Posts Tagged ‘indyref’

Nicola Sturgeon has gambled with her move for independence. It’s not such a bad bet

14/03/2017, 03:39:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There are three stages to processing the news that we seem to be heading for a sequel to the Scottish independence referendum.

Stage one: why the shock.

What is surprising about a Scottish nationalist politician calling for independence from the rest of the UK? Surely, the clue is in Nicola Sturgeon’s party title.

Brexit offers a justifiable opening to ask the question which was meant to have been answered for a generation. The fundamental circumstances of Britain’s position have changed and the post-2014 settlement was predicated on a United Kingdom in Europe.

Stage two: Sturgeon has miscalculated.

But once the campaign begins, the same economic pressures will be brought to bear again on the electorate. Set aside for a moment the ludicrous hypocrisy of a Tory Brexiteer government running a facsimile of the Remain campaign’s economic arguments about leaving a union, the threat that will be articulated is not only real but potentially greater than in 2014.

Many will talk about the importance of identity and nationalism but that doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

There was a reason the SNP lost in 2014 by 10%: the economy, stupid.

Stage three: hang on, what if the UK is about to crash out of the EU without a deal?

The kicker for unionists comes courtesy of the Tory government’s approach to Brexit.

At the weekend, Boris Johnson was on our screens giving his considered view as Foreign Secretary that exiting the EU without a deal would be just fine.

If, and it’s a big if, the SNP could promise some form of ongoing EU membership while the rest of the UK wilfully stepped off the trade cliff, babbling about empire, the nineteenth century buccaneer spirit and British pluck, which outcome would represent the greatest economic danger for Scotland: independence or remaining in the UK?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Why aren’t we furious with the Scottish party?

10/05/2016, 10:33:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The dark, stinking hole Labour finds itself in these days might not feel quite so dark and stinking if the Scottish party had got its act together last year. The loss of forty seats north of the border in the general election turned disaster in England into cataclysm across the UK.

Last Thursday, the party suffered a repeat pasting in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Labour took nothing short of a punishment beating at the hands of the electorate, sliding into third place behind the Conservatives. After last May’s debacle, it was a ceremonial cherry placed on top of the steaming turd that is the Scottish Labour party.

How did it come to this? How did Labour ‘lose’ Scotland and by doing so, make it improbable the party will win a general election any time before the advent of commercial space travel? And why aren’t we angrier with the bunglers in the Scottish party who frittered away Labour’s position?

But first, let’s be clear: the extinguishing of Labour as a force in Scottish politics is the party’s own fault. The SNP hasn’t cheated its way to power. There has been no coup d’etat. They are triumphant because they have outplayed Scottish Labour at every turn in recent years, up to the point where it’s clear the party no longer seems to understand the Scottish people.

This is not a recent failing. Labour lost control of the parliament to the SNP as long ago as 2007. The situation was exacerbated at the 2011 elections, before the party’s virtual annihilation in last year’s general election. There have been ample opportunities to arrest the decline.

Clearly, it all came to a head during the independence referendum. By opposing ‘nationalism’ Scottish Labour foolishly forfeited ‘patriotism’ in the process. The party didn’t seem to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a proud Scot and wanting to see your nationhood recognised.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Revealed: The SNP’s terms for supporting a minority Miliband government

29/12/2014, 07:00:11 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Christmas might be a time when most of politics takes a break, but from the late night festive carousing comes word of the potential deal that Ed Miliband will be offered by the SNP, to sustain a minority Labour government in office.

Uncut has heard from SNP advisers that their MPs in Westminster could be prepared to “do whatever it takes to keep Labour in office,” if Ed Miliband accedes to one request.

No, it’s not a new date for another independence referendum. Well, not quite.

The SNP MPs would support every aspect of a Labour programme, voting with the Labour whip, even on England only issues, if Ed Miliband commits his new government to “accept the will of the Scottish people” were Scotland to demonstrate a desire for a new independence referendum.

The test of this will would come in 2016 at the Holyrood elections where the central plank of the SNP platform will be a call for another referendum.

