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A Scotland free from Tory rule for good is the offer Labour has to beat

Alex Salmond by Scottish Government, file at http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment/2497396136/in/photostream/Watching Alex Salmond’s speech to the SNP Spring Conference, it is almost impossible to see Scottish independence as anything other than inevitable. If not this year, then at least sometime in the not too distant future.

It doesn’t matter that I am an internationalist who doesn’t believe that independence can exist in any meaningful sense in a global economy. Salmond simply promises something which is not only a credible offer, but one that seems designed to appeal to Labour voters most of all. A Scotland free forever of Tory rule. An NHS that really will “never be up for sale“. An end to the era of “handing out punishment to the poor and the disabled“. Salmond says:

Independence will be good for Scottish Labour. The Labour Party, freed from Westminster control, will have the chance to return to its core values: many of which we in this party agree with and share.”

It is hard to disagree with that, though clearly Scottish independence will be less good for  English Labour. Such is the nature of the hatred which the Scottish party leadership and most activists feel for the SNP and Salmond, however, that they would deny it. This tribalism does not play well with Labour voters, many of whom are already used to voting for different parties in different elections. And it is especially inadvisable in the context of the roughly 10% swing from the Lib Dems to the SNP in Westminster voting intentions since 2010 which will see the SNP win Westminster seats from both Labour and the Lib Dems in 2015.

Of course, Scottish Labour did last month, after all, make a serious effort to reposition itself to the left of the SNP, which was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the SNP has now played its trump card. In the words of Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday:

The Yes campaign is not asking you to leave your party. Instead, it offers you the chance to get your party back – a Labour Party free to make its own decisions, no longer dancing to a Westminster tune. For everyone out there with Labour in your heart, the message is clear. Don’t vote No to stop the SNP. Vote Yes to reclaim the Labour Party.”

The vision of a Labour Scotland – delivered by the SNP and independence – is a hard offer to beat, but there is an argument against it. It goes back to the fact that that independence simply cannot exist in any meaningful sense in a global economy. A Labour Scotland may offer some protection to Scottish voters, but not as much as would a Labour Britain fighting to invest, and grow the British economy, to reduce inequality, to introduce fair taxation and put austerity behind us. That is what the Scottish economy, dependent most on trade with the rest of the UK as it is, most needs.

If UK Labour really wants to stop Scottish independence, at least for now, that is what UK Labour must offer. And it must do so in time for the referendum.

But I shall not hold my breath.

Image : Scottish Government

 

 

16 Comments

  1. A good post,though it has to be said you didn’t explore sufficiently the contradictions and dilemnas that are at play here.

    I will do my best to cover all these issues in a rare blogpost of my own nearer the big event!

  2. Robert says:

    All that is fine but not to long ago the leader of labour in Scotland took the place of the Tories and argued against universal benefits and welfare she talked about why should people on a £100,000 get benefits, well why not people on £65,000 benefits as MP’s are. why is it always above the £65,000.

    But the reason was of course benefits are cheaper to give to anyone then to get people searching whether your in that group.

    Labour were telling us what wrong with student fees they are good that free prescriptions should be removed from the well off those yes on £100.000, MP should get them because they are poorly paid for course.

    Now Miliband has gone to Scotland they are told about socialism the rest of the UK will not get.

    1. Rod says:

      Why shouldn’t people earning £100,000+ or £65,000+ receive benefits. They’ll have contributed through income tax so there’s no reason for them not to get something back.

      I know it’s a bit of a slogan, but benefits for the poor can quickly become poor benefits. This happens as the wealthy begin to feel they receive nothing in return for their contributions. They may then take a less engaged attitude to society. Ultimately this erodes social cohesion and can produce political consequences.

      Of course, the rotten Labour/Progress Party will opt to abandon universal benefits. Such a position will be supported by the already disengaged elite who feel that those who are poor should be punished and don’t deserve ‘hand-outs’. Hence the numerous means-tested, humiliating hurdles placed in the path of those who’ve been failed by the system. Labour/Progress’s Rachel Reeves has already indicated her readiness to be “tougher than the Tories” on this matter.

      The underlying belief of the elite is that their wealth is a result of personal merit and the poverty of others is a consequence of laziness.

      And of course, if you want to punish lazy, malingering scroungers vote LibLabCon.

  3. terry sullivan says:

    an england free fgrom eu scots welsh and nirish and labor is what i want to see

  4. Stephen says:

    The Yes campaign is not asking you to leave your party. Instead, it offers you the chance to get your party back – a Labour Party free to make its own decisions, no longer dancing to a Westminster tune. For everyone out there with Labour in your heart, the message is clear. Don’t vote No to stop the SNP. Vote Yes to reclaim the Labour Party.”

