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Posts tagged ‘SNP’

What Future for Scottish Labour, the Union and Britain?

Writer and commentator Gerry Hassan provides an interesting analysis on the future of Scottish politics.

Scottish politics are now in a fast changing environment where many of the old assumptions are falling: the election of an SNP majority government, the emphatic rejection of Labour, and the coming of the 2014 independence referendum.

Once upon a time politics north of the border were very different: with Labour returning a seemingly impregnable Westminster bloc, and the entire political culture shaped by social democratic and centre-left values, which played an important ballast in British Labour and British politics (supposedly counteracting the inherent Conservative nature of England).

More profoundly than this there was something distinctive which informed and shaped Scottish politics for most of its post-war era. This was a Labour vision of Scotland which many of us grew up with, knew its positive aspects, and which made us feel ennobled and liberated. That vision lifted hundreds of thousands of Scots out of poverty, widened opportunities and brightened countless lives via education, health, housing and numerous other public services.

This Labour vision of Scotland was one of modernity, progress and the future; this world was characterised by building motorways, tower blocks and New Towns such as Cumbernauld or Glenrothes with their tidiness and order and the ideal of ‘planned freedom’, with its connotations of good authority.

How this high-falutin’ vision came about involved some more messy, basic politics, and an idea of ‘Labour Scotland’ which through council housing, trade unions and local government, gave the party a ballast and anchor and allowed it to speak for a majority of Scots. In each of these three pillars of Scottish Labour’s house until the early 1980s, the party articulated and represented a majority of Scots. These gave it a power and reach which was more impressive than its share of the vote, where it never managed to win a majority.

That Labour vision and the notion of ‘Labour Scotland’ are gone. Labour has long ago stopped being the party of the future north or south of the border, whereas each of its three pillars is now reduced to minority status. This has huge consequences for the Scottish party which it has barely begun to recognise, and which will require a very different politics from those it used in the past.

This is an argument articulated with the publication of ‘The Strange Death of Labour Scotland’, written by myself and Eric Shaw of Stirling University. A product of extensive interviews with party politicians, officials and trade unionists, it analyses the story of the past 33 years from the 1979 referendum and arrival of Thatcher, to the SNP’s majority government and Johann Lamont’s election as Labour leader.

What does it tell us about Scottish Labour, its state and potential future? One fundamental is that Scottish Labour was never as powerful and omnipotent as first impressions and the rhetoric of ‘the machine’ gave. The idea of ‘Labour Scotland’ gave the party itself and its opponents the illusion that it carried all before it. But in actual fact the party even at the peak of its support in the 1960s was always rather small and reliant on institutional Scotland for its control.

The party abandoned devolution in its Attlee-Gaitskell centralisation era when faith with the British state’s ability to redistribute and provide the goodies was at an all-time high. When it came back to it, first in the 1970s, it did out of the expediency of thwarting the SNP’s electoral threat; and even when it embraced a Scottish Parliament more convincingly in the 1980s, it was motivated out of stopping Thatcherism at the border.

Labour never asked what it wanted a Scottish Parliament to do, and it never paused and reflected on what the implications of such a body would be on the party’s dominance. If it had it would have realised that the self-preservation Labour society would begin to be challenged, come under scrutiny and eventually unravel.

The party was hobbled by its lack of autonomy and its lack of a leadership cadre or culture post-devolution. Leaders came and went while a whole generation of thirtysomething Cabinet ministers under Dewar and McLeish bit the dust or retired prematurely. This was about the party’s inability to break with the legacy of old Labour while not wanting to champion New Labour values.

The issue of New Labour was a complex one in Scotland; we forget that in 1997 and 1999, pre-Iraq Blair was hugely popular with Scottish voters. The whole New Labour project with its brashness, shininess and PR sensibilities annoyed part of Scottish Labour who felt they didn’t need to be taught how to win elections.

They were against New Labour, but what were they for? The party was never just old Labour but it found itself trapped in a defensive mindset and with little to say about the wider crisis of social democracy which New Labour itself was a response to.

Scottish Labour avoided the New Labour car crash but ended up in a rather similar state: confused, deflated, diminished and angry at what events did to it.  The party still speaks and represents a part of Scotland but if it is to win, define our politics and shape the future, it will have to fundamentally alter course.

Firstly, it is going to have to publicly reflect on the character and mistakes of Labour one party rule. This could be a powerful admission; if senior Labour people actually recanted and apologised and said, ‘look we got that wrong, don’t go down the same route with Alex Salmond and the SNP’. In fact it has to say the first half of that unconditionally, before it can ever hope to be heard on the second.

Secondly, Labour has to stop appearing as if it is obsessed with the constitutional question and the Scottish Nationalists; that is allowing your opponents to define how you see the world.

Instead, Labour should speak for the Scotland which is struggling to be heard in the current debate, namely, addressing the economy and social justice. Developing ideas which break with the New Labour waffle of ‘the knowledge economy’, speak for ‘Breadline Scotland’ and ‘the struggling middle’, combining traditional Labour values in a relevant setting.

At the moment, Labour hasn’t said anything of interest or originality since Wendy Alexander’s infamous ‘Bring it on’ remarks, and if it to change and get people to see it has changed, it has to get them to take notice.

In today’s politically detached and cynical world that is a huge challenge for Scottish Labour: Johann Lamont, Douglas Alexander, and a whole raft of Labour figures.

They need to stand up, be bold, brave and humble, and say: we got it wrong, we took you the Scottish people for granted, we practiced a politics of patronage and power, where that became important rather than people, and we have learned from it and will change our ways.

A party which learned from its twin defeats of 2007 and 2011 would say something along those lines. To become the party of the future, of change, and of daring politics, you have to want it and be prepared to take risks. It has to have a voice and give a voice to communities up and down this land.

‘The Strange Death of Labour Scotland’ isn’t an attempt to write off Labour or damn; it is written as a detailed analysis and critique, and partly as a wake up call not just to Labour but wider Scottish politics. A Labour Party sleepwalking to slow decline and atrophying north of the border is a distinct possibility, clinging to the old comfort zones and battle hymns, of railing against the Tory led UK Government, while being driven by a near-pathological obsession with doing down Alex Salmond and his ‘separatist’ SNP.

Labour have lost two elections north of the border, and so far show little sign of having the hunger and self-awareness to realise the crisis it is in: of the breakdown of its old systems of dominance, of its appeal and raison d’être, and of how it understands and competes in modern party politics. Scottish Labour was once the party of the future, but that mantle has now fallen to the SNP and the wider notion of Scottish self-government which no one party owns or can claim to completely speak for.

