JAMES CHALMERS argues that Scottish Labour has lost its way. To rediscover its historic roots it should turn to modern Scandinavia as a social democratic model to emulate in Scotland.

 

A comment on Labour Hame in August said “Of course Labour is a right of centre party, those are the realities which we face. The debt must be cut, albeit less quickly than with the Tories. The economy must start moving again …”

I think, more than anything else I have read on from Labour in the last few years, this sums up the reasons for Scottish Labour’s rejection by so many Scots.

Like many, perhaps most, Scots of my (baby boomer) generation, I grew up in a family and with friends where voting for Labour was an ‘of course’. My mother’s family were West Fife miners. Of course we were members of the ‘Store’ (the Co-op for younger readers). Of course my granddad was a Labour activist and of course everyone we knew shared our views.

They and we had a vision for the future where we lived in a just and equitable society, where, of course, you were rewarded for your efforts, but, of course, no-one should be rewarded excessively, certainly not for greed and self-serving.

All that started to die during the Thatcher years. Its final death-knell was the Special Conference of the 1995 British Labour Party in 1995. Now Labour is just another right wing Tory-lite party whose priorities are “… to cut the debt and to start the economy moving again …”

The founding generation and the generations of Labour activists who followed them, not least the generation of the great Atlee government years, must be revolving in their graves. Modern Labour is a betrayal of all they stood for and a betrayal of the hopes and fears of the ordinary folk of Britain and of Scotland who voted for them in 2010. The vote for Labour in Scotland was, I think, in the hope of keeping out a Tory government whose priorities were “…to cut the debt and to start the economy moving again…” and to hell with the social consequences. It failed, for the Liberal Democrats sold their souls, too, and became yet another Tory-lookalike party.

For there is an alternative. It’s still alive and an everyday reality for the folk in the Scandinavian social democracies. Aye, well, but Salmond’s “arc of prosperity” isn’t looking so good today, I hear you say, with the failure of Iceland. Yes, Iceland failed, because it, too, forgot its social democratic ideals and let its banks gamble with their depositors money. The other Scandinavian social democracies, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway, have weathered the economic storms of the last few years with little damage and their folk are still prosperous and happy. They are living examples of how to implement the old Labour dream. Read Wilkinson and Picket’s “The Spirit Level” and see how the Scandinavian countries come out near the top on every measure that contributes to happiness and contentment, despite paying the highest taxes in the world. The secret .. social equality.

But there’s very little social equality in Britain today. All the right wing governments since Thatcher’s, including Blair’s and Brown’s Labour governments, have put paid to that.

Many English folk seem to like that, and that’s fine for them, but many Scots seem not to. In the past, they put their trust in Labour to deliver a socially equitable society, but Labour has betrayed them. Nowadays there seems to be an alternative for Scots, another party that incorporates the social democratic dream of a just and equitable society, and is beginning to put it into practice. That party has concluded, however, that it’s not possible to realise this dream for Scots while remaining in a Union with an England moving ever farther to the right.

So what’s the way forward for Scottish Labour? There are two choices. Carry on as you are, as another right wing unionist party, and expect to fade away in Scotland as the Tories have done and the Liberal Democrats are doing. Alternatively, find your heritage again, become a party working towards a just and equitable society in Scotland, and you may find Scots returning to your fold.

However, I fear you cannot do the latter as long as Scotland remains part of the UK.

James Chalmers is now retired after working in the oil industry as a geophysicist. He lives in Copenhagen, but still has strong connections to Scotland.

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52 thoughts on “Has Scottish Labour Lost its Way?

  1. James,

    If we always do what we’ve always done
    We’ll always get what we always got

    …..DECLINE for both the Labour Party and Scotland

    Scottish Labour need to get busy living or get busy dying because that’s where we are at.

  2. Not the “we didn’t win because we weren’t left wing enough” argument. By shouting “betrayal” you’re not claiming the moral high ground, you’re just being self indulgent and fails to take a look at the electoral map.

    Let’s look at 4 seats. Coatbridge & Chryston, East Kilbride, Strathkelvin & Bearsden and Eastwood.

    All we’re Labour seats in the last parliament(although Eastwood was marginally Tory after the Boundary review). Two are quite affluent areas, which you would not describe as traditionally left. The other two are bastions support for left wing politics. If you are correct and we should expect Labour to lose the left seats and keep the right leaning seats.

    However that’s not what happened and it is representative of Labour’s electoral experience as a whole. Labour held Eastwood and Coatbridge & Chryston but lost the other two. In fact if you study the preliminary results of the SES 2011, you will find Labour lost support from all walks of life.

