Even supposing Henry McLeish is right about British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) overtaking their Tory allies to become the official opposition, what difference would it make to anyone other than those who still cling to the ghost of a socialism that died in the British Labour Party some time ago?
He isn’t right, of course. Because BLiS cannot adopt the position on the constitutional issue that he suggests the real British Labour Party does so first. At which point BLiS will have no option other than to follow wherever Keir Starmer takes them. Does it look to Henry McLeish as if Starmer might be amenable to softening the British Nationalist line he’s taken in the hope of appealing to some of those who elected the Tories? My impression is that he has been hardening that line. That he is trying to outdo the Tories in his British Nationalist ideology. I see him becoming more dogmatic. More doctrinaire. More contemptuous of Scotland. More anti-democratic.
Was not it ever thus? Or at least for the last thirty or forty years. The British Labour Party has increasing come to emulate the Tories over that period. Which was unavoidable given the nature of the British political system. A system which, partly by design and partly by evolutionary adaptation, is contrived to preserve and protect established power regardless of the outcome of any exercise in token democracy. British Labour follows where the British Conservative & Unionist Party leads because both are seeking the votes of the same relatively tiny part of the English electorate which decides elections.
As British Labour is dragged along on the Tories’ coattails, so BLiS is dragged along by their British Nationalist bosses.
BLiS will never “welcome a second referendum”. But they will lie about it. They will seek to deceive the electorate with talk of “an alternative to status quo Unionism”. An alternative they don’t actually have. An alternative they can’t have even if they were allowed to have it because it doesn’t exist. Devolution isn’t a viable alternative. If it was, the fight to restore Scotland’s independence would have ended in 1999 – or shortly thereafter.
Federalism isn’t a viable alternative not only because as with any vote in Scotland under the Union, Scotland’s democratic will would only be respected if it was ratified by a sufficient number of voters in England-as-Britain. A federal ‘solution’ almost certainly cannot work as an alternative to independence because it would require nations to accept the same status as English regions. Such a constitutional arrangement could never be stable.
But the main reason federalism can’t be the alternative Henry McLeish is talking about is that a federal settlement could only be acceptable to the people of Scotland if it was the product of free and fair negotiations on a basis of parity of status and mutual respect. In other words, Scotland would have to be independent before the negotiation of a federal arrangement could even begin.
There is no alternative to independence. But as Henry McLeish has – we must suppose inadvertently – demonstrated, BLiS will pretend otherwise. Just as they pretend to be a real party with real authority to formulate policy independently of British Labour in England-as-Britain. Just as they lied about so much during the first referendum campaign.
British Labour in Scotland might become the official opposition after the May election. It is certainly possible. But it will make absolutely no difference to Scotland because BLiS will still be a British party squatting in Scotland’s Parliament representing the interests of the British establishment rather than the interests of Scotland’s people.
Beware of any and all British politicians bearing ‘alternatives’!