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Scottish Labour January 15, 2021

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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In my time watching Westminster Elections, Labour were always the biggest party in Scotland, That until 2015. Looking now, just six years later it’s really difficult to see a way back for them.

I was watching an interview on Newsnight last night with the former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. I was struck by one particular answer with regard to Independence.. “The Labour Party is the party of Devolution”. I winced when I heard him say it. There was a Big Home Rule vibe off it. To me at least ,it seems that position is already a beaten docket.

Reading the report of his stepping down in the Guardian. It appears that there were difficulties with Labour in the UK over the Brexit deal, a deal which Keir Starmer backed. Being part of the UK Labour Party means that whatever Starmer or the Labour Party does to try and placate English Nationalism it surely drives a further wedge between Scottish concerns and the Scottish Labour Party.

The Tories in Scotland can at least claim to be the main Unionist Party (Although tell that to their playthings the DUP) in Scotland. SNP for Independence, The Lib Dems I’m not sure , but Labour are tied with the Party of Starmer and being the ‘party of devolution’ which looks like a political cul de sac to me.

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1. WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2021

Great point. How could Labour in Scotland move beyond devolution? Hard to see an easy path. Unless they went for a semi-detached relationship and/or Devolution Plus (and another couple of Pluses) something that was so close to independence that they’d have enough cover. Of course maybe parts of their base are unionist to the point that would lose them what little they’ve got?

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2. Colm B - January 15, 2021

Labour in Scotland have constantly wriggled around trying to come up a position that’s still unionist but differentiates them from the Tories, hence the embarrassing wheeling out of Gordon Brown on a regular basis to rumble on about federalism. The simple fact is nobody’s listening. I have never heard anyone saying “I’m for federalism” or “I’m pro-enhanced devolution”. For the vast majority of people they are either pro or anti independence or undecided. No one is interested in spurious alternatives.

The only way Labour could have recovered would have been to combine a swing to the left with a pro-independence position. That didn’t happen under Corbyn and now there’s no chance. With Leonard gone, the old right will quickly take back control in Scottish Labour. The truly despicable Anas Sarwar, he of the family dynasty, kids in private fee paying school, low-wage business owner etc etc is likely to become the next leader if he goes for it. So Labour is largely irrelevant.

The key question for the left is how to deal with the dominance of the SNP on the pro Indy side. The unfortunate fact is that, electorally, the only pro- Indy force to their left is the Greens. The good news is that they look likely to gain a few seats and they are well to the left of Labour and the SNP. They have a good few left activists involved but like all Green parties there’s also a substantial amount of middle class environmentalists who think that coalition gov is how you save the planet. As for the radical left, the usual suspects of the no-hoper, recorded-message rhetoric, mini-groups such as the SWP, SSP etc will probably stand candidates but there’s no prospect of a serious left challenge in the upcoming elections. So the best we can hope for is that the Greens win a good wee block of seats and that a decent, broad radical left force emerges in the next few years. Of course the SNP will win an overall majority and the question of independence will remain central.

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sonofstan - January 15, 2021

Any possibility of a Labour revival post independence?

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 15, 2021

Great question.
You’d think there should be.
Surely the natural thing would be that the newly-independent country would have a similar polity to liberal democracies everywhere – a right of centre party and a slightly left of centre party (i.e. Labour or some form of Labour Party).
But then will/would the national question be completely off the agenda post-independence? Might there still be parties who argue against independence – so that the distinguishing factors between parties would still be pro or anti-independence, as opposed to right and slightly left.
Anything to be learned from the historical precedent in the Celtic sibling country to the west? Independence for Ireland – how did the Labour Party manage there?
And I’m sure some of the grouplets on the further left will see independence as an opportunity for real revolution … or at least a seat or too for them in Hollyrood.

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sonofstan - January 15, 2021

I was more thinking of how plenty of home rulers found a new home in CnaG/ FG – although that might be more a model for Scots tories.
Post independence Scotland will presumably return an SNP government for a few elections, but it will eventually need an opposition party capable of winning enough seats to govern and – from my position of lofty ignorance – that seems more likely to be a left of centre party: i.e. Labour.

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roddy - January 15, 2021

What policies would a “left of centre” labour campaign on that would differentiate them from the SNP?

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Colm B - January 15, 2021

You never know, they could revive as a centre left rival to the SNP but I doubt it. A much stronger possibility would be a centre left split off the SNP but that won’t happen for a while – parties who lead and win a struggle for independence, or national liberation, usually buy a long period of dominance as they get the credit for that achievement even if they prove to be a disappointment – ANC, FF/CnG, FLN etc.

Unfortunately, I think the Tories have a better prospect than Labour of being the main opposition in an independent Scotland. They’ll hold onto a significant residual die-hard unionist vote but they’ll expand that support by pragmatically adapting and casting themselves as the only effective opposition to the SNP.