Even though Alex Salmond said that the 2014 vote was a once in a generation opportunity, the SNP will cite the unheralded depth of new cuts and the ever more virulently anti-European position of the Conservative party, as the basis for revisiting the choice.

With PM Ed Miliband facing a choice of deep cuts or steep tax rises or big hikes in borrowing, or some combination of all three – none of which any Westminster party will have acknowledged in the election campaign – the SNP case will be that the unionists lied to the Scottish public, about the UK’s economic position, when the original independence vote was taken in 2014.

And if David Cameron loses the election, he will soon be ejected from the leadership of his party, with his replacement likely to be forced to adopt an even more Eurosceptic policy, if not an outright commitment to leave the EU. The SNP position will be that the threat of a future Conservative administration (which drew its MPs almost entirely from England) taking the UK out of the EU, despite Scotland’s desire to remain in Europe, would mean an early referendum, before the 2020 election, was essential.

If the SNP retained a majority at Holyrood in 2016 then Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond would cash-in their IOU from Ed Miliband and set a date for the new referendum.

This is not a certain route to independence for the SNP, but nationalist opinion is coalescing around it as the best one available.

It is politically impossible for Ed Miliband to simply accept a new independence referendum in return for SNP votes. That would be seen as too craven. Making a new independence vote contingent on the 2016 Scottish elections is the next best option.

And come what may, the SNP will need to have a majority government at Holyrood to re-open the independence question; under the terms of this deal, if they achieve that, then the UK government will allow them to confirm the date.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Party chiefs will hope Lamont’s resignation gives them a fresh start in Scotland

25/10/2014, 12:10:39 PM

The resignation of Scottish Labour party leader, Johann Lamont, has plunged the Scottish party back into one of its periodic bouts of crisis.

Lamont, long an advocate for greater devolution for the Scottish Parliament and more autonomy for the Scottish party, was said to be furious that national chiefs treated Scotland like a “branch office”.

The final straw came earlier this week with the enforced departure of the Scottish party’s general secretary, Ian Price.

Recruited last year to lead its referendum campaign and drive forward efforts to reform the fractious party, he was already sidelined by July, when the party’s respected former North West regional director, Sheila Murphy, was asked by Ed Miliband to step in and manage the campaign instead.

The view from London is that Labour cannot take the chance that a resurgent SNP will burrow into its vote and put seats at next year’s general election in jeopardy.

However it was clear from the result of the referendum, with places like Glasgow voting for independence, that Labour’s support base in working-class Scotland has been shaken.

The party’s indelicate treatment of Lamont and Price reflects the fact it does not want to have to spend time and precious resources campaigning in seats that Labour should easily win.

In her resignation interview with the Daily Record, Lamont warns her colleagues that “the focus of Scottish politics is now Holyrood, not Westminster” and that too many of them, both in Scotland and London “do not understand the politics they are facing”.

That may be so, but the party’s focus is holding on to what it currently has next May and many will be privately relieved at the chance of a fresh start.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Three key lessons for the Left from the Scottish referendum

19/10/2014, 11:20:15 AM

by Ranjit Sidhu

It has been just over a month since the Scottish referendum, but it could have an eon ago. With the Heywood by-election now concentrating political minds of the Left, it would be a missed opportunity if Labour, in particular, did not learn from what was an astonishing 15% rise in a matter of months for the Yes campaign in the Scottish referendum.

From the good natured debate on every high street to children asking you to do a referendum based questionnaire on the train, it was the kind of invigorating and surprising political debate I  thought had left the UK years ago.

And it’s resonance is still being felt. Last weekend, as was de-rigueur pre-referendum, on the local high street was a SNP table with a picture of Gordon Brown in a dunce cap and a queue preparing to sign up to them. So it was no surprise to me that the SNP has recruited 75,00 new members since the referendum. They may have lost the referendum, but they have picked themselves up and refocused in an instant.

Labour’s reaction has been somewhat the opposite: in denial would be the best phrase to use, but also something else, something that came across whilst the referendum was in full swing: a lethargy. As if the referendum was an unwanted insurrection that was put down, but whose soldiers, who had no real appetite for the fight, were happy to escape straight after back to familiar lands.

