Thursday, 13 August 2009

Labour's place in a devolved Scotland

As the (admittedly self-proclaimed) architects of devolution, one of the crucial repercussions of the decade since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened has been the difficulties which the Labour Party has faced in trying to find its place within the new political tapestry.

Ironically, part of the problem has arisen from the situation that out of the main Scottish political parties Labour is the only one which doesn't actually have a devolved political structure. Iain Gray is the leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament - beyond that his jurisdiction is limited, with technically no role as leader of ordinary party activists like myself. Instead, the party remains run from London, albeit with a strong core of Scottish MPs at its heart.

This has left Labour wide open to its designation as "London Labour" by the SNP, arguably the single most effective attack that the Nats have put together in the past decade. Regardless of Labour's role in devolution, regardless of the strong Scottish history to Labour, regardless of Labour's work in the Scottish Parliament, Labour is billed as being a party of outsiders, of non-Scots whose priorities lie elsewhere.

The SNP have stuck to this line of reasoning so successfully that it has become a recurrent motif in political discourse in Scotland. Sadly however the SNP cannot claim all the credit for this situation - Labour must shoulder a large part of the blame through its own actions which have added very strong credence to the attack.

There has been a very visible hostility to the Scottish Parliament from many Labour MPs in Scotland, with outright warfare often seeming to bubble beneath the surface. Successive Scottish Labour leaders have been undermined and restricted by interference from down south, leaving Salmond and his party free to crow about the Englishness of the party - and let's not pretend that this isn't the allusion which the SNP are seeking to entrench in public opinion. The 2007 Holyrood campaign ended up with three different camps interfering in the running of the campaign, each appearing to mutually loathe the others. The internal politics of the party spilled over into the vital work of trying to return a Labour administration to the Scottish Parliament, and helped to contribute to the subsequent defeat. And ever since the party has appeared adrift in the Scottish political environment, shorn of its role as the presumed political leaders of the country and not sure how to function in opposition to a canny minority government. Coupled with an evermore unpopular and aimless government in Westminster and it is no wonder that Labour's opponents in Scotland have been walking around with broad smiles on their faces.

Labour needs to stop and determine what Scottish Labour means. I am not advocating divorce from the UK wide Labour Party, however I think it is becoming ever clearer that to be successful in the devolved environment Scottish Labour must be able to demonstrate and create a clear and engaging Scottish identity. Polling since the SNP came to power repeatedly demonstrates that Scots do not seem to want independence; however they very clearly do want a Scottish Government which will fight on their behalf and use the powers (of which they wish to see more) entrusted to them to put forward a distinct Scottish agenda.

The reality is that this agenda would best fit with the Scottish Labour Party, however the party is failing to respond to the public's demands. Scotland is a diverse country and the somewhat simplistic view that it is a solely left wing nation ignores the realities of the different communities and environments existing across the nation. However, the context of Scotland does ensure that there is scope for a progressive agenda which is not achievable at Westminster under the current voting system.

The SNP have tried to bill themselves as the leaders of this progressive agenda, however the reality is that this does not sit easily with their actual political agenda. Fundamentally the current SNP administration (and admittedly it could be very different if one of the other Nationalist factions in the party came to power) is a broadly centre-right party supportive of business and less motivated by the realities of combating inequalities than by the PR positives of talking about it. They are making some attempts to address some of Scotland's shocking problems, however as with much of their rhetoric the reality is rather sparse. And needless to say, the other Holyrood parties are not filling the gap - the Tories are Tories no matter what Osbourne tells the world; the Greens are currently too small to be much more than Jiminy Cricket type figures; and the Lib Dems are, well, quite frankly pointless in the current environment, scared to work with the SNP despite the obvious shared areas of interest and uncomfortable to work with the other parties.

This would appear to leave open a perfect space for Scottish Labour to take the political agenda by the scruff of its neck and rebuild its damaged fortunes, however it is thus far failing to do so. This is because there is a lack of direction and a lack of inspiration motivating the party in Scotland - rather a fatalistic approach appears to have sunk in at points with an approach of waiting and hoping that the SNP/Salmond screw up at some point. This is not good enough.

A properly devolved Scottish Labour Party would not need to entail constant fighting or bickering with Labour on the UK level - such a situation would be counter-productive and would alienate both members and the wider public. However, Labour introduced devolution because there was a recognition that Scotland is a different context and environment to the UK as a whole and therefore requires specific responses to its particular needs and priorities. By failing to follow this awareness through into the actual functioning of the party structure, Labour ignores its own findings and creates a burden for itself which is largely self-inflicted.

