Adapting to a changed environment: redeeming the promise of Scottish Labour

The full transcript of DOUGLAS ALEXANDER MP’s speech delivered this afteroon to the Scottish Labour Youth and Student Conference 2011.

 

The answer is to rely on youth — not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” – Robert Kennedy

First, can I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today

It is good to be here, not only because as a former member of Scottish Labour Students I have a great respect and admiration for Scottish Young Labour and Labour students, but because we gather at a time of great challenge for our Party.

And I honestly believe that each of you in this room has a real and significant contribution to make to our fightback.

None of us should ever forget why we joined the Labour Party but you here have made that choice most recently, whether through anger at a system that still denies so many to fulfil their true potential; an equal desire to secure wider justice across the world; or a belief that the democratic politics of the left remains a worthy and worthwhile calling.

I suspect, in this audience, there will be little love lost for the SNP but I would surprised if there are any here who saw that hostility alone as sufficient reason to join the Labour Party. We have our own beliefs and objectives and oppose the SNP only insofar as their existence obstructs these. We should never lose sight of our own wider goals or the Nationalists ultimate irrelevance to that struggle.

So, today, without flattery, but with the imperative of necessity, I commend to you the words of Robert Kennedy:

“the answer is to rely on youth — not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”
Because to appeal for your support, ideas and energy at this time reflects something fundamental about how I believe politics works, and how political parties renew themselves.

And to redeem the promise of Scottish Labour we need the renewal that has, frankly, been too long postponed.
And to chart our way forward we need to be honest with ourselves about those attributes of our party, as well as those external factors, that combined to explain our defeat last May.

Be clear.  Our task is not to kick over the traces, pick over the entrails, or debate a better yesterday. It is now to move forward and build a better tomorrow.
And, so in trying to reflect honestly upon that defeat, it seems to me that one of the reasons we ceased to be the repository of enough people’s hopes for a better tomorrow was a coming together of two aspects of our Party’s culture: one British certainly, but regrettably one also wholly Scottish in origin.

The Labour Party I joined back in 1982 revelled in an atmosphere of internal conflict and at times chaos where members could virtually do and say anything while suggesting that their view should be the true view of the Party.

It was stimulating, certainly, and it obliged you to work out what you thought, but it spelled disaster when, at four or five year intervals, it encountered the expectations of the wider electorate choosing a Party of Government.

So at a British level, in the 1990’s, we replaced old Labour’s culture of dissent with New Labour’s culture of discipline.

From 1994 onwards our UK Leadership embraced a centrally driven modernisation that contributed to three election victories. It reflected the yearning of members and supporters who were impatient with repeated electoral failure, and had grown tired of old and sterile debates.

Yet, if we are honest, what was missed in this journey from dissent to discipline was debate.

And over time we have paid a heavy price for a culture that was not open enough to, discourse and discussion.

We solved the old problem of disunity and division, at the cost of contributing to a new problem of trust.

But let us not, for a moment, blame our 2011 defeat on British Labour politics alone, as too many did in the aftermath of our defeat in 2007.

For in our landslide defeat in May the fault lay also here in Scotland itself. There was, as so often, a distinctive Scottish dimension.

Scottish Labour purported to have no requirement to embrace New Labour as we did not need it to defeat the Tories, without recognising that the very reason for that lack of requirement was a new, distinctively Scottish, dimension to our politics which threw up different but equally difficult challenges.
And as I argued last month in the Andrew Williamson Memorial lecture in Stirling:

“This comfort in old orthodoxies contributed to the party’s disorientation and vulnerability when we came under attack from a different direction, and from a more nimble opponent.”

These twin factors – the residue of New Labour’s culture of discipline and the residue of a sense within Scottish Labour that renewal was not necessary for electoral success – over the years helped set us on the path that led to such a seismic defeat in May.

It was a long time in coming, and needs to be understood not simply in relation to the familiar failures of organisation or campaigning, but also in relation to the realm of ideas. And it is about that realm of ideas that I want to direct my remarks today.

Next month, we will elect a new Leader. Their task will be to renew our Party and in that task they will have my full support.

