Nathaniel BlondelNathaniel Blondel, a young Scottish Labour activist, says the argument that Scottish Labour must capitulate over independence is both simplistic and wrong.


Various ‘Labour’ commentators, including prolific blogger Éoin Clarke, have fully come round to the view that Scottish Labour ‘betrayed the Scottish people’ when it campaigned for a No vote during the referendum. Scottish Labour has made many mistakes, but advocating for the union isn’t one of them.

The solutions presented – such as those in Clarke’s “six point plan” – are enviable in their simplicity: apologise to the Scottish people, split from the Labour Party (‘London Labour’), and take a neutral line on independence.

There are a lot of Yes voters in Scottish Labour, and I particularly appreciate the fact they’ve stayed put when so many others felt they no longer could. However, our bitter defeat at the polls shouldn’t mean we abandon the union. The case against independence has only become stronger since September 2014.

Despite the claims of Alex Bell, one of the wonks who drafted it, the SNP’s White Paper was not a total fantasy. The prospect of tax cuts and deregulation were real enough. This sort of thing is hardwired into the SNP, and given that highly disciplined, triumphant nationalist parties tend to dominate the politics of newly independent countries, it would have been implemented. This sort of clientelist centrism is their bread and butter, as a glance at their record in government would show you.

Given a plunge in oil prices, and a growth strategy focused on tax cuts and ‘slashing red tape’, the economic straitjacket would be even tighter than it is presently. If a currency union had been implemented, the Scottish Government would not even have had control over its monetary policy – exactly the problem that is currently plaguing the Eurozone.

The SNP are political cowards in the face of the wealthy, and the price for this cowardice would be paid by ordinary people. Redistribution has very little place in a nation full of ‘hope, expectation, and aspiration’, and a government low on cash.

Then there is the other side of the coin: the idea that the British state, out of all capitalist states, is uniquely awful. This sort of view, ironically, doesn’t carry much weight without a heavy dose of Britocentrism. Britain has its own particular problems – as do France, Germany, and Sweden. However, either Britain is utterly salvageable, or nowhere is. And in an age when public power is being sliced, diced, and sold to the highest bidder, it seems absurd to weaken the state even further by dividing it.

Labour cannot ignore the constitution. It needs a serious plan for federalism across the UK – not vague appeals to the memory of Donald Dewar. But that doesn’t justify the prescription from Éoin and others of outright capitulation.

Splitting from the Labour Party would be an even greater surrender than taking a neutral line on independence. This movement was built by working class people from all over the British Isles, because they shared a common interest in redistributing wealth and power, through organised industrial action and a Labour government.

And what is being proposed, exactly? That Scottish Labour splits itself off and engages in decades of self-flagellation? Scottish Labour needs to build up a cohesive ideology, with a clear framework for federalism; but we also need to show that we have answers for the big problems of wealth and power faced by Scottish workers – exactly the same ones encountered by all workers across the UK.

We have tried draping ourselves in a flag and it doesn’t work. Presenting ourselves as a ‘patriotic socialist’ party at the last election convinced precisely no one. If people want a party which feeds off grievance and wrongs done against the nation of Scotland, they will vote SNP. We have to show that Labour can succeed where the SNP have failed.

It’s true that Better Together did not produce many left-wing arguments. It ended up being quite reactive, and the Yes campaign definitely set the agenda. That agenda was an instrumentalist one, based on what would keep your taxes lower, and protect your pension. Did the Yes campaign similarly ‘betray’ the Scottish People by failing to present a socialist vision for a new Scotland? Of course not.

There is no need for me to recount the numerous criticisms of Better Together – others have done so better than I could. But there remains a left-wing case for staying in the union. Keir Hardie once called the British state a ‘useful donkey’, and for many of us that’s the major point. It is not about chest-beating patriotism, it’s about the union as an instrument for social and economic change, and the belief that Scottish independence would only make that harder, in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. It may not have been well articulated, but it is still supported by the vast majority of the Scottish Labour party, and in good faith too.

