Labour Scotland

The other candidates rise to acclaim Jim Murphy as he wins the Scottish Labour leadership contestFirstly, to get it out there, to set the scene as it were, just to be honest like, I am an independence supporter. I have been since I was a child really. If anyone had asked me at any point during my life, I would have said yes. Why? Simply, it has always seemed like it would be better for Scotland to have a go by itself. Over the years I have lost count of the times I have read or heard about the ways in which Scotland had lost out over the course of this Union (that’s not to say that there have been no benefits at all, just that for me they are outweighed by the negative instances and to my mind, have usually only served a few). It had always been a feeling, a sense of injustice at certain events, the thought that we might just do things better and for more than just a few, in short, a firm but rather cloudy belief that it would be the right thing to do.

Like many others, my belief firmed up and became honed to incorporate detailed and specific arguments as to why I was an independence supporter over the course of the year or so leading up to the 2014 referendum. I was voracious in my appetite for information so as to ensure I could present my arguments to others who were less sure, all in the hope that I could assist them to decide with both sides to the story (it is well documented that the usual media outlets were not presenting both arguments in an equal light). Again, like many others, I know I was successful in providing information that brought a few to vote YES.

Since the referendum decision in 2014, I have kept up to date with UK politics (and politics in general) and am very hopeful that this next opportunity will bring about the chance for Scotland to try something new for itself. I hope that all those living in Scotland will benefit from a change of power to Holyrood, that Scotland can participate in global affairs through the supranational organisations and forums in line with the wishes of the people (as opposed to Westminster dragging us off into numerous conflicts worldwide regardless of public and political opinion in Scotland). My wish for an independent Scotland is an outward looking, socially just country that faces its past, present and future with a critical eye and a belief in finding solutions.

There is one issue I wish to discuss before I move on to the point of this article. A lot has been said about the divisive nature of nationalism and in particular some of the people who voted YES, the most recent high-profile episode happened just a few weeks ago when Sadiq Khan embarrassed himself and the Labour party (further) with his nonsensical equating of Scottish Nationalism with racism. We all know there are shouty belters on all squares of the political rubiks cube however, we who read outside of the traditional media know fine well the real truth. The truth is that the YES spectrum of people is a broadly inclusive and welcoming group focussed on seeing the powers to set the course for our society move to Holyrood, a place where we can hold the politicians to account. It is a lot easier to march to Edinburgh than it is on Westminster! So, on that note I want to add my family’s YES makeup:

My mother: English. Graduate of Russian Politics and Sociology. Recently retired from a child protection position in a Local Authority.
Myself: 43. Scottish. European Studies Honours Degree. Social Work Master. Master in Social Research. Currently teaching English as a second language and setting up a small business.
My partner: French. 34. Specialized Teaching diploma. Currently teaching Under 12s with learning difficulties.
My Son: 23. Law degree and current PhD candidate studying Philosophy.
My Sons partner: 25. Finnish. Current PhD candidate studying Classics.
My Sister: 45. Psychology graduate. Currently working with disadvantaged groups to promote employment and social inclusion. Volunteer.
My Nieces: 23 and 21. Undergraduate at Art School and Social Care worker respectively.
My Brother: 38. Sheet metal worker in the shipbuilding industry. Currently employed at a shipyard.

So there we have it, 3 generations, 3 nationalities, women, men, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters with a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Not one of us came to the decision lightly or as a homogenous group. We explored the issues ourselves and voted YES after a personal analysis of the available evidence. Not quite the rabid, English-hating nationalists intent on breaking up the big happy UK family.

The reason I write is not to speak about my or my family’s journey, I write because like many others, I fluctuate between disbelief, horror, laughter and anger at the state the Labour party in Scotland has gotten itself into. At the moment, Labour in Scotland have nearly arrived at rock bottom and those politicians involved in this ongoing descent seem to be intent on going down with the sinking ship. It really is like watching a ship go down in super slow-motion, one that no-one with the will has the power to stop. Whilst many reasons have been identified as to why this decline has occurred over the past however many years (most obviously the taking for granted of the Scottish electorate over a prolonged period and more recently the disastrous decision to join the Tories in campaigning for better together) that is not my focus. I wish to focus on the future, not the immediate future but the future that begins after the next referendum. As I mentioned, the immediate future for Labour is clear, irrelevant to the constitutional debate except as an incoherent noise amplified by an agenda-driven mainstream media. Kind of like the Liberal Democrats with bigger bells and one or two loudspeakers.