The challenge for Labour is to begin speaking of a progressive future, one which is at home with the vision and impetus of Scottish self-government, an increasingly distinct Scottish voice and a very different union, one which challenges and takes on the conservatism and entrenched interests of the British state and establishment. And that then begs the question: who if anyone post-New Labour can speak for a different pan-British agenda which talks about inequality, social justice and ‘Breadline Britain’?

Gerry Hassan and Eric Shaw, The Strange Death of Labour Scotland, published by Edinburgh University Press, £19.99

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strange-Death-Labour-Scotland-Hassan/dp/0748640029/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340492535&sr=1-3

This article first appeared on the Compass blog, where comments should be written. Celyn would appreciate if comments from our readers were also copied here. Thanks.

The politics of the Scottish independence referendum

By Neil Davidson
[Celyn is anxious to promote broad debate on the burgeoning topic of independence. The left’s historic caution over the issue has been jolted by Leanne Wood’s election to the leadership of Plaid Cymru and this article from International Socialism, the journal of the Socialist Workers Party, no advocate of independence hitherto and written by an erstwhile sceptic, vividly reflects the strength of the social movement that is afoot. If anything, Davidson’s analysis of the SNP is even more applicable to Plaid, although Labour in Wales is certainly a more complex phenomenon than the Scottish version. Celyn Editors]

David Cameron chose to open 2012 with one of those tactical misjudgements increasingly typical of the overconfident, untested politicians of the coalition. On this occasion the subject was the timing and content of a future referendum on Scottish independence. Under the Scotland Act (1998) all constitutional issues relating to the 1707 Treaty of Union between England and Scotland are reserved to Westminster. If the Scottish National Party (SNP) government in Edinburgh held a consultative referendum on the question of independence it would certainly carry great moral and political weight, at least in Scotland, but in legal terms it would be little more than a gigantic opinion poll. Cameron presumably hoped to outmanoeuvre Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond by offering to transfer to the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum, but only if the latter accepted that it be held within 18 months and that it consisted of a single question, for or against Scottish independence.

Within days of Cameron making this offer on 8 January the entire episode had backfired. For one thing, he had now conceded that there would definitely be a referendum (which the Tories had not previously accepted). And his blundering attempt to bully Salmond left the SNP leader with the moral advantage, leading to increased levels of support for independence and an influx of new members to the SNP (over 700 in the second week in January) in response. At the time of writing (mid-February) it looks as if Salmond will hold the referendum at the time of his choosing in autumn 2014, although the nature of the question or questions is still unresolved. Salmond is probably the most effective British bourgeois politician of his generation; Cameron, on the other hand, is not, but there is more at play here than their respective qualities. Why was Cameron so insistent on setting conditions for timing and content of the referendum and what attitude should revolutionary socialists take towards it?

The timing issue was a relatively trivial piece of political gamesmanship. The SNP’s 2011 manifesto for the Scottish parliamentary election said that a referendum would be held in the latter half of the parliamentary term (ie after May 2013). Salmond allegedly had plans to arrange it for 24 June 2014, the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the battle which is usually, if inaccurately, supposed to have secured the independence of the feudal Scottish kingdom from England. Regardless of the truth of this (and it would be untypically crass of Salmond, who never indulges in vulgar anti-English posturing), imposing a deadline would have narrowed the range of dates in which a vote could be held while, if he refused to accept such a timescale, the coalition could pretend that the SNP were running scared of the referendum because they knew there was not a majority for independence.

The attempt to confine the choice to either the status quo or independence results from more fundamental considerations. Cameron has no desire to be responsible for the break-up of Britain: if Scotland seceded from the United Kingdom there would be a real threat that the state could unravel. One immediate consequence would be to place a question mark over the viability of Northern Ireland, since the union has always been with Britain, not England and—as Loyalists of all varieties are well aware—Sinn Fein would almost certainly begin agitation for an all-Irish referendum on reunification. British state managers would find their geopolitical position weakened by the loss of territory involved, leading, for example, to the removal of the rest of the UK (“Little Britain”) from permanent membership of the UN Security Council. There would also be difficulties if the SNP fulfilled its promise to remove nuclear weapons from the Clyde, since there are virtually no other deep water bases on the UK coastline where the submarines that carry them can be docked, and to construct them would involve massive expenditure.

It would be a mistake, however, to imagine that the political situation is simply reducible to SNP support for independence and Tory support for the status quo. In fact, the majority of the leadership of both parties would find a third option, so-called “maximum devolution” or “devo max”, preferable, although for different reasons neither can publicly admit it. Devo max is the option overwhelmingly supported by most Scots: it would leave the Scottish Parliament in control of all state functions (including taxation) with the exception of those controlled by the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Bank of England (ie in relation to setting interest rates). Most of the SNP leadership recognise that there is not a majority for independence, or at least not one that would currently make the transition from opinion poll to voting booth. Devo max is what they hope to achieve—and more importantly, what they think they can achieve—in the short to medium term.

But although Salmond would prefer three options to be included in the referendum—status quo, devolution max and independence—he cannot openly argue for this without incurring the wrath of the fundamentalist-nationalist wing of his party, for whom anything less than independence is a betrayal. What he seems to want is for enough popular pressure to be expressed through “civil society” (ie the institutions of the Scottish professional and technical-managerial middle classes, plus the Scottish TUC and its constituent trade unions) to make it impossible for the devo max option to be excluded from the ballot paper, but without his direct intervention.

The situation is further complicated, however, by the fact that, in certain circumstances, devo max would probably be acceptable to a majority of Tories if it was politically necessary. Cameron certainly wants to win a vote against independence but, tactically inept though he is, he is also aware that even if this is achieved, the demand for further devolution will be unstoppable, and would probably result in pressure for a subsequent referendum asking Scottish voters to choose between the status quo and devo max. Cameron effectively conceded this in his speech in Edinburgh on 16 February, when he offered further measures of devolution if voters rejected independence. Salmond for tactical reasons affected to believe this was a ruse to lull the Scots into voting for the status quo, after which the promise would be quietly forgotten. It is usually wise to believe the worst about Tory intentions, but in this case Cameron is probably genuine.

If the essential integrity of the British state were maintained at the military-diplomatic level, the latter would be an acceptable outcome, particularly since it would place the responsibility for raising taxation and cutting expenditure on the Scottish government. Indeed, some Tory intellectuals, notably Tim Montgomerie, are arguing that Cameron should seize the opportunity to reconstruct the British constitution on a federal basis—a position which would bring the Tories into harmony with the Liberal Democrats, for whom this is a policy dating back to the days of the original Liberal Party.