    The simple truth is Labour did not lose because we were too right wing. We also did not lose because we were too left wing. We lost because we had no real strategy other than to hug the SNP close policy wise and not talk about divergent policies. Our problem was that the SNP had one value that they talked to the electorate about and that was their passionate belief in Scotland. The electorate then looked at the Labour party and silence on most issues told them nothing about our values. And because they didn’t know where we stood, they didn’t know if we were on their side.

    I’m sorry if this doesn’t fit into your narrative of the evil right of the Labour party doing evil things. But it is a more accurate analysis of state of play.

  3. If anyone had bothered to canvas round the old mining areas in Fife pre May 2011 they would have heard what is articulated here on a great many doorsteps.

    If I had a pound for every time I heard “I have not left the Labour party son (Im 65 everyone below ninety is son in Fife) I would be rich. But of course Labour would not hear that as no one went and asked them, they just assumed it would be count the votes as usual.

    Every time someone said that to me I asked the same question “are we just getting a wee loan of your vote and will you revert to Labour again” in about 80% to 90% of the time I was told no, you will keep my vote as long as you keep doing what you are doing now.

    I canvassed five days a week for seven weeks before May and in all that time I saw two Labour people, which probably tells you more than this article.

  4. Opps, should have read,

    If I had a pound for every time I heard “I have not left the Labour party son (Im 65 everyone below ninety is son in Fife) they left me”.

  5. Double opps

    I canvassed five days a week for seven weeks before May and in all that time I saw two Labour people, which probably tells you more than this article.

    Should have said Labour atavists, things are not that bad guys.

    1. you can do to change hgints long term is to push your local unions and try having them working to engage people in politics. Labour can only be freed by labour itself. Democracy has to be bottom-up. I would recommend applying extra-parliamentary pressure to parties. Social Democracy is nothing without a peoples movement and a teaspoon of sound populism. Parties are slow, stupid machines and will always be in the hands of capital until people have a mass movement and can force them to listen. It’s like a combination of the Chinese political attitude to fix social issues before they become political ones and our western parliamentary democracy. Social Democratic parties are hollow shells that imitate the right if there’s no movement to guide them.Myself, i live in a rather small place, although autonomous with it’s own parliament. We’re about 30 000 people. Politics has become passivised and the Social Democrats here have moved to the right with guidance of their idiot leader. I am part of an independent youth organisation which was founded with two purposes: 1. Learn together and teach each other and 2. Take part in politics without engaging directly with the parliament. We’ve taken part in politics for about a year now and we have achieved quite a lot by just pushing. We’re invited to most debates and fora. It’s been easier than we thought it would be. What we’re trying to do is to make sure people voting for the Social Democratic Party do so because they trust the party will listen to them and never otherwise. We want to eliminate the voter-party democratic deficit. It’s working quite well thus far and people we know in the party are sensing a little bit of internal struggle. The hope is to get the leader replaced before next election. None of us aspire to have that position, we just want the party to be better disciplined by it’s voters.There will always be sensible people in these parties, but they seldom have the courage to question and challenge the leadership and hierarchical structure. Once they feel their opinions have voter-support, they do.Oh geez. I don’t know if that’s a good answer, but hopefully you get the message. Political parties will never cannot be disciplined passively by voters leaving them, but have to be so through the voters communicating directly with them.

    2. I’m not going to pretend money doesn’t play a part woihtut any cash at all then you can’t get your message over. I also won’t lie and say the SNP didn’t have more cash than they’ve ever had before but Martinb hits the nail on the head. The SNP were streets ahead because they had the policies and the people; members and supporters were phoning up local offices and just asking how to give money. There was a massive snowballing effect of feel-good factors meaning people were enthused and spoke with their wallets, and their ballots. If the Labour party are going to sit there and mope about not having the pennies to win, then they’re in for a bit of a shock!!! It doesn’t actually take any money to send out a couple of emails highlighting Iain Gray running into a Subway . Most of that’s done entirely for free by people with a passion for what the SNP stand for. Those cyber nats who don’t get any of this training or briefing or anything you mention. Was it not Jeff, from this very site that showed how much each party spent during the (I think) Euro Elections, and how many votes they got from that?I suppose I should be quite heartened to hear that Labour still can’t identify why they’ve lost, for partisan reasons. But for democratic reasons, it would be nice to actually have an opposition now and again.

  6. I don’t think we need to change that much. We just need to shout a bit louder to get our message across to the voters and bash the SNP harder.