If lessons are not learnt the fear is not only will Labour be 20 Scottish MPs lighter come May, putting into prospective how Labour has got itself in such a tizzy about losing a possible 5 seats to Ukip, but have also missed the opportunity to learn some important lessons that could have reset Labour politics to a more positive paradigm.

So here are three interlinked, basic and positive lessons Labour can learn:

  1. The vision thing can still be a positive social agenda

The genius of the Yes campaign was how they were able to tie in the minds of the voters the independence of Scotland with that of a new vision of society for Scotland.  When ask what were the two or three most important issues for voting yes many did , indeed, mention disaffection with Westminster politics, but also NHS, public welfare and spending and better jobs were also high up.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The questions for #Lab14

22/09/2014, 07:00:06 AM

by Jonathan Todd

In 2010, Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership and started talking about the squeezed middle. The following year he gave us producers and predators. 2012 was the year of One Nation Labour. And last year the energy price freeze was the big thing.

Party conferences, as Kierkegaard might have understood, must be lived forwards but only understood backwards. There are various questions to reflect upon as we think how we might come to look back on this year’s conference:

Will Labour’s line on a constitutional convention hold?

“The vow” jointly made by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband poses questions for Labour. The issues are whether the powers promised to Scotland will be granted and what the implications for the rest of the UK will be if they are. Cameron is clear that Scotland can have these powers but they will need to be accompanied by balancing reforms elsewhere, in particular provisions to ensure that MPs for non-English seats cannot vote on matters only impacting England.

Tom Freeman has explained why English votes on English laws could be destructive of good government and potentially even the UK. He’s also proposed what appears a sensible solution, which responds to concerns raised outside of Scotland by “the vow”, while avoiding the problems associated with English votes on English laws.

Freeman’s solution is not yet Labour’s solution. Labour doesn’t yet have a solution. Labour proposes a constitutional convention to find a solution. Such a slow paced approach is consistent with the preference of Vernon Bogdanor, Cameron’s ex university tutor, for not rushing. It’s not clear, though, that those outside of Scotland will have the patience for this.

Many have seen “the vow” and want to know how their rights and interests can be reconciled with it. Labour can’t tell them. Cameron can. With a response that creates the dangers Freeman flags. If Labour wants our line on a constitutional convention to hold, we might want to stop talking about “two classes of MP”, which we’ve had since 1999, and start talking in the terms of the problems Freeman describes.

How to play the A-Team away from Westminster more often ?

Keeping the UK together was arguably Gordon Brown’s finest honour. Jim Murphy also emerges enhanced. If they’d left the fight to Labour MSPs, Yes might well have won. Alex Salmond was given over a decade to dismantle the B-Team that Labour kept fielding in Scotland. We would be foolish if we think that we can allow Salmond’s successor the same easy ride.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour now has big questions to answer

19/09/2014, 12:35:07 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Scottish referendum is the most tumultuous event in British politics in my lifetime. Writing on Labour Uncut in February, I anticipated that Scotland would stay together but potentially on bitter and cantankerous terms. What I didn’t see until much later was that Yes victory would seem a distinct possibility and that bitterness and rancour would spill from Scotland into the rest of the UK.

Kevin Meagher has catalogued on Uncut the failing of Better Together. The factor that he sees as common to all of these failings is that Westminster leaders “seriously underestimated the prospect of independence”. In so doing, these leaders also underestimated how profoundly they are mistrusted and how deeply angry many are. This frustration is so intense that many were prepared to take the gamble of UK breakup. Such a step would certainly have been a leap into the unknown but many calculated that this was the best option because the likelihood of anything worse than the status quo was minimal.

This calculus, in my view, was faulty. UK breakup would reduce the Scottish tax base and capacity to raise finance on money markets. Both of which would have increased pressure for public service cuts in Scotland, which many voting Yes thought they were voting against. All those who value well resourced public services, including all Labour party members, should be relieved that UK breakup has been averted.

