When an anonymous “insider” speaks of “an opportunity to prove that Scottish Labour is not a branch office” what they actually mean is a chance to perpetuate the ancient deceit that ‘Scottish’ Labour is something more than a branch office.
Of all the con tricks played on the people of Scotland by the British establishment this may well be the most insidious. For decades, the notion of ‘Scottish’ Labour as a meaningful alternative to the Tories has helped to ensure that the British state’s grip on Scotland is maintained. By the simple expedient of having the media treat British Labour’s operation in Scotland as if it is a real political party with real leaders and real policies, the people of Scotland have been duped into supposing that voting Labour is the way to effect change.
But the very notion of ‘Scottish’ Labour as a distinct, autonomous political party represents a jarring contradiction. On the one hand, we have British Labour insisting that the UK is ‘One Nation’ and playing the ‘class solidarity’ card. (They also characterise themselves as ‘internationalist’ but claim that this ‘class solidarity’ cannot function across borders.) On the other, we have the same two-faced British politicians saying that Scotland is different enough from the rest of the UK (rUK) to require its own policies. Which is it?
Of course, we know that Scotland does have its own distinctive political culture. And that the political cultures of Scotland and rUK are diverging at an accelerating pace. In all areas, Scotland requires policies which are tailored to the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. This can only be achieved if those policies are formulated by politicians who are accountable to the people of Scotland. Politicians who respect the authority of the Scottish Parliament. Politicians who acknowledge the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. In short, Scottish politicians.
It should go without saying – but, regrettably, doesn’t – that this does not mean Scottish in any ethnic sense. Being Scottish is not about a common heritage, but a shared commitment. Scotland needs Scottish politicians in the sense of needing politicians who are committed to serving the interests of the nation and its people. In this, Scotland is no different from any other nation. All nations demand of their political class that its first allegiance must be to the nation and people. All nations’ demands in this respect are satisfied to a greater or lesser extent according to the health of their democracy. Scotland’s demands are particularly ill-served due to the pernicious nature of the political union imposed on the nation more than three centuries ago. The well-being of Scotland’s democracy is cause for grave concern.
All of this presents a dilemma for the British parties in Scotland. They are British. Their allegiance is to the British state. They are ineluctably committed to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. Their needs are British needs. Their priorities are British priorities. Their aspirations are British aspirations. And yet they must canvas electoral support from an electorate increasingly aware of the difference between British and Scottish.
As noted earlier, British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) seeks to resolve this dilemma by deception. They pretend to be a separate political party. They profess an autonomy that they simply cannot have. Every so often they proclaim policies which, superficially at least, are distinctively Scottish. But it is all empty rhetoric. It is all a sham. Policy is determined by the British party. BLiS can publish the glossiest manifesto imaginable, it counts for nothing. Because, just as Scotland is always subordinate within the British state, so ‘Scottish’ Labour is always the underling to British Labour.
Even in devolved areas, policy is always subject to London’s approval. All policy must conform to the British Labour party line. Talk of BLiS having its own tax policy is beyond nonsensical. It is political flimflammery of the most vacuous sort.
A vote for British Labour in Scotland is not a vote for ‘something different’. It is not a vote for change. It is not a vote for progress. It is a vote for the British state. It is a vote for British rule. It is a vote for the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project, with all the continuing and worsening misfortune that this implies for the health of Scotland’s democracy.
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