It is vitally important that Labour fights to ensure that Scottishness does not become a copyrighted property of the SNP - this would be damaging to both the party and the country as a whole. The Lib Dems and Tories are less worried about that situation - the Lib Dems being more firmly European/internationalist in billing whilst the Tories remain happy to fixate on their status as Unionists, albeit with a more Scottish tinge in recent years. However Labour has the potential to demonstrate that Scottishness is a broad spectrum of realities, rather than just the slightly Brigadoon-esque approach wrapped in sporting pride (although admittedly that is rather tarnished after last night's woeful performance) which the SNP have successfully peddled over recent years.

This potential is failing to be met because fundamentally the Labour Party as a whole is lost just now, stuck in a period of navel gazing and infighting which appears to be the natural status of all political parties, particularly those in power for a significant period of time. The party does not know what it wants to be, and therefore is lost and to a certain extent uninterested in working out how a devolved party should work.

The problem with this is that, to the general public, it appears like arrogance and complacency, an ignorance to the reality that Labour cannot rely upon any heartlands or safe seats. The SNP's growth is not inexorable and they will struggle as their own internal contradictions strive to become dominant, particularly in a situation where the government and/or the independence agenda runs into trouble; however the reality is that they are working very successfully to eat into the traditional heartland constituencies and supporters of the Labour Party, whilst at the same time possessing a much broader national support than the Labour Party does. The very contradictions which have caused in the past, and will do so again, so much trouble for the SNP are also the strength that allows it to be supported in rural communities and urban communities, in areas of affluence and destitution. There is always somewhere else for the SNP to regroup - Labour lacks this strength in regards to the distribution of its support, even if there is a strength in terms of the actual depth of the support itself.

Labour needs to motivate and captivate the Scottish public, draw them into a vision of Scotland's future which can challenge and defeat the tartan and lace vision which the SNP promulgate so successfully. The polling indicates that Scots want to be part of the Union, but are looking for strong voices to stand up for the fact that we do have different priorities in Scotland. The SNP provide one side of this desire, but there is a gap just now which should be filled by the Scottish Labour Party. The party needs to devolve the structures, to firmly establish the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party as leader of all members, elected or otherwise, in Scotland. They need to give this role the freedom to react to the Scottish agenda alongside working closely with the wider UK party. It needs to develop the inspiration that Scotland is looking - for the first two terms of the Parliament the Lab/Lib coalition 'managed' Scotland quite well, but the public are looking for so much more. They want successful management coupled with a belief, a conviction, that Scotland can and will be better. The SNP argue this very point, coming to the conclusion that this can only be achieved through independence - Labour has a responsibility to set out the alternative but equally compelling vision of improvement, achieved through the strength of union but within a Scottish context.

Within the Scottish Labour Party it is sometimes easy to become fixated upon the hatred, indeed utter vitriolic loathing which elements of the SNP have for the party. This hatred is hard to read, particularly as so much of it is spawned within the free-for-all of the internet where common decency is a long lost myth; however to fixate upon it misses the fact that the people of Scotland do not hate the Labour Party, rather they are bored and apathetic towards it. In many ways this is worse.

Scotland has been billed as a Labour country for decades, even when this ignored the realities of what was happening on the ground. There is no doubt that the election of May 2007 was traumatic for the party and it is still struggling to find its feet - after all, two years is no time at all in the grand scheme of things. However, the struggle appears to many people to be stagnating into inertia and this is where the danger lies for Labour. A vision, a motivation, heck a sign of coming out fighting - these can start to counter an SNP government which at the end of the day only has one more MSP than Labour. After all, we are technically only a resignation away from a change in administration. However, inertia and stagnation can turn an electoral defeat into long-term isolation from power and a disconnection from the Scottish public. There is constant talk of the fightback, however we are yet to see evidence of it arriving - in the meantime the SNP attack London Labour as a way to avoid discussion of their own paltry efforts in government.

So an end to London Labour and a new start to the Scottish Labour Party, a centre-left party rooted in the experiences and dreams of Scotland and endlessly driven to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. A party of ideas, a party of limitless dreams which are not mired in politics of identity but which liberate the citizens of this country to be all that they can be. Scottishness is not a simplistic concept, not matter how hard the SNP try to boil it down to a single common denominator, and the Scottish Labour Party should be at the heart of this debate. To sit on the sidelines is to concede the debate and to lose the country - the Scottish Labour Party has a responsibility to the people of Scotland which requires it to fight and to win.

26 comments:

Traquir said...

I would like to congratulate you a professional, well written and I think largely fair assessment of the current situation in regard to 'Scottish' Labour in Scotland. As a Scottish Nationalist I have of course a few different thoughts and I obviously don't agree with your interpretation of the SNP has some idealistic Brigadoon brigade, but let's ignore that point as it just the same level of attack that the SNP are often accused of doing to Labour, so let's try and rise above that petty partisanship.

Here is an alternate assessment which I think is complementary to your post.