But this certainly does not spell the end of Labour’s challenges. Broadly speaking, these now take two forms: cultural and constitutional. The cultural challenges are involved with the anger and mistrust that both Yes and UKIP have fed on, while the constitutional are concerned with resolving the west Lothian question in the context that now exists following “the vow” of additional powers for Scotland jointly made by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

Yes and UKIP both have an appeal to some sections of traditional Labour support, particularly the disenfranchised working class. “UKIP is tearing off this section of the electorate”, Matthew Goodwin recently argued, “creating a fundamental divide in British politics between those with the skills, education and resources to adapt, and those who have little and feel intensely angry.” When we dissect why Yes won Glasgow, Scotland’s most working class city, I expect we’ll find similar voters to those that UKIP appeal to being decisive.

Yes was high on energy and short on detail. Nigel Farage has comparable energy. He was up early this morning posting letters to Scottish MPs asking them to not vote on English matters. He will be looking forward to getting his bandwagon into fifth gear in Clacton, seeking to trade on both English grievance at the strongly asymmetric devolution created by “the vow” and the anti-politics mood. Yes also benefitted from this mood, precipitating “the vow”, but Farage will now seek to augment his long-standing antipathy to the leading UK parties with the charge that they are a conspiracy against the English.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Gordon Brown is wrong. We need to scrap Barnett and allocate funding based on need

19/09/2014, 10:51:13 AM

by David Lindsay

There is no West Lothian Question. The Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to legislate supremely in any policy area for any part of the country. It never need do so and the point would still stand, since what matters is purely that it has that power in principle, which no one disputes that it has.

The grievance of England, and especially of Northern and Western England, concerns cold, hard cash. What, then, of those who bellow for an English Parliament to bartenders who cannot follow everyone else and leave the room? They fall into two categories. There are the Home Counties Home Rulers. And there are those wishing to live under the Raj of the Home Counties Home Rulers.

On the one hand are those from the South East, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Their definition of England is the South East, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, or at least a certain idea of that area. Give them something for that, and they would be perfectly happy, at least until the votes started to be tallied up. Everyone gets a vote. Even the people whom they have bawled out.

On the other hand are those from everywhere else. Their definition of England is also the South East, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, or at least a certain idea of that area. Although they are often professionally “local” to elsewhere, especially in Yorkshire but also in pockets of other parts of the country, the basis of their political position has always been that they were a cut above their neighbours.

That made them Conservatives until recently, and it increasingly makes them UKIP supporters. That is who the UKIP supporters in the North and elsewhere are. They were never Labour. That is also the context for the fact that there has been a UKIP MEP in Wales for some years and that there is now a UKIP MEP in Scotland, too.

They may never have elected an MP or even a councillor in their lives, or they may live in the only ward or constituency for miles around where their votes ever elected anyone. But enough MPs were returned from elsewhere to make the Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister. That suited them down to the ground.

Quite wrongly, since it would be run by Labour as often as not, they see an English Parliament in the same terms. Their more numerous and concentrated brethren elsewhere would deliver them from the rule of their neighbours. It is very funny indeed that those brethren think that they are those neighbours.

In 1993, 66 Labour MPs voted against Maastricht, far more than the number of Conservatives who did so. Yet there were far more Conservative than Labour MPs at the time. Of those 66, at least three campaigned for a Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum, including that campaign’s chairman, Dennis Canavan.

While it is true that several of those from Wales went on to be among the strongest opponents of devolution, the 66 also included the late John McWilliam, one of the first campaigners for a North East regional assembly.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The No campaign will squeak home, but, really, it shouldn’t have been this close

18/09/2014, 07:00:12 AM

by Kevin Meagher

There are no perfect campaigns and while it’s a tad premature to start the post-mortem, you have to ask why Better Together ends this race wheezing and red-faced.

At the start of August it was leading Yes Scotland by 20 points. Yet despite superior assets in terms of money and foot soldiers, as well as existing relationships with the electorate, the multi-party No campaign has not been able to make these structural advantages count and that lead has melted away.  So it’s not just Gordon Brown biting his nails to the stump.

Majoring on technocratic arguments, Better Together has lacked emotional punch as well as good basic organisation. The evidence? Brown’s last-minute rescue operation promising “devo-max” after postal ballots had been sent to a fifth of the electorate. A panicked move that, to be properly effective, should have come weeks before. (As, indeed, should Brown, who was left on the subs bench for too long. His speech yesterday is described by Steve Richards in The Guardian as “mesmerising”).