Where is the Labour Party in all of this? The leadership has effectively entered a bloc with the Tories and Lib Dems against both independence and the inclusion of a devo max option on the ballot paper. As a demonstration of Labour’s apparently insatiable appetite for self-destruction this is almost on a par with Ed Balls’s recent declaration that a future Labour government would not reverse coalition spending cuts. Most party members, like most Scots, favour devo max, but they now have very limited mechanisms for influencing policy. There have, however, been initiatives by Labour-affiliated unions, above all Unite, to put pressure on the party hierarchy to shift position, and these provide an important forum for debate and intervention.

Although this retreat to outright Unionism will almost certainly be abandoned before the referendum, it is indicative of the sectarianism which Labour has always displayed towards the SNP, even its left, long after it became clear that the “tartan Tories” label had ceased to be applicable. The simple reason is that, of all the mainstream parliamentary parties, the SNP is the only one which has had the possibility of attracting a significant part of Labour’s working class electoral base, and is now beginning to do so—indeed, this was why it was able to form a majority administration in 2011. Labour’s greatest immediate concern in this respect is that the SNP will win Glasgow, the largest Scottish council and one of two which it still controls, in the May 2012 local elections.

The SNP stood a realistic chance of doing so even as things stood, but—in another manifestation of the suicidal tendency mentioned above—the Glasgow Labour Party has split. After voting against Labour proposals to cut services and jobs at a fractious council meeting on 9 February, an increasing number of Labour councillors (eight at the time of writing) have resigned and announced their intention to form a new party, provisionally called “Glasgow Labour”, to contest the May elections. Unfortunately, this split is not based on a principled opposition to budget cuts—their own proposals, like those of the SNP, merely rearranged them—but is a calculated opportunistic response by a group of councillors who had earlier been deselected and who hope to retain their seats by avoiding the opprobrium which will attach to the Labour group. The outcome is to make an SNP victory all the more likely.

Faced with the ongoing self-immolation of the Scottish Labour Party, it may seem redundant to ask why working class people are increasingly turning to the SNP, but there are also what Gramsci called “organic” as well as “contingent” reasons. Like similar social democratic organisations in Europe and Australasia, Labour has moved extraordinarily far to the right, although its attitude to devolution has never been comprehensible in left-right terms. Nevertheless, despite the rightward shift, Labour will remain a social democratic party so long as it at least retains a role in articulating the interests of the trade union bureaucracy, thus holding open the possibility that working class demands—in however mediated a form—might once again influence what it actually does. Since reformism remains the dominant form of consciousness
within the working class, it may appear that nothing much has changed and that this reformism will continue to find expression in the Labour Party as it has for the last hundred years or so. But there is no necessary connection between reformism in general and the specific form taken by Labourism.

A combination of Labour’s own behaviour in office and opposition—above all its acceptance of neoliberalism—together with structural changes in the nature of the working class and the current diminution of trade union membership and consciousness in the private sector, means that for many working class people, Labour does not appear to be fundamentally different from the other parties, but is simply “the least worst” of the choices on offer. In this connection it is important to remember that, although the “typical” member of the organised working class may be a public-sector employee who belongs to a Labour-affiliated union like Unite, the “typical” member of the working class as a whole is a private sector service worker in no union at all. In these circumstances, if a party other than Labour was to appear, offering reforms, sounding as if they actually believe in them, and invoking the social democratic tradition, workers, especially in the latter group, might well consider transferring their vote to it. In England no such party yet exists, and for several historical reasons one is unlikely to appear, but in Scotland it does, in the form of the SNP. It is worth noting that, even in the context of organised workers, over 40 percent of Unite members in Scotland voted for the SNP in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections

In general, the SNP accepts the neoliberal economic agenda—but the point is of limited importance since this is true of all the parties in the Scottish and UK parliaments, with the possible exception of the Greens. But the SNP has also positioned itself as the inheritor of the Scottish social democratic tradition and to make this credible it has adopted three tactics. First, it has retained all the reforms introduced by the previous Lib-Lab coalition, above all free care for the elderly. Second, it has legislated for its own reforms, such as free medical prescriptions. Third, and this is in many ways the most important, it has simply refused to carry through the counter-reforms of the previous Labour and current coalition governments in the areas where it has power: water privatisation, student fees and the fragmentation of the NHS. In many respects it is what the SNP has not done that has gained it support, rather than its relatively limited reform programme.

In these circumstances, revolutionary socialists have to argue four positions. First, only the Scottish people (ie people of whatever origin who actually live in Scotland) should have the right to vote in the referendum. Second, and quite independently of our attitude towards the SNP, the date of the referendum and questions on the ballot paper should be set without interference from the coalition at Westminster. Third, the devo max option should be included on the ballot paper. Fourth, working class people should nevertheless vote for independence. The first three are basic questions of democracy; the fourth perhaps requires further explanation.

Unless we put forward an argument for class politics within the referendum campaign, the alternatives will simply be between nationalist and unionist positions, with the rest of the left tail-ending the former, helping the SNP towards the hegemonic position it seeks in Scottish politics. This means active involvement in the campaign, including participation in bodies such as the cross-party Scottish Independence Convention. Among other things, we need absolute clarity that there is nothing intrinsically beneficial about Scottish independence; otherwise we face the danger of encouraging the popular but wholly false assumption that Scottish people are automatically more left wing than English people, which will in turn encourage dangerous illusions in a Scottish parliamentary road to socialism, or at least to a revived social democracy. The reasons for supporting independence lie elsewhere.

Britain is an imperial state at war. A referendum called while the occupation of Afghanistan is still ongoing, with the Iraqi and Libyan interventions a recent memory, would be inseparable from the arguments against these wars and the British state’s subordinate alliance with the American empire. Scottish secession would at the very least make it more difficult for Britain to play this role, if only by reducing its practical importance for the US. Britain has always been an imperialist state, but socialists have not always have called for support for independence and in other situations they were correct to oppose it, for example in the early 1920s. But devolution has changed the context in which we operate. The British state has already begun to fragment and so to call for its further fragmentation on an anti-war basis, in a situation where a majority opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, means that independence can be supported as a means to an anti-imperialist end, rather than as the political logic of Scottish nationalism.

