Duncan Hothersall, editor of Labour Hame and popular target for angry mobs on Twitter, thinks Scotland is in the throes of a dishonest politics and the route out is the route to reconciliation.
“If Scotland increases taxes, Westminster would just cut the block grant and we’d be no better off.”
“The White Paper’s economic plans didn’t rely on oil revenues. Revenues from oil are a bonus, not a requirement.”
“Scottish Labour policy is decided in London, and Scottish Labour is run from London.”
These statements have several things in common. They are frequently made in the febrile and unsourced environment of social media. They are repeated thousands of times, made into stylish graphics and shared by thousands of like-minded individuals. And they are flatly untrue.
We are in a phase of post-truth politics in Scotland, in which accuracy and honesty is considered a reasonable sacrifice if one can damage one’s opponent. And that stems from the fact that Scottish politics is now the politics of two tribes at war – and in war, the first casualty is truth.
It hardly needs saying, but the source of this tribal war is the last three years of binary division in Scotland created by the independence referendum. Constructive debate and the finding of common cause was happening over that time, but it was happening strictly in one of two silos: with us or agin us.
Unfortunately, the network effect of social media combined with the sorts of Truther assertions made above leads to a relentless fuelling of angry personal invective. We’ve seen it against Margaret Curran. We’ve seen it against Clare Lally. We’ve seen it, even, against a nurse who dared put her head above the parapet to back Labour’s plans to invest more money in our struggling Scottish NHS.
The nature of social media and the nature of present political debates have combined to create a perfect storm in Scottish politics, and the effect it’s having is profound. People are genuinely making value judgements about parties and people being “against Scotland” or “for Scotland”. And people are now applying that logic to the upcoming general election, as if it was a vote to choose between those two positions.
In fact, this election is a vote for who should form the next government of the United Kingdom – the country which we just democratically decided to remain a part of. And there’s a real danger that subverting the vote in Scotland to be a way of “sending a message to Westminster” risks delivering precisely the last sort of government that most Scots want.
So how do we extract ourselves from this self-destructive political phase?
We have to challenge the purveyors of invective and falsehoods with facts and rationality. But that alone will not help; the tide comes relentlessly, endlessly. We have to offer a positive vision for the Scotland we want to see. But even that will not do it if it is subsumed in a sea of angry tribalism.
No, I think we have to consider how we can generate an active process of reconciliation. An amnesty. A finding of common ground. Because the great irony lurking beneath the tribal warfare in which we’re currently engaged is that we’ve immersed ourselves in constitutional battle because there are so few other political ideals on which we disagree.
Labour and the SNP talk up the virtues of “balancing the budget” as much as each other. We attack the SNP for blaming cuts on others, and the SNP attacks us with the pretence that we back Tory austerity, but the reality is that both parties want a fair welfare system, economic growth, fair pay and fair tax, and both recognise that a balanced budget is necessary to deliver them.
We agree on the bedroom tax, though we endlessly score points off each other as to whose representatives missed which vote. We agree on social justice, LGBT rights and gender equality, though we often prefer to point at the minority of representatives on each side who oppose these things, rather than the majority who support them.
Clearly, the run-up to a general election is not the moment when bitter rivals are going to turn swords to ploughshares and start joining hands and singing round the camp fire. So let’s not create unrealistic expectations for what can happen in the immediate future.
But to my mind, the state of Scottish politics is unsustainable, and sooner or later – my fervent hope is for sooner – we are going to need to stand together and say enough, to the tribalism, the bunker mentality and the personal attacks.
Because while we shout at each other, the people we all got into politics to try to help – the poorest, the marginalised, the abandoned – are being let down. And that is a tragedy for all of us.
67 thoughts on “Can we exit post-truth politics in Scotland?”
This article is all well and good but, Red Tory!, Trident!, food banks!, end Tory rule forever!, Team Westminster!
The bedrock for such a return to the real world must surely be the one issue which was not a matter of conjecture or speculation after 18th September: the defeat of the independence proposal.
Indeed it is the sine qua non: and if the nationalists do not respect it, the rest of us must continue to champion the sovereign will of the Scottish people.
And if anyone thinks that is uncompromising, I make no apology: we have already made huge concessions in the Smith Commission.
The rational course now is to make the Smith measures work, and give them time to be able to make an assessment of their effectiveness (say 10 years); then to adjust and improve them, perhaps by transferring some extra powers, perhaps by shifting some back to UK level.
The only criteria must be what works best; but we will not be able to take such decisions unless it is clear that independence ceased to be an option when the Scottish people decided “No”.
Don’t be silly. Why would independence cease to be an option? It will always be an option; and then it will happen. When it does YOU must accept it as the sovereign will of the Scottish people. I suspect you and your like will not accept it as the independence supporters already have re the September vote. Indie soon.
But the only reason that full independence was (narrowly, and mainly by older voters) rejected was the explicit promise of federalism. We have instructed you to deliver federalism and, despite your promises, the best you can come up with is the Smith Commission, which is simply *pathetic*. There is a way of postponing Scottish independence in the medium term, and that is by delivering a proper federal UK, with a written constitution, guaranteeing the sovereignty of the four constituent nations, an English parliament, proportional representation across the board, and the general understanding that every nation governs it’s own internal affairs, with foreign and monetary policy decided at UK level. Both the referendum result and current opinion polls are pretty clear on this.
Independence will never cease to be an option. You have no right to deny that option to a country or a people. If the SNP is returned to Government at the next Scottish elections with a mandate to have another referendum, then that is what will happen.
You talk of ‘huge concessions in the Smith Commission’. You know, but of course will not admit, that the SC does not even come close to what was promised, even Vowed, during those panicked last few days before the Referendum.
The people of Scotland woke up during that campaign. They woke up to the lies and half truths of BT. They woke up to the way the MSM distorts and twists information. And they woke up to the fact that Scotland is not a burden on the UK as we are often accused of being, but that we contribute more and get less than almost anywhere else. I know that for a fact becuase I was one of those that did wake up. I will never again trust anything I hear or read without checking other sources.
The people of Scotland have also woken up to the fact that the labour party no longer represents them in it’s current form. I would welcome a return to the days when it WAS the party of the people, but it needs to change or it will lose Scotland forever.
Allowing for the fact that there are most certainly faults on both sides, do you think, Duncan, that the tone and content of your (in particular) Twitter output has contributed in any way to creating or maintaining the situation you now decry? Or is the dishonesty and hostility you’re talking about all, or overwhelmingly, the other side’s?
Also, do you think that there ever comes a point where it is simply too late for someone who has been a persistent and enthusiastic promoter of the reflexively tribal form of the discussion to say “Enough. Stop it. Let’s all come together.”? Imagine I want independence. If you think that makes me a liar, or deluded, or a nazi, or (if you don’t) if you don’t visibly and sternly take on those who do, how can you reasonably think we could ever work together?
You won’t remember, but I made a similar point to you (that on every issue bar the constitution, we’d be on the same side) on Twitter nearly two years ago, at a point before I thought it was too late.
Or as someone more concisely and less kindly put it on Twitter earlier: “physician heal thyself”. 🙂
I accept your argument up to a point. I can be robust on Twitter. And certainly I don’t always manage to condemn those who choose to back up my position with hostility and dishonesty. But I try very hard to avoid lying and aggression in all I say. I’d challenge anyone who comes under the volume of personal invective that I do to maintain an unblemished record. I am human.
There are problems on both sides, but I do believe from my extensive personal experience that it is far worse from the Yeses than the Noes. And indeed it is overwhelmingly the Noes who seek to end the binary tribalism now that the referendum is over. It is overwhelmingly the Yeses who are determined to prolong it.
I accept that in all conflicts, the idea of a protagonist proposing peace is difficult to accept. I recognise the deep personal animosity that some have for me, and for others on my “side”, which will make it almost impossible to even listen to what I have to say.
But my simple question is what other option is there? Scotland needs to find peace. How else are we to reach it?
Sorry Duncan but this is nonsense. When you’re not being outright rude to opponents you’re being condescending and snide. And to suggest the pro independence ‘side’ are worse is just petty and shortsighted. Have you heard of confirmation bias? There is some vile rhetoric going on out there, and the SNP are getting a lot of it. Maybe if Labour concentrated a bit more on what was happening to their party and less on hating SNP and independence supporters of other stripes they wouldn’t be in the state they’re in. It’s childish nonsense and it needs to stop.
It’s a shame, I was a labour voter all my life, I don’t recognise you guys anymore. You’re supposed to be winning me back but you’re pushing me further away.
Thanks for that. I wholly accept that that it is likely to be your experience that the hostility comes from the Yes side. Will you accept that mine is that it overwhelmingly comes from the No side (and I won’t shy away from “side”)?
Can we accept (as, say, the Good Friday agreement does in that context) that wanting independence is a legitimate aspiration, not somehow beyond the pale or disreputable, and that it is entirely legitimate to campaign for it as well as against it? That there is a disagreement about that issue that it is legitimate to have and to discuss whatever side we are on? If so, I can imagine working together on other issues. If not, not.
I have always accepted that independence is a legitimate aspiration. But how do we resolve it if even a three year debate and a democratic vote with a decisive outcome does not do so? Are you really arguing that Scottish politics must now forever be divided along these lines until and unless independence is achieved?
Would you have happily accepted the converse had the vote gone 55% Yes? A No Alliance set up in its wake? A subversion of this general election into a rerun of the independence vote? And had such a post-Yes No Alliance won a majority of Scottish seats this May, would you have accepted that as justification for another referendum?
When I pledged to respect the people’s decision, I meant it. I naively thought that when our opponents made similar pledges they meant it too. It turns out what they meant was “we’ll accept that we didn’t win this round”. Would you really have been happy with that were the tables turned?
Yes. In an independendent Scotland you would have been/will be perfectly entitled to argue for reunification with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Almost goes without saying – countries have divided and rejoined for centuries; albeit only recently have the people’s views mattered on such issues.
Indeed, such quasi-Unionist groups exist in Southern Ireland, such as the ‘Reform Group’. That they have little purchase is more a factor of the almost universal experience that small countries that gain independence rapidly find it to their liking, and larger countries move on, or occasionally attempt reunification by less pleasant means – see Ukraine. I would hope England would not be tempted to that route.
But like many people in the indyref debate, I pledged not to do any such thing. Like many on both sides, I pledged to abide by the choice of the people. Why will your side no longer fulfil that pledge?
Honestly and utterly yes, I would have “accepted” any result, close or not (barring say fraud -and I was at the count and saw how upliftingly fair the process was).
But also I always felt that neither result logically had to be for ever. In a democracy, none is. The day after a Yes vote, anyone who wanted could set up a British Unity party. I suspect the Orange Order at least would have done precisely that. I think the real difference was that the No side realised that once independence was gained people wouldn’t want to go back. That’s a different point and is the sense in which “Yes only needs to win once” is practically true. But, yes, I am entitled to keep campaigning for whatever I want. If we win, great. If I keep losing and support for my side dwindles away then so be it. Division is not something to be avoided, in itself, unless we aspite to the unanimity of a cult. In a democracy, it has to be managed, not criticised or de-legitimised.
And is your argument on this point not just about as conservative and reactionary as it could be? We have a status quo, affirmed by a recent vote which is never to be re-examined, never to require justification, never to be challenged, because you won that vote: what is, should be. But winning a vote actually means simply that you get to prescribe policy, outcome, until such time as people decide differently. Is that not enough for you? The “once in a generation” or “for the next twenty years” was a prediction of what people would want, not a promise on their behalf. How could anyone make such a promise for anyone else? And it was an entirely reasonable (and in my case sincere) prediction bearing in mind what happened after 1979.
It’s the denial of what seems to me the obvious reasonableness of this, the caricaturing of what I say as refusing to “accept” a result that I think is really what creates division. It’s your side that can’t accept the result, oddly. You didn’t win 70/30 or even 60/40. You won 11/9. You won, so you get the outcome you wanted. But not forever. That’s not democracy.
Not sure where you are getting the “never” from. Not from anything I said. I merely said we made a democratic choice, and both sides should respond to that by making that democratic choice work. Instead, one side has responded by attempting to subvert the next democratic choice into a rerun. I don;t think that’s reasonable. I don’t think it’s justified. And I think it cements the tribal problems we have in Scottish politics.