The severe difficulties of Scottish Labour you outlined are all spot on, but these pale in comparison to the difficulties that London Labour who are on the verge of an Abyss and will likely be out of power for at least a decade and decend into massive infighting as schisms split the party asunder particular the true Socialist and the Tory-lites that currently control your party. The power of being in Government is all that has held this together but I am sure you know as well as I there is going to be some massive blood letting here and how severe the damage is it is not clear but could very likely be very traumatic and potentially fatal.

Now for the SNP whilst you may disagree with their views and call them misguided you can't deny that they put Scotland first and foremost. This is been another major tactical error by 'Scottish' Labour when they have tried to attack the SNP's support for Scotland - this has backfired time and time again, and this is another thing they should learn from, although of course it is not in my particular interest for 'Scottish' Labour to be stronger, so the longer they keep making the same mistakes the easier it is for the nationalists. That said there is an underlying problem here that in the last two years it has to an extent become too easy given the lamentable state of the opposition and on occasion the SNP has got careless and over confident. A strengthened opposition will ultimately I think cause the SNP to strengthen in natural reaction.

Another area where Labour needs to make a call is who really is their ultimate enemy here. They say they loath the Tories and when the Tories are back in power presumably the loathing will only increase, but in relative terms where does the SNP fit in the Labour loathing scale ? If , as it often does, with 'Scottish' Labour surpass the loathing of the Tories it just looks hypocritical that they are weakening their attack on their real enemy the Tories whilst attacking a party in the SNP who undeniably puts Scottish interests way above British ones, so there is a simple correlation here that Nationalists will gleefully infer that Labour is be attacking Scotland whilst ignoring the real enemy. This is a very weak position and heightened dramatically by the ludicrous British nationalist posturing by Brown with his calls for Britishness days, Union jacks flown in every garden, a Britishness Museum (ironically of course museum of mausoleum would be rather apt from a nationalist perspective) and of course the BNP like call for "British Jobs for British Workers". To say Labour and Brown have lost the plot would be the mother of all understatements.

Traquir said...

cont.

One out here is for all Scottish parties to work together (Unionist and Nationalist) for Scottish not British interests as their first priority. Labour has as you mentioned a big problem that they don't even have a Scottish Party, - there is no such political party as the Scottish Labour Party and we nationalists will absolutely pound on this mercilessly not only because it is overwhelmingly London controlled but it is a sham trying to pretend that like the Unicorn it is not fiction but is real - to base the core on a lie makes everything else a lie.

Working together and for Scotland first is the key, and there is plenty of room for compromise. Unfortunately, at the moment 'Scottish' Labour appear to still be acting like spoiled brats whose dummy tit was removed from them (over two years ago). Witness the open consultation on a replacement for the council tax where over 86 different Scottish organizations contributed to the debate , whilst 'Scottish' Labour took the playground of approach of we're no talking to you cause you took our dummy - rather pathetic. To make matters worse the best they can do now to just bring up a tired old idea of reimplementing a Property Tax which makes them looks like fools with no innovation and clearly again just not wishing to makes waves with their London masters and thereby effectively neutered.


What compromises could be done particularly between 'Scottish' Labour and the SNP -

. For the SNP clearly the biggest compromise is to stage any move to independence i.e. a gradualist approach, and this they have already done, but the Lib Dems as you say are lost and too scared to do anything despite supposedly being Federalists - they are indeed a waste of space; for Labour though they are still in the playground mode of we are not talking to you so no movement there.

. For Labour there are a number of compromises they can make. 1. form an actual Scottish Labour Party - rather sad of course that this would be a compromise rather than the natural thing to do. 2. realistically determine what additional powers would benefit Scotland rather than the condescending clap trap the came out of Calman and is universally condemned as yet another sop to London dominated control. So why not Full Fiscal Autonomy what are Scottish Labour's arguments against this ? Calman was weak as always basically scrapping that idea as it would supposedly weaken the Union but no consideration as to whether it would be beneficial for Scotland , and there is the true rub that London first , Scotland second is undeniable and a perpetual hammer we nationalists will use against Labour.

Traquir said...

In all probability Scotland will have like the Thatcher era another England imposed Tory Government probably for at least a decade. Why should Scotland accept this, how can 'Scottish'' Labour defend this ? Why would they be willing to have their supposed ultimate enemy rule for at least a decade ?- again an easy inference they loath the nationalists more than the Tories - not a strong position. Scottish Labour needs to offer something substantial to Scotland rather just being another rerun of the Feeble Fifty which allowed Thatcher to rape Scotland for over a decade - again something we nationalists will hammer home and frankly 'Scottish' Labour should be thoroughly ashamed of and have real arguments (not spin) as to why this will not happen again, but I have not seen any. The Toy town parliament we currently have is not something they can use to combat it as overwhelmingly the main control is still based in London as was witness in their mishandling of the economy and Scotland has little to they can do but role with the punches. If Scottish Labour think that Scotland will just role with punches as happened with Thatcher this would be a major strategic mistake.