There is no quick fix, but Scottish Labour should not go gentle into that good night, falling over itself to please every nationalist commentator. Éoin Clarke expected ‘some’ Scottish Labour members to be less than pleased with his 6-point programme, and he was right. It seems unfair though, to single out Éoin, when he is merely the latest in a long line of ‘comrades’ who, like a nationalist Dan Hodges, regurgitate the attack lines of our opponents, craving their acceptance.

They are representative of a whole mode of thinking which could hardly be described as ‘comradely’. It shows an utter disdain for Scottish Labour members. It offers no sort of solution. It is advice to be utterly rejected.

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37 thoughts on “Capitulation isn’t the answer

  1. UK is in fact a horrible stream of capitalism wholly based on the US model. House price inflation when compared to the decent European states confirms this.

    Labour under the neo Thatcherites of blair and brown contributed and encouraged this.

    As for labour in Scotland losing one election. Given current demographics, Labour in Scotland is a dead man walking and has a shelf life of 10 years at most as a meaningful party in Scotland.

    Separation, which will come, wont rehabilitate the party either. Scotland as a country has never liked being taken for a fool. And when she realises she has, punishment is swift.

  2. This article, and all similar articles, fail to remember that under Labour’s watch the gap between rich and poor, across the UK, got wider; that houses became unaffordable and Blair brought in (despite a manifesto promise not to) tuition fees (something even Thatcher baulked at). Anything people in Labour say about the SNP rings hollow because Labour in government laid the foundations for the mess, and blaming the SNP for everything from cracks in a bridge to higher education access is simply desperate.
    People have stopped listening, yet still you think they’re reading this sort of article and believing it.
    You’re like the people who believed the earth was flat.
    In fact , you’d better hope no-one reads this, because you’ll lose even more of the Labour voters who believe that independence is a valid aspiration for a party they want to learn from its many and costly mistakes.
    If you can;t see that there’s room for pro-indy candidates and voters in the coming election you are stupid beyond our wildest imaginings

    1. Actually, the gap between the poorest and richest didnt get wider across the UK under Labour. But keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better about the SNP.

      1. Eh yes it bloody well did. Why would you make such a ludicrous blatantly dishonest claim? Are you the site click baiter today?

        1. Why would you make a claim without any kind of evidence to back up your fairly dubious point? Oh aye, I forgot, in Scottish political discourse today, flags beat facts.

      2. Look you tool, I am Labour.
        This is from Left Foot Forward:

        “If New Labour can be said to have ‘crashed the car’, as the Conservatives are so fond of putting it, it is on inequality. Under the previous government widening inequality subverted attempts to create a meritocratic society based on equality of opportunity. The inequality of the parents simply became the inequality of the children.

        If the next Labour government wished to create a fairer society it will have to recognise this and act accordingly.”

        The ‘prevous govt’ mentioned is a Labour one. Ours, in other words.
        In yet other words, the reason we’re going to get drubbed in the Holyrood elections is articles like this, and comments like yours John – that assume all criticism of Labour must be pro-SNP.

        1. Yet over the term of the SNP the gap betwwen the rich and poor widens even further !

          It is not helped with the fact all the freebies in Scotland benefit the wealthy at the poorest’s expense ! The rich mainly ex Tory voters get more money in the pocket and an extra Jag in the driveway but would never vote Yes ! The SNP are just ro dumb to realise the bribes are not working .

          Thee gap has gotten so bad in Scotland over the last few years and can be seen mainly in the education arena with data as follows showing :

          ” The latest figures for all 32 Scottish councils show that children in the least well-off areas are seven times less likely to get the right grades for university than those from the most affluent neighborhoods.

          In four local authority areas, including wealthy East Lothian, no children from the poorest 20% achieved the benchmark for university entrance of three or more As from up to five Highers – Scotland’s equivalent to the A-level – in 2014 ”

          1. Jesus H Christ the Scottish Government doesn’t have enough devolved power in the Scottish Parliament to affect the wealth gap.

