Labour’s Rough Wooing

“Scotland is a poor country, one of the poorest regions of Europe. Yet with its similar population and resources, it should be as rich as Ireland or Denmark … The reason is simple: that for the past century the Scottish economy has been allowed to lapse by being run from England in England’s interest”.

This was written not by a Scottish nationalist but by the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins at the weekend, reflecting on what he called ‘the SNP implosion’ (‘The SNP implosion could lead to a more independent Scotland. Here’s how’).

Aside from noticing that he is only half right here, Jenkins analysis is interesting.

It goes like this.

Labour are likely to win the next General Election, but need to avoid a 92-style late humilitaion.

He suggests Starmer currently needs 124 new MPs for an overall majority. Forecasts offer him 117 switching from the Tories in England and Wales, and cites a Times poll that predicted Labour gaining seats from the SNP and going from one to twenty six MPs with the SNP dropping from 45 to 21.

Labour he argues desperately needs those 26 seats in Scotland.

He notices that independence still has stronger backing than does the SNP and so asks: how then does Labour appeal to SNP floating voters? He has also noticed, like many, that Gordon Brown;s plans are not in tatters but widely ignored: “The former prime minister Gordon Brown came up with a grand plan last December for a new “double devolution”, welcomed by Starmer. The trouble is that in none of these platitudes was there an ounce of specificity.”

So what does Jenkins suggest to woo independence supporters to vote Labour?

“Since Scotland already has a wide spread of domestic autonomy, it is hard to see what greater devolution a British government could offer” he mumbles unpromisingly.

He then suggests: “The key issue in any further steps towards Scottish autonomy lies in economic policy, and in particular, taxation. Here Scotland already has limited powers. But the issue is whether Scotland is ready – as some in the SNP hesitantly maintain – to move down the road towards greater independence from UK Treasury subsidy, currently running at almost 25% above the regional average. This is the one issue on which the independence debate stays silent. If Starmer is serious about “doubling” devolution, he will have to confront the fiscal issue – discretion over taxes – as holding the long-term key to Scottish self-rule. It is the only further devolution that makes sense. An honest nationalist should welcome such a commitment from Labour.”

To re-cap then you’re impoverished but subsidised, but what we will offer you is less subsidy for your impoverishment. Got it?

I mean there’s rough-wooing and then there’s a very cheap date.

Now in his stride Jenkins suggests Sunak throw us a bone: “… and why not discuss offering Scotland what Northern Ireland has won, a special relationship with the EU in honour of its strong opposition to Brexit? All options carry a price, but so does independence.”

I mean this isn’t going to happen in any Brit-fantasists wildest dreams but this is just scribbles for fun. Layering on levels of incoherence now Jenkins explains that the: “issue should be “more” independence, not total independence. The case is for radical federalism with fiscal autonomy at its core.”

‘Radical Federalism’, again!?

Now reaching a crescendo he writes: “It is ironic that the collapse of Scotland’s national party should suddenly be the best chance Scotland has of greater nationalism. But with 26 seats at issue, it is worth a gamble.”

It’s odd to have a national newspaper that publishes such strangely incoherent and ignorant stuff. On the positive side, if that’s the best advice people have for Labour, let’s hope they take it.

It’s a strange piece, with hints of insight but essentially dripping with condescension and contempt. His message is essentially: ‘remember, you’re a poor region, propped up by the benevolence of your neighbour, but we need to win some seats to escape the Tory Hellscape so we’ll throw you some pretences of democracy’. Nothing is said about what would be good for the people of Scotland, we are simply an expedient vehicle for Labour to use.

Comments (6)

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  1. Alasdair Angus Macdonald says:

    Mr Jenkins is one of the few journalist on the Guardian who actually supports Scottish independence and actually knows something about it. Possibly, that has something to do with his Welsh roots.

    However, he is a Tory and has that bombastic superiority and that determines the condescending tone of much of what he writes.

    The Guardian, of course has two Scotland correspondents, but their job, like that of Ciaran Jenkins, when he was Scotland correspondent of the smug self-congratulatory Channel 4 News, is to report only bad things about Scotland to show the people of North London that these poor colonials are unable to manage things for themselves and need a benevolent England/Britain to survive.

    However, Mr Jenkins is, to an extent, right with regard to Labour and its shouted uncompromising stance towards Scotland – it is unsustainable. And as corruption at Westminster causes the UK to crumble, Starmer and Labour do not know what to do – other than turn up in big numbers to pay homage at Rupert Murdoch’s summer garden party and eat from finger bowls of peas and chorizo.

  2. Rachel Findlay says:

    Spot on. How his (true) observation re our position v Ireland and Denmark is not followed up with a demand for us to be like those countries (ie independent) is incoherent. It’s as if the snobbery of his attitude just can’t be overcome even by his own clear statement of fact. Human bias at its most obvious.

  3. David McCann says:

    Sums it up precisely

  4. DC says:

    Well said. Sir (?) Simon Jenkins is pathetically ill-informed about the state of politics in Scotland. That Labour sense of entitlement never far from the surface.

  5. James Mills says:

    Unionist writer exhibits arrogant , condescending and blinkered view of Scotland and its population ! Wow ! What a surprise !

  6. John says:

    Not directly related to article discussed but I have just finished reading an article by Gerry Hassan in Compass on state of UK politics.
    There was sweeping generalisations about SNP wholesale failure with no evidence provided or context about background of need to mitigate Uk government policies, effect of UK Internal Market or Westminster hostility to Holyrood.
    No mention of specific democratic deficit of Brexit in Scotland or Westminster rejection of Holyrood request for S30.
    Very little criticism of UK Labour backsliding on policy commitments or how Labour do not appear to be offering Scotland much but rather concentrating on appeasing red wall electorate, Rupert Murdoch and City of London.
    I was left wondering if Gerry had written article as a job application for the Guardian.

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