2007 - 2021

On the Road to Oblivion with Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour’s shifting ground on the question of independence, and whether they would countenance a second referendum is so all over the place it’s incredible. Today we will attempt to walk-you though the twists and sharp turns of Scottish Labour positioning.
This week they announced they DID have a policy on Federalism and radical constitutional change, even though UK Labour DIDN’T. Quite how that would work nobody explained.
Then they announced that they were anti-Trident, even though the UK party was pro-Trident. But that they would defer to the issue as Defence is a reserved matter. Watch this bizarre exchange here:

Are you following this?
Then they announced that electing a pro-indy Holyrood majority would be a mandate for second referendum.
Even though, one already exists …
… which they deny is a mandate.

Richard Leonard suggested that if would only require “the election of parties into a majority” to provide a mandate. This means that a coalition of the SNP and the Green Party could in theory trigger a vote, after the Scottish Parliamentary elections in two years’ time.

Leonard told the Good Morning Scotland:  “We know that at the moment there is not a mandate, despite the claims of the SNP.”

This statement was unchallenged and un-explained.

He continued:

“A mandate I think would need to be achieved through the election of parties into a majority that had a clear mandate to hold a second independence referendum.”

“But as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I am determined that that will not happen because for example, in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, I will be leading the Labour party to win those elections.”

He added: “If the SNP or other parties put in their manifesto that they wanted to hold a second independence referendum and they got a mandate for that, either 2021, 2026 or at some future point, then of course what we’re saying is that that would not be blocked by a UK Labour Westminster government.”

But now things have just got much worse.

Now Labour has contrived to gerrymander any future referendum with the party putting forward an amendment to the Government’s Referendums Bill. According to reports in  The NationalMSP James Kelly has put forward a Stage 2 amendment which, if approved, would mean that a referendum would only be valid if “a minimum of 50% of the total number of persons entitled to vote in the referendum” do so.

Inevitably / immediately it was pointed out that this could lead to a situation where No voters could be encouraged to stay at home on polling day rather than vote in Indyref2 came around.

Just as the idea of a referendum hosted by the Scottish Government without agreement from Westminster would inevitably result in a mass non-participation from Unionist voters in order to undermine it’s credibility, so too would any artificially rigged poll with a 50% clause inserted. What possible incentive would a No voter have to to take part?

As Gerry Hassan puts it:

“Scottish Labour go AWOL on independence. This doesn’t make any sense re: Corbyn’s strategy, evokes 1979 40% & by having a 50% threshold Lab oppose on trade union strike ballots shows how unprincipled Scot Lab is. Clueless, self-destructive politics driven by hating Nats.”

The latest polling from Panelbase suggests Labour losing six seats in Scotland and the Conservatives holding twelve. This is the road to oblivion.

This is the direct result of three things: a complete lack of communication or co-ordination between the Scottish Labour group and the UK (which is an ideological more than a geographic divide); Scottish Labour eating itself from a hatred of the SNP and an all-consuming obsession with the Union; moral cowardice and incompetence.

All of this speaks to a complete loss of purpose and direction.

Younger readers may not remember the ‘Feeble 50’. It was the term Jim Sillars gave to the 50 Scottish Labour MPs when he won the Govan by-election for the SNP in 1988. The inference being that this block did little or nothing to prevent Margaret Thatcher decimating Scottish industry or experimenting with the Poll Tax in 1989.

It hurt because it was true.

But its difficult to convey the extent to which the Labour Party dominated Scotland before. They dominated huge sprawling regional authorities, they dominated electoral life in pre-Holyrood Scotland, and they dominated social life through trade unions when trade unions were much more visible and dominant. In some ways their hegemony was deeper than the SNPs is today. They dominated down into Scotland’s industrial psyche and history as well as across the whole of the country. It’s in this context that this absolute collapse – if it happens – should be seen.

Be in no doubt, being reduced to a single MP is an unsurvivable event for Richard Leonard.  They would then have to appoint a new leader and ask themselves again, do they really want to tie themselves to a constitutional position that is destroying them?


Comments (25)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Daniel Raphael says:

    Thanks for this; I just tweeted/tagged it to a number of the Labour activists I routinely communicate with each day. As always, BC is a superb source for both commentary and analysis (and culture, I musn’t forget!) and your analysis is highly valued. Please continue.

  2. Me Bungo Pony says:

    Their problem is, however, that if they abandon Unionism and embrace Independence they will be seen to be merely a SNP tribute act with little, if anything, to distinguish them from the object of so much of their hate. That really would be oblivion. Half their support would go to the Tories while much of the rest would go to the SNP (following the bulk of their comrades who have already done so). But …. hey-ho …. no-one to blame but themselves.

