Don’t let the constitution be a distraction from local elections

bmcinlay17-year-old Labour activist Ben McKinlay says while there is a time and a place for constitutional debate we have to stop it dominating Scottish politics, and especially the upcoming local elections.

 

Since 2014, indeed since 2011 when it became apparent that the SNP had enough seats in the Scottish Parliament to call an independence referendum, one question has dominated Scottish politics: the constitution. That question, intended to be settled on the 18th of September 2014, has continued to dominate Scottish politics for half a decade and it is a question that shows no sign of abating soon.

Scottish politics has split into two camps, unionist and nationalist, each united by their animosity towards the other, and this polarisation has had devastating effects on our politics as a whole. No debate, no discussion, no policy proposal is complete without a mention of the constitution, and this constitutional focus has led the real issues which effect the ordinary people of Scotland to be ignored. The result? A failing education system, an NHS in crisis, disastrous cuts to essential public services. We say we are all agreed we want Scotland to be a better, more prosperous place, but our actions simply don’t back that up.

For all the SNP’s protests, the Scottish Parliament does have powers to make a difference, powers that they are refusing to utilise. But the SNP cannot be held solely to blame for the dire situation in which Scottish politics finds itself. For all their protestations about the SNP being concerned only with independence, the Conservatives and Labour have themselves enabled the question of the constitution to define Scottish politics in one way or another.

The constitutional question is important, clearly, but it is far from the be all and end all. The unyielding focus on constitutional politics has led to every vote in Scotland since 2014 being a rerun of the independence referendum. The people of Scotland have largely stopped paying attention to the policies of the party they are voting for, only what their stance is on independence. That is no way to build a modern functioning democracy. This must change.

The importance of this is demonstrated nowhere more clearly than in the upcoming local council elections. Years of austerity have pushed local authority budgets to breaking point, and essential local services are increasingly under threat. The most important consideration when voting on 4th May must surely be which candidate, which party, will offer the best protection to these services which local people rely on. But there is a very real risk that that this vote will instead turn into yet another rerun of the independence referendum, with Scotland split between the nationalist SNP and the unionist Conservatives while those trying to offer real action to improve the lives of local people are squeezed out.

There is a time and a place for the constitutional question to be debated and Scottish Labour would do well to keep in mind that there is a strong case to be made that the situation the UK finds itself in has indeed changed dramatically from 2014. But local council elections are absolutely the wrong place for that argument to be discussed. Local councillors have no powers over the constitution but they do have powers over vital services local people rely on every day, services the SNP and the Conservatives have little interest in running effectively. If people vote on the basis of the constitutional question, the results could be disastrous. But if instead people decide to vote based on the issues which really matter, it could be the start of a real positive change to Scottish politics.

It’s time we as a country stop putting the constitution at the heart of every political debate. For too long, our politics has been held in stasis by that question, and the real issues have been left at the wayside. The constitutional question is not going away any time soon – that by now should be clear – but at the same time we cannot allow it to override every debate, discussion and policy proposal.

It’s time to redefine the debate, and get back to discussing the real, relevant issues. There is a time and a place to discuss the constitution. But that is not where we could be making real change instead.

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21 thoughts on “Don’t let the constitution be a distraction from local elections

  1. “Don’t let the constitution be a distraction from local elections”

    Ah so Labour and the Conservatives will no longer give each other their second vote tactically at local level anymore?

    “That question, intended to be settled on the 18th of September 2014″

    Eh no son the question can ONLY be settled when we gain our Independence. like it was with every other Independent country ever to exist.

    ” and this constitutional focus has led the real issues which effect the ordinary people of Scotland to be ignored.”

    How can that be true when Labour and the Conservatives do nothing but attack the Scottish Governments record on everything they do?

    Did you miss the big debate on the budget?

    “The result? A failing education system, an NHS in crisis, disastrous cuts to essential public services.”

    Not relative to Labour controlled Wales or Tory controlled England sunshine where there the constitutional debate is all about Brexit.

    “We say we are all agreed we want Scotland to be a better, more prosperous place, but our actions simply don’t back that up.”

    Seriously? WTF do you think the constitutional debate is all about? The fight for Independence is all about getting Scotland to a place where we can be a more prosperous place its morons like you who is holding us back.

