In a different atmosphere, there could have been a realignment of political interests allowing new parties and coalitions to appear.

      I can assure you that the grass roots enthusiasm in Scotland has not waned and those who are part of Radical Independence, Commonweal etc., would not have meekly gone away and allowed a huge bloc of SNP members to get comfy in government, after independence. The SNP’s strong support at the moment is because they are our best chance of getting more powers and (eventual ) independence. No one can predict the future but the future is always in the process of becoming, We can’t change the past but we can learn from it and use it to form the future.

      You mustn’t assume that we are naive and don’t understand the motivations of power groups to remain in power. There are too many ‘contrarians ‘ in Scottish politics to allow that to happen. The trick is to keep them uncomfortable.

      By the way, Corporatist Hell, when did you morph into the fairly reasonable chap who wants to engage calmly? When you first started to post here, you used to shout at us quite aggressively. It doesn’t work. Your present persona is preferable. Welcome to the discussion.

      (Also agree with you that PR in the UK is what is necessary for change to begin.)

      1. lawrenceab says:

        I would like to second that post, well written.

        and also to welcome the recent comments from Corporatist! I don’t agree with him on most, but he does make some points worth considering, and I also welcome his new persona 🙂

  43. billy says:

    I think the labour party could be changed for the better but it needs more people like yourself lots more to try to get the leadership to listen and learn but it will be a hell of a long haul

  44. Dave Cohen says:

    Thanks everyone for taking the trouble to reply. I’ll need a couple of days to digest and contemplate, but I will respond.

  45. Mealer says:

    Hi Dave,
    thats a well written and interesting piece.Many thanks.Six months on from the referendum opinion polls are currently showing Yes and No are on level pegging.I don’t think there’s much reason to worry too much about Labour when independence is so near.We in Scotland have good left of centre options.Labour turned away from us years ago.Its only the old codgers who fall for their havers now.How you in England run your affairs post independence is up to you,but here’s a tip.Westminster is a cesspit of sleaze and corruption.The mere fact it is often described as “the paedophile sanctuary” is a clue as to how low its reputation has sunk.It needs to be levelled and rebuilt as a democratic institution.The same goes for your Labour Party.Good luck!

  46. 1314 says:

    Fairly set the Whin on fire there Davit. How do you do the same for Gorse? No idea, but you’ll know you’ve got there when the spell checker questions your existence.

  47. Blair paterson says:

    I honestly can’t understand why anyone would join the S.N.PAnd vote no to independence?the very thing that the party was founded for

  48. Mikeyboy says:

    About 20 years ago I was on holiday on Skye. In the B&B was a history of England by MaCaulay, I think, This was an eye-opener. It explained how the state of England was based on a model fundamentally unchanged since William the Conqueror invaded, destroyed the Anglo-Saxon culture existing at the time and replaced it with a top down control system which, although it has evolved to meet the requirements of changing times, remains essentially a means by which a small elite lives off the back of the majority of the population.

    This is its purpose, what it was designed to do. After WW2 Westminster was forced onto its back foot for a while by the policies implemented by the Atlee government. These policies were demanded by a population radicalised by war and the politicians were unable to resist.

    So successful was this that it has taken them 60+ years to undermine it and roll it back. This is how powerful ordinary people are when they are united. No political party could have generated the demand from the public for a better society. What the labour party did then was find out what people wanted and provide it.

    The Labour party cannot create in England what is happening in Scotland, this is a generational shift of consciousness. Unfortunately England will have to wait until the continuation of Austerity radicalises enough people in England to demand the kind of society that most people would actually like to live in and feel proud of. Corporate flunkeys sucking the wealth out of the majority to benefit the 1% is not what most people want.

    What any party claiming to represent the people should be doing is getting out and talking to ordinary people, seeing for themselves what problems they face, explaining to and educating them about what is actually possible and how it can be achieved. The Atlee government were facing an economic situation worse than the one facing England now and they created the NHS etc because they had the vision and political will.

    Most people do not have a clue about how money is created and how it works. They believe the crap about the national credit card being maxed out. A party claiming to represent the people would be trying to educate people about what is actually happening in their country and how things really work instead of repeating the lies put about by Westminster and its propaganda outlets.