The radical left will only play a significant role in the early years of an independent Scotland if they play a decisive role in the next referendum (as they did on the last one through RIC) and the general struggle for independence. And to do that there will have to be a broad alliance or party of the left, sooner rather than later.

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roddy - January 15, 2021

Are there any neo unionist left parties in Scotland like the SP here?

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Colm B - January 15, 2021

Roddy – all the main far left groups are now pro-indy: the SSP, the SWP, the SPS(CWI), RS21(exSWP), the Conter group ( linked to Counterfire in England) etc.
There’s only one group of any significance that is anti-independence, thats the Stalinist CPB who have some influence on the Labour left and the trade union bureaucracy, though that’s declining.

Since the demise of the last attempt to create a broad pro-indy left party (RISE), most radical socialists here are not in any of party but are affiliated to the broader pro-indy campaigns such as Radical Independence Campaign or Commonweal etc.

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Colm B - January 15, 2021

Here’s a relatively new group on the left, active within RIC. I know some good activists who are involved.

https://republicansocialists.scot/

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Enzo - January 15, 2021

There’s Galloway’s Worker’s Party of Britain who seem to be putting a lot of work into Unionist politics through their Alliance for Unity Front. Galloway has even moved back to Scotland in preparation for an election run I’d imagine.

Hoxhaist CPGB-ML are a big part of the WPB as well.

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Colm B - January 15, 2021

Yep I follow them on Twitter just for fun. The actual WPB will have no impact in Scotland but Galloway is hoping that his lash-up with Tories, alt-rigtists and loyalists, the Alliance for Unity, will get him into the Scottish Parl next election. He’s standing in the Borders/South of Scotland region, a Tory/anti-indy stronghold. Don’t think he has hope in hell but might siphon off some votes from the Tories.

You’ve got to admire his shamelessness, he will do anything to get a paid political job which lets him mouth off and do feck all work. Yesterday it was Bradford (remember the Bradford Spring?) today it’s Dumfries. It’s always fun to watch George’s scams, they always end in tears, for everyone involved except the Big G.

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sonofstan - January 15, 2021

“He’s standing in the Borders/South of Scotland region, a Tory/anti-indy stronghold”

The council area is actually Dumfries and Galloway isn’t it? 🙂

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Colm B - January 15, 2021

For the Scottish Parliamentary (regional list part) it’s the South of Scotland region – that covers a few local authorities, including D&G.

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3. Mat - January 16, 2021

As a complete outsider but a former UK Labour member who was considering a move to Scotland and couldn’t really imagine staying in Labour in Scotland even with Leonard – it seems that a rational Labour Party in Scotland would completely split from the UK party and agree confidence and supply with Labour at Westminster, on everything except independence which it would clearly support.
If independence is achieved but even if it’s not and the SNP continue in power as a centrist party then there will clearly be a space for a centre left alternative that doesn’t actively oppose independence.

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WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2021

That makes a lot of sense Mat

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Colm B - January 16, 2021

It does indeed, and you would think that, just on the basis of pragmatism, they would have done so but the boat is definitely gone out now. They could declare their fealty to a Scottish Socialist Republic, paint their faces with Saltires and change their name to the William Wallace Party and it wouldn’t make a whit of a difference now.

Of course this is all academic now, as the sclerotic ultra-unionist right will now take control of Labour, under Anas Sarwar, Jackie Bailey or some such Blairite revenant.

As I said, I think eventually a centre left opposition may come from within the SNP or maybe the Greens. Of course, for the sake of balance and the defense of minimal democratic and welfare standards, the existance of such an opposition to the SNP in a newly independent Scotland would be important but the key question for socialists is the need for a radical party of the left. The potential exists in terms of the large number of left activists and the social base, as shown by the brief success of the SSP in the 00s, as well as the key role of RIC in mobilising working class communities in the first referendum. However, potentials are just that, so subjective organisational, ideological and individual factors are now the key obstacle blocking such a development.

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Pangurbán - January 16, 2021

Sorry key role of RIC 😳😳😳😳???

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Colm B - January 17, 2021

Yes, RIC played a key role in the referendum through their on the ground campaign in working class areas, and by pushing the broad Yes campaign to the left. It also united almost the whole radical left into a fairly coherent block. This involved thousands of activists as the first RIC conferences showed. From my own participation I can say it was one of the biggest, most successful campaigns led by the radical left I have participated in. Of course there were flaws and I don’t share some of the perspectives of the group who were at the centre of the campaign but I stopped believing in the necessity of unanimity when I abandoned Stalinism many moons ago!

Unfortunately RIC has shrunk back to a relatively small core, though it still has potential.

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yourcousin - January 17, 2021

Radical Independence Campaign, not the Royal Irish Constabulary. I was thrown for a minute myself.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_Independence_Campaign

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Colm B - January 17, 2021

Ah, slow on the uptake there, now I get it!

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