2007 - 2021

Home Rules

The Labour candidates competing to inherit the advanced shambles of the Labour Party were today falling over themselves to make statements about Scotland and the constitution. The result was, as you might expect, complete and baffling confusion.

Emily Thornberry, fresh from her embarrassing hustings outburst, said “I will be led by what the Scottish Labour party has to say” – rather than “I will be led by what the Scottish people have to say”.

Rebecca Long-Bailey at least agrees that “I don’t think it would be democratically right for us to block that [indyref2]”.

The party’s probable leader then cut-in with:

“This is a question for Scotland.” says Keir Starmer, but after just saying there’s no mandate for a referendum, despite the people of Scotland voting for one at four consecutive elections.


If this is all incoherent, so too is the Scottish leaders choreographed contribution.

Writing in the Scotsman (‘Why it’s time for Home Rule’) Richard Leonard said:

“I’ve been told that at a time of constitutional polarisation, our vision for Scotland is not workable, but I firmly believe it is the only way to bring our country together, rather than further entrench the divisions of the past ten years.”

He argues:

“I accept that Labour’s message on both Brexit and Scottish independence did not cut through last autumn, and we are actively discussing this as part of a review into our defeat. But if we are to be honest with the people of Scotland, we must resist the temptation to applaud either Boris Johnson’s “get Brexit done” message or Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum, simply because both were electorally successful.”

This is close to Ian Murray’s position that electoral rejection and failure is vindication and a sign of success.

It is extraordinary but sees no sign of change.

Labour’s failure is that it seems incapable of articulating any sense of what ‘Home Rule’ actually is – or what ‘Federalism’ might be – nor any coherent path to reach these incoherent goals.

Why would one power be awarded and not another, and on what principles basis?

In terms of federalism we are left to believe that the policy could be developed by the Scottish party without a UK lead. So we would have asymmetric federalism developed on behalf of a branch party to a political body that sees no inclination to devolve government away from Westminster.

Despite a swathe of centrist cheerleaders in the media and lobby groups the party will remain marooned and un-electable for any foreseeable future.

This is a shame because Scotland needs a functioning opposition beyond twitching reactionary Tories.

In an excoriating piece John Harris maps out the extent of Labour’s difficulties:

” … if the precious values of equality and solidarity are to endure, some people on the left will have to do something that has never come easy: stare into their own crisis, and acknowledge that their party and movement are still stuck in the 20th century while their adversaries speed into the future.”


Comments (22)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    This is going to be interesting considering the Branch Office don’t know what they want – well admittedly London hasn’t told them, yet!!!!

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    One gets the impression that the Westminster bubble is so all-pervading that these ‘leaders’ (for that is what they profess to be) simply forget about Scotland until they get reminded about it, then they treat it as annoying interruption to be dismissed with a mere soundbite. That’s not just a Labour thing, do any of the UK parties actually have a working strategy for Scotland? Or indeed for the other extremities outside of magaphone range of London?

    1. Welsh Sion says:

      Well … you could always come to my home country where we have a Labour Government.

      Trouble is, Labour has been steadily haemorrhaging votes for years. (Am I bovvered? I think not.) The Tories will diverted by what Westminster says and does and still need to prove the impossible and ‘get Brexit done’. The raison d’etre of the Brexit Party has been accomplished (as of 31 January, although the transition period will then kick in). The Lib Dems are nowhere (1 AM who operates within the Labour Government and 0 MPs).

      Time is ripe for new thinking – and for our national party to push on towards indy. God knows, we’ve had a few successful Yes Cymru marches up and down the country last year. More planned for this year.

      Interesting times …

  3. Jeel says:

    Scotland keeps what it raises, contributes to areas of joint interest.

  4. George S Gordon says:

    Best not hold our collective breaths, they’ve had more than a century to identify what Home Rule means, and make some progress (not that I want it).

    What really gets my goat is why the media don’t ask for a definition, and likewise for Federalism.

    The BBC in particular, who often presented us with a Ruth Davidson piece to camera, have now done the same with Keir Starmer as far as I can see.

    The same thing happened with Gordon Brown. I’m 100% convinced that his interventions caused us to lose in 2014.
    Then he had the utter gall to make his “offer/guarantee” of something undefined after the result.

    1. bringiton says:

      No to Scottish independence.

