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Scotland: the patriot game’s a bogey

braveheartby the collective editorial team of Uncivil Society

In the lead-up to the General Election, Scottish politics is constrained within the stifling discourse of who best represents the national interest. Whilst SNP billboards imagine a House of Commons complete with tartan benches, Jim Murphy has foisted a commitment to patriotism and the service of the nation into Scottish Labour’s constitution. Whether by reaction or design, Labour is now mired in the patriot game. It may as well impale itself upon a thistle.

It seems incredible that only months after Jim Murphy’s parachuted-in mastermind John McTernan declared “you can’t out nat the nats” Labour is trying to do exactly that. Labour activists can’t help but suffer from the ‘cognitive dissonance’ they were so often accused of during the referendum as a result. Having identified itself as an anti-Scottish nationalist party Labour is now doing its utmost to embrace the saltire and to be seen doing so.

By playing on the wrong pitch, and by the SNP’s rules, Labour is on the verge of fully capitulating to nationalism in a match it is bound to lose. The Scottish electorate will be asked to choose between two social nationalist parties and the result goes without saying; they’ll vote for the real patriotic McCoy. The situation in England is comparatively better. For all its faults, Labour’s pitch in the rest of the UK is contextualised by something more akin to a traditional ‘left vs right’ battle with the Tories. However limited and mealy mouthed it is based upon price controls, redistribution of wealth, and is somewhat critical of private interests in unregulated markets.

Despite nationalist hegemony, there is a desire for a ‘real labour’ politics and a Labour Party that people recognise as their own. There is a space for a Labour Party that talks about work in political terms and campaigns relentlessly for secure, meaningful employment. This image of a bygone Labour Party is inherent within collective memory, however ahistorical it may be. Hence a key theme of the referendum was the Yes campaign laying claim to the Labour tradition. The irony, of course, is that civic nationalism has now written out issues of work and class power completely.

This is the field that Scottish Labour can play on and win. For all the rhetoric and contestation of the Labour tradition during the referendum, for the most part the reality of it was absent. Those who feel betrayed, those who want to vote Labour but see nothing for themselves or their families would prefer a Labour Party that constructs a ‘them and us’ narrative around empowering workers. A narrative committed to extending collective bargaining, whilst combatting blacklisting and casualisation. Most of all they’d rather vote for a party that proudly puts redistribution of wealth and power at the centre of its policies and discourse rather than substituting them for an unfit nationalism that the opposing team is well placed to defeat.

This article first appeared at Uncivil Society, a really promising new Scottish website

Image credit: Braveheart by 20th Century Fox


  1. Dave says:

    Remember, every vote for the SNP waters down labours wins, and gives us a Conservative government!

    1. Robert says:

      What’s the difference, if I was in Scotland I’d be an SNP member who votes for the party, I would not be voting labour why the hell do I care who wins in England

      1. Mukkinese says:

        It is not about “who wins in England”, it is about who wins in the U.K. and that still includes Scotland…

  2. James Martin says:

    Excellent article. Such a shame that along with the Scottish Labour right so much of the (ex) Labour Scottish left has also embraced nationalism and drank down the reactionary bile it contains.

  3. David Pavett says:

    Good article. Things just get worse for Scottish Labour. But then that is exactly what many if us, and many articles on Left Futures , said would happen if Jim Murphy was elected as leader. The only way for Labour was to outflank the SNP from the left. That is clearly not going to happen. Labour is now paying the price for that and for decades of taking the Scots for granted.

    To respond by saying ‘However bad Labour is the Tories are worse and a vote for the SNP is a vote making Tory government more likely’ is to fail to understand that after 13 years of Blair and Brown a positive reason is needed for voting Labour. Threatening Scottish voters with Cameron is just more of the negative camoaigning that nearly handed the nats victory in the referendum campaign and is still boosting them now.

    Scottish Labour is stuffed. It is making independence all but inevitable.

    1. Robert says:

      Sad out look for labour in Scotland.

  4. David Ellis says:

    In Scotland the sections of the working class and youth that matter have broken from Labourism never to return. In the absence of a revolutionary socialist alternative then there can be no question of not voting in solidarity with those workers and youth for the left populist SNP whilst all the while emphasising our own programme for working class power and the transition to socialism in Scotland, Britain and Europe. In Wales too we must vote Plaid where they have a chance and Labour otherwise and of course in England Labour. There is no point voting for the likes of Left Unity or TUSC or the truly ghatsly Greens. These are not revolutionary alternatives but a gaggle of headless centrists opportunisitically trying to split the working class vote with out offering any sort of real alternative.

    1. Mukkinese says:

      Such a strategy only improves the chances of another five years of this government.

      If the Tories are the biggest party they get the first chance to form a government and it is a very close call on whether they would lose a vote of confidence or not…

  5. David Ellis says:

    The Westminster Empire no longer streches up to Scotland let alone to three quarters of the globe as it once did. And why? Because there is absolutely no benefit to membership anymore. It is all take, take, take with none of the famous noblesse oblige remaining. The Scottish Tories used to transport some of the super profits up to the Scottish middle classes and Labour some to the better of sections of the working class. That cosy little relationship ended long ago for the Tories and shortly after for Labour. Now it is all austerity in order to prop up the usurious City of London and the bankrupt bankers. Britain lost its empire after trying to impose the Great Depression on its dominions in the 30s now what was left is being junked for the Great Recession. It is the end of the road for British imperialism and its black heart at Westminster. A left party that stood for a Federation of Sovereign British Nations to replace the Union would do very well in England as they are doing in Scotland and Wales. It would be genuinely radical compared to New Labour and properly anti-Westminster compared to the Tory B Team of UKIP.

    1. Mukkinese says:

      Scotland is still ruled under law made in Westminster.

      They can vote in as many SNP M.P.’s as they like, but without the agreement of a Westminster government, which will either be led by Labour or the Conservatives, they have no power to do anything.

      So what influence will the SNP have if the Tories scrape back into power?

      1. Robert says:

        People will simply vote for the party they back, it will not matter if labour is in power or the Tories the policies are austerity, but Miliband is a serious worry for people ..

        Laughable that people should vote labour to stop the Tories how do we stop labour.

  6. Jim Denham says:

    An excellent re-assertion of basic class politics, and the shameful capitulation to reactionary nationalism by Murphy and, indeed, much of the Scottish fake-“left” outside the Labour Party.

    Good luck to “Uncivil Society”!

    1. David Ellis says:

      This coming from a Zionist.

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