Unless they change and put Scotland first (not as some sham by cynically pretending there is
a Scottish Labour Party) then the best service they can do is to dissolve and let new parties emerge with the energy and innovation to take Scotland forward. The staleness of ideas, rapidly dropping membership figures (which they again spin to hide the damage) and the large scale abandonment by their London centralized party of their core principal Socialism turns it into a slow death march and unless something is done the kindest thing for them and for Scotland is to put it out of its misery, and if it does not change we nationalists will enthusiastically help speed up that process.

Saor Alba

Brian Hill said...

Two excellent pieces well argued by people who know their Parties and the Scottish scene well.

This is one of the best and most frank Scottish Labour appraisals I've ever read.

Re the SNP reply, Traquir covers my points about the article overly Brigadooning the SNP and just a tad underplaying how clever the SNP Governmental machine actually is, but no matter.

My main point is again covered by Traquir. It's this. Scottish Labour must redefine itself as an independent unit and demand Full Fiscal Autonomy for Holyrood as the only possible defence against full Independence and Scottish Labour's demise.

From my point of view it would only delay Independence, but arguably it could delay it for decades if not indefinitely.

Whatever happens, Scottish Labour either becomes independent or joins its UK cousins in the wilderness for 10 to 15 years.

Meanwhile, how many left wing Scottish Labour members will abandon Labour for the SNP after....or even before, the General Election mauling?

sm753 said...

I also think this is a good post.

This is possibly the only time I have ever agreed with Traquir, other than that "ABC" Cunningham was an eminent Scot.

(And what a resident of California is doing opining on all the stuff he does is beyond me.)

I'd take issue with your statement that the "Tories remain happy to fixate on their status as Unionists".

Au contraire, some of us feel that the Tories seem to be far too happy to de-emphasise their status as Unionists, instead focusing on issue-by-issue support/opposition to the SNP.

Presumably and hopefully, they are reasoning that everyone knows they are unionists and they are keeping their powder dry for any referendum campaign. Maybe.

I don't know about the future of Labour. At UK level, I'm not too worried if the "left alternative" turns out to be the likes of Balls and Harman - by historic standards they are pretty moderate!

In Scotland, the feeling I get from the blogosphere is that Labour has lost a chunk of left-wing support to the SNP over issues like Iraq/Afghanistan, Trident, 10% tax and so on.

How these folks justify their switch to a party with an incoherent mixed bag of left, centre and right policies is beyond me, but that's up to them.

You're right in that Labour does need to sort out its Scottish structure. That will, ironically, be easier if and when they are out of government: Gray can become a member/attendee of the Shadow Cabinet, as Goldie is now.

The organisational problems are harder when in government - as the Tories will find out...

Traquir said...

Hmm, well it is unfortunate that my old mate sm753 (and various other monikers) has quickly managed to lower the tone of the discussion.
To attempt, wrongly may I add to try and expose that I am a resident of California which I am not, is beneath contempt.
To try and hack out personal details of any blogger is contemptible and I would
give him a little bit of advice that it will only end in tears as my understanding and evidence is he has done some similar attempts at hacking for personal
information on myself and other bloggers which in itself is an illegal activity - I trust he will enjoy the consequences of his actions from the
appropriate authorities who regulate such matters :)

In any case to raise the debate to back to a professional level again I concur with Brian's observations and in fact with the blog owner about Tories remain happy to fixate on their status as Unionists. I would further add that they do this in the comfort that they have no problem with the result of a democratic deficit of another England imposed Tory Government which ultimately shows their distaste for democracy within the Scottish nation. Even with Thatcher and down to a Taxi Cab full and then 0 MPs they failed to see any democratic deficiency of an England imposed and largely alien system of Government imposed throughout Scottish society and industry. We are on the verge of this being repeated again and no doubt yet
again the Scottish Tories will have no problem with basic democracy of how the Scottish nation wants to be Governed being trampled by an imposed form of Government by the 10 to 1 numerical superiority of England. Further they and interestingly most Unionists fail to see the democratic deficiency of the second House in terms of the House of Lords being an archaic politically appointed for life private Gentleman's Club in which the current ruling party in Scotland the SNP has zero representation. On top of that the House of Commons maintains the undemocratic first past the post system which provides a massively skewed number of MPs for both the Unionist Labour and Conservative. The Playing Field called British Democracy is highly skewed against the representation and interests of the Scottish people and even the Scottish Parliament with is minimal powers is a shining beacon of Democracy in comparison to the Unionist orchestrated stitch up that currently exists. For all Scottish parties and that would include a real Scottish Labour party one of the overriding aims must be to improve the level of democracy for the Scottish nation, and a first step is to have the courage and honesty to admit that there is a massive deficit in terms of Democratic principles ranged against Scotland. The SNP has many faults but one of it's great advantages is her members put the Scottish nation ahead of their own partisan politics - they realize than in a democratic and independent Scotland they may not get the political hue they want initially, but hey that is true democracy a fact lost on many of our Unionist comrades who have no problem with skewed rules as long as they are on the winning side.

Saor Alba

Calum Cashley said...

I think you would enjoy conversations with John McAllion and Dennis Canavan - and they'd direct you to others of the ilk. They are the Scottish Labour whose absence is damaging Labour in Scotland. I can't think of any still active in Labour, but they may be there without me knowing them.

Wardog said...

An interesting post Jamie and although (naturally) I don't agree with every depiction, you have struck a chord on the where Labour goes now and more poignantly, after 2010 if the pools prove correct.

I can't help thinking that Labour could scoop up Liberal Democrat & recent SNP voters in Scotland by advocating a form of fiscal autonomy.

Sure to some diehards it may appear like 'risking the union' but surely the prize of a more equitable and INTACT union is worth that risk and would feed the fire of the Labour Movement.

It's soemthing I've been struck with, in the SNP camp their are those that want indpednence now, opthers that are willing to take the gradualist view and see where it goes but that voice never seesm to come out of Labour.

Where are the Dennis Caravan's, the 'independent' voices.

It's well known that Labour does harbour a few' home rule' MSP's but why isn't that voice heard online.

Why does no-one break from the hardline unionist line.

This form of "c" conservatism is damaging labour's left wing credentials (if they have any left), devolution was bold but purposely flawed for party political ends = the worst kind of reform and why it needs refreshed.

Isn't it about time that an 'independent' labour voice was heard within the Scottish blogosphere.

What could an independent or fiscally autonomous Scotland do by way of social justice and reform?

A bridge too far?

Not a Village in Westminster said...

Firstly thanks to everyone for the responses, I think it is a great reflection of the fact that it is entirely possible for mature debate between members of different parties through the internet rather than the petty name calling which sadly dominates many internet 'discussions'.

On that note I should say mea culpa for the Brigadoon comment, it is a bit of a cheap jibe so my apologies. What I was trying to allude to was the fact that Salmond is certainly not a fundamentalist in how he approaches independence (which I believe is one of the reasons he actually isn't as popular with elements of his own party as would initially appear). He plays on symbology and at times superficial aspects to get people thinking without 'scared' of what independence might mean. And from a political perspective this is incredibly clever, although I wonder how sustainable it may be in the long term.

Not a Village in Westminster said...

Traquir

I think you pick up on some important points. Labour on a UK level is suffering from a severe personality crisis and I do fear that a heavy defeat at the next election could lead to major infighting - heck a shock win would probably lead to even more!

These troubles are in some senses necessary as the party attempts to find itself, with the membership and leadership appearing lost in the wildnerness at the moment. However they inevitably spill over into the Scottish context, particularly given the fact that the Scottish Labour Party is, as you point out, a bit of a unicorn.

The SNP are in a position whereby they of course put Scotland first in every consideration - this is a massive asset in Scottish elections, a boost in European elections and a hinderence in Westminster elections (although I suspect that despite his 20 MP boast Salmond will not cry himself to sleep over that one). However, it does not necessarily follow from this that a Scottish Labour Party could not also be a strongly Scottish party whilst at the same time supporting the wider Union and working with the larger party at a UK level. This however would require a massive change in structure and, more crucially, attitude, which I do not think exists yet.

Stuart Winton said...

From a Labour perspective I think that's an excellent analysis, Jamie, and well worth the hiatus!

If I've got a spare couple of hours later on I'll also have a read of the comments, which also look compelling reading!!

Not a Village in Westminster said...

Traquir and Brian

The Calman was a joke to be honest, and I have blogged about my thoughts on it before. It was a knee jerk reaction to the National Conversation, and now that the recommendations were actually quite popular with the SNP has been largely ignored.

If you look at the word 'devolution' it contains the word 'evolution' and this is the crucial aspect which hasn't been grasped by 'Unionist' parties in general. I don't think devolution inevitably leads to independence, however I think it is clear that the Scottish people do not believe it has found its correct level yet. Fiscal devolution is the tough thistle which parties will have to grasp if they want to sate the public's demand whilst keeping Scotland in the Union - currently any Scottish Government is ultimately lacking in accountability due to the fact it just spends money, and Calman's tax varying powers would do nothing to change this.

I believe that a legitimate Scottish Parliament is what Scotland is looking for rather than independence; but I think that it would not take much for the Scottish public to be convinced that they were being deliberately hindered in achieving their potential, pushing them towards independence as the only alternative.

Not a Village in Westminster said...

In regards to SM, first off I have to say that I don't care where Traquir resides - even if it is in California that doesn't stop Traquir having a valid opinion to share on this matter. We need more discussion not less, particularly of the mature level that Traquir has contributed.

In terms of the Tories, I think that they are clearly the most obviously Unionist in regards to wanting to stick as much to a status quo as possible. The Tories in Scotland know that they have effectively reached their peak and are unlikely to grow in support from here, at least in the short to medium term. Their support for the SNP is a pragmatic political strategy and indeed demonstrates a good understanding of how the Scottish Parliament works (alongside the fact that there is more convergence between SNP and Tory policies than many SNP members would like to admit).

Not a Village in Westminster said...

Wardog

I think you are right about the lack of debate coming from the Labour camps, it is a situation that frustrates me.

Personally I am far more of a federalist than an out and out Unionist (apart from anything the term 'unionist' carries very negative connotations from recent UK history). I don't think that independence is the end that would best suit Scotland, as through the Union we are able to contribute to a role on the world stage which would be lacking otherwise, alongside the possibilities which membership of a larger economy provides. However I do not think that the Union can remain as it has been - the sticky tape which has held it together for years/centuries is starting to tear.

Not a Village in Westminster said...

Thanks for the comments Stuart, will be heading over to your blog to catch up with what you have been writing!

Not a Village in Westminster said...

Traquir

By the way, I completely agree about the need for more collaborative working between the parties, this is one which I have promoted before but which will sadly be very unlikely in the near future.

Wardog said...

"How these folks justify their switch to a party with an incoherent mixed bag of left, centre and right policies is beyond me, but that's up to them."


Smee reveals why the Tories / Nasty Party will never regain power in Scotland.


"Gray can become a member/attendee of the Shadow Cabinet, as Goldie is now"


cringe

Traquir said...

You are correct at this point there are few signs of any substantial collaborative efforts by the major political parties and also you are correct that the even although the formation of an independent 'Scottish' Labour Party would be in the interests of their own survival again the inertia of the old and very tired tweedle-dum/tweedle deee party politics of the last several decades will resist any significant change to their very core, they are the ultimate Guardians of the Status Quo since they are not coincidentally the ultimate benefactors of the Status Quo. A change needs to happen but it is not in the interests of Tory or Labour as they are both in a highly skewed and largely institutionally protected winning positions which they will never willingly give up - they just past the ruling crown between them like some private gentleman's club where each supposedly loathes the other, but each takes turns wearing the pretty crown of power like some sad imperialistic drag act.

What I believe is needed is some catalyst, likely more than one, that starts to inject really new and invigorating debate on how to fundamentally change the current tired British body politic into something much more dynamic and crucially start much improved representation of the views and aspirations of the peoples of the nations which make up this Union. In the Scottish Body Politic the SNP has injected a new vibrancy, but they are not enough and more is needed. The interesting thing is that these catalysts are organically appearing at a staggering rate with varying degrees of success. Witness in England the growth of new and very significant political forces in the UKIP, the English Democrats and whilst repugnant the BNP also can't be ignored. In Scotland similar catalysts for change are sprouting bringing forth innovative, exciting and different ideas - e.g. The Scottish Greens, the Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity, The Scottish Enterprise Party, Scottish Democratic Alliance. There are a number of natural candidates to help bind together these beacons of energy with some of the most significant ones being Full Fiscal Autonomy, Federalism, Anti-Europeanism and of course Independence. What is missing are cross party initiatives like the Scottish Constitutional Convention and it its successor the Scottish Independence Convention which operated/operate in a cross party/cross organization matter to further the cause of devolution and independence respectively. Of course the latter was proof with the resumption of the Scottish Parliament as to how powerful this type of approach could be.

In my opinion Full Fiscal Autonomy and Federalism are two ideal candidates to rally around and they have the potential to touch the broadest spectrum of political opinion. As alway each participant will have different end goals e.g. we nationalists will see Full Fiscal Autonomy as a stepping stone to full Independence for our nation whereas a Unionist might see it as sufficient in itself. I think that another key aspect of advice for the Unionist is that they need to be proactive rather than defensive e.g. only to often they take a position such as Calman not for the primary purpose of the betterment of the Scottish nation, but to futilely and defensively to primarily stop the advance of a move towards Independence. In all of this the supposed Federalist party the Lib Dems are highly conspicuous by their absence and at this point are stunningly increasing their level of irrelevance which is no mean feat given where they already languish particularly in the sphere of Scottish politics. How quickly could approaches like this happen, well I think surprisingly quickly it just needs some energy, drive, momentum and critically determination. Why not form a Convention On Federalism or a Convention For Full Fiscal Autonomy ? There is nothing stopping that and as many of the comments on here note there is no point waiting for the tweedle-dum/tweedle-dee twins of Labour/Tory to make the first moves, it is simply not in their best interests.

