A Seat at the Table

As the general election looms – the political parties have tried to establish their messaging and define their pitch to the electorate. The SNP have created a message that they want to ‘Rid Scotland of the Tories’ and it’s both a weird and clever pitch. In doing so they want to grab on to some of the anti-Tory sentiment that is coursing through the body politic, and can message that in key Tory marginals they are the main challenger. Which they are.

But it’s a strange message though because we’ve had Tory-Free-Scotland’s before and it made little difference, aside from a passing sense of smug satisfaction. Panda Jokes aside, the point is supposed to be independence and breaking with the British state, not ‘ridding Scotland of the Tories’. It seems a kind of very low-bar from a party that’s running on empty.

‘Scottish Labour’ have instead come out with the idea that they would give ‘Scotland a seat at the table.’

Photo by Evelyn Semenyuk on Unsplash

The Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the electorate in Scotland has a key role to play in the outcome of the election later this year, and voters “will not be spectators”.

Criticising the view that Scottish votes do not matter, he added: “Electing Scottish Labour MPs won’t just be about playing our part in getting rid of a Tory government or helping to form a Labour one, which is of course important… it’s about making sure that Scotland has a voice at the heart of the next UK Labour government so that it delivers for Scotland.”

I mean, as we’ve laid out here, and as recent You Gov polling suggests, Scottish voting will be almost completely irrelevant as Labour cruise into power. We will be spectators.

But it’s also a funny, strangely patronising idea in itself.

I mean shouldn’t we have a seat at the table already? What is the table? Who else is around it? If we are, as is rarely suggested these days in a ‘partnership of equals’ isn’t it a bit odd to be offered a ‘seat at the table’?

Also, as Mr 240114 will no doubt point out, if the table already belongs to someone else – and is in someone else’s house – having a seat at it won’t make any bloody difference.

Those arguing for radical independence would argue anyway that what we need is not a seat at the table, but a brand new table. We need to get rid of the existing table design completely, and re-design and co-design a new one, make it from locally sourced renewable materials, and make sure there are chairs for everyone around it. And we need not just one big new table but lots of tables and lots of chairs throughout the country.



Comments (16)

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  1. Michelle S says:

    Quite. It’s the usual patronising guff from Labour. Offering us something that they repeatedly told us we had in 2014 and since.
    Mind you as the messaging for the GE from SNP, Labour and Tories is “vote for us to keep [insert party] out” I can’t say I am inspired to vote for any of them.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Michelle, the unionist message in seats held by the SNP or in which the SNP is second to a Tory or Labour MP, is ‘vote for whoever has the best chance of keeping the Nats (sic) out’.

      In a first past the post system, increasing numbers of people are voting tactically to try to keep out the party they hate most. UK elections are decided by the results in around 20% of constituencies, so, most voters do not really have a positive and potentially decisive vote.

      Unless the voting system is changed the UK will continue to have mainly Tory governments with an occasional non-transformative Labour one.

      For those of us who want independence, the democratic route is being increasingly blocked with crap from both Tories and Labour. I am told that ‘Sir’ Keir Two-flags Starmer is a human rights lawyer, but I think that is a rumour.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Michelle S, I think that goes to the heart of the problem. In many ways, our political party system fosters corruption (not least of ideals).
      For justice to be done, and more accurate accounting of electoral preference, there should be at least one further option for voters, to indicate ‘system change’ as their preference over and above any offered candidate. This might be like the power of juries to present a verdict on the basis that the relevant law is unjust/inconsistent/unworkable, or like the reservation philosophers keep: to challenge the question (and attempt to come up with a better one). Spoiling ballot papers or abstaining from voting (even under compulsory voting) is unsatisfactory and usually brushed off as approximate acceptance of the status quo/business-as-usual, under the false framing that somebody has to be the ‘change candidate’.

      If such an electoral system with built-in system-critique exists today, I’m unaware of it, but it exists in other forms.

    3. 240116 says:

      Then make sure you exercise your right to vote for ‘None of the Above’; just write ‘none of above’ on your ballot paper before submitting it. I’d love to see ‘None of the Above’ win a clear majority in my constituency. That would send a message.

