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Unionism will not win back Scottish Labour voters

Jon Lansman

In the battle between Scotland and Westminster independence, win or lose, Alex Salmond speaks for Scotland. And speaking for Scotland is what has brought the SNP core Labour voters by the coachload in every Labour seat. Labour is out of power both sides of the border so the one thing of which we can be certain is that it won’t win the battle. But it can surely lose it. Its best course is to keep its distance from the (other) unionist parties, show tolerance of those who back independence — including in its own ranks — and make sure the SNP answers the hard questions.

I am not so clear about independence as is David Osler. Government, like identity, is complex and exists on many different levels. I’m in favour of devolution max for the reasons Malcolm Chisholm argued here, and not only for Scotland — the Wales and London assemblies should have more powers and we’ve got to return to the thorny problem of the other English regions.

But we need more democracy at the higher levels of government too: in the EU, regulation and spending should be approved by the European parliament, to which Commissioners should be fully accountable. Alongside devolution max must go democracy max. At every level. Democratising the UN, IMF, WTO etc is a major challenge but at least in the EU and UK we have parliaments. The SNP are clear that they seek independence within the EU. What do they envisage will be the new relationship within the island of Britain?

A crucial question in the absence of surviving Celtic tigers is about currency? It’s a funny time to be thinking about joining the Euro. But if Scotland stayed with Sterling, what sense does opting out of the UK parliament make? This is the sort of question Labour should be asking.

I do not buy the business case against Scottish independence. There are several successful small economies within the EU. But independence begs more questions than it answers and some of the wrong answers would certainly hurt the Scottish economy. So where do the SNP stand on those?

Scottish Labour should be campaigning for devolution max and remain collectively neutral on independence. Some members will not be restrained from campaigning against independence. Some may wish to back it. Let the SNP prove their case if they can. Who knows? Indifference may win the day.

This article first appeared and can be read, along with comments, at Jon Lansman’s blog Left Futures

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  1. Independent glee; united action. | Celyn

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