British Labour in Scotland openly talking about coalition with the Tories, even at local government level, should be shocking. But it isn’t. In fact, it is now no more than people expect. What was once unthinkable now seems commonplace. After all, when there has already been widespread discussion of the realistic possibility of a Labour/Tory ‘Grand Coalitions’ at Westminster or Holyrood, the prospect of an alliance in Glasgow City Council is necessarily less fantastical than it once was.
Once again we see that the overarching divide in Scottish politics is between the British parties and the SNP. Between the old British political establishment determined to preserve the status quo, and a party newly adopted by the people of Scotland as their agent of change. Between unthinking allegiance to the old order and the old ways, and a readiness to embrace new ideas.
And we see fear. The fear of a historically entrenched power that is about to be found out. Just as the British establishment fears a Yes vote and the revelations of subsequent negotiations, so the British Labour ‘old guard’ in Glasgow are terrified about what may come to light when they are overthrown.
Local government matters. Education, social care, roads and transport, economic development, housing and planning, environmental protection, waste management, cultural and leisure services – all this and more is delivered by councils managing and aggregate budget running into billions of pounds. But the importance of local government has hardly been reflected in the turnout for elections. This may change next year as voters recognise the larger political significance of local authorities.
In Scotland’s present political climate, the British parties see councils as a power-base from which to obstruct and undermine the SNP administration at Holyrood. It is no coincidence that the four councils which broke away from Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to form the Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) include some of the most vociferous British nationalists. People like present Glasgow City Council leader, Frank McAveety, who were dissatisfied with Cosla because they felt it did not do enough to make life difficult for the hated SNP. for such people, it’s no longer only about protecting their fiefdoms and their personal status, it’s about preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define their beloved British state.
The SNP, meanwhile, regard wrenching control of councils from the grasp of the British parties as essential to developing greater cooperation between local and national government, the better to deliver those essential services. That success in this area also benefits the independence movement is far from incidental, of course. But it should be understood that the SNP advances this cause by improving government at all levels, while the British parties’ purposes are best served by generalised failure or, at least, the perception of failure.
The independence movement needs to recognise that the struggle to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status is not only played out at the level of national or UK politics. Particularly in 2017, council elections are also a crucial part of the independence campaign.
And even those who, however inexplicably, are still unconvinced of the urgent need to bring all of Scotland’s government home must recognise the harm that will be done to Scotland by continuing to put the power of local government in the hands of those who subscribe to the dogma of British nationalism – ‘The Union At Any Cost!’.Views: 2011
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