But renewal is a task for more than just the individual at the top. It cannot be achieved by one figure, but needs the contribution of all.

Why?

Because as Robin Cook described it in ‘Point of Departure’ “Political parties do not achieve renewal by shuffling staff in their Leaders office, but by changing the culture, priorities and direction of the organisation.”

So in that spirit of shared responsibility, let me take the opportunity of addressing you today to explain some of the steps I think we need to take, as Scottish Labour, to set that new direction.

My starting point is a book I read last month which is not about Scotland, but is about America. Entitled “That Used to Be Us”, written by Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum it is primarily about how America has fallen behind the emerging powers of India and China.

And the central argument of the book is that the greatest risk to a country, just like a natural species, is to misread its environment.

The authors argue powerfully that the end of the cold war and the challenges that followed brought on a fundamental change in the global environment to which America failed to fully adapt.

But the other message of the book is that, thankfully nations, like individuals, and unlike species, can understand their circumstances and deliberately make the adjustments necessary to flourish in them.

The book goes on to describe how even formerly great companies can misread the environment they helped to create, and so fail to adapt and fall behind.

Let me read a quote they cite from Samuel Palmisano, the chairman and CEO of IBM, explaining the mistakes that almost brought down the company.

“You spend more time arguing amongst yourselves over a shrinking pie than looking to the future….[and so] you miss the big turn that you have entered, even a turn that your own company invented.

“We missed the Personal Computer. It isn’t like we didn’t have the technology. We invented the PC, but we missed what it really was. At the time, everybody [at IBM] thought it was just kind of a neat little personal productivity tool. But instead it became a new platform. And we missed it.”

It wasn’t until the leadership, first of Louis Gerstner and then of Palmisano, that IBM got back on track by relentlessly scrutinising itself and the world in which it was operating.

I have to tell you, when I read this quote it taught me something about our Party’s recent history. IBM delivered the PC. Scottish Labour delivered Devolution. But just like IBM had in the 1980’s, in the years after 1999 we failed to fully comprehend how devolution altered the environment in which we operated.

And as a result, it was the Scottish National Party that sought to claim ownership of both the rising sense of prosperity that the Labour Government created but also the, pride, and possibility that devolution contributed to Scotland’s own sense of itself over the same period.

So, to now renew ourselves, not only do we have to figure out the steps that we as a Party should take to show that we understand the environment of Scottish politics today, but we must also identify the steps we need to take to adapt to this new environment.

Last month, at Stirling University, I set out my thinking on why we find ourselves where we are today.

Today, I want to share with you my thinking on how we move forward.

The first step I think we need to take, as my remarks in Stirling made clear, is to be understood by the Scottish people as being motivated by the desire to build a better nation. But we also need to define what, in 2011, and the years ahead, we mean by a better nation.

People need to trust that our motivation is not a sense of grievance, or worse, of frustrated entitlement, but an earnest commitment to building and contributing to the Common Weal. The continued belief that there is no dichotomy between the advancement of the individual and the advancement of Society. Indeed, that for us, the true advancement of one can only go hand in hand with the other.

And one of the aspects of Scottish political culture that gets in the way of that message being heard is the sense of antipathy that marks the relationship between the Labour and the SNP.

I understand how deep these feeling run. In my first campaign for elected office, in Perth in 1995, I well remember being spat upon – literally – by nationalist supporters.

And, as a brother, more than as a politician, I will never forget how the nationalists – from researchers, to MSPs and Ministers – treated my sister during her time as Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament

But I also know that the deep feelings felt between the parties also reflect an underlying electoral truth: That Scottish Labour and the Scottish Nationalists regard each other as a mortal threat – each seeing the other as the only Party in Scotland strong enough to stop the achievement of their party’s goals.

So what is to be done?

Here my thoughts turn to my friend and colleague Philip Gould whose funeral I attended on Tuesday this week.

Philip and I worked together for more than two decades. In 1999 he helped me devise the “Divorce is an Expensive Business” campaign. So he knew about Nationalism.

But Philip was first, and last, a Labour man, who knew what it took for Labour to win.