A related reason is that the campaign for a “no” vote will effectively be asking voters to endorse a conception of Britishness which is built around racism and anti-migrant, anti-Islamic hysteria. No doubt some well-meaning but deluded members of the left will argue that the issue is the unity of the British working class, but we should be clear: for the anti-independence side, this will not be about the Chartists, the Suffragettes, anti-fascism or Saltley Gates; it will be about the virtues of white, Christian, imperial Britannia, at best alloyed with a little official multiculturalism. For socialists to give this “left colouration” to the pro-union cause would be politically fatal.

The unity of workers and the oppressed in the British Isles is not secured by the constitutional form of the state or by the bureaucratic structures of union organisation; but by the willingness to show solidarity and take joint collective action, across borders if necessary. Many workers in Southern Ireland belong to the same unions as workers in Britain; workers in Canada often belong to the same unions as workers in the US: there is no reason why workers in Scotland could not belong to the same unions as workers in the rest of the UK. To argue that this is a decisive reason for opposing independence is either scaremongering or a concealed defence of the British state. Part of the process of maintaining unity is for Scottish workers to support the struggles of English and Welsh workers, and for English and Welsh workers to support the right to self-determination of the Scots.1

What of the alternative? The meaning of devolution has changed over the decades, which is why, as I suggested earlier, the Tories could accept devo max if necessary. Previously, it was a way of meeting popular aspirations without threatening the economic order; now it is also potentially useful for further implanting social neoliberalism. The more politics is emptied of content, the more social neoliberal regimes need to prove that democracy is still meaningful—not, of course, by extending the areas of social life under democratic control, but by multiplying the opportunities for citizen-consumers
to take part in elections for local councillors, mayors, members of the Welsh and London Assemblies, and the Scottish, British and European parliaments.

It has not, of course, reversed the growing public withdrawal from official politics and in that sense has failed as a neoliberal strategy of legitimation. On the other hand, devolution is also part of a neoliberal strategy of delegation, and in this respect has been much more successful. Here responsibility for implementing anti-reforms is spread beyond governing parties and central state apparatuses to elected bodies whose policy options are severely restricted both by statute and—as in the case of local councils—reliance on the Treasury for most of their funding.

In the case of the devolved nations the assumption is that the people most likely to participate in local decision-making will be members of the middle class, who can be expected to behave, en masse, in ways which will impose restrictions on local taxation and public spending, and thus maintain the neoliberal order with a supposedly popular mandate. The distribution of responsibility for decision-making downward to the localities will continue
and gather further momentum following the onset of recession and still greater spending restraints. We too easily dismiss the “Big Society” as a joke, but what it ultimately means is atomised citizens voting for which services they want to close. If nothing else, in a separate state the responsibility could no longer be passed up the line to Westminster, by either the SNP or Labour.

Finally, participation in a campaign for independence will involve revolutionaries working alongside SNP members: what attitude should we take towards them? We approach the Tories and Lib Dems in one way (as open enemies) and Labour in another (as someone we expect to be a friend). Neither approach fits exactly in the case of the SNP, but it would seem more productive to tilt in the latter direction, partly because—unlike the Tories or Lib Dems—there are actual socialists in the SNP, but partly because it claims to be governing in a social democratic model.

In that case our demands should be for the SNP to prove it, in relation to refusing to implement the cuts, remaining opposed to student fees while reining in university principals, getting on with removing Trident from Scottish soil, etc. The contradictions for the SNP are already enormous, but as long as large sections of the working class regard them, however wrongly, as a viable reformist organisation, we should take that as our starting point. It should go without saying that none of this is meant to imply that we should stop working alongside Labour activists: our attitude towards them should continue to be one of fraternal engagement in the unions and campaigns.

All this is conditional upon class struggle—there are circumstances in which working class resistance could reach such a level that the question of independence would be irrelevant or even reactionary; we are far from that stage yet, although we may be at it by the time the referendum takes place, so the position set out here has to be kept under constant review. Nevertheless, we should beware of assuming that high levels of class struggle will result in “normal service being resumed”, with workers returning to Labour. There is no historical warrant for this: in 1974, after six years of the most intense class struggle since 1919, Labour limped into office at Westminster and the SNP received the biggest vote it had ever received (and bigger than it has ever received since) in a UK election. Nor will the Scottish national question simply disappear in a wave of strikes and demonstrations: workers—and the biggest increase in support for independence has been registered among young, unskilled workers—might understandably still see a logic in separating themselves from a Tory-led Westminster government, even when the class struggle is on the rise. Economics and politics are not autonomous from each other, but the mediations between them are deeply complex. Revolutionaries, not least in Scotland, ignore this at their peril.

Note

1: Contrary to what Lenin sometimes suggested, “the right of nations to self-determination” does not necessarily mean the right to separate, it means the right to decide whether or not to separate; if the Scots voted to remain part of the UK they would nevertheless have exercised their right to self-determination.

This article first appeared in the March issue (134) of International Socialism

A red current flows from the valleys of Wales

by Gordon Gibson

Leanne Wood says 'Thanks' to her Welsh Party

The election of Rhondda socialist Leanne Wood to the leadership of Plaid Cymru is a historic event, not just for Wales, but for British politics. Never has a mainstream political party been led by such a committed campaigning socialist. Plaid may be on the margins of British mainstream but, make no mistake, this result can shift the tectonic plates of Britain’s increasingly spin-driven boys’ club politics.

Plaid Cymru is now led, chaired and managed by women. It’s young out-reaching future is bound to appeal to women and youth. During Wood’s vigorous campaign, Plaid’s membership grew by 24%. At the same time, Welsh Labour is tormented by internal strife and squalor over all-women short-lists in the run-in to the May elections. Not since Rhodri Morgan constructed the world’s first majority-women cabinet have we seen such a positive statement of new politics.

Leanne Wood is about to be subjected to vicious political and media pressure. Under the guise of her modest valleys background, her feminism, her campaigning style, her lack of complicity in the games of politics, she will be victimised and abused, from within and outside her party. The real reason is that her politics are dangerous for the establishment. All socialists should give her unconditional support in her new role.

Plaid Cymru has been conveniently written off as an elitist, language party, based, ironically, in the impoverished agricultural and obsolete slate quarry settlements of west and north Wales. The leadership campaign reflected this. Elin Jones, from the Welsh farming community, looked to that tradition, or its farmers and landowners, for her support. Dafydd Elis-Thomas, quite radical in the distant past, was true to his peerage and took a pro-union, cool on independence, slick language stance that saw him being eliminated with just 21% of the vote in the first round. Wood got an romping 48% .

