There is much merit in Pete Wishart’s analysis. That British Labour in Scotland needs to cut itself free of the electoral millstone of ideological unionism is a fact so obvious that the only wonder is so many supposedly astute politicians have managed to miss it. Or avoid it.
There are, however, two rather significant flaws in Mr Wishart’s argument. In the first place, what he takes to be promising noises from Kezia Dugdale regarding her ability to ‘conceive’ of a ‘Scottish Labour’ leader who supports independence, should be treated with caution, not to say some scepticism. This is, after all, coming from someone who lately was making noises which gave a rather different impression of her commitment to democracy, far less her amenability to real constitutional change. Kezia Dugdale quite unabashedly declared that she was prepared to defy the democratic will of the people of Scotland. She openly declared that she would oppose any move towards restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Including a second independence referendum. Even if this was mandated by the Scottish electorate.
Maybe Dugdale can imagine a ‘Scottish Labour’ leader who supports independence. But she’s made it clear that it isn’t her. She isn’t even prepared to acknowledge our democratic right of self-determination, far less our right to govern ourselves. And we must assume that she speaks with authority. She is, after all, ‘leader’ of the pretendy wee party.
And that’s the second major flaw in Pete Wishart’s argument. He treats ‘Scottish Labour’ as if it were a real political party, with the capacity to formulate policy. It isn’t. How can anybody be unaware of the fact that British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) is no more than a branch operation of the UK party. Kezia Dugdale, like all her disgraced and humiliated predecessors, has precisely zero authority when it comes to matters of party policy. And precious little influence. Even in regard to devolved issues, BLiS branch managers must ultimately submit to authority of their bosses in London.
There is, therefore, no possibility whatever of BLiS ever becoming a pro-independence party. Because it isn’t even a party. And the party of which it is a mere accounting unit is a party of the British establishment. British Labour is committed to preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. ‘Scottish Labour’ is absolutely bound by that same commitment. It cannot be otherwise.
Dugdale may be able to imagine a pro-independence BLiS leader. (Hell! She can imagine herself as First Minister!) But I can guarantee that her masters aren’t prepared to countenance such an affront to their Britishness. And, even if they were, this pro-independence stance would be meaningless, as it could never be reflected in policy. British Labour will always be a unionist party. And the Scottish Labour Party that might be pro-independence simply doesn’t exist.
Pete Wishart is right about one thing, at least. “Nothing is going to save Scottish Labour for this election”. I suspect, however, that he is somewhat optimistic about the implications and ramifications for whatever they have instead of internal thinking. But that’s something I shall pursue in Part 2. For now, I leave you with the following thought.
British Labour in Scotland is, and always will be, just that – BRITISH Labour in Scotland. The notion that this ugly bug might metamorphose into a beautiful, constitutionally progressive butterfly is… well… let’s be generous and call it wishful thinking.Views: 2877