And before he died, he wrote this:

“If you are blind to the merits of those you oppose or the arguments you disagree with, then you start to die intellectually, and if you are a political party you begin the long – or sometimes not so long – slide to electoral defeat. You only win power if you face up to the reality which has kept you from it, and you only sustain power if you renew. And renewal involves honesty, curiosity and courage.”

Put more bluntly, if the Scottish people believe that we hate the SNP more than we love Scotland we will continue to lose.

For Scottish Labour to win we must be more than the Anti-Nat party: we must be the what we have always been: from Keir Hardie, through the red Clydesiders; Tom Johnston; John Smith and Donald Dewar, the Party of Scottish Home Rule.

And that calling reflects the second aspect of the environment of Scottish politics today to which we must adapt – the role of constitutional change in our politics.

As I argued in Stirling, a strong commitment to home rule within the United Kingdom is part of Scottish Labour’s DNA.

It is a matter of great pride to me that it was our Party that not only participated in the Scottish Constitutional Convention but that legislated to deliver Scotland’s first devolved parliament.

In recent years, through Calman, and now in the Scotland Act we have shown time and again our ability our continued willingness to adapt this devolved model in ways that strengthen our system of governance. But we should never allow any confusion to arise that in this we are fighting a rearguard action. We are fighting for what we believe in across a wider political agenda. For democracy at the appropriate level, whether that be at Holyrood, Westminster or indeed, in an ever more inter-connected Europe, Brussels.

As we all know, last May, the SNP won an outright majority of seats for the first time in Holyrood’s history. They are now pledged to hold a referendum on separation during this parliament.

So how should Scottish Labour adapt to this changed environment?

We do not share the Nationalists vision, but, in the coming referendum, we do not fear the Scottish people’s verdict.

So we should urge the SNP Government to get on with it, and put the fundamental question, plain and simple, to the people of Scotland without delay.

Let me be clear. Devolution and separation are two very different visions for our country. Devolution is not a stop on the railway line to a separate state. It is not a dilution of separation but a different vision for our country, one where partnership with our neighbours is as important as our decision to embrace home rule.

That is why I believe that the two concepts cannot be conflated into one referendum with however many options. A referendum on separation should only have one question.

But, in the run up to that referendum now promised by the Nationalists, assuming they do actually summon up the courage to go ahead, we must do more than oppose separation. We must be true to our own history and advocate devolution.

That does not and need not require simply a defence of the status quo. Indeed, the Scotland Bill now before the Westminster Parliament evidences an open minded approach as to how the architecture of devolution can be improved.

I believe that Alex Salmond will be defeated in his referendum on separation. I believe that once again it will be re-asserted that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people. But that does not mean that the settlement itself cannot respond to circumstances.

Once again, I stress, devolution and separation are two very different concepts. We must make sure that if we look again at the devolution settlement, it is not a response to the SNP’s separation agenda, but part of a new affirmation of Scottish Labour’s agenda for our nation. Let us defeat separation and re-assert devolution in this way.

So if Scottish Labour must be pro-Scottish and not simply anti-SNP, advocates for devolution not simply defenders of the status quo, what else must we do to adapt to the environment of Scottish politics in the years ahead?

It would be easy, but wrong, to see that environment shaped simply by what is distinctive to Scotland rather than what we share in common with people in many other nations.

Yesterday, I visited a job centre in Renfrewshire where I met some of the 5,000 people in my constituency alone, currently seeking work.

The Scottish unemployment rate is running at nearly eight per cent and is much worse in some areas – in my own community it is nearly thirteen per cent.

And this conference takes place at the end of a week where youth unemployment hit one million across Britain.

Those figures are the result of slow growth in the UK, with only Greece, Portugal and growing more slowly than Britain over the last year.

At the end of the month, the Government will have to make his Autumn Statement to Parliament and try to blame all of this on the eurozone .

We need to be clear; Britain’s economic pain today is the responsibility of George Osborne, not George Papaendreou.

But in that weakened position, because of George Osborne’s misjudgements last year, we are even more exposed to a crisis in our main export markets in the eurozone.

And if this is all to reduce the deficit we saw very concerning Treasury forecasts just last week suggesting that slow growth and higher unemployment could mean over £100 billion more borrowing over this Parliament than the Chancellor planned.

