Kevin McKenna may be correct when he says that “the Labour Party in Scotland has been on the wrong side of the constitutional debate in this country”. (For the benefit of Unionists, “this country” refers to Scotland.) But he doesn’t seem to realise that it is the only “side of the constitutional debate” that they can possibly be on. He advises that “it [‘Scottish Labour’] must fashion a realistic and more pragmatic position on Scottish independence” having earlier noted that “the relationship between Westminster Labour and Holyrood Labour proceeds on a master and serf basis”. Does Kevin McKenna fail to fully comprehend the nature of a master/serf relationship?
Firstly, we must issue the regrettably still necessary advisory that there is no such political party as ‘Scottish Labour’. No such party exists. The thing calling itself ‘Scottish Labour’ is not a political party. There is no ‘Scottish Labour’, there is only British Labour. And there’s a bit of British Labour which is in Scotland and which, therefore, should properly be referred to as British Labour in Scotland (BLiS).
Journalists seem to have particular difficulty getting their heads around this apparently very simple concept. It’s quite unreal the way they persist in treating ‘Scottish Labour’ as if it was a real political party and whoever has their name chalked on the ‘Scottish Labour’ leader’s office door as if they were a real leader of a real party. They really need to get real.
(It goes without saying that the BBC is particularly bad for this. As far as BBC Scotland is concerned, ‘Scottish Labour’ is still the main political party in Scotland. That’s what comes of listening to their own news bulletins.)
Now that we’re all (except the Pacific Quay mob) clear on the fact that ‘Scottish Labour’ is NOT a political party in its own right but is, in fact, British Labour in Scotland, it should be obvious why it is “wrong side of the constitutional debate in this country”. (For the benefit of Unionists, this still means Scotland.) The clue is in the word ‘British’. It is British Labour in Scotland. It is a British party. It is in Scotland, but not of Scotland. And certainly not for Scotland.
British Labour in Scotland can no more “fashion a realistic and more pragmatic position on Scottish independence” than the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS). Both are ineluctably and immutably part of the British establishment. They are embedded in, and utterly dependent on, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. They are the servants of the British state.
The outposts of these British parties in Scotland have no meaningful autonomy. They cannot formulate policy independently of the party of which they are but a small part. They just can’t. They pretend to. But they can’t.
Both BLiS and BCUPS can only be on the British side of the constitutional issue. Neither can fashion a realistic or pragmatic or even sensible position on Scottish independence because they are bound by their essential nature to seek the preservation of the Union at any cost to Scotland and its people.
But perhaps it is not the nature of the relationship of the pretendy parties to the real parties that Kevin McKenna hasn’t quite grasped. Perhaps it’s the nature of the constitutional divide itself which eludes him. Maybe he still thinks of it as a divide between Scottish Nationalists and Scottish Unionists. If that ever was the case it certainly isn’t now. The divide is between Scottish Nationalists and British Nationalists. Between Scotland and the British state.
British Labour in Scotland is on the “wrong side” of the constitutional issue because it is on the British side. Not as a matter of choice, but because it cannot be otherwise. The people who associate themselves with BLiS do have a choice, however. They will shortly be called upon to make that choice.
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