    Which is of course absolute shite. Well if we had a “reclaimed Labour party” like Nicola wants it could propose things like oooh say,banning blacklisters and tax avoiders from public contracts or insisting on the Living Wage as part of any tendering process from public bodies.Wait a minute – that’s what the existing unreclaimed Labour party proposed a few weeks ago and Nicola and her party voted against all these things. So she is saying vote Yes to get a more ehh authentic(?)LP because that will propose things her party will be even more firmly against? On what planet does that make sense

  5. Stephen says:

    “Salmond simply promises something which is not only a credible offer, but one that seems designed to appeal to Labour voters most of all. A Scotland free forever of Tory rule. An NHS that really will “never be up for sale“. An end to the era of “handing out punishment to the poor and the disabled“.

    eh in what way is a promise to cut corporation Taxes faster and harder than George Osborne, and a refusal to raise personal taxes on the rich at the same time as improving public serivces and creating a fairer society credible? That’s before they demand reductions in parliamentary Sovereignty in the rest of the UK to facilitate a currency union ?

    … as the late Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie used to say “If we can’t have a Tory government in Scotland the next bast thing is a nationalist government doing tory things” the SNP ‘White Paper’ on Indy has seven separate mentions of how much they want to cut Corporation Tax, it mentions tackling child poverty twice.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Stephen: I don’t dispute what you say about SNP pro-corporate business policies, low taxation that benefits the rich etc (though Blair’s Labour was these things too). Unfortunately, many former Labour voters and indeed current Labour voters in certain elections seem to fall for the Salmond spin and don’t notice that Scottish Labour is better than it was and New Labour was. And many more may well like the idea of not having any more actual Tory governments. I don’t think you deal with the question of how Labour deals with this. I’m not convinced that displaying hatred of the nats is anything other than counter-productive with the electorate.

  6. swatantra says:

    Does anybody in their right minds think that a One Party State is the best thing for Democracy?
    Such headlines indicate a totalitarian outlook.
    Its because when one party messes things up and another party steps in to clean up the mess that makes Britain and Scotland tick. Its pure arrogance to suggest otherwise.

  7. Chris says:

    England, Scotland and Wales quite simply are not separate nations. They all speak English and they have all been one country since 1707, long before the USA, Italy, Germany and many other countries even existed.

    The notion of Scotland as some kind of separate entity that has rights as such is ludicrous. It’s just northern Britain and the left in Scotland has a duty to stand by the left in the rest of the country.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Chris: everyone’s entitled to their own opinion of what constitutes a nation. Personally, I’m bored by the whole concept of nation which means nothing positive to me whatsoever, and is irrelevant to our objectives anyway, which are about class inequalities and conflict.The idea of ‘nation’ is merely conjured out of peoples’ imaginations.

      And what’s more, whether or not the British also constitute a nation, the UK is also too small to be independent. The concept of “independence” in a global economy is just as irrelevant as the concept of “nation”.

      1. Rod says:

        Jon: “The idea of ‘nation’ is merely conjured out of peoples’ imaginations.”

        The same goes for every other idea we use to make sense of our world, including your understanding of class inequalities and conflict.

        But I understand why members of the Labour Party, with it’s support for the EU and Nato, want to downgrade the status of the nation state: the weaker the concept of the nation state becomes the more easy it will be to initiate, and get away with, the military intervention that now seems to be Labour Party policy.

        1. Jon Lansman says:

          Rod:

          I said: “The idea of ‘nation’ is merely conjured out of peoples’ imaginations.
          You said: “The same goes for every other idea we use to make sense of our world, including your understanding of class inequalities and conflict.

          I can’t agree. There may be shades of grey in drawing the boundaries between both ‘classes’ and ‘nations’, but in one case the distinctions that can be made are based on objective criteria – based on economic and social relations – and in the other only subjective criteria about personal identity.

          1. Rod says:

            Jon: “in one case the distinctions that can be made are based on objective criteria”

            Do you mean there are no objective criteria that can be associated with our understanding of what we call the United Kingdom?

  8. Robert says:

    That Chris is [xxxxx edited out xxxxxxx] I’ve ever heard of course Scotland can exist on it’s own so can Wales for that matter.

    Stand by the left what left do not tell me you see Miliband as the left for god sake he’s now under the control of Progress what make Newer Labour a left leaning party.

    Wales and Scotland and NI are all going to get total devolution whether that’s under the Union jack or not is up to the people.

    That is what devolution is for god sake.

    1. Chris says:

      You’re a real charmer, aren’t you mate?

      Oh yes.

      If Scotland can have a referendum then why not Leicestershire or Bournemouth?

  9. James Martin says:

    I have to say as a socialist south of the border I’m not going to tell Scottish comrades what to do – it’s their decision to make not mine.

    And of course their are pros and cons whatever the outcome- I have no love for the UK state, and its role in odious and dangerous organisations like NATO, and a Scottish split will do no harm in that sense. On the other hand every major socialist and trade battle over the past 100 years has united Scottish, English and welsh workers against common enemies – separate Scotland is likely for a time at least to weaken this in the future.

    But then the key has never been who is sitting in a parliament building, wherever that is located, but how much power overall, in the workplaces and communities…

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