    “For all the SNP’s protests, the Scottish Parliament does have powers to make a difference, powers that they are refusing to utilise.”

    No sunshine the Scottish Parliament has responsibilities but lacks the power and the means to deal with them effectively. Thanks to Labours gift of Devo Nano minus in 1999 the failure of the Calman commission and the failure of the Smith commission and the failure to deliver on the Vow.

    “The constitutional question is important, clearly, but it is far from the be all and end all.”

    Yes it really actually is. Our Constitutional make up effects every policy every issue in every way imaginable. Its our constitutional position which determines how effectively we’re able to cope with everything else and if you cant understand that then you have no business talking politics anywhere to anybody.

    And then it goes off into a predictable whine about local funding as if the “CONSTITUTIONAL” arrangement whereby our budget is controlled by Westminster has nothing to do with any of it.

    Where the fuck does Labour find these drones? Are you farming them?

    1. A young bloke quite new to politics expresses an opinion in a measured way. He might be wrong. You think he is. So you call him a moron and a drone. Do you regret this or is it the way we should debate?

    2. Ben has certainly got a few things wrong, but you need to cut him some slack. There are problems with the N.H.S. mostly due to lack of funding,which is in turn dependent on funding levels south of the border, but it has not been described as “…a humanitarian crisis,” as the Red Cross described N.H.S. in England. A service that has effectively been privatised according to noted health economist Dr Alyson Pollock. Similarly, while Police Scotland has had a couple of problems, one third of forces in England were described as sub standard last week. As a former education professional of almost forty years, I can tell you that the system is not failing. The major problem we have is not one set of P.I.S.A . stats, it is the effect of poverty on the bottom 10-20% of pupils.
      On the bigger picture, the U.K. in which labour wants to remain doesn’t exist any longer. We are now heading towards Brexit Britain. That Britain is one the Whitehall/Westminster establishment fondly imagines will be a northern hemisphere Singapore/Hong Kong surviving on financial services and fiscal transfers to fund what’s left of the state; a low wage, low skills, low services, gig economy state. That’s not going to happen. Europe is not going to surrender financial passporting rights. If you listen closely you can hear Hamburg, Paris and even Dublin licking their lips in anticipation. You saw May last week going with the begging bowl looking for a trade deal with Trump. Any such deal will involve U.S. Health insurance companies getting their hooks into the N.H.S. Again if you listen, you can hear them rubbing their piggy wee hands together. You’ll also be eating hormone injected meat, chlorine washed chicken and G.M. crops.
      As I say, Ben got a few things wrong, but give him a break – he’s exactly the kind of voter we need to win over.

  2. What we have here is a young impressionable young man taking on board ideas and rhetoric he clearly WANTED to believe.
    I know he didnt research anything in order to substantiate the so often repeated Labour party rhetoric he’s just articulated as if it all just occurred to him because none of it has ever had any substance or basis of evidence based fact to support it.

    Scottish NHS bad when in relative terms its never been better in its entire history and its in far better shape than the NHS anywhere else in the UK.
    Education in Scotland bad because a single report written by a Tory appointed quango says so in spite of all the previous reports telling us our education standards are the best in the UK.
    Local funding squeezed but thats not because the overall Scottish budget is being squeezed at Westminster which Labour fails to oppose.

    I would have more respect if these impressionable young men where to write something of their own relative to just spewing well worn discredited rhetoric over and over as if it was their own thought process that got them to it.

    If you have a real genuine point of view thats your very own then lets here it. We can get more than our fill of rhetoric from anywhere in Labour.

    If you’ve got something new or factual to offer then lets see it otherwise spare us just another round of SNP Bad because they just are.

  3. Ben,
    when you say “Local councillors have no powers over the constitution but they do have powers over vital services local people rely on every day, services the SNP and the Conservatives have little interest in running effectively”. Would you please give us your evidence, why the SNP and the Conservatives have little interest in running these vital services effectively.
    Also, in your reply please make reference to Labour run Lanarkshire council.
    Ben, one more thing, if you think you can trot out platitudes that treat the electorate like fucking idiots, think again. Those days are over.

    1. OK. How is this for evidence. In North Ayrshire, the opposition SNP Group told the Labour administration to “accept the £9.2m cut offered by Derek Mackay and get on with running the Council”. The Labour Leader, Joe Cullinane, refused to do this and, as a result, a final result of £5,7m of cuts was reached. Clearly the SNP were happy to manage greater cuts to our budget than Labour were. Nuff said.