So, in a spirit of evaluating why we are where we are and positing why we shouldn’t actually be here, let me offer the following:

1) It should never have been this close. Alistair Darling is fond of saying that he warned people it would go “down to the wire”. If, indeed, Darling was planning for a tight race then he has got this campaign wrong, strategically, from the very start. The aim should have been a thumping victory to close the issue down for good and avoid the so-called “neverendum”. If devolution in 1998 has given nearly half of Scots a taste for full independence just 15 years later, what sort of ratchet effect will “devo max” have on Scottish voters’ identity and sense of otherness in a few years’ time? If as many as 45 per cent of them vote for independence today, the matter will not rest. Make no mistake; we’ll be back here again within a decade.

2) Westminster should have been alive to the danger much earlier. Since 2010, there have been three secretaries of state for Scotland. Each of them, Danny Alexander, Michael Moore and Alistair Carmichael are Liberal Democrats. And each of them has been asleep at the wheel. The role should have been used to help counter the SNP’s advance in the Scottish Parliament. (It would be fascinating to see the Secretary of State’s diary entries between 2010 and 2014 because so little of value to this campaign seems to have been achieved in that time). Carmichael, especially, should have been galvanising the Cabinet to tee-up a more considered “devo max” offer much earlier, or, indeed, have that option put on the ballot paper.

3) The Tories have not delivered. Despite David Cameron’s heartfelt please to Scots in recent days, his party’s meltdown in Scotland in recent decades has meant that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has, incongruously, had limited purchase in this debate. That said, despite only having a single MP, half a million Scots still voted Conservative at the 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections. Tory strategists should have spent the last few years cultivating this base and their party’s organisation for this very moment. Unfortunately, David Cameron’s detoxification of his party never included a meaningful attempt to regain a foothold in Scotland. (This is presumably why he surrendered the Scottish Office to the Lib Dems). (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The fight for the union goes on, whatever happens on the eighteenth

15/09/2014, 12:08:26 PM

by David Butler

“If we fight 100 times and beat him 99 he will be King still, but if he beats us but once, or the last time, we shall be hanged, we shall lose our estates, and our posterities be undone” – Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester

The future of the Union hangs by a thread. A partnership that has lasted three hundred and seven years, and achieved many wonderful things, could be extinguished. Better Together can still win on Thursday and I’m hoping it will. If No does indeed win, there can be no let up in the struggle. The nineteenth of September 2014 must be the first day of the next battle for the future of our country.

The words of the 2nd Earl of Manchester were spoken at the height of the First English Civil War in November 1644. The fate facing opponents of Scottish independence is not death and penury, but the point stands: the SNP must win only once, by a single vote, to separate Scotland from England forever. We must win every time.

Alex Massie, in a recent Spectator piece, charted the increasing acceptability of independence as an idea. As Massie correctly observed, the idea of Scottish nationalism cannot be killed, not now, not after all this time. If 47% of the electorate vote for separation, that is a sizeable bloc who wish to tear apart the existing polity; only a minor swing would be required to make that a majority opinion.

Perhaps the SNP, like Quebec separatists Bloc Quebecois, would eventually collapse and be consigned to a future behind Labour in Scotland. This seems unlikely given their current poll ratings. Even if they were weaker in the polls, it would not be something we could just wait and hope for. Nationalism must be fought and driven back with ideas, policy and organisation. It is worth remembering the remarks of Neil Kinnock that “the victory of political ideals must be organised”.

The SNP would not be a majority party in the Scottish Parliament (and hence able to call a referendum) were it not for the collapse of Labour and the Lib Dems in the 2011 elections and the Tories long-term decline. Patrick Wintour in The Guardian tracked the decline of Scottish Toryism during the Thatcher era and their subsequent failure to reassert themselves during New Labour (unlike in England and Wales). Labour’s decline was, on paper, more sudden and stark. However, it was rooted in the talent exodus to Westminster and SNP positioning themselves as moderate social democrats appealing to a conservatism about the institutions people valued (such as the NHS or universities).

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon