Friday, 6 November 2009

A call for a cessation of hostilities...

From any perspective the SNP are a left leaning nationalist party - and they want a referendum on independence.  On the other hand Scottish Labour are a left leaning party, undoubtedly tarnished by the reputation of the failed UK Labour government, but still the second largest party in Scotland - they stand against a referendum on independence but support devolution.

The two main parties are diamentally [sic] opposed on one fundamental issue - an issue that has to be resolved, one way or another.  The 'independence vs devolution' question has to be settled if Scotland is to move forward and take advantage of its 'parliament of the people' be it devolved or as an independent country.  The current neverendum 'territorial pissings' and point scoring by blinkered SNP and Labour apparatchiks - who would never admit it, but have more in common with each other than with any of the other parties in Scottish politics - puts the kibosh on many of the benefits we should be derive from our devolved parliament.

The 'proportional representation lite' voting system used in Scottish (and Welsh) elections, AMS (Additional Member System) almost guarantees that no single political party will secure an overall majority, and that's a good thing isn't it?  It should be, if strong and representative alliances are made. What we see now - Labour and SNP expedient one-upmanship games being played with the sole intent of disenfranchising one another - takes little account of public opinion and what's best for the Scottish electorate.  Trench warfare by any other name.

The Scottish elections in 1999, 2003 and 2007 delivered emasculated minority governments with little or no ability to push through manifesto commitments without horse-trading or unnatural alliances.  The 1999 and 2003 Labour government saw an alliance with the Liberal Democrats, as natural an alliance as one involving the Pope and Richard Dawkins in something religious.  This alliance gifted a small party (17 LD MSPs) a ridiculously disproportionate influence to boot - not something the Scottish voters chose.  By far the majority of votes cast by Scottish voters were for the SNP and Labour parties, of 127 seats their aggregate was 91 seats in 1999, 77 in 2003 and 93 in 2007.

The current minority SNP administration has been unable to form a coalition, but despite this has struggled on, and have acquitted themselves well.  However their 'issue by issue' battle of attrition has seriously stifled their ability to deliver what's best for the Scottish electorate, meet their manifesto pledges or be taken seriously by a Labour controlled Westminster; we can be sure the inevitable incoming Conservative government will not make things any easier for the SNP.

Thankfully the chameleon-like Liberal Democrats in a bizarre act of self flagellation removed any possibility of an SNP coalition by rejecting an independence referendum - an uncharacteristically assertive policy decision for the party normally defined by their lack of a strong opinion on anything. The LDs gymnastic ability to 'bendover' at the slightest whiff of an alliance with a minority government and the ease with which they backslide on virtually any policy in an overtly desperate grasp for power defines them as the political party equivalent of Uriah Heep - most 'umble, a bit grubby and not to be trusted.

But enough of the unelectable - the election of a Conservative Westminster government will almost definitely harden the left wing vote in Scotland, of benefit to both the SNP and Labour.

In that scenario, what would be best for the Scottish electorate?  The obvious idealogical coalition: one between Scottish Labour and SNP?  This is not as ridiculous as it may sound, it is worth bearing in mind that the SNP is a party whose current manifestation grew directly from disillusioned independence minded Scottish Labour supporters - the '79 Group'  Aside the obvious 'independence vs devolution' issue there still remains little ideological ground between SNP and Labour.  Scottish Labour have an opportunity that their newly unemployed colleagues in Westminster will view jealously; a chance to participate positively in the democratic process - but are they inclined to do so, or will it be more of the same old New Labour?

Scottish Labour supported devolution wholeheartedly, and were the architects of the Scottish Parliament  (not literally - that was a mad Spaniard) - given that, it is hard to understand their entrenched rejection of the case for an independence referendum. If they are so sure of themselves, as they give the impression they are; the answer will almost definitely be No, if so they are vindicated. If the people say Yes - surely Scottish Labour would want to be seen as willing partners in the process of forming an independent Scotland?

The electorate of an independent Scotland will almost definitely deliver a Scottish Labour government at some point post-independence, and short of an intention to reenact the Act of Union upon election, which the vestigial UK may not be too keen on, Scottish Labour will be part of an independent Scottish civic society - like it or not.

Come what may Labour should participate meaningfully in the National Conversation now, what do they have to lose? It's pretty one-sided as it is.  Not to do so just confirms a petulant inability to accept reality and is a derogation of their duty to their voters.  The independence itch will not disappear until we have a referendum - and without meaningful participation Labour are destined to continue playing electoral ping pong with the SNP whilst losing voters and further eroding their credibility.

Scottish Labour; for the sake of representing your supporters and the cause of worthwhile devolved Scottish governance - stop licking your wounds and get on with playing a positive role in Scotland's future, whatever that future may be...


  1. Nothing will change until after the next election when who has what will be clear(or well hung)

    So we may as well wait until then the snp and labour are in a political battle to the death.
    some one must win and some one must lose which will in my opinion be the snp.

    with the rise of the torys many snp supporters will either vote for the union in any referendum.
    and for the conservatives in scotland.

    The high tide of the snp has passed they will now ebb away into the history books once again.

    the choice will be the Union partys and the European Union or the snp and what?

    what occurred in Éire is an indication to me of how the Scottish people will react to the reality of ending the Union.

    their is to much bad blood between the snp and labour and only some bloodletting will end it.

  2. Great post Polaris. I can't get my head around "Scottish" Labour's hostility to anything/everything the SNP propose. They present as if they are still a party of the left even though their "National" Party is New Tory.

    (I question their commitment to the left though. While in power they repeatedly underspent the block grant allowing Westminster to claw back billions? Could they find no worthy causes in Scotland to spend it on?)

    I can only suppose that they have been instructed by London HQ to play it out this way. I'm sure many in the Scottish regional branch of that party have ambitions to move up to "national" level - so are eager to be on side.

    Whatever their rational, their actions are not aimed at the betterment of their nation but the embarrassment of their political foe - the SNP.

    They fail to grasp, however, that things have changed under the Lisbon Treaty and this betrays their political myopia. The nexus of power is no longer Westminster but Brussels. I would expect a large realignment of alliances and loyalties as that reality begins to sink in.

    That Scotland is under represented there in beyond debate and only independence will change that. Yet Scotland will become increasingly reliant/subservient on/to Brussels as Westminster's influence starts to wain. Change is coming and it ain't gonna be pretty.

  3. @MrM - It might be interesting to see Labour and SNP actually fight. Don't fancy Nicola Sturgeon's chances against Jackie Baillie. I would pay to see Alex in the ring with the Gray man. Explain to me, seriously, why do the SNP and Labour harbour such enmity for each other...

    @Scunnert - I don't understand the hatred either, it does exist on both sides though. Scottish Labour and Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs, with some notable exceptions (these being the ones in positions of power), still maintain a more left wing identity than predominates elsewhere in New Labour. The block grant debacle was an example of a weak Scottish Labour in thrall to a strong Westminster New Labour management team - and a bad advert for devolution. The Scottish Labour movement was a principal partner in the formation of a national Labour movement, and still has a strong identity (eg. Scottish Left Review, SSP etc)- many are pro-independence and members of both the SNP and Labour. New Labour in Scotland is not the same as Scottish Labour, in fact like the English New Labour party they have intentionally distanced themselves from left wing politics - leaving the gap which the SNP monopolised.

    You are spot on about Lisbon, I intentionally left it our of an already too long post. I would like to see the same European free trade arrangements in place with South Korea and Norway in a newly independent Scotland, or UK - that's another post.

  4. Most SNP people I know are ex-Labour-me included.
    The hatred may be the evangelical zeal of the convert for the blind stubborn fools who can't see the way forward; compared to the hatred that the blind stubborn fools have for the far-seeing SNP for ripping them kicking and screaming from their comfort zone...

  5. @Conan - me too, but not for a long time - there are no Anarchist candidates so I'm stuck.

    You are probably correct, that reformed evangelical convert thing is the likely reason. Just wish they would acknowledge that and get on with managing Scotland for the benefit of the majority who see it as a simple choice between Red and Yellow, not a grudge match. The bulk of votes cast are SNP and Labour 1st and 2nd (or vice versa).