    Dave you sound genuine but there is no button to push which will replicate in England what is happening in Scotland. There is, however, a rising tide of discontent, which if provided with the right information and a vision of a future which people would want to be part of, could lead to a fundamental change to the way the UK is run. At the moment the Labour party is part of the problem. I would like to think it could be part of the solution but I don’t see it at the moment.

    1. MBC says:

      Hear, hear, you said the truth.

      The British political system is elitist, but the poor English people don’t always see it. My view is that of Macauley, that the Norman Yoke that replaced the more egalitarian Anglo-Saxon society has been the true 1000 year Reich in Europe. It has created an authoritarian outlook at odds with the basic decency of the ordinary English people. As a result the English people are schizophrenic, their political culture is schizophrenic. Their social culture is as ours, tolerant, egalitarian, fair-minded, open-handed (‘a cat may look at a king’; ‘speak without fear or favour’) but they tolerate and have learned to accept an authoritarianism and elitism at the top levels in public life that is at odds with their soul. And they don’t see it. We (Scots, Welsh, Irish) see it, mainly because we’ve been on the receiving end of it so often in our relations with this bullying elite. But the English people don’t see it, because they were a conquered people who have accepted their slavery whilst we have not.

      Now’s the time for Albion to wake up.

      1. Dean Richardson says:

        Excellent post. You’ve also given, indirectly, a major reason why today’s decidedly non-English ruling classes in London were so scared of losing Scotland. If we in England had seen, in time, what an independent Scotland could be like, we’d want something along those lines, and those bloodsucking descendants (socially, culturally and politically, if not genetically) of Bill the Bastard and his robber barons would never allow that.

  49. Hi Dave – as others have said, the reason we on the Yes side were so successful was because we did what Labour still fails to do – we focused on the issues that really matter – inequality, poverty, social justice, political reform, and so on.

    During the referendum Labour gave us no positive reasons to stay in the Union – instead they wagged their collective finger at us to tell us how bad things would be if we dared to exercise our democratic right to leave.

    They are doing exactly the same thing now. They are not offering an alternative vision to us here in Scotland. Instead they are saying how bad things will be for us if we dare to exercise our democratic right and return a sackful of SNPs members to Westminster.

    You tell me – why are Labour so phobic of socialism these days? Why don’t they come out now saying they will tax the rich; they will scrap the House of Lords and replace it with a second elective chamber capable of scrutinising and amending policy; they will jail those behind the various banking scandals; they will block the renewal programme for Trident; etc.

    When Ms Reeves said the other day that the Labour party, her party, did no represent those on benefits (that’ll be the several million most deprived and hard done by people in the UK) then even you must have realised that your party was dead in the water.

  50. dickybeau says:

    Hi Dave

    An interesting piece. The North voted against the idea of a devolved administration. I had a friend lived in Durham (had being a post indyref perspective unfortunately). His view was that Durham residents didn’t want newcastle politicians ruling their lives. From that, I guess, their is a need for a different idea of democracy and activism in England. If it was me, I would start by suggesting a return to the traditional town and county councils. If I remember correctly, people were well connected to the county idea. Indeed cricket is built on it. I would fly the flag proudly. The cross of St George is more visible now following the growth of devolution and the strengthening of identities of the devolved States. I believe that is a good thing. The flag needs to be taken back from the EDL extremists and a gentler, prouder sense of Englishness needs to be developed. Look at football. The tartan army is closer to crickets Barmy Army but you get the bit that football seems to miss. These guys love their country and their cricket team. They don’t hate anyone and are just determined to enjoy their own national pride win or lose.
    A campaign for Englishness built around democracy, respect and, dare I say it, independence is all that is left for labour in my view. Given Ed’s threats to Scotland (border posts etc) the risk of hostile secession might be too great and those that still want to strut the world stage will oppose the diminishing british power.
    My guess is start with counties and devolution to them. It’s a great cause

  51. Finlay McHattie says:

    Dave, indulge me.

    Your job takes you to Scotland, you’ll be here 20 years.

    Who would you vote for?

    Finlay McHattie

  52. Richard Anderson says:

    I guess I might hunt down and support a bella Caledonia equivalent, a wings over England, an english Derek Bateman, a newsnet England and the new Commonspace that is looking so good. You need to do it now and get it running before you start down any particular ideological route otherwise you would get crushed before you start. The right is strong in the english press. You only have to read the anti scots bile that came our way during the referendum campaign and is now being regurgitated by the press down south to realise the place that the Mad Max Hastings, Cochrane, Parris and others have in spouting right wing ideology.

