Since before the Independence Referendum the Scottish Nationalists have tried to drape themselves in Labour’s clothing, pretending they are the party of social justice, promising a socialist utopia if only people voted for independence, all the while passing on cuts and austerity from a Tory Government in Westminster. They even suggested that voters would get ‘a better’ Labour Party if only they voted for independence. What a ruddy cheek!
Since the vote they’ve done a pretty good job at trying to convince anyone who will listen that theirs is the cause people voted for. They didn’t.
The Scottish people rejected independence by a decent margin. It is now our party’s job to deliver for the people what they actually voted for – a reformed devolved settlement within the United Kingdom.
The ‘vow’ must be honoured. There can be no dispute about this. Cameron’s ‘EVEL’ proposal was a vindictive political manoeuvre, which only confirmed that the Tories have given up on Scotland and care only about protecting the seats they hold in the South. Ed Miliband was absolutely right to call for a Constitutional Convention to examine how power can be further and more fairly devolved right across the UK.
The current devolved settlement is unbalanced, so it is completely understandable that Wales and the English Regions have, on the back of the Scottish Referendum, asked for their own additional powers and until further devolution has also been delivered to them the current system will remain lacking. A Constitutional Convention would resolve this issue for the whole of the UK.
It is right and necessary, to review all our internal party structures at a future point to ensure they fit the new constitutional settlement. That may mean a more federal structure, but if it does that will have been a considered conclusion to a reasoned debate not a knee-jerk reaction to bullish Nationalism.
But whatever the outcome of the Constitutional Convention, we should always remember we are a United Kingdom Labour Party. It’s our party that led the campaign to keep the United Kingdom together. Because we know we are better together. Because we know that we achieve more together than we do alone and because working together is part of the Labour Party’s DNA.
Those who call for ‘clear red water’ between our Scottish Party and the rest of the UK Party, who suggest that the Scottish Labour Party cannot take on the Nationalists because they do not have enough, ‘autonomy from London Labour’ are deeply misguided. In talking process rather than principles and policies they are, I fear, handing ammunition to our opponents and doing a grave disservice to the people Labour seeks to represent – the same people that are suffering most at the hands of the Tory Government in Westminster and from the failure of Nationalists in Holyrood.
They should ask themselves how on earth a change to our internal structures delivers the Scottish jobs those people so desperately need, how ripping up our rule book would address the fact that in some constituencies in Scotland 25% of children are living in abject poverty, and how breaking up our party would prevent independence rather than help deliver it. They should ask themselves how attacking those who gave up so much to help in the referendum allows Labour to hold the Nationalists to account for their many failings.
The Scottish Labour Party has full autonomy over policy matters in Scotland. The Scottish Executive Committee has more delegated power than any other part of our party. The Leader of the Scottish and Welsh Parties (or a deputy they choose to send in their place) have dedicated seats at the National Executive Committee – representation I called for and was delivered by Refounding Labour. All these things are absolutely right.
Could there be greater understanding across the whole of the UK Party of the challenges our Scottish Party faces? Yes, of course. But as I’ve travelled across the UK, to over 120 CLPs, I haven’t found disinterest in Scottish Politics, quite the opposite, but I have found members who have felt that the Scottish Party would not welcome their help, their interest or their solidarity. And I have also found members in Scotland who have felt their challenges and pressures have been misunderstood by the rest of the UK.
Relationships are a two-way deal – both sides need to make an effort to make it work. That means respect from both sides and for each other’s position. That’s what needs to exist. Because it is only by working together that we will be able to defeat nationalism.
If the most recent poll tells us anything it should tell us that people will not vote for a party that is expending more energy in its own internal affairs than the issues affecting those they seek to serve.
When members in Scotland are choosing their next leader they should ask who has the policies, the politics and the vision to deliver for the people of Scotland, rather than who promises the most distance between our comrades. Who has the energy to take the fight to the SNP, who will challenge nationalism for what it is and who will not rest in holding Nationalists to account.
Remember that ‘London Labour’ is the office that rests in Euston under the direction of the London Regional Director, supporting the membership across all of our London Constituency Labour Parties. It’s a term used by Nationalists to create division where there need be none and to belie the power that we have as a UK Party – united across borders and united in our values.
Nationalism is the narrative of nationalists. Social justice must be the narrative of socialists and unity and collectivism are the only means to deliver it.