      1. Im still missing the bit where Labour take responsibility for not opposing the Scottish budget cuts at Westminster.
        Every single cut to every single budget in the UK is down specifically to the ideological austerity program being run by the UK Government. The same austerity program labour had included within their own election manifesto.
        Thats what the austerity program is all about Jim Bob. Its about ensuring everybody suffers from cuts so our illustrious Government in Westminster can spend our revenues on the important stuff like warmongering Trident renewal PFI PPP bank bailouts and large Corporate tax giveaways.
        Of course a simple solution would be to remove Westminster form the equation altogether but you’re far too corrupt and self serving to even consider that as the obvious solution.

      2. Isnt that one of the Labour councils who have refused to increase the council tax after whining about the tax freeze for the last 9 years?

        1. Oh Mike. It’s not often you are right, but you;re wrong again. If you had looked at the date of that post, you might have noticed that it is a year old and refers to the 2016 ANP budget

      3. Jim,
        Best regards.
        First of all I have to state I have a strong bond to North Ayrshire. I spent a glorious 15 years living and raising a family in Dalry, my children went to Dalry Primary School and Glengarnock Academy. Both schools gave my kids a great education.
        Jim, I think you are mistaken. It appears that you still only perceive one party capable of running Scotland at council level.
        That is a mistake.
        Labour are not Scotland’s political aristocracy any longer, and Scotland does not need another political dynasty. There is a lot wrong with the governance of Scotland.
        My inclination now is to put aside the old petty political preferences and place the common good before all other.
        Jim, is there a way through this malaise?

  4. We’d probably have more luck campaigning on the constitution than local issues here.
    My Mrs is a Unison rep and they’re still waiting for a settlement of the equal opportunities cases they raised with the council years ago.
    Then there’s the spectacle of the allegedly cash strapped council paying out £1M in consultant’s fees for a new council HQ (£19M or £21M, depending on which council document you read) before cancelling it outright. £1M straight down the pan. CLP members told the councillors that the plan was a suicide note but they pressed right on until even they couldn’t ignore the numbers.
    Or what about giving the Orange Order a grant to help pay for a march through the town? No doubt the Better Together clique approved.
    And, of course, we’re in coalition with the Tories.
    I’ll be pleasantly surprised if anybody votes for us. I went to the selection meeting for our ward and 8 voting members turned up. This is in what should be a Labour stronghold.
    My late aunt’s dad was the Labour Provost of the Burgh in the 1960s. I’m glad he’s not around to see this shambles. He was a great man to the young me.

    1. Sarcasm is uncalled for here.

      Ben has written an article stating the obvious – that the constitutional debate is the key issue at this time – and you suggest ‘well thought out’. Truth is that even someone as young as Ben must realise that the only chance Scotland has of escaping right wing Tory policies is to choose a different path for the country by giving our own government full powers. Until we take that step, councils will continue to struggle with inadequate resources caused by Westminster austerity feeding down the system.

      May’s election is ALL about voting for pro-independence candidates, but ordering them according to how likely they are to be good councillors.

  5. Great stuff Ben keep going Falkirk I am very sorry to see what has happened in your area . P LEASE don’t give up keep fighting

  6. Its good to see youngsters getting involved in shaping the country’s future. Mike’s rebuttal of Ben’s assertions was perhaps more “robust” than was necessary but the core of his argument is correct.

    Ben’s claims are basic Labour rote. Which is understandable given his choice of Party, youth and subsequent desire to shine within it.

    However, until he realises that the constitution is NOT just an abstract side issue but the very basis of everything we can and want to do as a country, he will simply be another unimaginative Unionist blind to reality.

    While we remain under the Union, ANY Scottish Govt of ANY hue will always be acting with at least one hand tied behind its back, forcibly blinkered and some one else restricting its actions both fiscally and legislatively.

    Only Independence will allow Scotland the chance to fully address the problems Ben outlines without having to glance over its shoulder to ensure we have the tacit approval of a “higher power” (not such a problem with an SNP Govt in Holyrood). A power we will almost always have had no real influence in electing and more often than not, will have rejected decisively at the polls.

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