False autonomy

In the aftermath of the first independence referendum, as the Yes movement was getting over the disappointment and it was becoming clear that, while the British state’s propaganda machine had triumphed in the contest, all the prizes were going to the other side, I well recall a particular post on Facebook in which an individual with whom I was was slightly acquainted tried to persuade people that the best way to get independence was to vote for British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) – or the ‘Scottish Labour Party’, as they insisted on calling it. Not unnaturally, a number of people sought to understand the reasoning behind the extraordinary claim that the most effective way of achieving independence for Scotland was to vote for people who had declared their opposition to independence, often in the most vehement terms. People who, despite adorning themselves with the trappings of the Labour movement, had worked hand-in-hand with their Tory allies in the despicable anti-independence propaganda effort known as Better Together/Project Fear.

No explanation of the reasoning was forthcoming, of course. There was a great deal of spittle-flecked ranting about ‘blind allegiance to the SNP’, often directed at people who had no association with the party at all. There was, then as now, much talk of ‘Scottish Labour’ being ‘fully autonomous’. But there was no detail on how independence would be brought closer by voting for those who had been fervently against even having a referendum on the matter and who had resorted to all manner of dishonesty in their determination to deny the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.

I was struck at the time, as so often before and since, by the eagerness with which some people seize upon even the most obviously nonsensical ideas if they find those ideas comforting. And by how ready some people are to make fools of themselves in the name of partisan loyalty. The notion that voting for any of the British establishment parties might aid the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence is an example of the kind of inanity that people will unthinkingly embrace simply because it serves their political agenda. Peddling this notion to others in a public forum illustrates either a strange willingness to be considered a fool or a pathological lack of self-awareness.

The plainly daft ‘Vote Labour – Get Independence’ idea died a well-deserved early death. But we are seeing something similar today with the hardly more credible suggestion that we should vote ‘Scottish Labour’ on the basis of principles that were betrayed and abandoned by it’s London leadership a long time ago. Principles which, we are assured, the North British branch office can now revert to because it is declaring itself ‘fully autonomous’ – again!

These declarations of autonomy are as much a feature of BLiS rhetoric as the stuff about ‘listening and learning’ that we are regaled with after every electoral slapping. It has been a constant part of the narrative ever since Johann Lamont enhanced the theatricality of her departing flounce by revealing the lowly ‘branch office’ status of ‘Scottish Labour’. Jim Murphy loudly proclaimed the ‘Golden Age Of Autonomy’ from atop his Irn-Bru crates in between trying to incite public disorder and walking into placards to make it appear that he had succeeded – at least until you looked at the video rather than the photograph. Kezia Dugdale is merely continuing the charade.

It may be true that Dugdale has secured some concessions on relatively trivial administrative matters that most people will surely be surprised weren’t already part of the remit of an organisation purporting to be an actual political party. But the claim that British Labour in Scotland will have “full control over policy-making, including in reserved areas such as defence” is every bit as ludicrous as the aforementioned ‘Vote Labour – Get Independence’ drivel.

One party! One policy! That’s the way it works. Either the misleadingly named Scottish Labour Party Executive Committee (SEC) is going to be formulating policy for the whole of British Labour, or the real policy-making power will continue to be reserved to British Labour’s NEC. As it is beyond imagining that the party in the rest of the UK would tolerate policy being dictated by the Scottish branch office, we can discount any idea of SEC having anything remotely akin to “full control”.

For BLiS to have “full control” of policy-making it would have to split entirely from British Labour and become a real political party. Dugdale and other senior members of the branch office team have categorically ruled out such a move. So all this stuff about “autonomy” can be no more than a clumsy, transparent ruse. But, one suspects, not so clumsy and transparent as to deter those who are prepared to sacrifice both their credibility and their dignity in the name of loyalty to the pretendy wee party.

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4 thoughts on “False autonomy

  1. Jockanese Wind Talker

    Autonomous “Scottish” Labour is as big a fantasy as a Scotland staying in both the European and UK Unions inside a Federal UK.

    We all know this but it will not stop the MSM (televised and printed) trumpeting this as another nail in the SNP/SG coffin in the ongoing propaganda war to persuade the Soft No’s and less politically aware Scots to give labour another chance and that iScotland is unworkable.

    All that is missing from this story is Darling and Brown interventions to crow about how BLiS is now “the most powerful devolved Party in UK Politics”


    A Federal UK and Scottish Home Rule (Devo Max to the Max) is the only way to prevent the prophesied “Ajockalypse”.

    All the while ignoring the coming “economic nuclear winter” that is Brexit for Scotland within the UK.

  2. Sandy

    Sure there will be someone with better knowledge than me, but doesn’t a party that states different policies in different geographical areas infringe electoral law? I thought that was the main reason the BLIS actually have to toe the uk labour line despite what they might pretend. Of course, the real reason they’ll never go fully independent is because they could never survive without a sub from the uk party – they genuinely are too wee and too poor.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      The question is not whether one party offering two distinct and contradictory manifestos is unlawful, the question is whether the Electoral Commission is prepared to do anything about it.

  3. Mark Rowantree

    False dawns is the expression that comes to mind each time I hear one of the innumerable BLiS declarations of independence. Their almost a bi-annual occurrence now and really no one outside of party HQ, Pacific Quay can’t treat them with anything but derision.
    What’s become increasingly clear is that the main issue for BLiS is the maintenance of the Union come He’ll or high water. If they have to sacrifice what’s left of their principles to do that c’est la vie.
    More existentially worrying for BLiS is that they seem to be prepared to declare UDI from their own leadership to do so. Just what sort of independence is worth subjecting your own nation to possibly decades of Tory rule to achieve.
    If that is BLiS’ idea of independenc, then they can shove it where the sun don’t shine.

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