During the last campaign for independence, I was aghast at Labour, at the outset of the campaign, I would have classed myself as a disillusioned, unenthusiastic Labour supporter (usual reasons, Blair, Brown, bombs and barefaced lies), just enthused enough to even vote. Yet, for some (now evidently stupid) reason, I thought Scottish Labour were different from the UK party as a whole (slight exceptionalism potentially, well we gotta admit our faults). Truthfully, I just thought that Labour would allow a free vote within the party and would never campaign with the Tories. Like many thousands of others the wool was well and truly pulled from my eyes and I was left with no choice but to accept that Labour in Scotland were happy to go along with the worst excesses of scaremongering and manipulation that the Tories and Unionist media would put out in the public domain. On a personal level, it was sickening to see, on a public level, the manifestation as a party intent on castigasting, scaremongering, lying to, manipulating and disrespecting half of the country was fatal to their potential as a governing party in Scotland for the foreseeable future. This has all been said more eloquently before.

Despite this, following the referendum, I was still an advocate of a strong Labour Party in Scotland. I spoke of needing a good opposition to ensure that any incumbent Government would be held to account, that a strong Labour Party and a watchful media would ensure that the SNP would be on their toes and as honest as politicians could be. Because, after the referendum, one thing I knew for sure, was that there would be someone watching and ready to highlight any wrongdoing/bad judgement/lack of focus etc. (as we have seen with the ludicrous excess of focus on SNP politicians who might have done something wrong in comparison to those from other parties who have been involved in alleged scandals).

Therefore, when the referendum was over and the surge of support for the SNP occurred, I was relatively happy. I imagined that the dream of independence was as alive as it ever had been in my life other than September 18th 2014 (and that cold, stomach-churning morning we all know about) and, that given Quebec had had a second one in 15 years, I would still have the chance to see another opportunity. After the initial disappointment, I thought, well we have what we have and whilst the Smith commission was as disappointing as it was always going to be, as someone who wanted Scotland to have more power to create positive societal conditions for the greatest number, there was plenty to be reasonably happy about. Not least, the sight of 56 SNP MPs at Westminster, that alone was amazing to see, that we would have so many eyes surveying the goings on at Westminster and at the very least a stronger voice in which to put forward the case for Scotland to be better served by the UK Government. Other plusses, included a resurgent civic society, new media, a chance to shape at least some of the welfare distribution and many new voices challenging that previously far too cozy relationship between politicians and journalists (whilst this is still evident, it is being challenged like never before and I like that direct approach to what are often lies and misinformation propagated by those who should know better). Some who call themselves journalists are taking it very badly indeed, which often just proves the point that scrutiny is a good thing.

Scottish Labour Party leader namedThen, after a hop, skip and a Brexit jump forward to now, we are in the position of having the opportunity to go to the polls again. Why? Well, the whole Brexit debacle has given the SNP the mandate to request a section 30 transfer of power. As I write, that power has still not been transferred and we await the formal discussions to begin. I don’t doubt that there will be another referendum, the chance has come sooner than I expected, not sooner than I wanted though. However, back to Labour in Scotland. It is clear from the howling and whining we have seen from Kezia Dugdale and that cohort of MSPs responsible for Slab behaviour during the last referendum that they intend to glide on towards the iceberg without changing course, no matter how disastrous this will inevitably be for them. I think a lot of the remaining supporters they have will just disassociate themselves because of their ridiculous position towards a new independence poll, I think this will be the case for even those intending to vote NO. It is my opinion that they will lose even more of their dwindling support. They are literally unsupportable by all but those who would always necessarily stay on the boat instead of jumping to safety.

That brings me to the point of this article (I know, the long way round). What can Labour do to regain lost ground, to become a viable option for a large part of the populace, to at least even stop the haemorrhaging? Clearly, as I just mentioned, the rot has not stopped and will surely sink that ship over the next two years or so. I believe this theory will in some part be borne out by the council elections in May. Following that, those last Slab MSPs will martyr themselves for the defunct Union during the upcoming referendum campaign. A staggeringly stupid decision in my opinion. However, they have made their choice clear, and it seems this lot are not for turning. Incidentally, I think Labour for Yes will (should) play a bigger role this time round and will secure a lot of support from those Labour supporters unwilling to associate themselves with the SNP (or other parties).

Former-Labour-minister-Brian-Wilson-1831222.pngAs we know, sunken ships can be refloated and political parties have that opportunity more often than any sea-floor dwelling vessel, we just have to look at the fortunes of the SNP over the last 15 years to see evidence of the way in which a party can become strong from a seemingly weak position. My own view is that Labour really has to hit rock bottom, they have to be a part of the losing side in this next referendum. In fact, they have to cease to exist alongside the Union. If Scotland votes YES then it follows no UK Labour party exists. At this point, those involved in the YES campaign for Labour (or whoever has the gumption) need to act swiftly to set up a new party, a Labour Scotland Party. I believe, if done well, this party would initially attract a huge number of people to it, that the groundswell of political interest from the referendum would carry over and the enthusiasm to create something different in Scotland would ensure huge interest in a project of that type. Labour Scotland, without the baggage of Kezia, Jackie, Ian, Johann, Anas et al would become an attractive destination for all those wishing to begin a new journey for Labour. Labour could then push forward with a strong set of policies relating to education, health and welfare, they could argue for decentralisation of power, they could renew connections with the Labour party in regions throughout England, Wales and N. Ireland (if N.Ireland still exists) to create strong inter-island demands for social policies and inter-governmental consensus. Unions could still affiliate across borders and Labour could get back to representing workers across these islands. In other words, Labour Scotland could become a Labour party worth having, a Labour party that members would be proud of instead of the embarassment that they have become (just look at the reactions of activist Duncan Hothershall and the MP Iain Murray to their Leader stating Scotland voting for a second referendum was something he would accept as an example of how bad they are at present and the list of examples could fill many pages).

So, this article is a plea to Labour supporters to take back the party name after Scottish Labour dies following the YES victory in the second referendum. Take back the name and turn Labour Scotland into a party I want to join, dump all those horrendously tainted MSPs, and create something worthy of the name Labour, use the wave of enthusiasm that would follow a YES victory to make a worthwhile political party (I nearly said make Labour great again). I await the day Labour Scotland can seriously offer me a real choice. Scotland needs a real choice of parties, because today it is a strict choice between Independence and Unionism, after the inevitable yes win there needs to be a positive change and Labour have the name to attract people, they just need to demonstrate they truly represent Scotland and Labour ideals to have a chance of future success.

Comments (22)

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  1. Sandy W says:

    The Labour brand in Scotland, particularly in a newly independent Scotland, is possibly now too toxic to revive. A potentially more plausible scenario is for the right wing of the SNP to split off and either join the Tories or set up a right-wing Scottish party. The remainder (bulk?) of the SNP could simply carry on and occupy that portion of the political spectrum that you seem to want a resurrected Scottish Labour party to fill.

    1. david anderson says:

      Hi Sandy, I think that toxicity would dissapate for the reasons I stated. A) the party would be ‘renewed’ as it were (Labour is dead, long live Labour kinda thing). B) the removal of those associated with that toxicity (Dugdale et al) and C) the enthusiasm and desire for change created by a YES win would prove an antidote to that perceived toxicity.
      I too am interested to see what would happen to the SNP if YES win (or lose), would they split/rebrand/carry on etc.

      1. Sandy W says:

        I admire your optimism but I can’t see it myself. Even with your point B, an ejection of all the dead wood, where would the crowds of people come from that would form the backbone of a revived party? There can be few people under sixty that remember labour doing what they were supposed to stand for. They might struggle on, like the Libdems do as the remains of the Liberal party, but I don’t believe they’ll ever be a major force in Scottish politics again.