Leanne brought her version of ‘hiraeth’ from the valleys, the less heralded Welsh traditions of self-organisation and struggle. Her campaign was launched on a ‘real independence’ platform, with admirable commitment to the language, even in TV debates. Brave. She established her credentials in the ‘Welsh’ party and won convincing support  from MPs, AMs, ideologues and party grandees. Plaid has been greatly influenced by the success of the SNP in Scotland. But latterly, Wood pursued a more sophisticated emphasis on the Welsh economy. If jobs are to be created, services protected, a Green Wales promoted, then Welsh people will have to do it themselves. She promises to bring together the best minds in Wales, both supporters and forces from outside the party, to take on that challenge. Building an inclusive, non-tribal campaigning party to  counter the Tories’ austerity offensive, set to cause untold damage in Wales, will win popular support, independence or not. That is the lesson from Scotland.

The model is not just the centrist SNP, pandering to petty-bourgeois nationalism and the Scottish establishment, while dishing out the sops that Scotland’s  Blairite Labour, more interested in being pro-Union and ‘realistic’ about austerity cuts, has been unable to bring itself to. More apposite is, was, the Scottish Socialist Party before its Sheridan-led implosion. The SSP had made a powerful impact  on Scottish politics, with 7 MSPs in no time. Prominent women, with Sheridan’s ego and legitimate record at the cutting edge, brought support for workers struggles and services, protection of women and children, schools, childcare, public transport, anti-nuclear campaigns, all-sorts, to the mainstream. They won extraordinary public support with their resolute commitment, their challenge to the ‘ripples-not-waves‘ style that pervades Labour.

The new leader’s challenge to Welsh Labour is immense, if she can survive. Labour’s danger is to revert to the ‘placard-waving’ criticism that their leader, Carwyn Jones, alluded to at Labour’s recent national conference in Cardiff. Carwyn has an uphill task too, for the Rhodri days are gone and Welsh Labour is burdened by careerist, Blairite, and apparatchik men who will relish the anti-independence, anti-campaigning, playground boys’ badinage that most are just about capable of. The opposite is the task. Socialists in Wales can unite in the fight against the Tories and LibDems. We can unite for a strong Welsh economy, for more powers to Welsh people and their Assembly. We can talk of independence as we go. Amongst socialists that is a healthy debate; amongst bourgeois nationalists it is quite something else.

There’s our challenge. Leanne Wood will need all the support she can get both within Plaid Cymru and beyond. Socialists should not hesitate to stand alongside her.

See also Leanne Wood wins Plaid leadership victory for left

Welsh Labour? Why?!!!

As the Welsh Labour Party gathers for its annual conference in Cardiff this weekend, the question is asked “Why, for goodness sake, does anyone support Labour?” Gordon Gibson reckons that the Welsh Party should top up its supplies of ‘clear red water’.

Visiting my mother in Scotland last week I was rather shaken by two events. Five years ago, Labour had 69 out of 79 seats on Glasgow council. Last week they wheeled out the infirm to secure a majority of 2 for their budget. With defections, deselections and disaffection galore, Scotland’s rock-solid bastion of Labour is now a hung council. On May 3rd, there is every likelihood that Glasgow will go SNP.

It came up in conversation when I met up with former flatmates and friends I hadn’t seen for decades, a not overtly political lot. Declaring my hand, I told them of Labour’s support in Wales. In disbelieving, unrehearsed unison they replied. “Why, for goodness sake?”

In Scotland, the drift away from Labour is frightening. The party appears hell-bent on retaining its New Labour character by, for example, raising Alastair Darling from the ashes to call for unity with Tories and LibDems to preserve the Union, and by having little political strategy other than to slag off the SNP. Unfortunately for Labour, the SNP, being the populist party it is and led by a very shrewd political operator in Alex Salmond, is saying all the things that people want to hear, things that Labour should be saying.

Scottish people, whose under-rated political traditions expressed themselves over the years with overwhelming social democratic and communist representation, don’t take kindly to Labour’s new leader, Johann Lamont, like her predecessor, shrugging off the dissent in her own back yard, and joining the tribalism. The Scots don’t have a problem with the SNP if it is standing up to the Tories. And it is. They, the Scots, will consider independence and its implications in due course. They know, as one wag said, that there are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, and that it is the Westminster Tories, jobs and cuts that are the issue for now. All they hear from Labour, both in Westminster and Holyrood, is, at best, a confusing message about the economy, debt and necessary cuts, wrapped up in anti-SNP rhetoric and tosh about ‘the Union’. As in Glasgow, the only outcome will be to drive voters into the haven of the SNP, and so towards independence.

In Scotland, during the Blair years and before the unforgivable Sheridan debacle, Scots had begun to see an alternative to New Labour in the likes of the Scottish Socialist Party. After the 2003 elections, the SSP had 6 MSPs – an extraordinary achievement for an avowedly left socialist party. Sheridan’s antics put paid to that, but the die was cast. Voters and, even more important, young people were looking for alternatives. Salmond and the SNP, never friends of socialism, were happy to provide the rhetoric and, wisely, no small gains and resistance to the Tories. Although always a home for disaffected Labourites, the SNP was, hitherto, not a party of left nationalism; it was always much messier. It’s another story now.

In Wales. Labour holds on to a fragile support, with a different back-cloth. The mainstream left divides itself into two camps: disaffected left socialists form a strong current in Plaid Cymru, finding expression in Leanne Wood, running as favourite to win next month’s leadership election. If she does, it is bound to shake up both Plaid and Labour. Plaid has matured from a traditionally ‘Welsh language nationalist’ party, with worrying pro-fascist elements in its history, currently being re-assessed by their leading left ideologue and former MP, Adam Price. Labour, on the other hand is tending to regress into a old-style male apparatus that finds ‘the national question’, not to mention ‘campaigning trade union resistance’, rather awkward.

Labour took its leftism into government after the devolution vote of 1997 and even drew Plaid into the ‘One Wales’ coalition from 2007-11. First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Welsh leader for most of 10 years from 2000, had described that leftism as ‘clear red water’ between Wales and Blair’s Westminster, as early as 2002.

Make no mistake, the achievements of devolution are not to be scoffed at. Morgan’s cabinet in 2000 was the first in the western world to have a majority of women ministers. Their constitution put sustainablity and equality above all else. Sure Start, focused on child poverty, was embraced, developed and is now protected in Wales. The Assembly was first with free travel for older and disabled people back in 2002, first with free prescriptions in 2007, first with a strategic planning policy in 2004; Scotland came first with subsidised student fees back in 2000, Wales came on board to underwrite against the Tory fee increases last year. And you can be sure that the NHS is a lot safer in Welsh and Scottish hands than it is in the Tories’.