    1. Whilst we can all appreciate your frustration Richard, it may not be prudent to bash a party from which we copied our election manifesto promises.
      And shouting is best left to our friends on the football terraces whose antics and comments on whether a players parents are in wedlock, what his God-bothering preferences are, or whether his wife enjoys the attentions of his friends, we think are so important to protect.

  7. This article is,I think,essential reading for the Labour leadership.We all need to question why in Iceland,even in the grip of a financial crisis,the standard of living is so much better than in Scotland.
    Are people who support Scottish independence welcome in the Labour Party? If not,can any one give me a good reason why not? Is continued London rule really so important to Labour in Scotland?

    1. kev, yours is a question that I have asked many times. Why is it so necessary for Labour to completely reject Independence in order to meet its aims? It means that Labour provides no home for Independence-minded left of centre people.

    2. I agree with you Kev., Labour should see what is better for Scotland, and I think we all know that most people know there is no future for any union with England, because at the end of the day, it only is an advantage to England, and the Scots are smart enough to manage their own affairs in a more proffessional and caring manner than what London rule can deliver.

  8. Some of our policies are centre-left and others are centre-right. The balance is satisfactory but we just have to sell it better. The rats have not deserted a sinking ship for ever; they are just wating to be invited on board once again.

  9. I think Mr Chalmers is correct to identify the slow death of Labour in Scotland as starting from the Thatcher years. Whilst they may have proved popular in opposition to Thatcher (although the feeble fifty didn’t actually do that much to stop her), as soon as the New Labour project was invented to capture English votes by making Labour a Thatcherite party (that is not an anti-English comment incidentally,it is just a statement of fact), Labour in Scotland were in trouble.

    New Labour as a brand never caught on here, & so Labour in Scotland were stuck between a rock & a hard place. They couldn’t be too New Labour because Scots didn’t like that, but they couldn’t be too old Labour because that would have set them apart as a distinctly separate Labour brand, a Scottish brand, & that would have been seen as semi-nationalistic.

    It’s a place they still occupy, between a rock & a hard place.

    I agree completely with Mr Chalmers that if Labour is to have a future in Scotland it must become a Scottish party, it must stand for fairness & social justice & a redistribution of wealth. That is the bit that has been missing from Labour in the past thirty years. The redistribution of wealth. They should try pushing that message again, they might find it is quite popularm & we have evidence from the Nordic states that it works.

    However I also agree with Mr Chalmers that it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for Labour in Scotland to push that message in the current constitutional set up, which binds them to following more or less the same policies as the party south of the border, because in practical terms they have to.

  10. It is an interesting fact that the much-mocked “arc of prosperity” countries are now proven to STILL be better off than us,in every way. In the midst of their deepest depressions, they have consistently shown themselves to be more prosperous and equal than our own society, somehow. I don’t want to “do Scotland down”, but I believe these countries are measurably better than our own for one simple reason – they govern themselves, and have discretion in regard to their own fiscal policies.

    Also, they have been shown the neoliberal future, in it’s full naked form, and have rejected it fully after a huge sacrifice to it’s appetite. These nations will go from strength to strength now that their vampires have been sated and thrown out temporarily.

  11. For those interested in what Scotland can learn take from the Nordic model, I’d recommend checking out Nordic Horizons, a “thinktank”/series of discussions hosted by Lesley Riddoch for this purpose: http://www.nordichorizons.org/

  12. One of the best articles I’ve read on Labour hame. I could not agree more with the author.

    I’d recommend readers watch this documentary from Rough Justice Films on the history of the Labour party to date.

    http://tinyurl.com/76ldyhf

    Labour may appear ‘left’ in England, but to Scots it’s clearly centre right, just a little less so than the Tories. Scots after all don’t just look at Scottish Labour (MSPs), but they look to the Westminster party to make their judgement; both are after all the same party.

    Watching Labour (a supposedly left of centre party) oppose the SNP (a definite left of centre party) and side with the Tories is ridiculous.

    Stand up for Scotland again Scottish Labour. Break free and go back to your Scottish roots.

    1. “the SNP (a definite left of centre party)”

      I almost choked on my tea there!

      The SNP may have some policies which are more left leaning than Labour policies. But things such as a desire to cut coporation tax, not wanting higher personal tax for top earners, a reluctance to regulate busses and a hatred of trade unions indicates a party that is definitely NOT left of centre.

      The SNP have always managed to play the trick of appearing left wing to those on the left, and right wing to those on the right (have you ever wondered where all those people who used to vote tory went? They didnt all emigrate!).

      1. http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

        It is possible to have some policies that are ‘right’ and some ‘left’ economically, likewise some ‘authoritarian’, some ‘libertarian’ socially. Taking all policies into perspective, you can still land in the middle/slightly left of centre.