  2. Brian McKaig says:

    A lot of media outlets are missing the point. The SNP no longer even have a case for standing in either a General or Holyrood election. The Supreme Court has closed the door firmly on Independence without a successful referendum which is only achievable with the approval of the UK Parliament. That was the democratic will of the Scottish people when they supported the Scotland Act in a referendum. The SNP do not agree with devolution so rather than mess it up as they have for 16 years do us all a favour and don’t stand for election. They don’t believe in a UK Parliament either so again don’t stand because with 49 MPs they achieved nothing. There is actually nowhere left for the SNP to go under the current constitution so they should form a group seeking to change the powers of the Scotland Act or some other lawful means to achieve Independence. Leave the seats at Holyrood and Westminster to those who actually want to make a difference under the current constitution. A vote for SNP is a wasted vote.

    1. Tony Newnham says:

      Who do you think will do a better job for Scots, & why?

    2. John says:

      Bloody hell mate that is so undemocratic that only a Scottish’ Labour apparatchik could have come up with that.
      A recent history lesson for you.
      The electorate of Scotland have only voted for governing party on 3 out of 11 occasions in last 45 years.
      The electorate in Scotland voted by near 2:1 majority to stay in Europe but were dragged out with minimal reference to Holyrood Parliament wishes.
      The 2021 Holyrood Parliament (voted in by PR by electorate in Scotland) has a majority for another independence referendum. This was rejected by Westminster Parliament which is effectively voted in by electorate in England.
      I have voted Labour when I lived in England and Wales but now I have returned to Scotland I would as much vote Labour up here as I would Tory and I have detested Tories since I could first vote in 1979

      1. Brian McKaig says:

        All wrong John. The purpose of the 2021 election was to appoint people to run a devolved country. It was NOT an independence referendum it was in fact fought on a large number of policies, there was therefore NO mandate for independence. On the other hand the BREXIT vote was indeed a single issue referendum. As with all referenda it is NOT a constituency based election therefore the geography of the vote share is irrelevant. It is a straightforward 51% win and the remainers (which includes me lost the argument). Instead of listening to SNP propaganda take a lesson in real democracy and constitutional affairs and revert to voting labour.

        1. Drew Anderson says:

          “…real democracy…”?

          That would start with a party whose leadership isn’t wedded to FPTP; against the wishes of its members.

        2. John says:

          Brian – thanks for your reply.
          Please note I never said that Holyrood should implement independence I did say that Holyrood should be respected by Westminster when it delivers a majority for an independence Referendum. The ultimate decision on independence should rest with electorate of Scotland via a referendum. In short it is up to electorate in Scotland to decide the future of Scotland not voters and their representatives from outside Scotland.

          To summarise your post:
          1.Under Scotland Act power to hold a referendum resides with Westminster. (I note that a motion to transfer this power to Holyrood was defeated in Westminster yesterday despite vast majority of MP’s representing Scottish constituencies voting in favour.)
          Question – how does Labour propose electorate in Scotland change aspects of Scotland Act when Westminster is opposed?
          2.Westminster has no intention of allowing a Scottish Independence Referendum regardless of how many MP’s/MSP’s the electorate in Scotland vote for who support another independence referendum.
          Question – under what circumstances would Labour accept that a referendum on independence in Scotland is the wish of electorate in Scotland?
          3.As there is no prospect of Westminster granting another independence referendum there is no point in voting for a party that supports independence. (this appears to be the official Labour position in Scotland at present). This is a Catch 22 position that Joseph Heller would be proud of).
          4.In addition you personally state that because Westminster will not coutenance another independence referendum the SNP should not even stand for election. (this I suspect is what a lot of ‘Scottish’ Labour members really think but cannot say in public.) This sounds more like a plot from a Franz Kafka novel.
          5.If you stop SNP from standing the only alternative to Tories is Labour so vote Labour, This has a whiff of Joseph Stalin about it.