            What freebies? There are no freebies. Everything is paid for.

            What isn’t working for the SNP? The fact that they have been in Government for 8 years? Have 50 new MPs in Westminster or they are going to increase their representation in the Scottish parliament and local councils?

            You’re perfectly entitled to pretend to believe what you read in the anti Scottish Government UK state media circus but don’t expect anybody to believe you do.

            Talk about the wilfully blind and ignorant.

  3. Thanks, Nathaniel. With views like that the dregs of Labour will soon be finally scraped away from the Scottish parliament. Cheers!

  4. “Nathaniel Blondel, a young Scottish Labour activist, says the argument that Scottish Labour must capitulate over independence is both simplistic and wrong.”

    Nobody says you “must” accept the truth you’re only being advised that’s its best for you if you did.

  5. “The case against independence has only become stronger since September 2014.”

    Apart from the dishonest litany of “Project Fear” the case for the union is to tell us that Devo Less is greater than Devo More but Devo more as determined by labour is better.

    Which explains why you had to concentrate on trying to make a case against Independence and couldn’t highlight the case for the union.

    The case for Independence can be seen felt and acknowledged within every Independent nation on the planet while the case for Devolution can be seen as the abject failure it was always going to be by the fact that it has never settled at a level of acceptance by anybody or been acknowledged by anybody as being the ideology of choice.

    We only have devolution at all because of the drive towards Independence. We only have more Devolution because the drive became stronger.

    So to try and promote the idea that the answer to Independence is Devolution is about as dishonestly ludicrous as its possible to be.

    Does anybody actually believe that the answer to National Independence is Regional Devolution?

    Should the whole world Devolve itself from National distinction to regional representation? Really?

    1. I have to disagree if we had the vote again tomorrow it would be a wider NO and Ms sturgeon is savvy enough to realise it ! Right now it costs more to extract oil than what it sells for and yet Mr Salmond would have us believe in a magical windfall at $113 a barrel ! Notwithstanding no EU or monetary union , if it was a yes the only way into the EU would be on there terms meaning the Euro and German forced austerity worse than that of Greece .

      If we are true socialists looking at the EU and all that austerity there should be no hesitation in the vote and we should want to leave , that is why nearly half within the SNP want out ! I fancy that getting worse and Scotlamd may well vote to leave !

      I have to agree with Alex Bell and it was all lies and wishful thinking from the EU advice onward and from Mr Salmond especially that is all we get from the SNP lies , blame and grievance , the negativity is palpable with substandard politicians who are clueless with one today complaining about flood budgets and not wanting them cut at Westminster ! He was quickly reminded it was devolved.

      We even have the SNP poverty Tsar revealing ( through protracted FOI requests as usual ) that the SNP policies benefit the wealthiest at the poorest expense !

      The SNP rhetoric may be left wing unfortunately there actions are right wing ! The last budget shows this more than ever !

      1. You can disagree all you wish it wont make it reality.

        If it cost more to extract oil than can be made in profit there would be no cars running on the roads and industry which relies on oil would now be shut down.
        FFS what is wrong with you people?

        Alex Salmond only repeated the Oil and Gas industries OWN predictions which were in line more or less with the OBR IFS and UK Government who predicted it would be $120 a barrel.
        FFS what is wrong with you people?

        We are having a referendum on our EU membership which will not be dependent on the Scottish vote because of the Union.
        FFS what is wrong with you people?

        No monetary union no rUK. That’s the reality. The rUK cannot afford not to have a monetary union with Scotland or it forfeits the 5.5 trillion UK debt it forfeits the value of the pound it forfeits extra business costs and it forfeits a massive plunge in personal savings values.
        FFS what is wrong with you people?