  5. Richard Easson says:

    Team Labour don’t seem to relise they have been relegated to the second division and they still haven’t sacked their manager.

    1. Coinneach says:

      The situation of Team Labour in both Scotland and rUK reminds me of the episode of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where it was decided that the least effective members of society would be encouraged to think of themselves as highly important and then be sent off to colonise a distant planet so that the rest of the population could supposedly follow when the Earth was threatened. And so a space ship full of self-important beauticians, telephone sanitisers, hairdressers, management consultants and ineffective politicians found themselves trying to be pioneers on a new planet, but without any idea of how to go about it.

      1. Brian says:

        @Coinneach, of course the irony of the Golgafrinchan B Ark was that after all the “useless” people were sent away, the society died.

  6. Hamish100 says:


    That ship sailed long ago with the SDP Lib lab pack. Even the Tory libdems don’t talk about it. It’s a fallacy. England as the largest nation takes all- we see that already by ignoring the Celtic nations parliaments.
    They still want our fishing, agriculture, oil and other energy rich resources.
    They need our young people to be ready to fight oversees and for us to house their nuclear weapons.

    Labour still wants nuclear weapons, tony Blair demonstrated their wish to go to war on the whim of the Americans. Johnson is a Tory and likewise has his eyes on us. Federalism only works where there is equality of nations and the larger partner is not malevolent to its neighbours. The britunion illustrates this arrogance over 300 years with past war in Ireland and conflict in Scotland as England’s elite demands and expects adherence.

  7. James Mills says:

    Scottish Labour – one just despairs !

  8. David Ross says:

    Labour’s views on Scottish affairs seem completely irrelevant since they may not even form a government this decade – and the chances of the present Tory government heeding Labour’s needs and wants for Scotland? Nae chance when the Tories would prefer Scotland’s parliament to have less powers rather than more. So, wait 5, 10 or more years for a Labour government to hopefully not renege on IndyLite promises made in 2020? – Phiff?!

  9. florian albert says:

    What Labour Party ‘worthies’ say these days is rarely worth bothering about.

    A more interesting comment was made yesterday by Jim Sillars.

    He wrote that there is a division in the SNP ‘between a majority misled by the leadership that pretends it can get an Indyref2 this year … and a minority who knows that at 45% – a figure that has not shifted in 6 years – there is no clamour for one among the population in general. That 45% can march every weekend, while the Unionist majority goes shopping and remains unpersuaded.’

  10. Derek Stewart Macpherson says:

    I have to say, the whole debate is silly, and simply a distraction. The fact that we’re having it at all is a function of the fact that most people here have little or no idea of what federalism actually is or how it works (in countries which are federations).

    And why would we? We’ve never lived in one. Well most of us haven’t. I have however. I’ve spent many years living in a federation, Australia, so let me throw a few features at you, and you can tell me if you think there is a snowball’s chance in hell of England ever accepting them, okay?

    Point 1 – The bicameral parliament. Australia calls itself a ‘Westminster system’ government/parliament so it’s a good comparison. But it is a federation, so how does that work? Well, instead of an anachronistic House of Lords (they don’t have lords), they have an elected upper house they call the Senate. The Senate is also known as the states’ house, because each state gets equal representation, 12 Senators each. The states are multi-member, STV electorates. So Tasmania, with a population of roughly half a million, gets the same number of Senators as New South Wales, which has 8.5 million. That’s a greater disparity than that between Scotland and England. Can we imagine England accepting that?

    Point 2 – A written constitution. The UK has muddled through without one so far, but realistically you couldn’t have a change as dramatic as going federal without codifying it. And how else could member states be confident of their position without it being enshrined in law? And not just ordinary law, which can be changed any time at the whim of parliament, but constitutional law that can only be changed by, to use a phrase familiar to the Scots constitution, the due and lawful consent and assent of all of the people. Can we imagine England accepting that?

    Which brings us to Point 3 – Referenda. The way in which Australia amends its constitution is by holding a referendum, but not by simple majority. Oh no, they do have a provision for that type of vote, but they call it a plebiscite, and it’s non-binding and can’t change the constitution. A referendum, in order to be carried, must receive the support of a majority of voters in a majority of states. So 4 out of 6 (UK equivalent would be 3 out of 4). Now, if those rules were applied to the EU vote, it would have failed. Can we imagine England agreeing to that?