          The Scotland Act which you say is the democratic mandate for electorate in Scotland was a take it or leave it option voted for 25 years ago. A substantial section of current electorate in Scotland did not vote in 1998 referendum on it as they were too young or not resident in Scotland in 1998. The Scotland Act does not itself prevent an independence referendum being held it gives that power to agree or block it to Westminster and you are using Scotland Act as a fig leaf to hide Westminster’s refusal to agree to Holyrood’s request. If electorate in Scotland had not voted for a majority in Holyrood for parties who advocated having an independence referendum a request to hold one would never have been submitted to Westminster for approval.

          MP’s are elected not just to slavishly follow one aspect of policy as you suggest but to represent their constituents (eg Post Office scandal as a good example of local MP’s acting for constituents) and discuss and vote on a whole range of issues many of which arise post an election.(eg Rwanda deportation scheme was not in Tory manifesto in 2019.) As long as Scotland remains part of UK elected MP’s from Scotland are perfectly entitled to air their views on any aspect of UK government policy regardless of whether they support independence.

          Lastly as long as you pony up the required amount of cash anyone can stand for election on whatever issue you like and it is up to electorate to decide whether that is appropriate to them or not via the ballot box.

          I am not a member of any political party and have voted for all mainstream parties (apart from Tory/UKIP etc). I am deeply disillusioned by Labour as they are so timid and offer little prospect of effective change but they are preferable to the venal Tories however until they stop treating the electorate in Scotland in the undemocratic and patronising manner that your comments so ably demonstrate demonstrate there is no chance that I will return to voting Labour in Scotland especially as there are no Tory/Labour marginals.

          1. Niemand says:

            ‘2.Westminster has no intention of allowing a Scottish Independence Referendum regardless of how many MP’s/MSP’s the electorate in Scotland vote for who support another independence referendum.
            Question – under what circumstances would Labour accept that a referendum on independence in Scotland is the wish of electorate in Scotland?’

            This is a very important question.

            The unthinking answer is ‘waste of time, they won’t consider such a question’.

            But unless I have missed something, has this question even been seriously asked by the SNP of either Labour or the Tories?

            One of the role of any politician, especially senior ones, is diplomacy and there are several ways to get an answer to that question but they all require a canny approach (and one of course that Salmond took and was successful in for 2014). It is about making the very logical point that a voluntary union must have an exit policy (see also the way Brexiteers got the EU to actually introduce an exit protocol from the EU where one did not exist, around 2000 I think) and thus a triggering threshold, and also looking at the domestic situation at the time and using it judiciously to twist some arms, ever so nicely. I say ever so nicely because that is what diplomacy is.

            What we get instead is pointless grandstanding, defeatism and forgone conclusion useless failed court cases, all easily batted away by Westminster because they are not even asking any questions of those who matter. It is like we need some actual grown up politicians who actually understand politics and how to make persuasive arguments and engage in serious dialogue. Making loud speeches in Westminster about injustice and delivering statements to the world from Holyrood, is not it. I firmly believe that the right diplomatic approach, probably behind closed doors, will get an answer, especially from Labour. Then the question is what that answer is how it is dealt with.