I make these points to emphasise that a central and dominating question of Scottish politics in the years ahead is how can Scotland earn its living and pay its way in the world?  Just as it is, not just across Scotland, or even Britain, or even Europe but as it is, and always will be, for working people across the world.

How absurd therefore for the First Minister to suggest, against that background, that elected representatives at Westminster are irrelevant to the concerns of Scotland.

Take these recent events: America’s debt ceiling negotiations and the eurozone crisis. Both are a symptom and a reflection of a global and historic shift in wealth and power from West to East, North to South.

The last 20 years have seen not only the rise of China. They have seen the growth of Brazil, India and South Africa. The world economy is being remade in the Indian-Asian-Pacific region.

So while restoring growth is important, it is only the first step on the longer journey required to establish a sustainable place in a global value chain which has seen 2 billion new workers walk onto the pitch since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

So Scottish Labour in the years ahead needs to set itself the task of once again answering the earning our living question.

As John McTernan put it recently:

“Without Tom Johnston and the hydro-board there would be no renewable energy sector of scale. Remove the development corporations and the SDA and there would be no industrial diversity. Scotland’s strengths in research, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, micro-electronics and computing (until recently), modern manufacturing and finance…”

Scottish Labour, at its best, over many decades, have been critical to Scotland generating its wealth.

The SNP’s formula of cutting corporation tax while trumpeting new reserves of North Sea Oil is not only inadequate to the task – it is an insult to intelligence.

To my mind, that approach would be selling Scotland short.

While the demand has risen in recent years, oil and gas remain volatile commodities vulnerable to price shocks.

And, the idea that Scotland should move from being too at risk from a volatile banking financial services sector to tying our whole economy to the notoriously unstable global energy markets learns none of the lessons of the last few years.

Renewable energy sources are vital for our future and can provide important sources of employment.

But we need a broader base for our future prosperity. We need a wider vision.

But this is only the start of a conversation we need to have: how else does Labour believe Scotland can pay its way and earn its living in the world?

One part of the answer, in my view, is education. Not just the pride we have in our own educational tradition but also the pride we have in those Scots who did and do go forward, in medicine, engineering, and the law, to make a distinctive contribution to the education of the wider world.

To take but one example, the Medical Royal Colleges of Glasgow and Edinburgh provide world recognised qualifications. To take the example of Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physician’s alone; they have more than 10,000 Fellows in 56 different medical specialities and across, wait for it, 91 Countries throughout the world, teaching in George Street in the New Town but also, over the internet, teaching and validating in the furthest corners of the Globe.

That hardly speaks of an institution held back by our constitutional arrangements but rather one which benefits from having ties between universities north and south of the border, and by welcoming students and academics from across Britain, Europe and the rest of the world.

Given the appropriate support, and not constantly sidetracked by a sense of constitutional grievance, Scotland can be the educational powerhouse of Europe.

Indeed, education is the only way that Scotland can compete at the top end of the value chain in so many industries.

Making huge cuts to our support, for example, for our Further Education Colleges means a step towards decline, towards lower living standards and lower value jobs.

So a key challenge for Scottish Labour in the years ahead is to set out other credible, creative and compelling answers as to how Scotland can earn its living and pay its way.

But Scottish Labour needs to offer not simply an economic prescription but also a timeless commitment to a set of ethical principles.

It was one of the founders of the Scottish Labour Party, Keir Hardie himself, who said that the definition of modernisation in which unregulated markets set the price and the conditions of labour, of land, of food and of housing was wrong.

And he spent his entire adult life “arguing and organising for the truth that human beings and nature are not commodities and that democratic politics was the way that we act together to protect our humanity.”

So Scottish Labour’s renewal must reflect not simply a concern with the actions of the state, but the ethics of a common life, in its approach to building a more socially just society even in times of economic hardship.

Those ethics of a common life are more than simply an advocacy of abstract values like freedom and equality.