    1. Arguably Bungo Pony, though they could create distinctive policy positions? Its certainly destroying them?

      1. Wynn Thorne says:

        The only distinctive position I think Scottish Labour could go for is devo max with full fiscal autonomy just short of independence. That way they could save face and give up on the impossible federalism idea.

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. There are already a number of independence-supporting left-wing voters (predominantly young, going by social media) who are happy to put independence at risk in favour of voting for Labour because “ohhhhhh, Je-re-my Cooooor-byn”. Combine that with those SNP voters who say “I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me”, which I’ve personally always taken to mean “I will go back to Labour the second they go back to offering the stuff I want” – many already say they’ll go back to supporting Labour after independence. There’s arguably more than enough there to overcome the British nationalist types who would switch to the Tories (or Lib Dems perhaps). And there are still a sizeable number of independence-supporting Labour voters anyway.

      A lot of people are itching to support Labour. I have no idea why – some folk seem to think there’s something inherently honourable or moral about being able to call yourself a Labour voter, despite some of the things they’ve done in the past – but it’s definitely a thing. There are folk I canvass today who have been voting SNP for several years, but still identify as ex-Labour, a bit like someone going on about their first boyfriend/girlfriend despite being married to someone else for years.

      Personally, I’m quite happy for them to continue down the road to oblivion. None of these people – certainly none of the ones currently elected as Labour MPs and MSPs – deserve redemption. They deserve what they’re getting.

  3. Iain MacPhail says:

    The Labour Party of the 1980s and 1990s had a greater hegemony than anything before or since because it also had 100% of the Scottish media sympathetic to it.

    That was – arguably – part of what led to its downfall, whereas the SNP have become a winning machine kept on its toes by a largely hostile MSM media.

    Just a personal opinion.

  4. MBC says:

    They only held that support in the past because they had once a very long time ago, in the very beginning, from Keir Hardie’s time, supported Home Rule and so were regarded by the working class as ‘Scotland’s Party’. They continued to nominally support Home Rule until the 1950s, when it ceased to appear on election material. They signed their own death warrant standing with Tories in 2014 against independence. In 1979 the party was at least neutral; pro- and anti-Scottish Labour leaders campaigned according to their own viewpoints, and that should have been their position in 2014 if they had any brains.

    Still, it’s very sad that they might lose all but one of their MPs whilst the Tories retain 12.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      The Scottish Unionist Party (The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party as it was known before Mr Edward Heath foisted the ‘Conservative’ word into the name) has also supported Home Rule in the past.The author John Buchan, when a Unionist MP spoke at Westminster in favour of a Scottish Parliament)

      1. MBC says:

        And then they joined the SNP and got us branded with ‘tartan Tory’ label. Any contact with Tories is toxic.

  5. bringiton says:

    The hatred from British Labour in Scotland towards the Nats is not so much ideological as the fact that the Nats now
    occupy the political space they used to pretend to.
    Their “No to Independence” rhetoric is all they have left to try and influence Scottish unionists and that doesn’t really
    carry much weight since the Brexit fiasco.
    The choice for Labour supporting unionists is now between England’s union or the European union.
    England’s union means a continuation of right wing Tory governments for Scotland whereas the European one offers
    a possibility of having major political and economic decisions being made here in Scotland for Scotland.
    This should be a no brainer for those Scots but old habits die hard.

  6. Alistair Taylor says:

    Scottish Labour.
    A waste of space.

    Socialism, on the other hand. Bring it on.

    Funny times we live in.
    The Conservatives have destroyed the UK.

    Out of the ashes, we can only hope for better,
    Naw, actually; out of the ashes, we can build something better.
    Onwards, comrades.
    ‘It’s a never-ending battle for a peace that’s always torn
    “Come in” she said “I’ll give you shelter from the storm””

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      Just so, comrade. Parties come and go, but the struggle continues. Solidarity from across the pond–our movement is worldwide, and global change is no longer just desirable but necessary for the preservation of life on our planet. Capitalism must be made to go to its grave.

  7. w.b. robertson says:

    politics is about power. Labour during the 1960s became the Scottish Establishment and the media treated them as such. all kinds of ambitious folks joined the party to “get on”..in all levels of public office . However all Empires gradually crumble. Some faster than others . and like mirrors, the cracks begin to appear and the cycle starts all over again.

  8. gavin says:

    Scottish Labour will make the history books, as in a democracy, throwing away an entire country through indolence, petty corruption and a total failure to interprete the mood of the people who elected them. It’s often forgotten how many false starts the SNP had through the decades from the 60’s onwards. At any point through the late 20th century, Scottish Labour could have implemented radical constitution change, but were always told how “important” their contribution was to the party. Meanwhile in the Commons they did little or nothing for their constituents: that is why, when they fell, they fell all the way.
    What could they do? Fighting the Tories in Scotland would be a start—they are supposed to be ideologically on the Left, after all: they appear to think their British nationalism will somehow trump Scottish national sentiment.
    Speaking of which. They were founded by Keir Hardie, a Home Ruler who wanted Dominion Status for Scotland. They could go back to that policy—independence, but not independence—just yet.