Conference this weekend will test Welsh Labour’s mettle. New leader, Carwyn Jones, has no mean task on his hands. Ed Miliband’s trials and tribulations are analysed most generously as ‘biding his time’ while he endeavours to change the course of the entrenched, unaccountable apparatus and parliamentary party of Blair’s legacy. Carwyn dances, perhaps not quite with Rhodri’s aplomb, on tightropes of slashed budgets and Tory defiance, that still ambiguous leadership from London, and a burgeoning independence debate at odds, for Labour, with our experience of devolution – and all whilst onlooking Labour’s danse macabre, and the SNP’s jig, in Scotland.

The priorities remain to do all we can to protect jobs and services, seeking new and innovative ways to boost the Welsh economy, pursuing the green agenda, building resistance to the Tories. These themes form the core of Welsh Labour Grassroots conference fringe meeting on Saturday evening, 18th February, 6.00 pm at the Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff CF11 9SW, with Lesley Griffiths AM (Welsh Health Minister); Mark Drakeford AM (Cardiff West); Siobhan Corria (Llandaff North council candidate); and Martin Mayer (Unite the Union and Labour party NECs).

That discussion is sharpened by the Plaid contest, where these same themes, laced with independence, are the essence of Leanne Wood’s bid for leadership. She is quite clear that she sees no circumstances for alliances with the Tories. That’s about jobs and cuts and a future for Wales, not just the Union. Labour take heed.

Scottish Labour – A prisoner of Unionism.

John McAllion

Devolution simply isn’t working for Unionism’s largest Scottish Party. It is now up to the socialist and nationalist Left in Scotland to exploit that weakness.

A prisoner of Unionism

Johann Lamont. Scottish Labour’s sixth leader since 1999. Photo by Scottish Labour

Johann Lamont is Scottish Labour’s sixth leader since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. Unlike her predecessors, she leads all of her Party in Scotland – MPs, MSPs, councillors and party activists alike. She heads a Party that is now more fully devolved from UK rule than at any time since 1999.

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband, describes her as having inherited a leadership position that carries with it the “weight and authority of the whole Party in Scotland”. According to him, this new and powerful position equips her to revive Scottish Labour’s fortunes and to challenge the SNP’.

She herself has promised to initiate a process of internal renewal that will reach out to include those who have never before thought of themselves as being Labour as well as reaching back into lost Labour communities. She promises to make Labour Scotland’s Party again.

Of course, any political party recovering from an historic electoral defeat believes it must talk up its prospects of recovery. However, coming from an as yet untested Party leadership these are brave words that border on the foolhardy.

Since the dawn of devolution, Labour in Scotland has been in persistent political and electoral decline. With each successive election to the Scottish Parliament, the Party has lost seats, constituency and list votes.

Overall since 1999, they have lost a third of the parliamentary seats they originally held, more than 100,000 list voters and more than 40,000 constituency voters. The 2011 election marked the worst defeat in Scottish Labour’s history. An already parlous electoral position is made more difficult for Scottish Labour by the looming independence referendum that for now remains under the control of a buoyant and majority SNP Government.

Labour, as the largest unionist party in Scotland, will be expected to lead the campaign for a No vote. This is where the complications begin.

Will it form a broad campaign with the other unionist parties or will it stay politically well clear of the Tories and LibDems? If it is to be the former, Scottish Labour runs the risk of being contaminated by association with the parties of the hated Coalition Government in Westminster. If it is to be the latter, it runs the risk of splitting the NO campaign.

Already the Party’s spokespeople find themselves trying to dodge questions about sharing platforms with the Tories while effectively supporting the Coalition’s line on an early referendum with a single question.

Without wishing it, they are forced onto the same political ground as some of the most reactionary hate figures in Scotland today,.

Political predicaments of this kind can only increase as the referendum campaign gathers pace. Yet, even more potentially dangerous political pitfalls lie ahead for Scottish Labour. In a rare display of unity at the end of December, Labour MSPs joined with their SNP counterparts to refuse the necessary legislative consent to Westminster’s current proposals for welfare reform.

While this opposition was largely token (the reforms will go ahead in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK), it afforded Labour MSPs the opportunity to claim that they were on the side of the angels and opposed to the Coalition’s attacks on the poor.

During the Scottish Parliament’s debates on the reforms, Labour’s Jackie Baillie promised to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone against the Coalition Government’s welfare reform agenda that targeted cuts on pensioners, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

She highlighted her opposition to changes to housing benefit that threatened more than 60,000 Scottish tenants with cuts that averaged £40 per month per tenant.

Unfortunately for her and for the other Labour MSPs, all of them support a devolution settlement that allows Westminster to impose such reactionary changes.

Even more unfortunately, Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Westminster spokesperson on welfare reform, is far from sharing Labour MSP’s anti-cuts stance. In a recent speech spun as a “radical rethink of the welfare state”, he let it be known that a future Labour Government would pursue an equally tough line on welfare.

The housing benefit bill was “simply too high”. Too generous benefits were skewing the behaviour of the long-term unemployed whom, he implied, were happy to coast along on unearned income. Labour would no longer support the undeserving poor, only those who “work hard and do the right thing”.

Without consulting the Scottish Party or its new “powerful” leader, the Labour leadership in London had begun to move their Party closer to the Coalition Government’s position on welfare reform. The anti-cuts stance of Scottish Labour had effectively been undermined. So too was any idea that Scottish Labour policy on reserved issues could be any different from that of London Labour. The new fully devolved Labour Party remains incapable of defending Scotland on the big policy issues of the day.

Johann Lamont has therefore inherited a Party that is in long-term electoral decline. She leads a Party with no coherent position on the independence referendum. On paper, she may be the nominal leader of Scotland’s 41 Scottish Labour MP’s. In reality, the Westminster MPs continue to call the shots on the big policy issues of the day.

Arguably, she is in a weaker position politically than any of her five predecessors.

Devolution simply isn’t working for unionism’s largest Scottish Party. It is now up to the socialist and nationalist Left in Scotland to exploit that weakness.

This article first appeared in Scottish Socialist Voice, the journal of the Scottish Socialist Party

The ‘Three Scotlands’ and How to Win an Independence Referendum

Gerry Hassan

Scottish politics post-the election and the return of a majority SNP Government have existed in a seeming state of limbo, a kind of political phoney war.