Traquir said...

cont.

For Scotland bottom line the Scottish nation needs to be put first and the SNP with all its faults is bound together with that basic principal where the members put our nation above petty partisan politics. It is astounding is it not to have a vibrant and energetic political party which contains a vast spectrum of political opinion and diversity ranging from Communists, Liberals, Socialist, Greens, Tories, and more... Beyond that the SNP long term destiny is not like Labour and Tory to feather their own nest of power for eternity but ultimately to self destruct when
an Independent Scotland is established for eternity. A separate thread on the establishment of new cross party/cross organization entities that put the interests of the Scottish Nation first and foremost would likely be a very interesting area of debate.

Traquir said...

Yep you are spot on especially "it does not necessarily follow from this that a Scottish Labour Party could not also be a strongly Scottish party whilst at the same time supporting the wider Union and working with the larger party at a UK level. This however would require a massive change in structure and, more crucially, attitude, which I do not think exists yet.". Lots of potential for a true Scottish Labour to succeed especially in very socially conscious Scotland, but the inertia of UK politics will in all probability suffocate any such efforts - the reason grasping to hold on to power and it the case of this Union it is particularly potent form of highly centralized power which will resist change to its core. A natural conclusion is that waiting for a real Scottish Labour Party to emerge is not a worth while endeavour so some new approach needs to be taken which is they key question what new approach(es) ?

Traquir said...

An interesting related news story was just released with fits into some of these discussions in particular in regard to the supposed Federalist party the Lib Dems and their increasing irrelevance.

One of the appointed for life Lords (itself an absolute affront to basic democracy) this time a LibDem one a trip to Guernesy had this to say.

"On a visit to Guernsey, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Lord William Wallace of Saltaire said the dependencies' right to self-government was no longer appropriate."

http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/English-lord-calls-or-an.5551751.jp

Apparently the Lib Dems have missed the training course on how to win friends and influence people never mind try and claw back a little of relevance. The additionally irony that Lord is called William Wallace make it all the more astounding.

Brian Hill said...

All the signs are pointing to Labour being well beaten by Cameron's Tories and the SNP is likely to weaken the Scottish Labour base dramatically.
Post General Election Scottish Labour would have nothing to gain by being hamstrung by a UK Labour Party bound for a decade or more in the wilderness.
But if Scottish Labour were to make its mark by coming out strongly in favour of anything which benefits Scotland, particularly Full Fiscal Autonomy, it would be less damaged and in a strong position to regroup following the UK Party's humiliation.
Too often backing the union has meant depriving Scotland, belittling Scotland even cheating Scotland (burying the McCrone report on the true wealth of Oil for example).
Scottish Labour may even find that a left of centre Independent Scotland is preferable to another 18 years of even relatively benign conservatism (cf with that mad cow Thatcher.....I'm not a fan, I have to be honest).
One thing is sure. Scottish Labour cannot maintain their current pro unionist (perceived by many as anti Scottish)stance and expect to survive intact through two major elections in Scotland over the next 18 months.
And in the event of an Independence Referendum. Will SLAB try and block it (anti Scottish)or if it gets through will they support the status quo (anti Scottish) or support major new powers, especially fiscal (pro Scottish).
As you can see Scottish Labour doesn't have much room for manoeuvre.
Pro Scottish = survival and growth, pro British (because that’s the alternative) means a slow death via defections to Libs, Greens and of course Nats......Scottish Nats that is, not British Nats.

Traquir said...

Another interesting and highly timely turn of events here with former leader of the 'Scottish' Labour Party Henry McLeish calling for a Federal solution here.

"The former Labour leader says political and constitutional reform are now more urgent than ever, arguing for a move to a federal UK in which Scotland becomes a near semi-autonomous part of the Union, responsible for almost all of its own affairs."

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/scotland/Flawed-Scots--schizophrenic-.5558207.jp#4322263


This comes from his new book which focuses primarily on the lack of confidence and negativity of many Scots. On this I think McLeish has a point and lack of confidence is one the key hurdles we need to overcome, a hurdle might I add which has been cynically aided by this Scotland's subervient position in this Union. Ironically the biased Scotsman rather than focusing on this very major news that a former leader of 'Scottish' Labour is proposing a positive new possibility in terms of a Federal solution to give Scotland almost full control of her own affairs, headlines and focuses on the negativity :)

The key here is that somebody as senior in the 'Scottish' Labour Hierarchy as McLeish recognizes that it is in Scotland's best interests to get massively increased new powers. Now as noted here a Federal solution likely will not be granted by the powers that be so what next - Full Fiscal Autonomy or Independence are the only two comparable options. We should encourage Henry McLeish to build on this an explain (not Federalism per se), but why he believes strongly that Scotland needs massively new powers. For him to do that from the perspective of a root to branch 'Scottish' Labour man could be a massive catalyst and much more powerful that being told of the benefits from their loathed enemies the nationalists, even although ironically the reasons likely will be much the same :)

Nice to see a senior 'Scottish' Labour figure focus on what is best for Scotland rather than some lackluster defence of the Union.