    Would it work? If it looked as if Scotland was heading for independence, then London and their media would commit to ANYTHING to hold us back—look at the wobble in 2014—-but it would be just fake news—–again!

  9. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    “Leonard told the Good Morning Scotland: “We know that at the moment there is not a mandate, despite the claims of the SNP.”” – apparently, the ‘justification’ for this claim is that the Green Party manifesto for the last Holyrood elections did not contain an explicit staement in favour of independence, but that it ‘would petition its members’ on the issue. The current co-leader of the Greens – a wonderfully combative woman – was challenged on this ‘fact’ at some length of Good Morning Scotland.

    While the vacuities of the Conservative Manifesto go unchallenged or even examined in the media, every dot, comma and nuance of SNP, Labour, Green manifestoes now and in the past are scrutinised for things to cavil about. Even things which were never in manifestoes – such as ‘the 2014 referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime is a ‘fact’ because Jackson Carlaw said it.

    Without exception the Broadcast media are attacking Labour and the SNP relentlessly with no examination of the Conservatives. Channel 4 News tonight was almost entirely given over to the Chief Rabbi’s statement in the Times about thinking carefully before voting Labour. There was a brief mention of the Muslim Council of Britain’s accusations of Islamophobia by the Tories and because Sajid Javid (a Muslim) ‘dealt with it’, it got scant examination.

  10. James Mills says:

    The Scottish Labour Party ( sic ) manifesto ( ? ) reads like a script for a Marx Brothers movie which was rejected as being too silly , even for them .

  11. Derek Henry says:

    It is a tragedy in a sense.

    Everyone complained that there was no difference between neoliberal Labour the Blairites and the neoliberal conservatives. The liberal left and the liberal right ran the country for years.

    During these years the centre ground I grew up in was moved to the middle of the right wing spectrum. George Monbiot book captive state showed how the liberal left and liberal right did it.

    A sign that democracy and the institutions democracy is built on has been hijacked is that there is very little difference between who you can choose to run the country. Neoliberalism was here and spread its dark shadow across the UK. The SNP grew out of that shadow because Scots wanted to drag The middle ground back to where it belongs.

    The left started to get their act together and started to purge the liberal left from the party. The liberal left fought back with a vengeance. However, no matter how hard they fought back they could not get rid of Corbyn. They tried to get rid of him three times.

    By now Labour was also trying to drag the middle ground back to where it belongs. Then brexit happened.

    Corbyn was neck and neck with the Tories some polls had them winning when he supported leave. Then the liberal left and the liberal press saw their chance. Started attacking him from all sides until two years later they forced him to be remain. They used the antisemitism to do it.

    People have changed their minds

    Remain would win a 2nd referendum

    Only idiots voted to leave

    All lies and deceit of course. Everyone could see the battle lines had hardened.

    Look where they are now and Blair was behind all of it since they moved to remain. The neoliberals have won again because as soon as he loses the election he is finished. The liberal left played a blinder and knew he was toast as soon as they pushed him to remain.

    The liberal left will purge the Labour party until it is neoliberal again. The middle ground will remain in the middle of the right wing spectrum.

    When all is said and done when it is all too late the true left will wake up one morning and realise they were on the wrong side of the argument when it came to brexit. The country wants to leave the referendum result and the elections since show it very clearly. There has been no change of minds nobody has moved an inch. No matter how much brainwashing techniques have been thrown at leavers over the last 3 years.

    That day will come when the SNP lose the 2nd Indy ref and lose by a bigger margin this time. It was always a big ask for the people of Scotland To leave the UK. An even bigger ask To get them To leave London for Brussels.

    To move the middle ground back to where it was when I grew up leave was the natural stance. Staying in the EU or getting independence and signing up the neoliberal fiscal rules just leaves it where it is.

    Sure the right after brexit will try and move the middle ground further right. There is no appetite for that only by the ideologues that make up 10% of the country. I hope they do try to move the middle ground further right they will be out of power for at least a generation trying that nonsense.

    Neoliberals are going to run the Labour party again. We will have lost Indy ref 2.

    At least then you might wake up and realise the complete nonsense you have supported by supporting remain.

    The “double out ” was the only path to true Scottish independence. Our of the UK and out of Europe and choose our own path.

    1. Derek Henry says:

      There are far too many liberals in the SNP.