The SNP have won a landslide victory but have yet to produce a serious strategy for winning independence; the unionist parties in Scotland have all been reduced to an existential crisis about defining their purpose and point; while David Cameron’s government (if it ever thinks about Scotland) is of the view that the break up of the United Kingdom isn’t a serious threat and those pesky Nats will soon be put in their place.

This is a strange display of emotions and assumptions by every party which seems to downplay the historic situation that we are in. This is a combination of immediate short-term politics (SNP victory), with the long-term evolution of Scottish politics and fundamental crisis of the British state to make far-reaching change, and Scottish independence, distinctly possible.

The ‘Three Scotlands of Modern Times

There are three distinct Scottish futures on offer. The first is from the SNP Scottish Government which proposes an independent Scotland. The strategy, tactics and detail on this might be surprisingly vague, but the direction and intent is clear.
At the moment, the SNP are well-deposed towards having, towards the latter half of this Parliament, in 2014-15, a two vote referendum, offering the Scots a choice on ‘devo max’, a kind of full fiscal autonomy short of independence, and independence. The supposed thinking is to recreate the 1997 devolution feeling of the ‘Yes Yes’ campaign (then for a devolved Parliament with limited tax raising powers) (1).

But the comparison doesn’t hold and many suspect that the Nats are drawn to such an approach because they think independence won’t win, and want to park the Nationalists as part of the decisive Scots majority which exists for greater powers. Thus, the argument goes, getting half of something is better than nothing at all, and thus our historic journey can continue.

Second, there is the position of the unionist parties in Scotland, Labour, Lib Dem and Tory, if we can call their current confused thinking a ‘position’. It is also true that Labour are wary and unsure of joining a pan-unionist front with the dreaded Tories and their partners in crime the Lib Dems, who in the course of a year and a half have fallen from everyone favourite relatives to a national sport in cursing!

With these caveats, the unionist parties are hesitant to take up Alex Salmond’s invitation of defining ‘devo max’, wary that it might be a Nat trap! The Lib Dems with a long proud tradition as constitutional reformers and federalists have ended up defending the indefensible: the union of Tory lexicon, talking Scotland down as a poor, wee defenceless nation which couldn’t afford independence, while reminding Scots of the gorgeous magnificence that was Calman and is the Scotland Bill going through the Houses of Parliament.

There is, within this, little strategic unionist thinking so far, but it will emerge alongside polemic and invective against ‘separatism’. Scots unionism if it has any intelligence left (which despite appearances it does), will recognise that offering a 1980s Tory reprise of no reformed status quo or Calman lite reform against independence is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, a new union needs to be unveiled north of the border which speaks to Scottish statehood and which challenges the Nats to argue what the extra mileage is from independence, and also makes the issue of the British state and its deformed character central. Is unionism up to this? The jury is out, but the Scots Tories or Scots Labour at their peak would have been. One is a rump worthy of today’s French Communist Party, aged, decrepit and ghettoised; the other, has been so disorientated and made bitter by its fall from grace, that both their judgements have been thrown into turmoil and self-doubt.

Then we have the Cameron Con-Lib Dem coalition government and how they see the Scottish question. Cameron does realise that he has a major ‘northern problem’, one that was made significantly easier by coalition with the Lib Dems, but he does have several other pressing problems on his desk: the anger at hurricane capitalism, the special pleading of the City for exemptions from the consequences of their own actions, the imploding euro, to name a few.

Not surprisingly with this hand Cameron has decided to play a subtle, long game with Scotland, outsourcing to his Lib Dem colleagues the hard, abrasive unionism of lore, while waiting for Salmond and the SNP to define the ground and their argument, so that he can then criticise and challenge them.

Cameron is an instinctual unionist to his core; he believes in the entity that is the United Kingdom; he believes in ‘Great British Powerism’, that Britain’s place post-Empire is to ‘punch above its weight’ through its legacy of influence in the Commonwealth, ‘the special relationship’ and connection to the English-speaking world. He isn’t, as some have suggested, happy to see Scotland leave the union because he loses 40 Labour MPs or can take back the supposed subsidies Scotland gains: a kind of ‘union dividend’ in reverse.
Such language whether of a right-wing fantasy land (hello Spectator Coffee House bloggers!) or a left-wing nightmare kind have come to the fore because the union is in crisis, weakening and fragmenting. Once there was a powerful Tory story of the union, and a Labour account, and now they are reduced to arguing about the figures and furniture!

The Cameron strategy has been challenged by Tory peers such as Michael Forsyth, who as the current Scotland Bill has been progressing through the Lords, have proposed that the Scottish Government be given the legal right to hold an independence referendum, on the condition that a ‘sunset clause’ is put in, limiting the timing of such a vote. What must seem like a wheeze in the world of Westminster, actually north of the border shows what a bind Cameron and his allies are in. This is nothing less than Westminster continuing to play stupid little games, and also reveals the weakness of Cameron, and as with Europe recently, that he is not fully in command of his own side.

These three perspectives, the Scottish Government, unionist parties in Scotland, and UK Government, can be seen to be portraying ‘three Scotlands’, three very different versions of the nation and our future. This isn’t to argue that they are equal in strength, merit or legitimacy, but to recognise that, as we are currently constituted, all feel they have a right to present their views.

These ‘three Scotlands’ represent approximately the Scotland of Scottish identity (SNP), Scottish and British ‘dual identity’ (Scots unionist parties), and British identity (the UK Government). We can see from this typology that the most powerful positions are those of the Scottish and Scottish-British identities, and the weakest, that of British identity. However, if any of these perspectives are to become defining and succeed, they will have to win support from another area. Therefore, if the Scottish Government or the UK Government are to win they will have to claim part of the Scottish-British ground; while if the unionist parties are going to succeed they will need to inhabit part of the Scottish terrain.

The Dimensions of the Scottish Independence Debate

The simultaneous threat and dream of Scottish independence has been an influential driver over the last 40 years. The above stratagems and assumptions from all the political players have to bear this in mind. The pro-independence forces have to carefully choose and prepare their ground, while reformist unionists in the middle ground have to also realise the uses and advantages of having a credible independence threat vis-à-vis the UK.