  53. Kinnock says:

    Haha, Nice post Dave and rest assured the majority of us up here aren’t quite so blinkered and dogmatic. When I saw the post I could help but laugh a little (while I reached for my granddad’s old army tin hat) both ‘English’ and ‘Labour’ with the temerity to suggest that a UK wide social democratic alliance may be in everyone’s interests. Scandalous!!! haha.

    The reality of the indyref was somewhat different to the account zealots that tend to post on this site. In fact for many it was a deeply unpleasant experience full of animosity and bullying (on both sides). Although from a distance it may have appeared inclusive and open and exploratory, it was the opposite (some were empowered while others – usually the naturally skeptical and thoughtful – where drowned out by endless shrill hyperbole and contemptible economic ignorance.)

    If you want to know the ‘secret to Yes success’ it’s easy; abandon all recourse to rational discourse, wrap yourself up in a flag, shout vacuous slogans about nothing much at all, conflate a very singular and narrow identity with politics while pointing elsewhere blaming ‘the other’ for everything. In this case ‘the English’ ahem…sorry ‘the British and Westminster’. (I’m fae the north east and work in the oil business in Aberdeen – where we overwhelmingly voted no (we’re the clever ones who pay for everything) – and travel a fair bit, working in a very international environment – the look of contempt/ incredulity of colleagues from former colonies, Chinese, Mid east, Australia, Malaysians, Singaporians, Indians, etc, when the notion that Scotland was somehow not a full founder and not an overtly enthusiastic participant of the British Empire (the malign aspects), upon which Scotland benefited massively, but was instead a victim and somehow was colonized itself, was priceless. In fact many found it utterly cowardly the way Yes tried to distance itself from Scottish/ British history through sneaky semantics and slight of hand by blaming ‘the British system’. As far as most of the world are concerned it was the Scottish system that influenced the nascent and more neutral British system – they aren’t stupid. My friend’s Kenyan wife, whose grandfather was imprisoned and tortured for supporting the Mao Mao was pretty adamant and insistent that those doing the torturing were Scots (regiments)! Not Brits. She insists upon it! In fact most from other nations hold a very positive view of Britain vis a vis the ethnic and racist conflation of Scots or English.

    Take the ‘outrage’ at the Iraq war mentioned over and over again in this thread, for evidence of ‘British’ iniquity. Yet point out that the war was orchestrated by a PM who was a Scot, in a government full of Scots, voted for overwhelmingly by Scots ‘twice’ as it was also ratified by the Scottish parliament, and that the military coalition was 136 countries including Denmark, Norway and Sweden (the cute little places Scotland in her embarrassingly low self esteem prefer to England – I also work with Norwegians and they are mono-cultural dullards.) the notion that Scotland, given independence, during this time would have not also have actively joined in is absurd. Hindsight and moral luck are concepts Yes people don’t fully understand. In fact given that the fundamental econ basis for an indy Scot was predicated on low corp tax to attract (mostly US) FDI and oil….would plucky we Scotland have said no to big big brother America? Unlikely. In fact in the future standing up to the US foreign adventure or Chinese human rights abuses will be much more efficacious as a bigger UK entity with historical clout than a puny wee 5 million that is a global irrelevance. But who cares about standing up for liberal democracy and human rights so long as we can keep out of it like utter cowards.

    And here there is a truth. Yes people are in the easy position of saying what they don’t like without actually having to do anything or make any decisions. Don’t like Trident and Nato (even with Russian subs buzzing oil rigs and aircrafts/ bombers on the North coast!) but there is not the slightest suggestion of what foreign policy should be except, ‘we’re against war and we’re nicer than the English’. mmmmmmm. Tell that to Putin, ISIS and Xi Ji Peng.

    And now (as I’m sure you can can now see clearly by the response to your post) Scotland is in the grip of a culture war. The walls have been built and the cheese is in the ears (especially on the Yes side who seem incapable of projecting their imagination to possibilities beyond the binary limits of independence and the fallacy of full sovereignty (In this day and age their is no full sovereignty – certainly not in the EU). There can be no interdependence through federalism, their can be no other multi level form of association and government, nothing cooperative with England/ Wales etc. The British state is apparently static and doomed to corruption (despite being top of the global rankings for transparency and being one of the most versatile political units in history). Only independence… (well ish…so long as Scotland gets to keep all good stuff also, from the integrated UK market and associated tax subsidy for new tech and industry, monetary union… soooo many exclusive clauses on this that and the other as it suits.) It’s not actually independence! It’s a bizarre experience, like speaking to a Texan Republican (I know a lot of them) who are in all other respects quite rational until it comes to guns. ‘It’s not guns that kill people, people kill people’ to which the only rational reply is ‘that’s just fucking stupid’. The SNP and Yes are the same. but for their single issue. Scotland will not be Scotland until it has sailed off into the mid Altantic and become Norway or Scarnia?’, but how will it do this while still sharing the most fundamental aspects of political and economic union, such as currency/ monetary policy?

    And the SNP were very clever (especially when it came to lying about the oil price – cheers Nicola for finally mentioning what the whole of Aberdeen have known for years given US shale, china slow down and Saudi’s inevitably getting the hump) by juxtaposing the rhetoric of independence with social justice. And the baa heid’s just lap it up even thought the evidence, empirical and indisputable suggests a completely different circumstance.) 0.5% public spending Nicola Sturgeon is NOT AN END TO AUSTERITY!

    Take one central issue (and this is reflected in all areas of devolved policy) housing and the effects it has on living standards and poverty. The single most common cause of homelessness, cash shortage and reliance on food banks are excessive rents and slum conditions. If all your money goes on rent/ personal repairs then how do you buy food? So one would assume that if the SNP were really a party of the people, then they would have frozen rent increases/ introduced key worker/ low wage subs or something like this, to help. But 8 years later there is nothing of any purpose as with the rented sector in Germany. ALL IT TAKES IS POLICY AND POLITICAL WILL!!!! STOP BLAMING WESTMINSTER AND BRITAIN FOR SCOTLAND’S FAILINGS! FOOD BANKS CAN ALREADY BE SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED WITH THE POWERS HOLYROOD HAS…..without any more funding!

    Also if you point out the clear and indisputable policy differences between the SNP and Labour on say….Zero hours contracts, the minimum wage/ living wage, the unfreezing of council tax for the rich….among many others, they simply close their eyes and shake their heads and bleat on about Thatcher as though it is still the 1980’s. Or if you point out the SNP are very pro business, very relaxed about corp tax,multi-nationals, fracking companies and people getting very rich, they point to New labour and go what aboot…. But they are the SAME!!!! This is not opinion, or speculation but indisputable fact based on their OWN POLICY BRIEFS and 8 YEARS of government.

    Noooooo….it’s always Westmonsters fault. Nothing to be done here. No responsibility here!

    When Miliband refuses to ‘Lunch’ with Murdoch and his evil empire it is ignored! When Miliband suggests a UK wide govt investment bank to circumvent the extravagance of the private sector it is ignored. Even when Osborne offers to devolve significant power away from London to the cities, it is a trap??? Or when Lib Dem Ed Davy announces the most environmentally significant change in policy (the Scotland alone could simply not do) with billions of investment in tidal pools and a shift away from investment of public sector pensions in hydro carbons towards renewables…IT IS IGNORED!

    And when Alex Salmond signs a book deal with Murdoch/ has his deeply tedious nonsense serialized in the Sun and when he debases the entire country by lobbying for Murdoch while his disgusting paper hacks the phone of a 13 year old girl who has been abducted and murdered causing her parents to believe she is still alive, interfering with the conviction and police investigation, so that they can publically print the highly personal messages from her fucking mother!!!!! it’s brushed aside. Or when their great leader goes off on jaunts to New York at massive expense (only the best five star hotels for the SNP), then over rule local democracy, demonize planners for simply doing their job, (they do this a lot in the Stalinist SNP) and bully people out of their homes!!!! (But clearances by the Scottish govt are not the same as those by landlord back in the nineteenth century according to Yessers)…MOLLY FORBES, AN 80 YEAR OLD WOMEN STILL HAS NO RUNNING WATER THANKS TO SALMOND AND HIS MAFIA PAL TRUMP!!!!!! It is forgotten.

    A challenge to all sanctimonious Yes people on your cloying moral high horse. Socialism and Social Democracy NECESSARILY requires policies of redistribution…..PLEASE CAN SOMEONE SHOW ME A SINGLE SNP POLICY THAT DOES SUCH? Otherwise shut up!

    I won’t hold my breath!


