To be or not to be? If that is the question, asks ANN McKECHIN, shouldn’t we be told?


Congratulations to Tom and Kezia for setting up this site – I very much welcome this new initiative to stimulate progressive political debate here in Scotland and I’m sure interest will continue to grow.

This week, Michael Moore repeatedly tied himself in knots over the “Referendum Question” by suggesting that his personal view is that this should be a two stage process – a first “advisory “referendum by the Scottish Government which, if successful, would give them a mandate to open negotiations on separation with the UK Government, and then, a second referendum to ratify any deal struck.  No government minister should ever use the phrase “in my personal view” in an official interview, and hours later he was promptly knocked back by his own Prime Minister, and party leader, who both refused to back his assertions.

Let’s be clear: Labour doesn’t believe that separating Scotland from the rest of the UK is in Scotland’s best interests – we believe there is a positive and compelling argument to remain in a successful partnership that has served us well for many generations and provides us with the best opportunity to meet the challenges of an increasingly volatile world.

However, you do have to wonder why the SNP, which was established for the sole purpose of achieving separation regardless of circumstances, has so much trouble in telling its fellow Scots what the question will be and when they would get to answer the question. Mr Salmond has hinted that the referendum would consist of three questions, while his colleagues Nicola Sturgeon and Stewart Maxwell seemed to be reading from a slightly different script earlier this week. stating on Newsnight that there would be “one referendum with a clear question and people will get the opportunity to vote yes or no”. If it’s a clear simple question, why not let the Scottish people know now and exactly when they will get the opportunity to answer it?

Does Alex Salmond seriously think it is credible to state he doesn’t know the question about the subject that dominates his every waking hour? And if you sincerely do believe that separation is always best – why wait?

This is from a government that has already spent four years on the “National Conversation” – a grand scheme to promote the nationalist dream that no one can remember what was said or how it would improve their daily lives.

Now the SNP have the majority at Holyrood, what  could possibly be the problem? Surely it couldn’t be that they don’t trust the people of Scotland to answer the question correctly?

Ann McKechin is the Shadow Scottish Secretary and Labour MP for Glasgow North. She is a former Scotland Office minister.

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18 thoughts on “Confusion reigns

  1. What this post indicates is the growing gap in policy and attitude between Scottish Labour MPs – and those Labour politicians that actually work in Scotland and get involved in Scottish politics. There have been a number of positive, brave and thoughtful posts from local commentators on what went wrong in May, why Labour is now so unpopular in Scotland and why a change of approach is needed. In contrast, those who focus their careers on Westminster seem to have, in the main, learned nothing.

    Simplistic, lazy and aggressive claims of Salmond thinking of independence in “his every waking hour” and the SNP existing for “sole purpose of achieving separation regardless of circumstances” are utterly self-delusional. And what’s more, negativity such as this was utterly ineffective in 2007 and 2011 SP elections. These are burnt-out arguments – Labour members deserve better leadership.

    Scottish Labour needs to deal with the issue that those most interested in the preservation of the status quo are probably the Labour MPs that would lose their jobs. Furthermore, as a number of other commentators have pointed out the Scottish Party needs to re-organise around Scottish politics – CLPs replaced by SCLPs, leadership with full Scottish remit instead of group leadership within Holyrood and a removal of the natural deference to MPs as the senior politicians within the party.

    1. You’re saying that Scottish MPs are not involved in Scottish politics? So Angus Robertson, Ann Mckechin, Michael Moore – they’re all “London-based” and know nothing of Scotland?

      1. Tom, I think what Chris was hinting at was Labour need to identify who and what the vested interests are in “keeping” Scotland in the UK. Once you do this then we can have a discussion on how these vested interests can be harnessed for the betterment of all in our nation. My argument is thes “interests” have a value and should be exploited for all. No Unionist party has ever exploited this value for us.
        I am afraid that with out this you will always be seen to be manouvering in the wake of the SNP.

        One of the posts by Malcolm Cunning implied the making of Scotland was the Union. You will not get a disagreement from me on that fact. Mainly because there was nothing else. So how do you gauge that this the best it can be? Ann’s article above would seem to imply a paucity of vision, given the changing political scene in Europe and elsewhere.
        I would say I see the current UK union as having run its course. Are there any other models we should avail ourselves of? Answer is staring us in the face across the North Sea.

        As I have said before, Be Bold!

  2. The National Conversation where so much of the Nationaist Agenda and hype
    prior to the election focused has produced very little. This begs the question was the conversation one sided and could not be heard above the noise from happy clappers which clearly follow Mr Salmond and his crew around?
    Alternatively they heard the responses and ignored them. Trotting out consulatation is not an excuse for doing’s just the abnegation of responsibility….and we need to get that message accross.