We both see our positions as reasonable. We both see our opponent’s position as unreasonable. How do we square that circle?
There is no such thing as forever. Therefore it seems more than likely that the constitutional question will rumble on until one side or the other’s viewpoint becomes a common sense judgement – something that will not happen on a 45/55 split either way, no matter how long and desperately people screech about a 10% difference being ‘decisive’. It isn’t – not until one side or the other is commanding a 60/70% portion of the vote can they truly say they represent the ture majority opinion. Indeed had the vote gone the other way on the same split I’d expect there to have been a No alliance of sorts – perhaps demanding closer ties during indy negotiations than the Yes side might like, perhaps a few years down the road campaigning for re-admittance to the rUK.
Fact is that many seem to conflate respecting the outcome of the referendum with giving up their beliefs. People who believe in independence as a means to a better future are under no obligation to stop believing that to be true simply because they lost a vote on the subject. Unless Unionism can find a way of accomodating or mollifying the aspirations of that 45% then, yes, we are going to be talking about politics in Scotland as viewed through a constitutional lens for sometime to come. These are not borrowed votes, these are not naive dupes who will return to the Labour tent having had their fun – and let’s not pretend that ‘coming together’ isn’t veiled language for ‘shut up and vote Labour’. There is a huge chunk of the Scottish voting base who want a different constitutional set up, even if it’s Devo Max rather than Indy – all recent polling suggests that to be true. Smith, or minor tweaking to that is not going to settle them.
As to the wider point regarding who’s upsetting who, it’s impossible not to suffer from comfirmation bias on this subject, you think Yes voters are bad because your a No voter – the No side are not saintly, not by a long shot and there is certainly not clear blue water between the two camps in terms of ‘robust’ debate.
Not sure whether this will come out as a reply to what it’s intend to respond to: “how do we square that circle”?
I can work with anyone who wants to maintain the union. I could work with anyone who, after a Yes vote, campaigned to reinstate it. I’d disagree with them but wouldn’t attack them as doing something “unreasonable”. I’d just keep arguing, accepting that as a fair thing to be expected to do. If I understand you, you can’t work with me if I want to keep campaigning for independence, even if we agree on all other issues, just because I want to keep campaigning, because you think that’s unreasonable.
As I say, I can work with someone who wants and campaigns for the union. It’s not that there’s a circle to be squared just because we disgaree about that. It seems to me it’s only your side which is angered by the simple fact of the disagreement on the substantive issue.
For my part, the people I could never work with are those who (genuinely or otherwise) think I am a liar, nazi or fascist or who don’t want just to argue against independence but actually demand that I stop arguing for it. If that’s too much for you then I can’t see what you can expect.
I’m not saying wanting to campaign on independence is unreasonable, David. I’m saying turning this election into a debate about independence is unreasonable. I’m saying turning Scottish politics into a constant debate about independence is unreasonable.
What I’m driving at is that we are letting down the people we all genuinely want to help if we let Scottish politics continue to be an endless constitutional debate in which UK and Scottish general election campaigns are about how to increase or reduce the chances of independence.
The issue isn’t about who each of us “could work with” – I can and do work well with people with whom I disagree politically and constitutionally. The issue is how we extract ourselves from the tribal morass in which we are mired.
But we can have more than one debate about more than one issue at a time, can’t we? The constitutional debate going one doesn’t preclude debate about, and agreement or disagreement on, say TTIP, Trident, austerity, the health service, Police Scotland and so on and on. You are conflating continuing to argue for independence with making everything else about independence. The two are not the same at all and again, in my view, you’re tilting at windmills.
I was trying to explicitly differentiate continuing to argue for independence from making everything else about independence. It is the latter I object to. You don’t seem to think it’s an issue. I suspect that’s because of the side of the argument you’re on.
“But how do we resolve it if even a three year debate and a democratic vote with a decisive outcome does not do so?”
Decisive? How so? It was obtained on the premise of a vow made with no intent to deliver. Do you honestly expect people to accept a result on those grounds? Seriously?
Look at the support for Independence now. The broken vow has ensured the end of the UK by the time the next referendum comes along. Which will be in our lifetimes Duncan.
All of which is wonderfully logical in your brain, Mike, I’m sure, but in the real world “the Vow” has not been broken. Indeed every part of it so far has been delivered.
But the other wrinkle here is that studies and poll analysis have shown that “the Vow” didn’t have a material impact on the outcome.
So the reality is that the vote was democratic and decisive. Both sides put forward arguments. Many of the arguments on the Yes side were laughably weak (“we’ll keep the pound but have full fiscal autonomy”, for example, or “oil will be worth $1.13 in perpetuity”) and most Scots saw through them.
I think the insistence that the vote wasn’t democratic or decisive is a key issue in miring us in this tribal guff. So here’s an action for you that could really help, Mike: stop doing it. Thanks.
Here’s one other option, Duncan.
You leave the field.
Leave the making of this argument to someone who is not basically tainted goods. To someone whose very existance in the Scottish political sphere has become toxic.
My instinct is personal ambition rules that out.
The Scottish people have agreed when asked that they are part of the United Kingdom, as a country. That is the one certain outcome of the referendum.
“As a people” is nebulous and irrational: Scots are people not “a people” – and they decided that they do not need to be independent from other people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, no matter how frequently or for how long the defeated Yes campaign insists otherwise.
As I say, Smith is not the last word as it stands, and a good way to progress the issue of powers would be like the Stoddart report on regional government, which evaluated its effectiveness and recommended improvements. It is likely that changes made in such haste will need a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get it right.
How does Labour not represent Scots? Its policies are more explicitly redistributive than the middle class perks so beloved of the SNP. Unless you mean that the Scots are more conservative than Labour’s programme?
Peter, do you have a lock on your front door?
Do you have your own house / flat?
Do you have things you claim as yours and nobody elses?
There is a subtle difference between being part of something and having nothing as your own.
Your own surname, Russell came over with the Norman conquest. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Russell
Your first name is shared by many others, me included.
Interdependency is not the same as a commune, where all property is public and everything is always shared.
My great uncle went to fight against Franco in the Spanish civil war as he was a staunch Labour supporter. After he returned, he was then fighting against the Nazi’s and finally in Burma against the Japanese.