Having the Federal, Full Fiscal Autonomy and Independence balls in play all fully supported by the nationalists as options (even although we don't need to believe that they are all achieveable) will give the Unionists no place to hide. I believe that these are the only three options to significantly improve the lot of the Scottish nation and lesser cunning ploys like Calman will be exposed for what they are, an utter cynical sham. Collectively these 3 balls can draw support from a massive cross section of the Scottish political spectrum and critically form a massive majority that demands significant new powers for the Scottish nation.

A three Ball approach will make the One Balled Unionist position look increasingly impotent, which brings a whole new spin to the Colonel Bogey March's Hitler Has one Ball song :)

http://www.ulujain.org/media/colonelbogeymarch.mid

Traquir said...

Another interesting and highly timely turn of events here with former leader of the 'Scottish' Labour Party Henry McLeish calling for a Federal solution here.

"The former Labour leader says political and constitutional reform are now more urgent than ever, arguing for a move to a federal UK in which Scotland becomes a near semi-autonomous part of the Union, responsible for almost all of its own affairs."

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/scotland/Flawed-Scots--schizophrenic-.5558207.jp#4322263


This comes from his new book which focuses primarily on the lack of confidence and negativity of many Scots. On this I think McLeish has a point and lack of confidence is one the key hurdles we need to overcome, a hurdle might I add which has been cynically aided by this Scotland's subervient position in this Union. Ironically the biased Scotsman rather than focusing on this very major news that a former leader of 'Scottish' Labour is proposing a positive new possibility in terms of a Federal solution to give Scotland almost full control of her own affairs, headlines and focuses on the negativity :)

The key here is that somebody as senior in the 'Scottish' Labour Hierarchy as McLeish recognizes that it is in Scotland's best interests to get massively increased new powers. Now as noted here a Federal solution likely will not be granted by the powers that be so what next - Full Fiscal Autonomy or Independence are the only two comparable options. We should encourage Henry McLeish to build on this an explain (not Federalism per se), but why he believes strongly that Scotland needs massively new powers. For him to do that from the perspective of a root to branch 'Scottish' Labour man could be a massive catalyst and much more powerful that being told of the benefits from their loathed enemies the nationalists, even although ironically the reasons likely will be much the same :)

Nice to see a senior 'Scottish' Labour figure focus on what is best for Scotland rather than some lackluster defence of the Union.

Having the Federal, Full Fiscal Autonomy and Independence balls in play all fully supported by the nationalists as options (even although we don't need to believe that they are all achieveable) will give the Unionists no place to hide. I believe that these are the only three options to significantly improve the lot of the Scottish nation and lesser cunning ploys like Calman will be exposed for what they are, an utter cynical sham. Collectively these 3 balls can draw support from a massive cross section of the Scottish political spectrum and critically form a massive majority that demands significant new powers for the Scottish nation.

A three Ball approach will make the One Balled Unionist position look increasingly impotent, which brings a whole new spin to the Colonel Bogey March's Hitler Has one Ball song :)

http://www.ulujain.org/media/colonelbogeymarch.mid

Traquir said...

oops sorry for the double post

Andrew BOD said...

Excellent and refreshing post.

Stumbled across your blog, and agree with much that you say about Labour and Scotland.

Like you, however, I don't think anything is about to change soon and this will give the SNP the upper hand in the next few years.

You are quite right to point out that the majority of Scotland is either not ready for independence, or just doesn't want it, although most folks are not that afraid of breaking away from the rest of the UK, in spite of the scaremongering. But there is a vacuum to be filled and if Labour cannot fill it then someone else could. If the Scottish Lib Dems got their act together, broke their association with Labour, assembled some real talent - Kennedy for instance - they could fill that vacuum. Sadly, they don't look as if they're about to change anytime soon either, and why should they when they can hang onto Labour's coat tails, and eventually become a partner in a future Scottish Government?

So that vacuum will still exist. And it will exist because the people of Scotland want further autonomy without full independence and they want a party to fight for Scotland's interests within the UK. None of the current parties can deliver both of these obvious aspirations. Calman is a fudge; a project in appeasement. Ironically, Calman wouldn't have come about without the 2007 SNP victory. The SNP have created the 'evolution' you mention, without being part of Calman. So in spite of the continual debilitating war of words, there is more common ground between Labour and the SNP than the vicious rhetoric actually suggests.