  3. I think the last sentence is spot on. The last thing that he wants is to allow people to have the opportunity to express their opinion before he has had the chance to condition them. The National Conversation clearly did not give the momentum required and fizzled out into expensive obscurity. As you rightly point out the majority at the Scottish Parliament is SNP they can go at any time. Their difficulty is going to be trying to convince the electorate, who voted Labour for Westminster to combat the excesses of the Tories, that the Union does not work, that the Supreme Court is interferring with Scottish matters and that we are being ripped off by the Treasury. They are the only people that believe that. Eventually it will become a complete switch off and people will eventually realise that the SNP stand for constant bickering and moaning. Their cry of it is always someone elses fault is starting to wear thin. When the electorate realise that this is what is on offer, who would vote for that?

  4. Raymond

    I suspect that you would have said all that a few months ago as your reasons for believing that Labour would win on 5 May 2011.

    1. The arguments don’t change they increase as time goes by as people see for themselves what they have voted for, democracy is a wonderful thing.

      1. Indeed. I imagine that’s why the SNP had 1 more seat than Labour in 2007, then people saw for themselves what they’d voted for in government, and now the SNP have 32 more seats than Labour…

        1. Fair point. The SNP did a good job with Alex Salmond at the helm steering them away from any serious issues in the constitution and people voted for that. At local authority level and at Scottish Parliamentary level the SNP have a presence as they appeared to be sticking to a mainstream political agenda. What is now happening is what the real agenda actually is which is independence and that is where the electorate will see for themselves what they have voted for and if they are happy with that prospect because it was very quiet as an issue during the election campaign.

  5. It is strange that we again see a massive disconnect between local and scottish oriented members and MP’s. If both have Scotland’s interests at heart, why do we see such a wide range in thought. It seems to me that the MP’s are in a time warp and have convinced themselves that Scots will always support them in a Westminster election, no matter what. I am sure that Andy Kerr and others who lost on May 5 had the same view.

    Assuming electoral success years ahead of the election is a fatal move, and one that appears to be widespread among the MP’s.

    We need to see more engagement of MP’s at the local level instead of top down tomes post as solutions.

  6. Regardless of how the referendum question/s is phrased
    ALL the pro United Kingdom party’s should be working together
    as one on a ‘Yes’ to Scotland within the ‘UK’

    Let the seperationists tie them selves up in the Gordian knot
    of a multi option referendum the Uniters should be focused on
    achieving one clear overwhelming ‘yes’ result.

    Time is short and the enemy is at the gates

    1. Er, you don’t get to decide what the question(s) is/are, or which answers are denoted Yes and No. You could have had considerable influence in that area had you not been so determined to obstruct a referendum in the last Parliament, but now all the cards are in the SNP’s hands.

  7. HOOTS

    with the malign intend behind your comment we have thank the lord Westminster is there to oversee and protect those from diverse political partys and none from the snps hands.

    1. I’d respond to that, but on a Saturday I’m going to have a hard time finding someone to translate it into English first.

  8. I think we have to remember that Scotland is basically a socialist country regardless of which party people vote for (apart from the tories of course). We should do more to align as opposed to the current rock throwing!

  9. Anne, could you expand on the positive aspect of your discourse? “we believe there is a positive and compelling argument to remain in a successful partnership that has served us well for many generations and provides us with the best opportunity to meet the challenges of an increasingly volatile world.” This seems to be a positive sentence left flying in the wind- What is the positive and compelling argument to the union which acts in Scotland’s favour? Just how does it provide the best opportunity to meet the challenges of an increasingly volatile world? Some may say we as the UK go along way towards making this an increasingly volatile world. The “punching above our weight” argument doesn’t sit well in today’s economic climate, if that is where your argument stems from. Is this the opportunity to become tied up in wars not in our interest, costing billions whilst we scrape the pennies together to attempt to go about our everyday business? People are managing to regain perspective on what matters- and that means getting the basics of life in place not playing a high flying role in world diplomacy, far removed from the concerns of the woman or man in the street. Until the Labour Party regain the same perspective, recovery will be slow if not impossible.

  10. Guys, Is it just me? or is Labourhame withering on the vine?

    As an interested observer and commentator I find plenty to cogitate over. But there seems to be a lack of input from Labour members?

    Here is one for you to mull over, go to Iain MacWhirters blog of 30th June, and look at his take on Quebec. Makes very interesting reading and if you’re up for it, a suitable model to propose to the Scottish electorate in 2015?

    Just a thought from an interested observer….

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