        1. david anderson says:

          Hi Sandy, I still think the brand name is strong enough and that the renewed interest in politics following a YES win would be enought get the ball rolling in the right direction, following that it would be dependent on the actions of those reviving the party whether the numbers returned or not. I think (optimistic I know) that a lot of the natural fall off from the SNP after a YES win could go to a renewed Labour party. I am 43 and still remember Labour as a force in the UK for the working class. In saying that, maybe you are right, maybe it is too late and they are done for, if so then other parties will benefit and I hope they prove capable of putting forward policies that represent those who would have voted for a strong Labour party. I still think that it should be attempted, that following a YES win the party should be renewed, even if just to make sure it can’t be truly revived. It would put to bed any ‘what if’ scenarios in future discussions.

      2. Me Bungo Pony says:

        One thing Scottish Labour would not have to do after Independence is have the words “Scottish” or “Scotland” in their name. They could just be “The Labour Party” while the SNP would just be “The National Party”, the Scottish Conservatives would just be the “The Conservative Party” etc, etc.

        Scotland would no longer have to prefix its institutions with a national description in order to differentiate them from their supposed “superior” institutions South of the border.

  2. John Page says:

    I respect your well presented views. I also from a psychological/vested interest standpoint see how hard it is for SLAB people whose income depends on the party to move to Indy. (Photos on Twitter of council election SLAB canvassing teams seem to show only elected officials or paid Party functionaries)
    But why would you look to a resurrected Labour Scotland Party when the Scottish Greens would be an eminently suitable challenge to the SNP. The question of climate change is as compelling as the need for independence.
    My dream team for the next Yes campaign would have Andy Wightman and Joanna Cherry as co conveners.
    Thanks
    John Page

    1. david anderson says:

      Hi John, I am not saying I would necessarily vote for a resurrected Labour party, I just think it would be a good idea to have that happen and would welcome the opportunity to consider what they may offer me as a voter. I think there are a lot of pople who would like to vote Labour but can’t bring themselves to do so at present for all the reasons we know about. It would potentially be a good thing for the general political landscape in Scotland and could also boost the labour party in England if it went well. As for the Greens, I think it comes down to the brand name (Sad I know). I think Labour is a brand name that could command a large support (again) whereas I think the Greens struggle to attract large numbers of voters and that may in part be down to just their name (Anecdotal I know, but several friends who don’t follow politics to deeply just don’t know enough of the Greens or are swayed by mainstream media in their attempts to minimize their importance). Is it silly that people don’t vote for them based upon their name? Yes, but then lots of people voted to leave the EU in part for a slogan on a bus so figure that out.

      I also agree that climate change is very important and I would hope that following a YES vote we would see some real change in that respect. Maybe if it climbs up the agenda as it should then the Greens would benefit at the polls due to their policies. I also like your ‘dream’ team.

      1. John Page says:

        Thanks, David
        I was of the view that the Labour brand in Scotland was so toxic…….remember Ratners (?) the jewellers?…..that it was beyond redemption.
        But you could be right and certainly are re the relative lack of prominence of the Greens despite the quality of their MSPs and the urgent need to address climate change and unsustainable economic policies.
        Best wishes
        John

      2. Jim Fraser says:

        I agree that Labour is a brand name that could have a re-birth in Scotland if it (the party) is seen to change sufficiently. (The longer it takes for this to happen, the less likely recovery will happen, especially if it is seen to need dragged kicking and screaming towards the right side of history.)

        Some (many?) of the top people would just have to go, for they were the very ones telling Ed Miliband he’d better “prefer the Tories win to doing any sort of deal whatsoever with the SNP”. Some just wouldn’t want to change – Duncan Hothershall’s name springs to mind. Perhaps he might join the STV online political team, or become an academic and write books proving Labour is more left-wing than the SNP despite their desire to destroy Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing leader they’ve had for decades. I see a bright future for him holding the new Scottish government to account, bless.

