The narrative is that if you want an independent Scotland you are a) some rabid SNP nationalist b) an SNP rabid nationalist or c) a deluded rabid SNP rabid nationalist. The truth is, naturally, not so straight forward. Many people who supported the call for independence in 2014 were not SNP voters or SNP supporters. In fact, lots of people pre 2015 had a strong dislike for the SNP, but the SNP have maneuvered themselves into the driving seat of Scottish politics by being the only major party prepared to represent Scotland’s desire to move into the 21st century and beyond as an independent nation with self-determination. The recent success in the Lochs by-election of the anti-Trident, pro-independence Labour candidate demonstrates that the desire for independence reaches across party political boundaries.
Quite simply, the Labour party should endorse Scotland’s right to choose to be an independent nation, respect Scotland’s sovereignty, and commit to continue working with Scotland as a British ‘sibling’ in a new Union of Kingdoms. Which is what Labour’s position should have been during IndyRef1 and a position that should have been reflected during the 2015 general election. Labour should have strongly fought against the Tory’s divisive narrative that Scotland’s interests are somehow bad for Britain and especially bad for England. Instead of the fear Labour showed when challenged over its capabilities to work with a Scottish parliament, Labour should have been able to stand tall and proffer itself as the only Westminster party capable of working successfully with the Northern sibling. Had Labour been able to recognise this, not only would it not have been wiped out in Scotland, it would have defined itself as the only major party with the credibility to act on both sides of the border. The Tories will only ever view Scottish politics through the lens of a ruling class that subjugates local interests in favour of Westminster.
After the infamous YouGov poll commissioned by the Sunday Times gave Yes a lead, the people of Scotland were besieged by threats from the establishment. The general public of Britain should have taken a step back at this point and questioned what they were witnessing. Scotland had been given the right to decide their own future and, yet, the establishment weighed in with an unsaid admission that it did not know how to cope with the people of Scotland taking a decision that they did not want. That is not democracy. Just as there was no plan for a Brexit win at the polls for the EU Referendum, IndyRef was decided, not by a fear of what the future held but by a fear that the establishment would be faced with a future that they had not chosen. The EURef and IndyRef are quite different proposals but both have exhibited that politicians do not view themselves as agents of our will but as rulers of our will. The fear which drove the No campaign after the 5th September was palpable and is matched by the same fear that is driving the Tory party in the wake of their calamitous decision to offer a referendum on membership of the EU, for which they did not get the result they had expected. That is why they have no plan and cannot even define what Brexit means. Fear worked in IndyRef but its potency ran out for the EURef. Now the fear is all theirs.
If Britain is to survive into the 22nd century it needs to grow up politically. The embarrassing scenes in Westminster during PMQs, where the PM obfuscates, prevaricates, trots out weak ‘jokes’ and putdowns and generally refuses to answer any Qs needs to end; as does the barracking and other maladious disorder that mocks British democracy from the back benches and across the dispatch boxes. A key role of politicians is to see the will of the people reflected in the work of the legislature and that means being able to implement the changes that the people demand. Complacency breeds contempt and the current Tory leadership have never been more exposed for being complacent or contemptuous of the British electorate than they have been since 2010. Britain has been treading water for some time but we are now faced with monumental opportunities to write our future, we should not allow the inadequacies of our parliamentary representatives to hinder us or to define our ambitions. When our politicians are exposed to be wanting we clearly need better politicians and better means of selecting them.
Labour stands on the threshold of being a party for the 22nd century or joining the Tories as a party of the 19th century, will it be bold and embrace the opportunity that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership offers or will it slink back to the pedestrian thinking that lost its way so entirely in Scotland and has been losing its way in the rest of UK?