    I could go on, but let’s start with those three questions. Answers here, or on a postcard addressed to :
    10 Somehope St.,
    Fantasy Town,

  11. Liam Baxter says:

    All nationalism – Scottish, English, British – is reactionary.

    Visionary, Alastair Gray’s final political act was to vote Labour.

    Does Bella Caledonia side with the visionaries or the reactionaries?

    1. Hi Liam
      I don’t believe all movements for self-determination are the same across time, and I believe Scottish, English and British nationalist movements have different characteristics and makeup for various historical and cultural reasons.
      ‘Alastair Gray’s final political act was to vote Labour’.

      1. Liam Baxter says:

        The one thing all nationalisms have in common – worldwide and throughout history – is that they all believe in their own special exclusivity and self-righteousness when, in fact, they all stem from the same rotten root.

        And yes, Alastair Gray’s final political act last month was to vote Labour.
        But then visionaries are ahead of their time.

        Put that as the tag line under ‘Bella Caledonia’.

        1. I love the idea that all nationalist movements throughout the world are the same, what a wonderfully stupid idea.

          1. Coinneach says:

            Precisely, Mike! What’s wrong with trying to protect and preserve your nation and its culture? If Liam’s assertion were true it would equate the nationalist movements in Latvia and Estonia during the Soviet occupation with the Nazis and the Soviets themselves. That’s clearly preposterous since the Latvians and Estonians resorted to mass choral events simply to remind their populations that they had their own national identities, languages and cultures. Given that the Soviets had imposed their language, legal, currency and governance systems on all other aspects of life, these massed choir events were among the few activities which the Soviets permitted that enabled the Latvians and Estonians to use their unique languages and cultures in public and keep their traditions alive.

          2. Derek Stewart Macpherson says:

            Here’s your problem:


            [mass noun]

            1Identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.
            ‘their nationalism is tempered by a desire to join the European Union’

            1.1Advocacy of or support for the political independence of a particular nation or people.
            ‘Scottish nationalism’

            That’s from the OED. And those are clearly two quite different definitions, aren’t they? There is obviously no need for the second kind of nationalism if your country is already independent, so logically they cannot be the same.

            The first one is all about saying, “We’re better than anybody else!” The second, “We’re just as good as anybody else.” Those are two very different statements. The first is unacceptable and wrong, the second is normal, natural and perfectly legitimate. That’s why I don’t like the word, and never use it. I am an internationalist, but to quote Jimmy Reid, “In order to be an internationalist, first you need a nation.”


        2. Me Bungo Pony says:

          Nonsense Liam. That’s like saying all Socialism is ultimately Stalinist and all Conservatism is ultimately Fascist. The reality of the human condition is that ALL political viewpoints are complex, nuanced and unique to each and every individual.

          Your view on Nationalism demonises the fundamental human instinct of family/tribe/nation/country. An instinct that pre-dates the human race and is the pre-cursor for other positive human traits such as love, empathy and duty. All you are doing is trying to make people feel bad about a perfectly natural human emotion . In many unionist cases, it’s gets hypocritical, in that they want to make Indies feel bad about the essentially inclusive, “internationalist” Scottish nationalism while pretending the increasingly xenophobic British/English nationalism is somehow preferable.

          The majority of Indies want an independent Scotland to take its place back in the EU family of nations as a sovereign state that chooses to share some of that sovereignty with our equally sovereign partners. They don’t want to be prisoners in the xenophobic right wing “Union” of the UK where Scotland’s sovereignty is kept under “lock and key” in another country and perpetually denied to it.

    2. Stranraer Observer says:

      That’s a silly argument. It’s like arguing that because the Nazis called themselves National Socialists they were left wing. Who hasnae heard that one many times?

      The Scottish Parliament’s electoral system is much more representative, in terms of reflecting the share of the vote, than Westminster. On that I’m sure everyone agrees. Today, that Parliament’s elected members voted by a majority of 10 to hold Indy Ref 2. There’s the mandate. Right there. Just as we would not expect to be taken seriously if we interfered in the election for Mayor of London, Westminster has no moral right to tell the people of Scotland whether we can or cannot have self-determination. The representatives of the Scottish people have made their decision. Critics can bang on about 55/45 splits till the cows come home but actual votes in real elections outweigh easily-skewed and unreliable polls every time.

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