As one of my colleagues described it recently to a welsh audience:

“Distinctive Labour values are built on relationships, in practices that strengthen an ethical life. Practices like solidarity, where we actively share out fate with other people. Reciprocity, which combines equality and freedom. Mutuality, where we share the benefits and burdens of association.”

It is an inevitable consequence of their political aim – of separate statehood – that the Scottish Nationalists focus on the apparatus of the state.

Our vision is not about empowering the apparatus of the state. It is about empowering people and, in particular, those who have never had power, personal or collective, in their communities.

So Scottish Labour should aim to also engage directly in the life of our communities. We must aim to establish, nurture and sustain the relationships and a common life forged through common action for the common good.

In response to a previous Labour defeat, in very tough economic times in 1931, the great RH Tawney wrote an essay entitled “The Choice Before the Labour Party”. He argued that Labour needed lacked a creed that could unite the party in sustained democratic action. He wrote that our creed should be based “not on transcendental doctrines nor rigid formulae but a common view of the life proper to human beings, and the steps required at any moment more nearly to attain it.”

A life proper to human beings: that should be our compass and our goal as we seek develop policies towards the deep social challenges Scotland faces –from housing, to education, public health, and to law and order.

On any scenario, given the present economic situation, public expenditure will be constrained in the immediate years ahead. It is therefore vital that Scottish Labour looks imaginatively and urgently at what new approaches can advance our vision of a socially just Scotland.

Government action is necessary but alone is not sufficient to build the good society here in Scotland.

We need to reclaim and re-enact our commitments to community, to forge a society in which people hold the market, the state, and each other to account.

To remind people that the greatest hope we have is each other and that this is not incompatible with hope for ourselves and our families.

So Scottish Labour, in the years ahead, must be pro Scottish and not simply anti SNP.

We must be advocates of devolution and not simply the defenders of the status quo.

Clear on how as Scotland we can earn our living, and how in Scotland we can offer a life proper to human beings even in the tough times ahead.

For Labour to renew and win again the right option for us is not to become more like the SNP, it is to become more like ourselves.

Our difficulties are not that we’re failing to keep up with SNP positions, but that in recent years we’ve strayed from our own best positions.

So, my call of our Party is not to disavow our deepest beliefs – but to become a better expression of them.

Proud of our past, but neither living in it, nor expecting to live off it.

Clear on how Scotland can earn its living and how Scotland can offer a life proper to human beings.

Speaking not just of Scotland’s challenges, but also of its opportunities.

Worthy, once more, of the Nation’s trust

That is the way ahead for Scottish Labour.

http://www.labourhame.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/LabourHame-rose4.png

Douglas Alexander is the Shadow Foreign Secretary and served in the last Labour government as Secretary of State for Scotland, Transport and International Development. Follow Douglas on Twitter at @DAlexanderMP.

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19 thoughts on “Adapting to a changed environment: redeeming the promise of Scottish Labour

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Douglas’ contribution. For too long we have been relying on the pensioners to support the party in Scotland. Without their vote we would be on the same level as the Liberal Democrats. In about twenty years time their numbers will be decimated, so we need to start recruiting party members who will still be around in 2060 and we need to start NOW. To succeed, we must find out why so many young Scots shun the Labour Party and Great Britain and then do all we can to rectify the situation. WE are not fighting to win the next election, we are fighting for survival.

    1. By that, do you mean that you will alter your policies to those that people wish to support or do you merely wish to alter their minds to vote for the same old same old. How radical is Labour willing to be?

      1. Labour has to provide a combination of both strategies. Firstly we must bring the voters round to our own way of thinking, and secondly we should carry out extensive market research to enable us to gauge the mood of the electorate. The optimum ratio should be approximately 4:1 in favour of the former tactic. Simply being radical does not win elections.

  2. Adapting to a changed environment: redeeming the promise of Scottish Labour

    The environment has not changed in Scotland for decades the only thing that is changing is the Labour parties attitude in how it needs to be seen as sticking up for Scotland not how it actually acts. I remember the seventies when when your party marked the Mcrone report as ‘Top Secret’ with the Tories buried it for 30yrs and that alliance is still strong as can be seen in your actions at Westminster.

