Let’s be clear about what’s behind Kezia Dugdale’s new-found enthusiasm for federalism. Let’s not imagine for one moment that this has anything remotely or vaguely to do with resolving the crashing anomalies and democracy-denying asymmetry of an archaic and dysfunctional political union. Let’s not suppose for one moment that Dugdale is motivated by concern for the good governance of Scotland.
Let’s immediately disabuse ourselves of any notion that Dugdale set out to devise a constitutional arrangement that would better serve the people of Scotland.
Dugdale’s flirtation with federalism is motivated solely by panic as British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) haemorrhages support. It was bad enough when all they had to be concerned about was the disaffection brought about by the New Labour project and growing disenchantment with Jeremy Corbyn. The old line about voting Labour to stop the Tories stopped being effective when people came to the realisation, first that it wasn’t true, and then that it it wouldn’t make any difference even if it was true.
Things got worse as voters, including many of those that BLiS traditionally relied on, started to see the SNP as a viable left-of-centre, progressive alternative.
But the clincher was when Dugdale’s old Better Together/Project Fear ally, Ruth Davidson, started to lure the hard-line unionist vote away from BLiS by successfully presenting herself as the true champion of British nationalism.
Dugdale’s problem is that BLiS is trapped between two great forces. On the one hand, there is the SNP with its massively popular leader; its record of quiet competence in government; its neat balancing of radicalism and pragmatism; its dauntingly effective campaigning machine; and its huge membership, augmented by an enormous grass-roots Yes movement. On the other is the Ruth Davidson Don’t Mention The Tories Party with its established status as a bastion of British nationalism and its access to the resources of a British state desperate to defend its structures of power, privilege and patronage against a tide of democratic dissent risen in Scotland but already lapping at the shores of ‘Little England’.
You can see Dugdale’s problem. She appears to be on the very pointy horns of an irksomely intractable dilemma. And so she would be – but for one thing. Kezia Dugdale is a British politician who has made her career in a British political party. She, and the party she serves, are deeply embedded in the British establishment. They are part of, and entirely dependent upon, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
For Dugdale, there is no dilemma at all. She will always put the British state first. She will always put the interests of the British ruling elites ahead of the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. Barring some barely imaginable epiphany, Dugdale will continue to adhere to the dogma of ‘The Union At Any Cost’. It’s just who she is.
The resort to waffling about a “new Act of Union” is Dugdale’s clumsy and inept attempt to fend off the two electoral threats posed by Ruth Davidson’s increasingly shrill appeal to fundamentalist British nationalism and the growing demand for genuine, meaningful constitutional reform. The former by wrapping herself in an even bigger and brighter union flag. The latter by the promise to have yet more talks about yet more of the kind of ill-thought constitutional tinkering by which the British state has sought to justify withholding powers from the Scottish Parliament.
It won’t work. It doesn’t deserve to work. Frankly, Ruth Davidson is much more convincing than Dugdale in the role of ‘Queen of the British Nationalists’. And Nicola Sturgeon is infinitely more convincing as Scotland’s champion. Scottish politics is now a straight fight between the SNP and the Tories – with BLiS reduced to running interference for the latter in the hope of some reward from the British state.Views: 5012
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