He was dispatched to Japan after the bombs were dropped. Between the wars he had a penpal whose father had supported the British during World War I. His friend lived in Hiroshima. He was unable to find the street where his friend lived, and never had contact again.
He swore he would never support any party that would claim the devastation he saw was anything other than war against the ordinary people.
Right now, Labour seem obsessed with taking food from the poorest and least able in society to commit to weapons far greater than those Japan experienced.
If the security forces can’t stop three schoolgirls gong abroad, what chance do they have in finding meaningful intelligence that would deploy nuclear devastation?
Does this person really believe that “Labour seem obsessed with taking food from the poorest and least able in society to commit to weapons far greater than those Japan experienced”?
It is just this kind of hysterical hyperbole that Duncan is talking about.
We need to leave it behind, and start to talk (in this case) about how we can have a welfare system that is fair to those who need and to those who pay for it, and to talk about nuclear disarmament (Labour is historically multilateralist, as am I. Like Nye Bevan).
Your argument and Duncan’s seems to boil down to ‘you lost the referendum and so you are supposed to go back to voting Labour’ when you strip away the hyperbole.
Basically, yes. No change at all, just another PR approach.
I think at some point you have to tell the likes of Duncan that if he continues to insist, as he clearly does. that the price of ‘coming together’ must be paid by yessers, and that those ‘yessers’ must pay it by stopping working for indy when they choose to and ‘coming home’ – (basically “you’ve had your fun, children, now get back home when your told and eat yer cereal”), then a lot of former-Labour yessers are gonna say, fine, we’ll just stay divided then and stuff you – good luck with your 25 odd percent, we’ll take our chances with Milliband rather than Murphy.
I don’t see a huge amount of loyalty coming from Ed if Scot Lab provides next to no MPs, despite Duncan’s cries for Ed to rule out working with SNP. He’ll do what he has to. Not least because if he lets the tories in to spite SNP on Jimmy Murphy’s behalf, he might’nt get an MSP back, never mind an MP.
Ok first your being a wee bit pedantic picking up on me using ‘as a people’ but I’ll change it to ‘the people of Scotland’ just for you.
The Yes campaign DOES in fact accept that on this occasion the Scottish people wish to remain part of the UK. However what it wont accept is that the campaign for independence is over. So the Yes campaign does not ‘insist otherwise’ it just hasn’t given up, and THAT is what is worrying all the Unionists. They have seen the upsurge in support of pro Independence parties in Scotland to the detrement of Labour especially, (which should maybe be a clue that Scots DON’T see Labour as representing them) and they are worried.
I haven’t read the Stoddart report you mention but I’ll try to get a look at it.
BTW the Indy campaign for me and many others was never about the SNP, but now the GE and future Scottish Elections will be, because they are the only ones for now that can deliver what so many Scots still want. After Indpendence, (yes I still think it will come) all bets are off and all parties have a new opportunity to convince me and millions of others that they can run Scotland effectively
“As a people” is nebulous and irrational: Scots are people not “a people” – and they decided that they do not need to be independent from other people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, no matter how frequently or for how long the defeated Yes campaign insists otherwise.”
The referendum wasn’t about making some people Independent from other people it was about removing a Parliament from a Joint Parliamentary arrangement and putting it back to its original Parliamentary Independent format of the place of Government for Scotland.
In your usual bizarre and inappropriate fashion you’ve tried unsuccessfully to attribute the Yes campaign drive for Scottish “PARLIAMENTARY self determination as some kind of racial divide and the No campaign as some kind racial vacuum.
The Scots are not the Scots The English are not the English The Welsh are not the Welsh and the Northern Irish are not the Northern Irish we are in fact a singular “British” race!
How ludicrous is that? How can you deny the existence of recognisable National identity in order to promote a National Identity that doesn’t actually exist as a National Identity?
The Scots exist as a separate national identity to the English in or out of Parliamentary union. That is simply a fact you’re going to have to come to terms with in or out of your tinfoil hats.
After the referendum, I wondered in a letter to the Herald why the SNP Scottish Government was not assembling a Team Scotland to try to heal the divisions of the referendum and allow Scotland to go forward in the light of its decision. That, after all, is what had been proposed if the vote had gone the other way.
That they (and the Yes campaigners) have not sought such an arrangement can only mean one thing – that they value continuing division over unity. In other words, they believe in Scots working together only in their imaginary world of independence. The SNP Scottish Government has had it in its power to bring voters and their representatives from each side together for the common good, and has failed to do so.
The manner in which the No campaign conducted itself in order to gain the result it did ensured there could never be unity between the 2 polar views.
Project Fear and project bare faced lying did more to ensure there could be no reconciliation from a close result than anything the Yes campaign can say or do.
The broken vow is a prime example of why you have a bare faced audacity to expect reconciliation and acceptance.
The No campaign had 2 years to present a viable case for the union in order to bring people from both polar views closer but instead chose to use fear and lies. And now you want forgiveness kisses and cuddles?
The Yes Campaign had two years to present a credible case for independence and they couldn’t do it. Time and time again their claims about and plans for independence were rubbished and torn apart and yet all they did to answer these critiques was to accuse anyone who questioned them of scaremongering and talking Scotland down. They then somehow succeed in turning the whole referendum from one asking what the best course for Scotland’s future would be – being part of the UK or being being independent – to one of being either for or against Scotland based on whether agreed with them or not. And since the referendum the SNP have done little to try to heal the divisions cause, in fact they actively sought to maintain it and foster further division because it benefits them to do so, both in for short term election prospects and for their long term goals.
The No Campaign didn’t cover themselves in glory during the referedum but dont for one moment try to kid anyone into thinking they were the only side to blame for causing division within society.
OK Martyn, I get the picture. But for better or worse, the referendum radicalised at least two generations of Scots (in that it encouraged us to think for ourselves) and we won’t be voting for you again, unless you do what we want you to do. Which raises the question: Do you really understand what we are telling you to do?
Trust me, Peter Rissell, I have pretty much nothing to do with the SNP, so what on this is reasonably neutral. The SNP do not tell yes voters what to do. We tell them and they choose whether or not to follow. The electorate are the people who decide whether to accept the result of not, and it’s reasonably clear at the moment that we are not happy with what the Westminster parties are proposing. If you want us to vote Labour again, we need to see a better proposal. We are more educated and confident than our parents and grandparents were, so you really will need to up your game.
