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Reflections on the General Election in Scotland

After last nights results, pundits from across the political spectrum will today be racing to produce their analysis. In that vein, here’s mine: Scotland last night represented a victory of sorts for Labour. It was a vindication for the left of the party and in particular the Campaign for Socialism.

The result means the decline of cross class politics in this country. Firstly, it’s prudent to address the simple statistics for Labour in Scotland. Before this election many outside the party, and an alarming number of voices within Bath Street, predicted another poor performance for Scottish Labour. Iain Murray represented our best (and perhaps only) hope as a staunch unionist fighting back against an evil Scottish National Party in middle class Morningside. Instead, last night Labour gained six former industrial constituencies across Scotland, electing fantastic representatives to a parliament with an increased voice and mandate for Jeremy Corbyn. Perhaps most notably, the constituencies where Labour gained were not those associated with staunch Unionism; Glasgow North East and Coatbridge and Chryston were in fact within the ‘Yes’ voting areas of Glasgow and North Lanarkshire in the 2014 independence referendum.

It is clear that the positive message and progressive Labour manifesto won these seats, not discussions of a second referendum. As we move forward it is imperative that this message is not lost or muddied. It is socialism that has brought about the beginning of Labour’s recovery in Scotland, and it is socialism will ensure that recovery continues. In this regard we can be confident that our new MPs will deliver for us, and I’m sure I echo the thoughts of everyone in the Campaign for Socialism and Scottish Labour Young Socialists when I congratulate our members Danielle Rowley and Paul Sweeney on winning their elections. Their dedication to socialist values shone through in the campaign, and their election is a testament to the popularity of socialist policies in Scotland as well as to their tenacity and compassion.

Examining the results across Scotland more generally, we have witnessed what must surely be the last nail in the coffin of the myth of Scottish exceptionalism. The Conservative’s 13 seats are imperative to any government. Had they remained with the SNP, Theresa May would likely not have attempted to form one. Examining these constituencies, a trend emerges which is perhaps unsurprising. Affluent rural constituencies voted Conservative. Many of these, including Aberdeen South and Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock have previously been represented by the Tories. Their votes broadly reflect their class interests: low taxation and the erosion of the state. In many of these seats, and particularly around Aberdeenshire, even the combined totals of Labour and SNP votes in this election would not have changed the result. While there is much to celebrate for Scottish Labour in this election, we must be vigilant. The influence of wealth in Westminster elections has reasserted itself, it has broken cover. In a similar state of pessimism we must acknowledge that the SNP retained 35 seats. Emphasising opposition to a second referendum in these constituencies comprehensively failed to deliver for Labour. As we go forward we must abandon obsession with the national question in favour of the passionate advocacy of socialist policies which saw us triumph in constituencies where a sizeable amount of the population voted for independence in 2014.

In Scotland, for years, Labour has attempted to appeal across class boundaries and has been met with failure. A continuation of this policy, further curtailed by voter’s position on the national question, will inevitably meet with similar failure. Last night’s election handed the Conservatives their best result in Scotland since 1983. To combat this, Labour must regain the votes we relied upon in this period, the votes of the Scottish working class. It is here that Labour’s future in Scotland lies, not in attempting to syphon off votes from a small majority of the Scottish public. So we must return to a politics of class, where Scottish Labour are unapologetically on the side of workers. This is not the dialogue of the ‘rich and the rest’ which has become popular at Bath Street of late, instead it is a genuine commitment to redistributive economics and an expansion of the State. Such a strategy may well lose us votes in seats like Angus and Gordon, but it will gain us many more in seats which we must again begin to target. The success of our candidates in this election provides us with a blue print for how to restructure the party in Scotland, its messaging and its objectives. We can be happy with our performance briefly though and we should continue to congratulate our newly elected comrades. The picture around the UK is brighter for socialists than it has ever been in my political lifetime. Last night was a victory for Jeremy Corbyn and a victory for Labour, but with the likely imminent collapse of a Tory minority administration, we may have to return to the campaign trail sooner than we think. Let’s hope that in Scotland we play to our strengths.

Dexter Govan is a Scottish Labour Young Socialists activist. This article first appeared at Scottish Labour Young Socialists.


  1. CraigieBhoy says:

    I think a radical class-based platform WILL win seats in Angus and Gordon. Angus is not a particularly rich, middle class seat and there are parts of Arbroath in particular which contain a large number of council housing. Labour increased its vote in Angus, albeit not significantly. Aberdeen South was until relatively recently a Labour seat, as was Stirling (also won by the Tories) and Carrick and Cumnock formed part of a Labour seat when it was separate from Ayr. Labour should fight the Tories as well as the Nats.

  2. Robin Edwards says:

    That Kezia Dugdale should be expelled. She instructed Labour voters to vote Tory to Stop the SNP and in so doing has prevented Corbyn from entering No.10. But I bet the Kippers and Labourites who voted for Ruth Davidson’s pile of shite are sorry now as she shills for an `Open Brexit’.

    Corbyn needs to instruct Labour voters clearly and without equivocation to vote Labour whatever constituency they are in.

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