      All the crap that has come out of the SNP over the last 3 years is by them. Neoliberal horse shit.

      The fact that the growth commission was ever produced the way it was shows the power they have over the party.

      They should be purged and asked to join the Lib Dems.

    2. Clachangowk says:

      Obviously you have given thought to an independent Scotland outside the EU. I would really appreciate it if you could indicate how you envisage Scotland going forward in this case. Clearly you would not want Indy Scotland to be in EU single market and customs union. If not would Scotland be strong enough to negotiate good trade deals with the likes of USA etc.as per the UK Brexiteers.
      I see repeated claims of Yes supporters who wish to have nothing to do with the EU but even when asked they never say how they see Scotland going forward.
      Can you help me understand how you would see IndyScotland’s place in the world outside UK and the EU. I am sure you agree that simply stating “full independence” is not enough.

  12. Wayne Brown says:

    I don’t know why we’re bothering about Labour, they’re doing a fine job of destroying themselves. It’s the Tories, resurrected from years of Panda oblivion, that we have to address.

    But that’s just political parties. The real problem has never been which UK party formed the UK government of the day. The problem is the UK establishment – Government, Media, Business – even arts, sport etc – THE national theatre, THE national gallery, THE FA – – –

    The problem is the people who see themselves as being in control. It has nothing to do with nationality/ethnicity. People who in are in control will not voluntarily give it up, and will use every means available to retain it. What’s new?

    The UK establishment is largely in London. It’s that authority we have to challenge. We will get nowhere by asking permission – that implies, or worse confirms, subservience.

  13. Wul says:

    It is Scottish Labour’s sense of entitlement that has hastened their fall to oblivion.

    Labour are so blinded by rage and hatred at their loss of power that, rather than create a viable opposition party, they attack the SNP (and by association, in some people’s minds, Scotland) endlessly, childishly and at every opportunity.

    We know what they are against (“The Nats.”) but they, and we voters, remain clueless about what they actually stand FOR?
    Trident? “Aye-Naw”, Austerity? “Naw-Aye”, Home Rule? “Aye-Naw-Mibbe-Naw”, Brexit? “Naw-Aye-Don’t Know-Neutral”, Neo Liberalism & Warmongering? “Aye A Wee Bit-But No Too Much-Depends whit Tony Says”

    PS: I haven’t seen Jackson Carlaw grilled on telly yet. How come?

  14. Derek Henry says:

    The evidence and what the liberal left supported


    The very same liberal left that just can’t get enough of the EU which is even worse.

    Jonathan Freedland and Nick Cohen are the cheer leaders of the neoliberal rag the guardian. If you think the guardian is in our side you have short memories.

    Infact, on the major issues if you are against the guardian editorial view. You are probably on the right side of the arguement.

    Neoliberalism with the guardian and neoconservatism with the telegraph.

    All most people want is the middle ground at the centre between left and right and it has not been there since the 60’s. The unions dragged it to the middle of the left wing spectrum and it has been in the middle of the right wing spectrum ever since Thatcher inching more right every year.

    1. Derek Henry says:


      Europe is not going to save you. You have to keep your distance

      Data suggests a unilateral Greek exit would have been much better than their colonial future under the Troika


      It is a crime what the EU got away with.

  15. SleepingDog says:

    We don’t seem to hear an awful lot about NATO compared to other international organizations we might want to consider leaving, but it does seem to excite some people. People who don’t seem to care that nukes could be launched from Britain by the US without a word of consultation or warning (or perhaps thrill to the thought).

    Who exactly are the Royal United Services Institute, a group apparently led by the ghost of the Duke of Wellington? Why exactly are their views so prominent (BBC, CNBC), frothing about the British artillery needed to repel a Russian attack?

    Considering that France’s President Macron called NATO ‘braindead’ and an expert panel has apparently be hurriedly convened to check for signs of a raison d’être, perhaps Labour could have risked saying No to NATO.

  16. Steve MacAulay says:

    The Labour Party in Scotland in its present form is finished.
    The Scottish Electorate can not understand why Jeremy Cornyn was elected Leader especially as he never held government office and associated himself with various Terror Groups Worldwide.
    John MacDonald, as Labour Party members remember the Seventies, unemployment, Factories closing down, one member said to me, we will price ourselves out of the market, and he was certainly blessed with the second sight.
    The Scottish Labour Party must reform it’s self into a completely independent
    Party severing all ties with the Labour Party immediately.
    The Scottish MSPs are looked upon as totally ineffective and new candidates
    should stand for election.
    A new Scottish Independent Party has been formed and the easiest way for them to get New votes will be by targeting Scottish Labour constituencies.
    The Scottish Labour Party will be wiped out in Scotland if it does not change.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.