  3. Not much about nuclear weapons in there.And,of course,nothing concrete about why it is that the Scots,uniquely among peoples,are better ruled by the country next door.

    1. Hello Kev,
      Lots of countries know they ‘are ruled by the country next door’. Canada is arguably largely ruled by the economic & political decisions of the Northern States of the USA. Most of the EU finds themselves ruled by their neighbours – especially ruled by Germany. [And Germany feels that it is being traduced by its neighbours too!]
      In an increasingly inter-connected and interdependent world, it’s hard for even a land as big as the UK to acquire a heft that’s overcomes the fact that this land is less than one percent of the world.
      As for nuclear weapons, we’ve never used any of ours in anger. Nor are likely to. What’s more likely is that the US will negotiate further worldwide reductions, and we will be obliged to follow their policy. Whatever separation we may achieve.

  4. I worked in the mining industry for 25 years in Cumnock and Doon Valley. The mines closed by the end of the 1980s. Factory jobs were the same. This area has been loyal to Labour for 100 years,at all levels. Labour held the levers of power both at Westminster and Holyrood for a long enough time for them to have changed the economics of areas like this, to reindustrialise and give people hope for the future. What happenened? Labour seemed more interested in non-doms and a deregulated City of London than the real economy. Even now Labour lives in an absurdist universe in Ayrshire. It opposes a coal-fired power station in Ayrshire but is in favour of opencast mining of Ayrshire coal and shipping it hundreds of miles to be burnt, yes, in English coal-fired power stations.
    Its time for the Scottish People to be asked to give their constitutional preferance in a referendum. Not just a yes/no but a proper choice of options. No more Alick Douglas Home shennanigans. If you favour Home Rule (look up what Keir Hardie meant by home rule) then lay it out and let us decide.

  5. “We have our own beliefs and objectives and oppose the SNP only insofar as their existence obstructs these.” Firstly, I find that statement odd. It is not the SNP’s existence that obstructs Labour’s objectives, it is Labour’s inability to convince voters that their objectives are of greater value. It also misses the point that the two parties (though many in either party would be loathe to admit it) share certain ideals that should allow them to work more closely together – that, after all, was the stated intention of many when the Scottish Parliament was set up. Where the parties differ there is room for disagreement and attack but Labour’s strategy for the first four years of SNP government was a zero-tolerance approach to anything proposed by the SNP. It has lead them into a loose unionist coalition with the Lib dems and the Tories to attack the Scottish Government but this often comes across as attacking Scotland and being self-serving, rather than serving the needs of the Scottish electorate. There seems to be two Labour parties at the moment – one rigidly unionist and dedicated to no change, the other tending towards devo-max but unsure of where that leaves Calman and the Scotland Bill.

    Practically, how are Labour to find their way forward if they choose devo-max? Calman II? Why was it that Calman failed to deliver? Why was it so out of step with the voters’ wishes? Calman felt like a decision-making process carried out on our behalf by those who thought they knew better. It was an attempt to limit change, not to facilitate change. The danger for Labour now is that if they embark on a similar exercise voters may feel they’ve been here before. There is the issue of trust. Why should voters trust Labour to get it right this time? But there is also a possible advantage for Labour in opting for devo-max. They can play on their tradition of support for home-rule (as mentioned by Douglas Alexander – even though this is part mythology) and put the Lib Dems in the awkward position of being the ‘natural’ home-rule party who now side with the Tories in offering no further change. That may allow the Labour party to peel votes away from the SNP, since many Lib Dem voters seem to have deserted their party and voted SNP in May. But currently, Labour has no single vision – the party is in a state of quiet civil war and neither of the leadership candidates look up to taking on Alex Salmond. The solution to Labour’s problems does not look like being a quick one.

  6. Douglas,
    If you don’t take charge of the Fiscal Strength of Scotland you will achieve nothing, Calman became an orphan when we ruled out Fiscal Autonomy and we need to take some giant steps to alter it.
    To be truly Scottish you need to talk with the nats to deliver a Labour alternative to Independence, not allow AS to use sleight of hand to make you ignore the Dev Max option. Why oh why can’t we at least collect all our own revenues?