        I feel the SNP are attracting voters because they have policies which appeal to all; the left, the right, the ‘conservative’, the liberal (making them just modestly left of centre overall) That is what government is supposed to do is it not; try to accomodate as best as possible the views of all voters? Certainly, the success of the SNP has a lot to do with this it seems.

        The SNP have certainly captured the hearts and minds of many Scots. It might be wise to ask why rather than bringing up the silly old ‘Tartan Tory’ myth; it clearly doesn’t wash with the electorate (don’t insult their intelligence by saying they’re being fooled….).

        And also, don’t mistake a scottish ‘conservative’ for a neo-liberal. That’s why the Tories have died up here; they don’t get the Scots.

    2. Whilst I agree that our campaign was terbirly short of funding I still think the money issue is a bit of a red herring- and what you say Aidan is reflective of the attitude within the party. If the Scottish Labour party asked me and other members for ideas, footwork or phonework as often as they asked me for money they might’ve got somewhere.To be honest I struggle to pay my subs every month so donating more money for the campaign was almost out of the question (I did it anyway out of guilt eventually).It comes back to lack of imagination- I, like many others have a mobile phone contract with free minutes I’ll never use, I’d happily have spent a couple of hours phoning on behalf of the party at my own expense- but no, phonebanking has to be done in a room, 30 miles away from my house, at a specific time, on a specific day with other activists.The finance issue you raised also brings the focus back to what we do during campaigns- the reason we’ve lost our way (mistress of the understatement me!) is that we only invest (time and money) during campaigns. Save for a few seats that I know of- there is very little campaigning or ongoing community involvement/profile raising outwith the quantifiable time leading up to an election.It doesn’t cost any money to write to a newspaper, attend a meeting about park benches or dog poo and it doesn’t cost any money to go out and knock on a few doors and chat to a few people. Scottish Labour has lost its presence in our communities- that’s what we need to work on.Of course in order to do this we will need to find a way to reconnect with members and get them active again. I honestly have no idea how we’re going to do this. We obviously need a new leader to inspire us but just who the heck do we choose given the options?The SNP had more money than us for sure but they also had more activist willing and able to do the work- and the work was clever and well co-ordinated- you can’t buy that.

    3. As someone who has seen the binge dkinring culture with Scotland’s youth First Hand, I take huge issue with the caffeine ban. Some are saying it is well intentioned but in focussing on one product, furthering drawing attention to Labour’s status as Scotland’s reactionary party.Furthermore, I could have a stab at people who drink buckfast and high sugar alcopops, and I can tell you 100% it dwarfs into comparison with people who on average nights out mix energy drinks with spirits. Ask any nightclub in Glasgow what their number one vodka mixer is and I would bet the vast majority will say Red Bull (or a variant thereof). Our biggest pub chain in weatherspoons advertise cheap cocktails which contain 2 cans of Monster (twice as bad as the market leader in terms of damage, and I should know, I once worked for a company that got caseloads of it for free, and it really does cause havoc) that Jackie Bailie et al havent even mentioned this phenomonon shows just how misguided their policy is. Can one even legislate on such things? Perhaps a clause which encourages positive education on mixing caffeinated drinks with spirits (as I maintained, a much bigger concern than buckfast) would go much further to adress some of the Social Problems rightly highlighted

  13. The UK can never be a social democratic state.

    Scotland is fundamentally a social democratic country.

    If Scottish Labour were a social democratic party then it would align itself with Scottish aspirations and be demanding greater powers for the Scottish Parliament to enable it to create a fair and just society in Scotland and protect it from Westminster predation.

    If only Scottish Labour was a social democratic party …………………..

  14. Labour Hame has good post shocker…

    The problem for Scottish Labour is two fold. Firstly, there are two many people at the top of the party who are from the right of the party – a legacy of the selection process for the 1999 Scottish Elections. As a result, the thinking and the policies are from a scottish perspective centre/right.

    Secondly, there aint any great ideas coming from Labours left wing.

  15. Nigel, Please reply to Kev and Farochie regarding those that are left of centre but believe in independence. Is there a place for them in the Scottish Labour party?

    1. Richard,

      I’ll be very happy helping you reply to Kev and Farochie:

      Is there a place for Unionists in the SNP? Thought not!

      1. What kind of reply is that?
        So heres me, a life long labour supporter but I have no problems seeing Scotland leave the union, then what is the point in me supporting labour if you are to be like that, and if Labour is so against Independence to the point of being narrow minded, then its no the party I used to know and want to know.
        What did the last election results tell you? Think about it, Labour needs to change with the times and what the people of Scotland want.