        There are no indications showing a majority of Scottish support for leaving the EU but there are in England.
        And even if there was a majority of support from Scotland to leave it would be irrelevant because of the shear weight of voter numbers in England.
        FFS what is wrong with you people?

        No it wasn’t lies at all. The lie was in claiming Alex Salmond lied about EU advice. Been over this dozens of times already with other misinformed souls such as yourself.
        FFS what is wrong with you people?

        No we don’t have any SNP poverty Tsar saying any such thing that is another stupid bare faced lie.
        SNP policies on the whole benefit everybody they are universal. labours policy ideas would penalise everybody universally. They already have a track record in Government doing just that!

        FFS what is wrong with you people? Is reality too much for you to deal with?

      2. you are speaking nonesense about oil extraction. I work in the industry and profit is being made at the current price.

  6. “Labour cannot ignore the constitution. It needs a serious plan for federalism across the UK”

    The only reason we are reading this at all from a labour acolyte is because the drive toward Independence has gained an unstoppable momentum.

    If the SNP collapsed tomorrow and support for Independence fell to its 1970s level we would see an end to our Devolved Parliament altogether championed by Labour and all of those who today pretend they would like to see a Federal UK.

    This pro union interest in more devolution is nothing but fingers in a disintegrating dam. Fully repairing the dam will see the need for the fingers made redundant.

    Pro Union means exactly that. It doesn’t mean pro federalism or pro Home Rule at all.

    1. It’s too late for Federalism, Devo Max, Home Rule, the Genie’s out the bootle and only full blown Independence will do and what with a UK Brexit Scotland will probably go onto hold a IndyRef2 and vote Yes for Independence.

  7. “But there remains a left-wing case for staying in the union”

    One which has never been articulated by anybody anywhere ever. Today seems to be no exception.

    Labour in Scotlands view has never been clearer or more precise. Labour in Scotland would rather see Scotland ruled by Neo Conservatism from Westminster than by a Left of Centre Independent labour Government from Edinburgh.

    Tell me I’m wrong.

  8. “If a currency union had been implemented, the Scottish Government would not even have had control over its monetary policy”

    Would it be more or less than the control they have today?

  9. “it’s about the union as an instrument for social and economic change,”

    The Union is the instrument which allows a Westminster Neo Conservative Government to Ideologically impose unnecessary deliberately targeted austerity policy and measures on Scotland which on its own belays all the garbage you’ve posted with regards to an advantageous connection between the Union and left of centre ideology.

    No other website anywhere as far as I can tell is so prolific in putting forward so much self delusional self deception than this one.

  10. “Tax cuts and deregulation”—-that would be the last Labour Government, then.

    “SNP are political cowards in the face of the wealthy”—-really! Where are the SNP equivalents of Mandelson, or Blair, or Brown, or any of the other Labour lot who managed to make themselves millionaires out of a political career. Or who smoothed the way for billionaires seeking residency in the UK. Or why cuddled up to non doms.

    “Draping ourselves in a flag”—yup, you certainly did. The endless propaganda about being British, or the BBC programs which all of a sudden had a “British” in the title. The ubiquitous Union Flag, which sprouts out of the shoulders of PM’s whenever they appear to speak.
    Keir Hardie—-who wanted Dominion Status for Scotland, same as Australia. Same as Canada.

    In what way does a “Union” act as “an instrument for social and economic change”—that’s just daft. Or, you would presumably be in favour of a political and economic union within the EU, with the bulk of power centralised to Brussels? No? Thought not!
    In what way does “Scottish independence…. make that harder”, given the amount of time the Tories are in power in the UK?

    This is a poor, poor article from a Brit Nat with no solution but to put his fingers in his ears, and hum.
    Reminds me of a certain Jim Murphy.
    No doubt you will win all your present seats and also add more!

  11. “Scottish Labour has made many mistakes, but advocating for the union isn’t one of them.”

