Firstly, 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.
Then, 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).
As 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.