        Political activists might say Labour is dead, but us civilians are likely to just be hoping against hope some element of the party will save it from itself, so maybe we might consider voting for it again at some point in an independent future.

        1. David anderson says:

          Hi Jim. Yes, that is what I advocate in the article, getting rid of all of those who brought Labour to this current state. I mentioned Duncan Hothershall as an example of what I think is currently wrong, though he is perfectly entitled to all his opinions. That is the crux of the matter, it is those at the helm and their activists who are leading the charge to this lowest of low points for Labour, they should only look to themselves for the reasons why they are in that position. However, you would hope they would all walk anyway if yes win, that they realise any continued involvement would be untenable. Mind you, given the brass neck of some politicians I wouldn’t be surprised if some tried to stick around in the hope they would be accepted.

          Your last paragraph says exactly what I took to many words to get across.

  3. ben madigan says:

    when Scotland gains her independence there will eventually be new parties across the left-right spectrum.
    It will take a few years .Scotland will have to be disentangled from the UK, a Constitutional Assembly will need to be put together and a Constitution written and agreed upon. Then elections with probably SNP and Greens leading.

    The following elections will give the people time and space to look at alternatives on the Right and Left – but whatever parties arise will be different to the Conservatives and Labour we know today and have known in the past. Their primary allegiance will be to an Independent Scotland and the common good of the country.

    1. david anderson says:

      HI Ben. I think you have written their future banner headline. ‘Labour Scotland, for the common good, for our future’

      I think you are correct in what you say and that is a good reason for a renewed Labour party, a Labout party that ditches the past of Blair and everything since and embraces a modern take on the founding principles. At the same time as the writing of a Scottish constitution, a renewed Labour party could be writing their vision for an Independent Scotland. They would then ahve to fight alongside any other party for the trust of voters, I still think (maybe wrongly) if they started well they would have a jump on others because they are Labour.

  4. Mike17 says:

    I like where you’re coming from in this but I’m not sure if a New New Labour would be able to overcome the toxicity of the Labour brand. I would like to see Momentum split off from Labour and go back to the founding principles of the Labour party. Leave the deadwood of old Labour troughers behind and go back to basics, like how do we ensure that the resources of society are sustainably managed for the benefit of all, not just the .01%. It’s not as if there’s no hunger for this among huge swathes of the population.

    1. david anderson says:

      Hi Mike17. I explained the word ‘trougher’ to a French student of mine and he banged his hand on the table laughing, ‘oui, oui, oui’ he said. ‘In France we have many of these troughers’. I think he was pleased to have such a description of greedy politicians given all that is going on in French politics at the moment with Fillon, Le Pen et al milking the system there and in the EU.

      As for momentum they would have to make their case and try to appeal to the population as would anyone else if they appropriated the Labour name. It would be interesting to see if that would happen or not. Certainly they have some popularity in England at present though this is not translating into votes at the polls so far, the council elections will tell another chapter of that story. It may be Labour in England are going through the descent before the ascent. I don’t know.

  5. Wul says:

    Why doesn’t Scottish Labour just get behind independence, or at least some kind of concrete home-rule max? Home Rule for Scotland used to be one of their firm aims.

    The reason that so many of their leaders so sound daft and say daft things is because they have placed themselves in a stupid & indefensible position regarding Scotland. Constantly drawing attention to Scotland’s “failings” (which upon calm analysis usually place us slightly ahead of the whole UK) and never offering any policy or direction which people can actually get behind & vote for.

    They just define themselves as the “Not The SNP” party, which the Tories, with Ruth Davidson “defending the union” do a much better job of.

    The problems which Scot Lab has in trying to be a real party whilst obviously being controlled from London, illustrate perfectly the reasons why Scotland needs to be politically autonomous.

    They should just cut their ties with the London PLP and become themselves. I’m sure they would sleep a lot better at night and begin to fit their skin at last.

  6. Clive Scot says:

    Really don’t follow where a resurrected Labour party fits in post a YES voter in indyref2. Surely the SNP is the left of centre party for social justice and competent governance, the greens the idealistic no hopers, the Tories for the racists and bigots and LibDems for the fruitcakes.