    Nathaniel what planet are you on I just got back from Mars and even the Martians bookies are giving short odds on a total wipeout of the Scottish Labour section at the Scottish elections the reason given was that the Scottish Labour section worked hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder in the Better Together platform in partnership with the Tories hence their new name Red Tories and I have put 500 zonks on a Red Tories wipeout.

    “There are a lot of Yes voters in Scottish Labour, and I particularly appreciate the fact they’ve stayed put when so many others felt they no longer could.”

    Nathaniel I think you should change your name to Hey Presto as your use of smoke and mirrors is exquisite although under close examination the illusion does not stand up to scrutiny, the reality is that independent pollsters indicate that 85% of Yes voters have left the Scottish Labour section and have joined the SNP.

    1. We have to cut student politician Nathaniel Butler Blondel some slack. He moved up from Bristol after #indyref to study in Glasgow. In that short time he’s accumulated as much insight into Scottish politics as Labour people who’ve spent decades here – that is, not very much. Long may their collective blindness continue.

  12. I think some on here are being a bit harsh on Nathaniel.His article expresses his beliefs regarding the role of the Labour Party in Scotland..He has provided a decent topic for debate.Labour in Scotland needs to consider all points of view when deciding which course of action to take.

    1. His article like so many others on here is either deliberately dishonest to a fault or dangerously delusional self deceit.

      Nobody can possible operate a PC or laptop while displaying that level of utter gullible stupidity so it has to either be dishonesty or self delusion.

  13. I am confused by all these SNP comments on a Labour blog. Haven’t you people a Scottish Government to attack for doing NOTHING to reduce inequality?

    As for Gordon Brown’s tax credits doing nothing to reduce inequality, really? Child poverty reduced by about 30% in the ten years up to 2010, and it is a litle lower in Scotland than it is in England; that is thanks to Labour certainly not likely to be repeated under SNP whose policies freezing Council Tax free tuition for middle class students, fine but you are are a sucker to believe they help the poor. What the SNP enthusiasts are on about is the influx of non dom wealthy over these 1997-2010 years to the south east. Taxing them so they leave again, probably a good idea but won’t help the poor.

    1. Neil Allan,

      I think the comments and debate should be encouraged wherever they come from.More Labour activists seem to write articles for this site than comment on them,so it’s perhaps good there are others prepared to come on and make up the numbers.

    2. Your first 3 words were the only accurate credible part of that entire passage of utter pish.

      “As for Gordon Brown’s tax credits doing nothing to reduce inequality, really? Child poverty reduced by about 30% in the ten years up to 2010”

      And the reality?

      “Poverty widens

      The IPPR claims that the government has had some success in tackling child poverty rates. In 1998 these were the highest in the European Union, but by 2001 the UK had apparently fallen to 11th out of the 15 EU countries on child poverty.

      The government’s policy on child poverty has largely been aimed at forcing single mothers into work. Even so, claims of improvement appear at odds with the report’s findings that in 2001, 23 percent of children in the UK were living in households earning less than 60 percent of median income, almost double the rate in Germany and five times that in Denmark. It seems that any improvement is at least partially accounted for by the fact that the government revised its definition of poverty from one based on total household income after housing costs, to total household income before housing costs.

      What is clear is that under Labour poverty now encompasses broader sections of the population. This is despite the fact that the IPPR report that the “economy has experienced steady growth since 1993, employment rates have increased and registered unemployment continues to fall.”

      Freezing council tax helps everybody who has to pay it and No tuition fees helps everybody who would be penalised by tuition fees.

      This frenzied right wing Neo Con attitude from labour is exactly why you’re dead and buried in Scotland and on the way out in England and Wales. There is already an established right wing Neo Con party in the UK we never needed more than 1 which is why the other 3 are going nowhere. They scoop up the right wing neo con vote leaving the right wing Neo Con labour wannabes with no support to call their own.

      You want anybody to take note of the utter shite you spew then join the Blue Tories. The Red Tories are done and dusted.

      Ask Jeremy.

