The battle is on for Scotland at the next General Election.
The results from the local election results in England would, if replicated in next year’s likely General Election, leave Keir Starmer’s Labour Party one sandwich short of the full picnic – or about 14 seats away from an overall majority. But that is not going to happen, senior Labour figures said – because Scotland will come good and give them the half baguette they need for everyone to tuck in.
Will Scotland switch to Labour in a big way? The SNP of course, has had its own troubles but they may ease. It now appears that the performative policing which took place outside Nicola Sturgeon’s home was led by the UK’s National Crime Agency – not Police Scotland. Sturgeon grew up in public life in Scotland – if she stole money from the party I personally will guarantee to run down Sauchiehall Street naked shouting ‘I’m a banana’, or climb Ben Nevis in carpet slippers shouting “I have neeps for brains.” If short of money, Sturgeon could maybe have taken the pay rise she has foregone since 2007. There should be some clarity on this by the next general election, but the damage to public perception may have already been done.
Polls show that the Labour Party is likely to do an awful lot better in Scotland next year – they currently hold just one Westminster seat. MP Ian Murray, who is a master of tailoring messaging to the different segments of his vote base in Edinburgh South, has been quoting an independence supporter who said he would lend his vote to Labour next time “to get the Tories out”.
And a lot of Scots, whether or not they support independence, do want to get the Tories out at UK level. Stories of starving kids in England eating rubbers out of desperation, as so few of them get free school meals, are distressing. (52% of the school roll in Scotland get them, but just 22% in England). Child poverty rates in the north of England are now off the scale according to the Joseph Rowntree Trust.
Issues such as poor regulation and management of privatised infrastructure that is vital to us all, like energy and the national grid across the UK, are adding to devastating – and unnecessary – fuel poverty in Scotland and limiting Scotland’s ability to respond to climate change.
The UK government is also aggressively attacking Holyrood. It has said, for example, that Scotland’s elected Ministers no longer have the right to work internationally with the UK’s network of embassies and consulates. The irony is that the man who the UK has sent to represent Scotland on several important trade missions, including to India, is Scotland Office minister Malcolm Offord, a propagandist and Tory donor who was gifted a lifelong seat in the UK Parliament after failing to win election to Holyrood.
Why opt for Labour?
So should Scots vote Labour? Stephen Flynn, leader of the Westminster SNP group, argues that Scotland will be better served by a strong SNP voice at Westminster – they can support policies that are good for Scotland while keeping independence on the table. But I guess that only works if the Conservatives fall below the number they would need to form another administration – which the local election poll does suggest will happen.
But politics in the UK is not a level playing field. England has been for two-thirds of the last two centuries under the rule of the Conservative Party. Recently, the Conservatives’ abuse of the system has reached a historic peak – or perhaps trough is a more appropriate term. They have far more in the way of both legal and dark money, their network of patronage extends into every aspect of public life from the media to museum boards. Money from big oil and big pharma and private healthcare is disproportionately directed to the Conservatives.
In a review of “Tory Nation: How One Party Took Over” in the Spectator, former Labour MP Chris Mullin wrote: “Personally, I don’t find the Tories’ long hegemony that surprising, given the huge imbalance of resources between them and other parties and a written media, much of which, as the late Ian Gilmour remarked, could not be more servile were it state controlled. Plus, of course, there has been an element of luck. The Thatcher revolution would not have been possible without the proceeds of North Sea oil. The wonder is that Labour has triumphed as often as it has, with what Harold Wilson used to refer to as its penny-farthing machine”.
Keir Starmer will make a good Prime Minister – perhaps better than a leader of the opposition. He is a serious person and he has integrity – which will make a change. I don’t like it when they make him crack lame jokes. I would prefer to see him talking about things that will restore standards in public life – for example, saying that the post of BBC Chair will no longer be a political appointment.
The Labour Party’s policy slate is being left deliberately vague. That is an understandable tactic – anything they do propose will be torn apart by the UK’s right-wing press, which is the agenda setter for broadcasting.
But I do think they should make a more concrete proposal on Brexit – I suggest “selective alignment”. This is the 5-step pitch (with apologies to “The Challenger Sale”)
1 Brexit has turned out to be a lot more complicated than we thought!
2 Vote Leave led people to think that ending free movement would boost the wages of British workers. But that didn’t happen. Instead, it has shrunk the economic pie. It has also damaged trade and made imports, especially food, more expensive.
3 So let’s not put up more barriers to trade by diverging – needlessly – from Europe’s generally high standards. Recently for example the UK has started to allow make-up to be tested on animals again. We don’t need to do stuff like that.
4 Instead, the UK could set out a general presumption of alignment. In an extreme case, we could still have the potential to diverge, but that general presumption of alignment would make the Northern Ireland protocol run more smoothly and ease the flow of goods and services between the UK and the EU.
5 Selective alignment could be the basis for a UK Free Trade Area, a bit like EFTA but different. UKFTA. That would let the standards of living in the UK recover compared with other European countries.
That would not be as good as an independent Scotland re-entering the EU but it would lift some of the crushing weight that Brexit is putting on the shoulders of people across the UK, whether in business, health care, education – or just for hard-pressed mums who have to empty their purses to buy imported fruit.