Some thoughtful Labour commentators such as Ian Smart have understood this (2). Smart has argued that to hold an independence referendum vote and for it to result in too low an independence vote would not really be helpful to anyone, from the SNP to thoughtful unionists, and to the entire dynamic of Scottish politics.
The SNP leadership has some awareness of this; hence the delays, hoping the ground can be prepared, strategy fine-tuned, monies raised, and even more activists garnered. Yet, this is the delay of a dithering army, unsure at its moment of greatest triumph so far, whether and how to pounce. Is there another way?

I think there is. The Scottish dimension, from home rule to independence, is not what is called ‘a salience issue’, but ‘a valence issue’ (3). This means that the constitutional question has never ever ranked high in voter priorities, but has been a way by which voters make sense and join other issues together.

This has led over the decades from the 1940s onwards to Scottish votes being used to influence and have leverage with British governments, the state and Westminster by voting a certain way, for one party or against another, or in some cases tactically. Scots have voted this way, for Tories in the 1940s and 1950s against ‘London rule’, for Labour in increasing numbers from the 1960s to 1980s and 1990s, and then for the SNP in the Scottish Parliament. This also became the way successful Scottish politicians have understood Scotland and portrayed it to Westminster from Tom Johnston in the 1940s to Willie Ross in the 1960s and 1970s, George Younger in the 1980s, and Alex Salmond today.

The best way to win an independence referendum is to position the independence question as part of this long-standing Scottish dimension. We should simply ask the following question: Do you authorise the Scottish Government to begin negotiations with the UK Government on Scottish independence?

Sixteen simple words. Easily understood by everyone. With no doubts about what it means
that is open to claim or counter-claim.

This makes independence part of the Scottish dimension, instead of sitting outside it which would be fatal (4). This increases the prospect of an independence majority. It reduces the threshold that people are invited to cross to vote ‘yes’; it reduces the risk to people voting ‘yes’ by not making it ‘all or nothing’. And it wraps up independence as part of a patriotic, pro-democratic argument.

This completely transforms the prospect of winning an independence majority because it changes the argument from the current context. It places independence as the modern version of the Scottish dimension as a valence issue, of how we best increase our leverage and influence with Westminster, or more accurately, how we, Scottish voters, best equip our Scottish politicians to go south to get the best deal they can for Scotland. It makes the Scottish Government position, Alex Salmond and the pro-independence forces, that of ‘the national interest’. It invites wavering voters and those unsure, in time honoured fashion to back Scotland and support Scottish interests, and makes the unionist position one which is more uneasy and difficult.

The Politics of Winning an Independence Vote

What if any is the downside of the above? There is the issue that a first pro-independence vote would require a second vote on any deal. But once a first vote has been won, a second would become even more part of the Scottish dimension, and thus about supporting Scottish interests. There is also the issue that everything in Scotland, in our politics and in how the British government and state judges us, would be fundamentally altered by that first vote.
This is a very different strategy from the earlier ‘Westminster knows best’ rather arrogant argument put forward by Robert Hazell and the Constitution Unit, and Michael Moore, Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland (5). Their arguments were about legality and Scotland being told it had to have two votes unlike anywhere else in the world. This argument is instead about politics, power, process and democracy, and choosing of our own free will to embark on a strategy which is transparent, aids good governance and independence.
We know that thoughtful unionist opinion in Scotland and the UK is extremely disorientated by the current pattern of events.

Part of them cannot really believe events have turned out this way. The Scottish Labour Party looks at its once healthy inheritance of seats, votes and mini-empire, and has seen it all turn to ashes in a decade. Likewise intelligent unionists such as Scottish born Fraser Nelson, editor of ‘The Spectator’, find it increasingly difficult to make sense of Scotland from their Westminster bunkers, commenting without qualification that ‘Scotland would be far worse outside the union’ (6). The worst example is the Andrew Neil McCliche view of Scotland, portraying a land of subsidy junkies with an oversized, omnipotent state power where entrepreneurial zest and energy is stifled at childbirth. Some of us can laugh at such ill-informed prejudice, but they show the weakening of the union, and how British and London media politics have fallen prey to right-wing populist ranting.

The United Kingdom has always been a strange beast, neither completely a unitary state of centralisation or the land of liberty and dissent so beloved of Whigs and their radical friends. It has come to pass in the last thirty years of counter-revolution, as Britain’s ‘world island’ has shrunk in on itself, that the powerful elites of the City and pseudo-business world of accountancy, consultancy and banking have shaped a reality which looks like a mixture of some vulgar Marxist tract mixed with Arnold Schwarzenegger dystopia. The UK which despite the explosion of the Blair/Brown bubble is still one of the richest countries in the world is in Danny Dorling’s estimate, the fourth most unequal country in the developed world (7).

We need to challenge this. Scottish statehood and independence is one powerful challenge to this state of affairs. We can’t believe that a post-Blair/Brown Labour offers any alternative, nor that the Lib Dems after their association with the Cameroon coalition offer anything. Instead, the slow fragmentation and demise of the British state is the best bet for Scots, and for developing a different, democratic, English political culture and space, one Scots will be proud to call our friends and allies, and even engage in political co-operation with.
The dilemma is this: it is a fact that there has not been a consistent majority for Scottish independence. That’s what David Cameron says to himself whenever he occasionally thinks of the issue.

There has been a consistent and massive majority of Scots voters understanding and using their power vis-a-via London and mandating their politicians again and again to act in such a way. Because of this a majority can be won for Scottish independence. The question is do the SNP and pro-independence forces have the guile and wit to dare to seize the agenda and stand tall for Scotland’s interests?

Notes
1. David Denver, James Mitchell, Charles Pattie and Hugh Bochel, Scotland Decides: The Devolution Issue and the Scottish Referendum, Frank Cass 2000.
2. Ian Smart, ‘A New Year Prediction: A return to reality’, December 31st 2011, http://ianssmart.blogspot.com/
3. Robert Johns, David Denver and James Mitchell, Voting for a Scottish Government: The Scottish Parliament Election of 2007, Manchester University Press 2010.
4. I am indebted to Nigel Smith, Chair of the ‘Yes, Yes’ 1997 Scottish Parliament referendum campaign for first making this case.
5. Jo Eric Murkens with Peter Jones and Michael Keating, Scottish Independence: A Practical Guide, Edinburgh University Press 2002.
6. Fraser Nelson, ‘Would you bet against Alex Salmond?’, Spectator Coffee House, January 2nd 2012, http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7540743/would-you-bet-against-alex-salmond.thtml
7. Daniel Dorling, Fair Play: A Daniel Dorling Reader on Social Justice, Policy Press 2011.

This article first appeared in the Scottish Blog Bella Caledonia. To see the original and its many comments, go to here

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