    1. epicyclo says:

      So to sum up Kinnock’s post:

      We’re too wee, we’re too thick, and we’re not genetically programmed to understand democracy. (It must be genetic, because the people of other other small countries are successfully running their own governments)

      Plus a bonus denigration of the ex leader of the SNP.

      It was so kind of him to condescend to inform us.

    2. JGedd says:

      How on earth can you claim to be a social democrat? Kinnock, try reading Drew Campbell’s excellent piece above among others. Your effort reads just like the intemperate rant of Labour, furious at losing its power base, full of the usual Labour bullying bombast and ‘shouty’ capitals. I also detect a strong sense of entitlement which has been affronted by the Scots deciding to seek their own solutions.

      However, David Cohen ( who is more open-minded ) can discover for himself why Labour have alienated so many of us in Scotland, by reading your contribution which illustrates perfectly, the almost hysterical reaction to a legitimate democratic movement for self-determination displayed by unionists like yourself.

      And yes, you should try holding your breath. We were having a rational, grown-up discussion until you turned up – just at the end, as trolls usually do. We have moved on.

    3. lawrenceab says:

      There’s so much here to take issue with, hard to know where to start!

      I just take one point, because I believe it important (and I have no copyright on this; has been well developed by the modern Historian Nair):the assertion that independence is a useless contradiction in terms since we shall be absorbed into the EU.

      False. We are in a world of emerging new powers, it’s true, and we in Europe need to cooperate more closely and indeed negotiate certain cessions of sovereignty. Now who does that? Will Westminster deploy efforts on Scotland’s behalf? Hah! Much more likely to bargain away Scotland’s superb fisheries assets in exchange for concessions that do not help Scotland (just one of many concrete examples).

      In the 90s, the Slovaks figured out that it was not a clever idea to let Czechoslovakia negotiate the terms of EU accession over their heads. Same reasoning applies here. Smaller countries have a stronger voice at the EU table than if they are submerged into larger countries. We need prior national independence IN ORDER to negotiate away a certain amount of sovereignty at EU level.

  54. Mabel says:

    ‘a puny wee 5 million that is a global irrelevance’

    It was having to listen to attitudes like that about Scotland and Scots for most of our lives – attitudes forcefed to us through schools, where our rich history and literature, the scientific achievements of our forebears, was ignored in favour of English alternatives, where our native tongue was thrashed out of us and we were forced to speak English ‘properly’, it rained down on us from television and news media that we were of lesser significance, our stories and our people ignored or subsumed and marginalised within the larger culture – that led many scots to partake in that disgraceful view of themselves and of their country. No wonder we developed a reputation for being dour and pessimistic. That commentator above sounds very irate and angry – well so the bloody hell am I!

    I don’t generally post to forums, though I read many. My outlook is that Alex Salmond and the SNP government, whatever you think of them personally, have done a wonderful job in giving Scots a sense of belief in themselves and their country – something so sadly lacking and wrongly and deliberately excised before. The fact they believed in Scotland, were willing to stand up for her and her people, were working hard to provide an efficient and more consensual way to govern, that is what gave us confidence in them and in ourselves. Many of us were brainwashed into the belief Scotland could not survive alone – I believed that 10 years ago, voting labour. Many during the referendum believed it still. The trouble for the unionists is that more and more people are beginning to believe in themselves, to believe they can change things for the better and to believe in Scotland. I don’t care if the oil price goes up or down so long as we have control of what is ours. I don’t care if the Tories after independence gain more of a following – under Ruth Davidson they’re a bit different from the English lot anyway – which is more than can be said of Labour, despite calling themselves Scottish. Scotland can and should become independent, even if the road is rocky. We need to deal with our own problems and find our own solutions and to the original writer of this piece, I hope England will too.

  55. IAB says:

    This is actually the type of conversation I like. Dave stands where I did a few years ago, desperately trying to think up positives for the Labour Party. It broke my heart to abandon them and to actively campaign against them. I always thought that Labour would lead us to independence but once Blair arrived, the party became Tory Party Mark 2. Their actions last year were indefensible. They need to disappear at local level too. I can only hope that the inevitable Scottish wipeout will prompt a Scottish Labour movement, independent from London and a return to their roots. This (hopefully) would prompt reflection in other parts of the UK. I would welcome the emergence of a second force for fairness and inclusiveness. I hope it happens.

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