    1. Mathew says:

      All Capitalist parties (SNP, Labour, Tories, Lib-Dems) promote consumerism, pollution, climate change and environmental degradation. At a certain point in the near future these problems will become so severe and chaotic that it will be impossible to provide social justice and competent governance. So enjoy it while it lasts!

  7. Therapymum says:

    Hi David. Well reasoned argument; however, I think the other posters who feel that the Labour brand is too toxic to survive are probably right. Like you, I was a long term Labour voter and party member, latterly disillusioned and disenfranchised, and thought the SNP were living in cloud cuckoo land (how on earth could we survive alone?) – until the referendum campaign began.

    What I saw then beggared belief. I could not understand the attitude of SLab, particularly the way they shared the beliefs and values of the Tory party on the hustings, when they knew that what they were spouting was Unionist propaganda. I was also incensed when Jim Murphy was inflicted on us as the Scottish Labour lead! I simply do not believe that he made that choice voluntarily. Why should we listen to a word, when his whole political career has been in London with no show of interest in the Scottish Parliament. He has always seemed to me reflective of his university days, increased profile but no real application, hence no degree after 10 years. And if that wasn’t enough, there were the Wikileaks revelations.

    Then we had Johann Lamont and her “we are psychologically incapable” comment. And now we have Ms Dugdale, following Ruth Davidson’s lead (or maybe that should be being led by Ruth Davidson) determined to stay in a union that is unequal and unprofitable in every way for Scotland. Her position is becoming untenable, so much so that Labour for Indy has had an influx of support. I actually feel quite sorry for her, because I believe she is capable of better. For all of those reasons and many more I think it unlikely that SLab will survive. It’s sad because Scotland was the birthplace of the Labour Party which has, as you rightly say, given us so much, both in and out of power.

    After Indy the political landscape will change. Is the SNP a one policy party, or can it continue to maintain its voter base? Will the Tory party increase its base of support? What other parties will emerge? Will the remnants of Labour reform under another name? Who knows? But it will be our future. How exciting!

    1. ben madigan says:

      “After Indy the political landscape will change”. –
      Just as I was saying TherapyMum.
      Who knows what parties will emerge across the left-right spectrum?
      One thing I do know as I said above – all of them will hold their primary allegiance to an Independent Scotland (not british Unionism as the labour party currently does (after all it is British labour) and to the common good of the people of Scotland.

    2. David anderson says:

      Hi Therapy mum. I was an unthinking Labour supporter, my eyes were opened with the new labour project (Robin Cook – I sold my soul for new labour), as I mentioned, I dumbly thought Labour Scotland would act differently given the chance. Obviously, they blew it big time during the referendum and in reality had been blowing it for years, we were just to slow to notice or do anything about it in enough numbers for too long. I get why some people think that there is no coming back from where they are headed and understand that a YES vote may bring about change that leaves no place for a reformed Labour party in Scotland. However, as I said in an above comment, I still think trying it is a worthwhile endeavour. You are right, Labour needs to die. I do though think it can be resurrected. Hell, I might try myself if nobody else does

    3. Andrew says:

      I do very much agree with your comment about Kezia Dugdale. I really get the impression that she doesn’t believe what she’s saying.

      All of this “no surrender” unionism as she aligns herself with UKIP, Donald Trump and the French National Front.

      I’m sure that deep down she is believes in the European Union and a social democratic approach.

  8. Bill Drees says:

    Labour does not exist in Northern Ireland: Labour GB works with the SDLP in Westminster. Interestingly Labour GB supports the SDLP in its aim of an United Ireland.

    After Scottish Independence there will of course be a realignment of politics. Some change will be immediate in that pro union GB parties will have to form themselves into new Scottish parties with non-Unionist agendas. Expect Royalist and republican issues to get on the dinner table.

    I expect the SNP to survive, though some will leave for left-right or personal ambition reasons.
    Remember the political parties of Ireland reflect their Civil War and Partition origins a century after the War of Independence.

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