          2. John says:

            Niemand – thanks for your reply.
            I agree that the criteria for Labour agreeing to another independence referendum requires to be demanded from them and I shall be raising it with any prospective candidate or canvasser that visits me during the upcoming GE.
            I do not agree that taking the power of Westminster to block a referendum to Supreme Court was a futile strategy. I am sure that the answer was obvious to those that raised the question but not to many of the public and support for independence rose immediately after the judgement as public became aware of how voluntary union actually is. To have failed to challenge Westminster in this case would have been tantamount to giving up. What was lacking was a viable follow up strategy which should have been agreed upon before court case.
            Devolution was primarily delivered by Labour in 1997 because they were frightened of upsurge in support for independence during Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s premiership though there were some Scottish Labour MP’s who fundamentally agreed in principle. Tony Blair still required a lot of persuasion to follow through on promise and limitations of devolved parliament’s powers have become apparent over the intervening 25 years.
            The 2014 independence referendum was agreed by Coalition government because they thought it was in their political interests. Support for SNP had risen but support for independence was much lower (33%) at time of agreement and Tories thought, along with most commentators, that No would win comprehensively. This would, they thought, put issue to bed for a generation, drastically reduce support for SNP and cause problems for Labour in Scotland. As it turned out the vote was much closer than they imagined, the independence issue was more alive than before 2011, the SNP flourished on the back of the referendum. They were correct in that support for Labour was decimated as many of their supporters were in favour of independence.
            Westminster got an almighty shock in 2014 and policy since then has been primarily about avoiding another referendum, as they realise it could be lost, rather than showing benefits of Union to Scotland.
            Labour were in a state of shock in Scotland after electorate turned against them post 2014 and I suspect their only policy and hope is try and get back to where they were in 1997 and ignore independence and calls for a referendum in hope that the issue just goes away. This may be partially working at present as Tory government stumbles on and SNP government looks tired and beaten down and a bit incompetent trying to govern at Holyrood with a grim economic background, internal party problems and bickering within independence movement. The SNP have lost confidence in 2023 and appear slightly frightened of electorate at present. The ongoing high support for independence outstripping support for SNP (contrast to 2011) shows that this will not be a sustainable position for Labour especially if in government.
            In my opinion the only possible chance of obtaining another referendum in short term is if there is a hung parliament with SNP holding balance of power as Westminster parties only really respond to political power – I again reference DUP extracting favours from Theresa May’s minority government.
            In longer term support for independence will require to be built and sustained to at least 60% in opinion polls with threat of political annihilation for all unionist parties in Scotland before Westminster will budge from its intransigent position. It will require political skill to achieve this and although you have correctly referenced Alex Salmond’s skills in this area his race is run and it needs the new generation of independence politicians to stop grandstanding and start working together on a viable strategy to achieve this.

          3. John says:

            I should have added that the 60% figure for support for independence has not only been referenced by Nicola Sturgeon but has been mentioned by Alastair Jack when he rejected Holyrood request post 2021 election. While this is obviously not a firm guarantee it does indicate that Westminster recognises that this is a level of support they will find difficult to ignore.

  3. George Archibald says:

    Hear bleedin’ hear!
    What is wrong with the SNP?!
    ‘Get rid of the Tories? The Tories have 6 (six) seats in Scotland. Just 6. It was 13 the day before Johnston got his ‘huge majority’ of 80.
    What happened to Independence? Where is the passion for Independence? Never mind the nitpicking and nuances etc, let’s get behind a proper big passionate drive for Independence. Proper leadership needed here.
    Labour are the big opposition/enemy/stumbling block.
    . A ‘seat at the table’? For goodness sake. I’d vote for Anas Sarwar tomorrow if he was Labour Leader of a national party, but while he is Branch Office Manager..no. Never.

  4. Niemand says:

    It is a dilemma for many I think.

    I suppose one idea is that Scottish Labour MPs at Westminster potentially have more influence than SNP ones as they will be part of government, not the opposition (presumably) and potentially part of the Cabinet. What that really amounts to is debatable but having the ear of your PM about Scottish matters is potentially better than any opposition MPs, especially of a unionist PM who wants Scotland on board, supposedly (rather than the Tories who seem not to give a damn about that).

    This is hardly earth-shattering but not to be entirely dismissed: the spectacle of the SNP MPs in Parliament has not been very edifying not least because they have been ineffective – lots of noise and little else. I think things would be a lot simpler for independence supporters if the SNP still had credence but frankly, they don’t, and for all sorts of reasons beyond the failure/stagnation of ‘the cause’.

  5. Satan says:

    Good to see an article about furniture for a change. The SNP are widely regarded as incompetent, corrupt, dull, and pretty irrelevant in a general election. I think their votes will come out of habit if their suporters can be bothered to vote. I doubt that many will be interested in their corporation tax policies, or policies on anything much else. They can’t even get people to deliver election pamphlets without paying them.

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