It’s not going to happen until the SNP suffer a setback and start looking like a political party again. It could be a major scandal, or it could be underperforming in an election. (If SNP+Greens aren’t a majority in 2016, I’d like to know what the SNP plan is going to be. They’ve effectively ruled out a Tory deal and their base would probably expire with cognitive dissonance at the idea of a coalition with Murphy. Perhaps they’ll be enough remaining Lib Dems, but…) The question is quite how transformed Scottish politics will be before we get there, and whether Labour retain even second party status.
There is an obvious unmet need in Scottish politics for Unionism. Not Unionism that waves the Union Jack the way the SNP wave the Saltire, but thoughtful, centrist Unionism that looks at the independence movement and finds it absurd. Labour can’t do that as are still playing for Yes voters, the Tories are tainted with the other kind of Unionism and the Lib Dems are dead in the water. Around 40% of voters were always going to vote No. There must be millions of people looking at what’s going on now and waiting for someone to stand up and call out how ridiculous it seems to them. At some point surely someone will do just that, and Scotland will gain a Fine Gael to go with the Fianna Fail it already has. And then Labour will probably occupy the position that its sister party historically has in Ireland too. The clock is ticking.
I would note only that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail both arose from one clearly independence minded party (pre 1923 Sinn Fein), and both remained and remain thoroughly independence minded.
The slightly more unionist/devolutionist party, the Irish Parliamentary Party, so long the lone power and standard bearer in Ireland (sound familiar?)was simply washed away in 1919, and the few who reached the Fine Gael/Cumann na nGaedheal life boat in the twenties did so at the price of accepting that independence narrative.
Perhaps that is the future in a sense; only if independence is gained will the SNP coalition truly splinter, and even then, th eleft right divide that comes from it will likely not truly question independance.
For the moment, Scottish Labours biggest fear, in an Irish historical sense, must be the parallels with the 1864 destruction of the previously dominant Irish Liberal Party by the Butt/Parnell Irish Party. It never returned.
Come back to me when your side is prepared to apologise for calling my beliefs “a virus,” for accusing us all of being “blood and soil” nationalists and maybe you could even promise not to bayonet any of us. I can’t really speak for Alex Salmond, but it would be nice if you could show some sort of contrition for comparing him to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mugabe and more. Maybe the sainted Maigret Curran could apologise for laughing at the idea of him getting hit by a bus. To be honest, that’s one of the more terrifying things I’ve heard ANY politician say, especially since the First Minister (as was) had already had someone try to run him off the road at that point and had received other death threats too. Curran’s sociopathic outburst could easily have been the “go ahead” signal that some loony was waiting for.
Duncan, your article even tells lies about your lies! Clare Lally WAS NOT ABUSED BY ANYONE ON WINGS, certainly not by Stuart himself. You know that because you are literate. So why lie? You know what the real issue was and you know who he blamed. The same goes for this nurse. I accept that the story itself was a bit silly but it was absolutely not in any sense “attacking” her. Besides, if she wants to put her face on a leaflet, shouldn’t she be prepared to defend her beliefs?
And if it’s truth you want, maybe you could have a look at Gordon Brown LYING about organ and blood donations or Labour-led canvassers telling people their pensions would disappear after a Yes vote. I’ll grant you that some of the Yes campaign’s rhetoric was optimistic and even in one or two cases pretty speculative, but I never saw anything said that was refuted by a neutral, official source THE SAME DAY and still used in campaigning the next day.
I like the idea of people who are broadly on the left of the political spectrum being able to work together. I like the idea that the referendum need not divide us permanently. I think we’d all like to Scotland be better. But after such a nasty, bitter campaign of fears and smears (run by the men who are now running “Scottish” Labour) it’s kinda hard to forgive when they’re still doing it! And there can be no reconciliation without repentance. I know I’ve got nothing to apologise for. The people at the top of the Labour Party need to acknowledge WHY we’re angry at them before we can ever let that anger go.
They won’t though. If 2011 taught them nothing then nothing CAN teach them. And that’s why the polls look the way they do now. “Scottish” Labour dug its own grave and was too busy ranting at Alex Salmond to notice the earth caving in on top of it.
Hear bloody hear!
While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Yes had/has its fair share of zoomers and zealots, there’s no escaping the fact that much of the No camp’s worst abuse came from those at the very top of the chain of command. The lies that were told and the downright contempt shown by those ‘big hitters’ set the tone of the entire No campaign.
I find it utterly risible to now be expected to grab hold of SLab’s olive branches in some grand gesture of reconciliation. And I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering if SLab – rather than the SNP – were now riding high in the polls, whether these olive branches would instead be the same sticks that were used to beat us over the head with during indyref.
Speaking as someone who has never voted for any party other than Labour, I’m staggered that SLab STILL don’t seem to understand what is happening to them in Scotland. Duncan’s suggestion that SLab are haemorrhaging votes simply because people want to re-run the referendum in May is quite possibly the worst case of cognitive dissonance I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. I hope for the sake of a once great Labour Party that I’m wrong, but I fear it may be terminal.
Yes but take Duncan at face value, Ben. What exactly do Labour in Scotland have to do to make you even consider voting for them in 2016 or 2020? It’s an interesting thought experiment if nothing else.
Devo Max with Full Fiscal autonomy. Minimum requirement. If they can’t do that, away and don’t bother coming back.
“Better Together” , “Yes for Labour” , and now “Come Together”? Have you seen the Daily Record’s abysmal “retraction” regarding The Vow? The tattered white flag you are feebly waving is clearly seen as a false flag .Did McTernan provide the precis?
I am waving no white flag. I wrote the piece entirely myself. Thanks for reinforcing its central point.
You declare (02/27/ @ 5.31pm) that the Vow was not broken and that every part of it has been delivered. Provably it has not. Then you maintain the Vow (which the Daily Record has been proven to lie about) was irrelevant as the vote was democratic and decisive.That’s not my understanding of democracy in action.
There is perhaps a chance of reconciliation when yourself and cotterie put a large dose of truth into it.
I would say you are waving a white flag in order to parley. Unfortunately your parlance is merely a shallow machiavellian stunt disguised as goodwill.