The answer is that there is no doubt that some – perhaps many – pro-indy Scots will lend their votes to Labour to help get the Tories out. And that will be OK, it is a legitimate choice. But if the Labour Party then turns round and reads those votes as votes to remain in the Union and as a rejection of independence in the future – then that will be a betrayal that will come back to bite them.
In the long term, the old saw that long periods of Conservative rule are a price worth paying to remain in the UK, and that Labour will fix everything when they get back in, has worn too thin for me. I want to see Scotland take responsibility for its own future, build and manage its own democratic institutions. So at some point, England will have to get ready to do the same.
Alastair McIntyre says
I’ve never understood the anti-Brexit views.
It’s a fact that the EU is on the decline in world trade terms. Most of the world economy is going to Asia and the longer term future is in Africa.
With the UK in the Commonwealth and now in the CPP we’re well set to do major export deals on services and goods.
Food security is with those countries and we need to do more trade with them and open up our markets to them. Our supermarkets need to develop better trade with those countries as this will give them security of supply and better prices.
What we need to do is focus on trade and use the free trade deals we now have with the CPP and use our contacts in the Commonwealth to boost business with Africa.
Let us remember that the UK wants to be independent of the EU and so an independent minded Scot should also want that as well. I’m really fed up with the many Scots that want to be independent yet also want to give away that independence to the EU. We never voted to be politically controlled by the EU, we voted for free trade and that’s not what we ended up with but it seems anti-Brexit folk don’t see that.
The Auld Alliance was not a benefit to Scotland and an interesting talk in Montreal on a history course didn’t blame the Scots for defeating the French in Canada as they said “We let Scotland down so it’s no wonder the Scots fought so hard against us”.
I’ve just watched a YouTube talk about the state of Germany and Austria where the commentator (an Austrian) gave her view of their National Health Service, their food poverty, their house prices, all of which mirrors what is happening in the UK. And please note that the EU is not a democracy.
The only way to right the ship is by exporting more and that is where our focus should be, not on Independence. By exporting more we can earn a lot more money and thus raise more tax revenue which in turn can then support more money to the poor.
Let us remember that the Barnett formula provides around 12 billion extra money to Scotland. With Independence you lose that. North Sea Oil & Gas has likely 20 years of income left after which it’s worth almost nothing. And let us also note that Scotland has gained little from all this Wind Power as it makes none of the infrastructure which is made by companies outside Scotland.
So my call is for people to work hard to export more and for the people of Scotland to wake up and decide that what we need is exports to compensate for the loss of 12 billion and to make sure they export to every country in the world.
I can assure you that if Scotland goes independent then a percentage of the English will no longer want to trade with Scotland and as 60% of our exports go to England that is more billions Scotland is going to need to earn to balance the books. And you should also be aware that many people coming to Scotland for a holiday do so as part of a UK holiday so how many will now avoid Scotland as part of that UK holiday?
Have you ever read about Robert Dollar? A man born in Falkirk who became the father of the China/Japan trade in the USA. Then the many Scottish companies who did great work through their base in HongKong. It was enterprising Scots that went into the world and did so much to bring wealth back to Scotland.
Carnegie built most of our libraries and Lord Strathcona headed the giant Hundson’s Bay Company and was in part responsible for building the countries rail network coast to coast and that opened up the trade to Asia. He was also President of our top three univesities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. John A MacDonald was a long serving Prime minister of Canada and some 15% of Canadians claim Scottish ancestry and more people in Canada speak Gaelic than there are Gaelic speakers in Scotland.
Then look at the British Empire which no matter what anyone says made a huge global impact. We were once able to do business all over the world but it seems that our political class today have no idea what to do business wise to even approach the fantastic work that Scots did all over the world.
Then look how the SNP have totally destroyed our Education system. We don’t need more free university places we need more apprentiships so we need more technical colleges as that’s where many young people will made good paying careers.
We fought many wars with Germany, France, Italy, Spain and won them all so why should Scotland was to be under them in peace? Sturgeon did say that she would not have a referendum on rejoining the EU and note that no political party in Scotland backed Brexit and almost all commentary in the press was anti Brexit. No wonder Scots voted to remain.
I can say I am currently disgusted with all politicions no matter what party they belong to as it seems when voted in they lose whatever common sense they may have once had.
Under the SNP our democracy in Scotland has suffered greatly as all they ever wanted was central control. They got it but at what price for ordinary Scots?
In fact in the period 1790-1820 a staggering 130 Scots were MPs representing seats in England and Wales. Also in 2014 is has been recorded “There are more Scots in England than any city in Scotland”. It might sound surprising, but according to the latest census figures, there are about 750,000 people born in Scotland who live south of the border. That’s more than the population of Edinburgh or Glasgow.
While I ran a business in Scotland I also spent 5 years in England and enjoyed those years very much indeed. I now live in Canada.
So my plea is for Scots to wake up and take the great opportunities there are in the world by trading with the CPP and Commonwealth countries. That’s where we need to focus our efforts if we’re to be a success and an independent country. That’s where our future lies and not in the “Old Countries of Europe”.
Keir Starmer has integrity? He’s a pathological liar and his leadership has been one embrace of reactionary, authoritarian nationalism after another.