    With the right alternative you can remove the Tories from Scottish politics for ever at least the economics of Scotland.

    BTW I wouldn’t quote Palmisano to many people who used to work in IBM

  7. There are probably as many independence supporting voters of the Labour Party as there are staunch unionists.But the biggest percentage of labour party voters are in favour of Devo-max.They must be,or recent polls couldnt put Devo-max on 70 odd percent.If Devo-max isnt on the referendum ballot,no one knows for sure how all these thousands of people will vote.It seems very risky of the Labour leadership to assume all of them will vote to keep London rule.It looks like many Labour voters could be forced to vote against their partys policy just because their party wont offer the option they really want.
    I must say I’m a bit surprised that each of the contenders in the leadership contest support the status quo,when it commands so little support among labour voters.Its like the Labour partys telling supporters “you can either be Labour or support more powers for a fairer Scotland”. WHY?

  8. As the latest YouGov poll reveals Britain and the sense of Britishness is increasingly being rejected by people both sides of the border. We are becoming a Disunited Kingdom and that requires a political response.

    Will DevoMax do the trick?

    I don’t think so because time may now not be on Scottish Labour’s side for the party to turn things around and re-claim that they are the party of Home Rule.

    If Scots who support the union or who are sitting on the fence with regard independence now percieve that the English have rejected Britishness and Scotland then you will witness a fundamental change in attitudes – independence becomes more likely.

    The question becomes can Scottish Labour survive under independence?

  9. An interesting piece by Mr Alexander, spoilt perhaps by the dozen or so mentions of the SNP and the atrocious behaviour of some of their adherents. (perhaps they were the ones that believed Labours fighting 50 would actually make a difference in the eighties and not just polish their backsides on the green leather).

    However, measuring oneself against such a competent and popular Government is never a good idea as that can highlight the fact that playing catch-up can cause an even greater defeat than if the original tactics are adhered to.

    So back to the good old socialist agenda for Labour it is then.

  10. Mac,
    I think you’ve raised a very important point here.Just where will the Labour party in Scotland be if they contiinue along the “save the union at all costs”road,but the Scots continue in a different direction?There seems to be a continuing fear to be with the people on this one.

  11. Douglas, would you advocate that Labour reafirm its commitment to the primacy of the will of the Scottish people through the Claim of Rights or do you intend to retreat, as some in your party seem to have this last week, to assert the primacy of the crown through parliament? Is Labour to be of the people or for the crown?

  12. It looks increasingly like the Labour party in Scotland is being railroaded into a policy siding it does nor believe in by Labour HQ. It is perposterous that none of the contenders for leadership of Scottish Labour are not articulationg a Labour formulated, clearly defined, financially robust devo max preposal when it is obvious that a big slice, probably a majority of the party support it.
    If Labour HQ insists that the referendum is only going to be the one question, yes or no, there is no way the Labour party will be able to convince its members and supporters to hold with the party line and vote No. Labour members and supporters will vote yes for independence. How many will decide the result.
    What a terrible risk Scottish Labour are taking with Scotland and their very own exisitence. A Scottish Labour home rule vision is being denied to the Scottish people because Labour at London wants to play Russian roulette with Salmond and the SNP.

    1. I agree Richard, I think that if the 2 Holyrood based candidates think about it they should make Devo Max their proposal.
      If we wait till the referendum and 51% to 49% in favour of Independence it will be too late to say that we think Fiscal Autonomy is the answer.

      So many Scottish Labour people have suggested it now Malcolm Chisholm, Lord Foukes, Henry McLeish etc. Time to put up or shut up because Calman is the dog that don’t hunt and that is what we are offering the people.

  13. Douglas argues that education is a way in which Scotland can pay its way in the world. However current UK policies with respect to immigration are actively harming education in Scotland. Moreover, UK-led policies on tuition fees, supported in principle if not in detail by Labour, are leading to a drop in accessibility to university for bright kids from underpriviledged backgrounds for whom large debts at the end of a degree without well-heeled parents to help them out are a daunting barrier.
    Should “Home Rule” include control of immigration policy and full control over finances so that (amongst many other things) universal access to further and higher can be free at source, supported through taxation?

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