Quite right. I will vote for Labour again when I see their draft for a federal UK written constitution which meets my expectations. If it’s good enough for the Germans (code name Grundgesetz), it’s good enough for me.
I think it’s fair to point out that in this constitutional debate there is only one radical side, and that radical causes tend to attract those of a radical disposition, and that those of a radical disposition tend to show the most ‘passion’ and shout the loudest. It is no crime to at least recognise the asymmetry of radicalism in this debate, and how that asymmetry means that one side essentially sets the tone, energy and pace of the debate, and is extremely sensitive to anything from the non-radical side. It’s incredible for instance that in putting forward perfectly reasonable concerns about the morality of modern civic nationalism in the context of a long-established liberal democracy in a free and pluralist society (the concern being that in this context the political filtering out, the exclusion, of a large part of the current polity seems wrong) is immediately met with the assertion that you are calling your opponent some sort of nazi, when that’s not the case at all, and that they are deeply offended by you and therefore it’s best if you just keep quiet. Moderates in the non-radical side can easily be cowed by this sort of stuff, but we shouldn’t be. We need to be able to lay out our legitimate concerns, and be listened to and engaged with respectfully.
Sensible stuff, Johnny. But surely, it is the role of the Labour Party to be ‘radical’, in the sense of offering a popular, working class alternative to the Conservatives and Liberals.
I disagree with you on the ‘long established liberal democracy’ stuff. The British Empire has been disintegrating since 1775, and I don’t understand why the departure of Scotland is qualitatively different from the departure of the USA, Canada, Australia, NZ, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ireland, etc etc.
Even so, assuming you are still a Labour Party member, what policy changes do you propose to try and persuade people like me (former Labour voting, Scottish nationalists) to vote Labour any time soon? To be precise, how do you see a written constitution for a federal UK panning out?
First, look at the bigger picture. We’re all used to making political arguments in terms of the traditional left to right spectrum. What’s happening, not just in Scotland right now but all across Europe, is that this traditional spectrum has been replaced by a vertical spectrum, with nationalism at one end and internationalism at the other – I would even say ‘regressive nationalism’ at one end and ‘progressive internationalism’ at the other. The difficulty is that the last time we saw any conviction politics in Europe was the triumph of welfare capitalism and monetarism over socialism in the 80s.
Since then traditional politics has moved to the centre – more specifically centre-left on social policy and centre-right on economics. This is where the SNP sit – that’s why they got elected in 2007 and 2011. But when the recession hit and people screamed out for some sort of conviction politics that could show the way to a better future traditional parties have found that they’re stuck in the middle and can’t move from there, and they have nothing else to offer. But the SNP, and all the nationalist parties making gains across Europe, had a trump care: there is a silver bullet answer, and it’s the reclamation of sovereignty; the mainstream parties can’t deliver the answers, but we can, and it’s nationalism.
We’re living through a new era of conviction politics in Europe, but it is the conviction politics of nationalism. But it’s not an answer. Independence will not make Scotland a social-democracy along Nordic lines; constitutional changes will not combat the forces of de-industrialisation combined with the economics of globalisation. But when a passionate nationalist says they can achieve these things, it just requires the neutralisation of a ‘foreign’ force, and paints their politics as sitting on the traditional left-to-right spectrum, when in fact their only conviction is to sit on the nationalist extreme of the new vertical spectrum, then it is tempting. And it’s tempting voters all over Europe, whether they’re supporting the Alternative for Germany party, or Podemos.
So I would say that to progress we get off this new vertical spectrum and get back on the left-to-right spectrum. That’s the starting point. Reject nationalism, even when it’s presented as everything and anything but nationalism, and then you can start to progress.
Fair enough, but most people would say that the y-axis in these 2 -dimensional graphs is to do with authoritarianism versus anarchism, rather than nationalism versus internationalism. We are all nationalists, in the sense that we all have an intuitive understanding about what is our first order polity. I am a Scottish nationalist rather than a British or European nationalist because I believe that smaller nations are less disruptive and hence more productive than larger ones. (How many wars has Denmark started recently? Would Danes choose to reunite with Germany?)
What you call ‘rejecting nationalism’ sounds just like advocating centralism? I.e. British nationalism. No thank you. We live in the 21st century. We have the Internet. Most voters are at least as qualified as party politicians (I have four university degrees; show me a Labour Party aparachnik who can match that!). Why would we go back to the 1950s and bow down to our over-entitled imperialistic masters?
“What’s happening, not just in Scotland right now but all across Europe, is that this traditional spectrum has been replaced by a vertical spectrum, with nationalism at one end and internationalism at the other – I would even say ‘regressive nationalism’ at one end and ‘progressive internationalism’ at the other”
Is this how you describe the difference between being a Nation State with its own singular Parliament being a part of the International community I.e the Normal state of international affairs or a Nation State within an unbalanced Parliamentary union with the balance acting against it? i.e the abnormal state of International affairs.
Because I have yet to see a reasonable argument which shows why Scotland should decline the former in favour of the latter.
Seeing as there can be no reasonable argument which favours the latter over the former we are left having to answer bare faced lying fearmongering and utter stupidity instead.
And no matter how articulately you try to dress up Devolution over Self determination you can never make Devolution look anything other than inferior to Self determination.
The world chooses to divide itself and identify itself along National borders including those who support the idea of the UK of GB as a National identity! So to support the idea of the UK of GB in a manner which suggests an opposition to the very concept of National identity is just another in a long line of stupid pathetic excuses in place of real argument and conviction.
You cant articulate reason so substitute articulate meaningless crap in its place.
A Plea for Reconcilation has great merit, but the reality is you’ll have it only when @scottishlabour registers as an Independent political party
putting Scotland 1st.
You can’t serve two masters and at this point @scottishlabour is trying to serve two – British & Scottish interests are not compatible and indeed oft diametrically opposed esp in the case of areas like Wars, WMDs but generally in terms of future vision of the constituent nations esp. England and Scotland , England clearly lurching right wing with consistent ~50% UKIP/Tory support and given England’s massive domination from a population perspective.Scotland’s democracy is reduced to less than a coin toss, with Scotland getting the Government we vote for <50% of time whereas England gets the Gov they want 95+% of the time. This is compounded by the House of Lord which is an absolutely abomination in terms of democracy, and something the Labour has failed to cure when in power or indeed when given the opportunity in this Tory Gov term.