      1. “I am confused by all these SNP comments on a Labour blog. Haven’t you people a Scottish Government to attack for doing NOTHING to reduce inequality?”

        Neil I have had a look at all the comments and cannot see the link you refer to as SNP comments this is a Labour blog and you don’t have to be specifically SNP to support Scottish Independence although I detect that you don’t like to hear that and like all the other Red Tories like you want to try to close down debate on Scottish Independence.

  14. What i don’t get and await a proper explanation for is this , why is it a problem if a political party is not registered in Scotland ? We are British and voted to remain so ! I posit the reasons are insidious at best when the Nationalist highlights it as a problem !

    It can’t be for policy reason’s as devolution itself means policy has to be different than UK for most party’s , plus the SNP had mainly copied Labour’s last manifesto any way !

    Is it because it’s registered in England ? What if a party was registered in Belfast or Cardiff ? Would that be a problem or is it just a push by many to say it’s anti Scottish etc :

    Again like when you criticise the SNP we are anti Scottish this falls in this category when in fact we are not anti Scottish but merely highlighting cuts in the NHS etc by the SNP or we are merley registered in another part of Great Britain in which we voted to remain !

    That is one of my biggest problems with the SNP they have more faces than the old town clock !

    1. Alan,
      I wouldn’t worry too much about it.Its a technicality really.Rest assured,the Labour Party in Scotland is still part of the British party.Kezia Dugdale is in the process of bringing in some autonomy for the Labour Party in Scotland,but it wiont become a “separate” party.Sleep easy.

    2. Well one of the things wrong with your misunderstanding of the issues is the fact that Scots will remain British in or out of the Union so nobody voted to remain British Alan all they voted for was to be continually ruled by Tories from Westminster.

      I hope for you its all you wished it would be.

      What Devolved policies have to be different from the UK Alan? Devolution means Scotland is still part of the UK and therefore still subject to UK policy.

      Yes Alan exactly because its registered in England. That makes it an English political party just as political parties registered in Germany are German political parties. See how it works?

      No you are anti Scottish because you deny and oppose the very existence of the separate Scottish identity.

      The SNP haven’t cut anything from the NHS they are the only mainstream party in the UK who actually believes that the NHS belongs in the public sector and not the private where it will be cut up and distributed amongst Tory supporters and backers for profit.

      My problem with pro unionists is their inability to understand anything at all about the actual true constitutional framework of the UK of GB.

      I suspect for example you’re more inclined to support the concept of UK union on the grounds of the consequences of the Battle of the Boyne rather than any issue relating to 21st Century Scotland and its constitution today.

  15. “why is it a problem if a political party is not registered in Scotland ?”

    Alan its not a problem except that the Scottish Labour section is the branch office of the Labour Party UK head office who supported the Tories against giving Scotland the full powers promised in the VOW, therefore Scotland and the Scottish people have been betrayed by Westminster and the UK government and the only hope now over fear is Scotland’s Independence I am sure you would be happy in an Independent Scotland enjoy.

  16. “Britain is utterly salvageable” this is the bit i’ve given up on tbh. Our democracy wobbles between right and centre, with monied interest pushing the centre ever further right. Would it be any different in an independent Scotland, I don’t know but i do think we’d have more influence.

  17. Well I read the article and wondered how Keir Hardie would have reacted to that load of mush, he proberly would have biled Nathaniel’s heed til his earse fell out.

    Honestly does none of you remaining in the labour party get it, Scotland has seen through all your pathitic stories, all your so called future policys are de-bunked within hours, usually by their numpty costings.

    “Keeping APD the same as it is now, doesn’t give you any more MONEY”.

    Labour needs to get real or theres not really any point to you, maybe you should try putting Scotland first before yersels.

    We know our SNP government are not perfect but they are good, and working under financial constraints that labour never had to, even though labour helped create those conditions.

    Our Government in Holyrood look, act and perform in a professional manner, IF ??? they were replaced by the present labour team (joke)who would take them seriously !!!

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