England has a different future & different vision from Scotland's , we each need to go our separate ways & a good start is for @scottishlabour to go it's own way and be a completely independent and legal political party registered in Scotland , instead of one that does not even have the power , as Falkirk showed, to even choose their own candidates for Westminster. Scotland is a nation , England is nation – the UK is a fabrication who's time has past & as long as @scottishlabour puts this interests of this fabrication before Scotland's @scottishlabour will be rightly exposed for maintaining Scotland interests as
subservient to those of UK.
What benefits the United Kingdom benefits Scotland just as much as it benefits England, Wales of Northern Ireland – we are a union that working together for common causes can achieve greater results and improve more lives than any of the constituent parts working seperately could ever hope to.
This idea that Scotland’s future is diametrically opposed to the rest of the United Kingdom’s is a fallacy and one that was exposed by the Yes Camp’s rhetoric during the Referendum Campaign which went to great lenghts to assure the voters of Scotland that there would only be minimal changes in Scotland’s relationship with the UK should it vote for independence, and everything that Scotland benefits from by being part of the UK it would continue to benefit from if it was independent because, they told us, it would be “common sense” for that to happen.
No true democratic system gives voters the government it wants 100% of the time. By the very same arguments use by pro-independence advocates as to why a Tory government in Westminster is not a legitimate one for Scotland it could be said an SNP government Holyrood is not a legitimate one of Orkney and Shetland, because the percentage of the vote achieved by the Tories and Lib-Dems in the last general election in Scotland was almost exactly the same as the percentage achieved by the SNP in Orkney and Shetland. The problem is that pro-indy people are prepared to accept the democratic process in Scotland but are not prepared to do so in the UK as a whole, and this has lead to a lot of ridiculous statements during the last few year where pro-indy people just come across as having no idea how democracy works.
The House of Lord is a second chamber which is employed to scrutize the policies of the government of the day and the laws passed by the House of Commons. Being entirely out of the control of the Commons and the government of the day it can investigate with greater ferver than any other poltical body in the UK, and it has proven itself as far more able, capable and harsher critic of those matters than, for instance, Holyrood’s Committee System which, by contrast, has proven itself vulnerable to being compromised in its integrity by a party with a majority of seats. The House of Lords has a role to play in modern politics and does it well.
The Labour Party in its base form is one of unionism, one that believes in bringing people together to work for a better future for everybody and more equal and fairer society. This means that they are ideologically opposed to pitting Scotland against England and advocating they go their seperate ways, this mean that they, in theory, care equally about the welfare of people across the whole UK and not just in one area of it. While it would benefit Scottish Labour to become entirely self-governing doing so would not change their beliefs that being part of the UK is a good thing, and it wouldn’t stop them being a part of the greater Labour Party across the UK, nor would it change their desire to work in concord with the other parts of the UK to try improve the lifes of people in all the constituent parts of that Union.
Ideas cannot be fallacies, Martyn. Only arguments can be fallacies. Ideas (i.e. propositions) are either true or false. (Let’s all agree to avoid Americanisms like ‘truthy’, for sake of sanity). But you are correct, ‘diametrically opposed’ is surely hyperbole.
Anyhow, as a no-voting, centralisation-focused Labour Party person, how far are you willing to go to encourage yes-voting left of centre Scots to vote for your party? Or do you think it is up to us to admit that we are wrong and go back to voting for you for hereditary reasons (like your beloved House of Lords – sorry I couldn’t tell if you were being ironic when you said that the House of Lords ‘does it well’, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt ;-).
Duncan, we can see exactly what is happening and what you are trying to peddle –
Does anyone think for one moment that if Scottish Labour was enjoying similar support levels to say 5 or 10 years ago, there would even be a whiff of ‘lets all be friends’, ‘byegons be byegons’ etc ?. Absolutely no chance – Labour’s disdain for the SNP would be even greater (if that’s possible).
Labour are quite rightly, humped and Duncan is trying to generate a completely artificial ‘look, folks, we can all get along’ only because Murphy, McTernan, McDougal etc are failing miserably with either their bribes or ‘project fear’ tactics.
Duncan, your efforts are as transparent as they are desperate.
All well and good, David, but why not take Duncan at face value for a moment and tell him what Labour in Scotland would have to do to get your vote in 2016 or 2020? Otherwise we’re just shouting at each other.
I’ll have a go (given that Labour in Scotland can guarantee nothing without London Labour’s approval):
Embrace a growth strategy and abandon austerity/welfare cuts
Dismantle the House of Lords over the next parliament
Make MP’s ‘interests’ completely transparent + no second jobs
Immediately publish Iraq and HBOS inquiry reports
Institute MP ‘Recall’ bill
Launch independent inquiry into HSBC UK
Halt fracking – more research required
Initiate Devo Max in full
Reinstate anti trade union powers which Thatcher made illegal
Immediate minimum wage of £8.00 per hour
Nationalise railways and energy
(among other things)
If Labour had the above in their Manifesto (and could put in place guarantees we could believe) I would vote Labour again
Embrace a growth strategy and abandon austerity/welfare cuts
Dismantle the House of Lords over the next parliament
Make MP’s ‘interests’ completely transparent + no second jobs
Immediately publish Iraq and HBOS inquiry reports
Institute MP ‘Recall’ bill
Launch independent inquiry into HSBC UK
Halt fracking – more research required
Initiate Devo Max in full
Reinstate anti trade union powers which Thatcher made illegal
Immediate minimum wage of £8.00 per hour
Nationalise railways and energy
(among other things)
You want Labour in Scotland to defect to the SNP? With no Conservatives or Lib Dems left who would form the opposition?
Strictly speaking, I am one of the voters the Labour Party needs to win back (I voted Labour unthinkingly until 2011). I don’t see it happening any time soon, but for the avoidance of doubt, and assuming my anger eventually dissipates, here is what you need to do:
1. Stop whining on about how Scottish nationalism is bad and British nationalism is good (in fact it’s so good it’s not even nationalism at all). The referendum was a straight choice between Scottish nationalism and British nationalism.
2. Related to this, start listening to the electorate as grown ups and stop trying to belittle us as children. As I’ve said before, we tell you what to do, not vice versa. You maybe got away with it with my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but it won’t wash in the era of mass higher education. You can’t just “spoonfeed us shite” any more. Every time you try, we find out in minutes by reading Wings Over Scotland.
3. Promise to sort out the constitution, in a proper way. Many yes voters (and indeed many traditional SNP members) would accept a compromise involving a federal UK, involving four sovereign nations with their own parliaments, and some kind of ‘council of ministers’ governing areas of federal policy (foreign affairs, defence, monetary policy). If Labour took the lead on this, it would generate a significant amount of goodwill from voters in Scotland. But you *really really* need to give up on your British nationalist obsession with the UK as a unitary state. We are not living in the 19th century any more. There are many more sophisticated models of government. If you don’t do this, you are consigning Labour to permanent irrelevance in Scotland, and ensuring that Scotland will be fully independent of Westminster by 2030.
To be fair, I approve of the newly moderate tone of this post. It is good to hear that at least certain elements of the Labour Party are starting to understand that they are going to have to change if they want to have a future in politics. However, you need to get a very clear picture just how angry we are with you at the moment, and understand that when the political culture of a country shifts, it is up to political parties to move towards the voters rather than vice versa.
The sad irony is that you know all this already. Or at least you used to. Here is a quote from a blog you wrote in 2011:
“Labour values would be as relevant in an independent Scotland as they are across the UK, so the bold action on the upcoming referendum is to leave the SNP to it, and stick to our knitting. It’s not our issue. Let them waste time on it, and let the people decide whenever the time comes. Labour is not an intrinsically unionist party, so let’s make sure Scottish Labour can continue to fight for Scotland’s best interests irrespective of a unionist or nationalist agenda. We say “bring it on”, but we aren’t for or against – we rise above.”
How much are you regretting not taking your own advice?
No, it was a choice between Scottish nationalism and British unionism, and more fundamentally I would say it was a choice between exclusive nationalism and inclusive unionism. It is perfectly logical to take a general principled stand against all nationalism, which means you accept that there is a current status quo in terms of national borders and sovereignty, and that in general any move towards smaller, more exclusive units is regressive (given the context of an established liberal democracy in NW Europe in the early to mid 21st century, when nationalism had seemed like a mainly 20th century ideology). Hence you would be against the nationalism of the SNP that aims to dissolve a current long-established polity and create a new polity exclusively on historic national lines, excluding the majority of voters in the current polity, and you would be against the British nationalism of UKIP and the Tory right that seeks the reclamation of sovereignty from Brussels – and in the case of UKIP also xenophobia and wishing to physically exclude immigrants. It is perfectly legitimate to see all these types of nationalism as regressive and to in general view unions of peoples were they exist as something to be celebrated and nurtured.
I think the, by-default-you-must-be-a-British-nationalist argument is therefore terribly weak, but I guess it comes from the right place – feeling uncomfortable with the nationalist movement that you are a part of.
And by the way, the model you mention in point 3 is a confederal model, not a federal one, and therefore basically full fragmentation.
Your argument is ridiculous.What’s the difference between British Unionism and British Nationalism? The only difference that I can see is that one allows you to point at someone else and say ‘bloody nationalist!’
I do not accept the current status quo in politics. Things can always be made better. That goes for borders and sovreignty too. Why is now such a good time to decide that everything is settled? Because it suits you? Does that mean the Falklands will always be British? Gibraltar? Northern Ireland? Are the Smith Commission proposals dead because they haven’t been enacted yet, or is it ok to have a last wee tinker with things before we accept that this is our lot, and we just have to get on with it?
I think the British Unionist not British Nationalist argument is therefore terribly weak, but I guess it comes from the right place – feeling uncomfortable with the nationalist movement that you are a part of.
Duncan, you cannot even admit there is no such political party as Scottish Labour. Your ‘story’ just tries to drag the independence movement into the gutter with unionist politics. It reeks of desperation and hypocrisy; and for sure has not been penned with Scotlands best interests in mind.
Scotland is in a phase of lying unionist politics that are being increasingly exposed. This phase is now in it’s end game and has an almost certain outcome of independence.
Fair enough. But in the spirit of reconciliation, what would Labour in Scotland need to do to win your vote in 2016 or 2020?
‘No, I think we have to consider how we can generate an active process of reconciliation’
The only reason you are airing this fatuous ‘let’s be friends’ spiel is because your beloved Labour are going to get humped and are trying to salvage something from the wreckage. Remember Ed Milliband’s headline ? – “there will be border post at the Borders’. Now re-writing Labour history are we ?
Reeks of hypocrisy
As one of those that recently argued the point, with you, that an increase in Scottish Taxes would result in a deduction in the block grant, I have to say I agree with your article.
But, there’s always a but; you would call me a zoomer or truther or whatever apt or in vogue term would be, perhaps even a tin foil hat wearer for me to suggest my point that ‘ I believe the text of the commission and various other sources to suggest that it is the case that an increase via a tartan tax would be offset by a reduction in the block grant’.
I’ve read the available content on the issue and also read the interpretations of many commentators from across the political spectrum, some of which I linked to you on twitter..
Now its all very well saying ‘that’s not how I interpret the language’ but do you feel morally superior in your interpretation of the available literature to assert that your interpretation is correct and mine is so fundementally flawed that I must have a tin foil hat on extremely tight?
If I’m wrong, then I’ll admit to it; I don’t mind being wrong, I’m not a politician or someone that feels it necessary to be right in every occasion. But I’m not stupid or easily led to believe something which has been reported with so much ambiguous interpretations that both sides promote the opposite assertions to as clarified fact that I can’t be sure if black is white or white is black!!. Dresses of gold and white or blue and black spring to mind..
Since politicians are not bound by any code of practise when telling the truth is required, do you think we need a legal decision to interpret the meaning or rubber stamp any and all political literature or statements?
“Labour reaches out to voters again”
You’ll never be anything other than a pathetic public joke Hothersall no matter how hard you try to fool yourself.
Reading the original post again, I’m struck by an obvious solution. If Labour and the SNP are so similar in terms of policies, then why not try and broker an electoral pact. Labour will sit out Scottish Parliament elections if the SNP agree to sit out Westminster elections? That is the logical conclusion of what you are saying, surely. *ducks and runs*
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