          1. Clegg hasn’t flubbed it at all.Labour were never poprerly serious about coalition talks. The Tories were. They are likely to come out with 6 cabinet posts in areas of genuine importance. Clegg understood that painful decisions about the pubic finances were necessary over the coming year or so and that a coalition commanding a majority would have the best chance of selling the austerity measures and calming markets. The lib-dems were never going to secure agreement on proportional representation without a referendum. It would have been daft to reject a coalition on that basis and the party would have lost public support if they had done so. There are certainly risks from entering a coalition with the Tories but there are also potential rewards. Most importantly, they can demonstrate over the next few years that they can be trusted in government and they may actually be able to preside over implementation of elements of their manifesto. In undermining the coalition talks, Labour have been too clever by half.

        1. Ofcourse there is a place for people who believe in independence in the Labour party. Like there is a place for CND members in the party regardless of the UK policy on retaining a nuclear deterrent or a place for Welsh AMs in the party who vehemently opposed foundation hospitals in Wales. Parties are broad churches. If you believe the underlying policy messages of a fairer more just and prosperous Scotland then Labour is your party. But you may be dissapointed in the fact the party is Unionist. But what matters more to you, the building of a socially just Scotland? or an Independent Scottish state? If its the latter then Labour may not be the best port of call, but if it is a socially just Scotland regardless of the consitutional parameters then Labour is your party.

          I believe in the UK, I think we do well in it, and we can build a Scotland we want within the UK, just as the Welsh are under devolution despite the coalition at Westminster. The thing is this, regardless of the referendum it is our job as Labour to argue for a centre-left Scotland which puts the eradication of poverty, ignorance and joblessness at its heart. I care not for the politics of stature and nationalism, but the politics of fairness, solidarity and oppurtunity. The constitution plays no major role in that for me.

          The Labour party in England is not some neo-Tory rising. That’s a stereotype. I didn’t agree with much of Blairism, but it did make Britain a more socially tolerant and open nation than the one we inherited in 1997, surely we take pride in that. In the achievements of the minimum wage, devolution, the Human Rights Act, Free Personal Care for the Elderly, the introduction of Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and the improvement of our schools nationwide? Surely we do, the ends here justified the means to me. But I think now the mood is right for a return to the centre-left. If Miliband was braver he’d go slightly further left. I think if we remain in the Union, and we get a Labour government for the UK we will see the change in the party. But if Yes wins the day, and we go independent Scottish Labour must just shrug it off and fight for a Scotland we want, not Salmonds vision, but a better one.

  16. pretty much ‘on the money’ I’d say. Scotish Labour – in fact UK Labour – have not failed to get their mesage across, it’s just that fewer and fewer people beleive that Labour has anything to offer them. Suicidal election stunts don’t help…like Ed Balls lecturing the gnats on the economy..duh……
    Siding with the tories on the issue of ‘the referendum is discouraging investment’ is pretty unwise since it clearly is not true; it’s just showing Salmond and Swinney an open goal.
    Also… putting faith in the beleif that those who voted SNP for Holyrood will go back to Labour for Westminster is no longer credible. people now have confidene in the gnats and are increasingly aware that voting Labour did not impede the tories in the 80s and 90s and is unlikely to so in the future. If Labour does not offer something special (a huge improvement in civil liberties, proper democratic reform) to the electorate there’s every chance that the next westminster election will see Labour do the way of the Scottish tories or the glib-dumbs. That, of course, depends on the outcome of the referendum. Salmond may say he is ‘relaxed’ about having a 3rd question, but realaly he wants independence and he amy well get it, in which case, where next for Scottish Labour? A campaign to overrule the will of the voters? That’d be clever…not.
    Finally, the ‘arc of prosperity’ thing….All the Scandinavian countries have better standards of living that Scotland – even Denmark, which has nothing like the resources or industrial stength of Scotland. That said, Iceland may only have been saved by reducing their reliance on Kerry Katona.

  17. I think many labour voters feel betrayed, perhaps independence will change the Scottish part of the party and they will refocus on the people with a mission and values that reflects their aspirations.

    The economic crisis has certainly woke up many people to the fact that British Labour are now a right wing party which as we all know can never represent the many only the few. The UK is in crisis and Scottish Labour are not representing Scottish interests effictively which is a sad state of affairs.

    As an ordinary voter, I feel betrayed by things like PFI and the privatisation of the NHS which labour started and the tories are now running away with it. The SNP seem to recognise that a society needs to offer something to the many however Labour want to do all people down. Why, what happens when MPs get to westiminister. Are they seduced by riches? I think so. It makes it worse than the tories because at least people know their the nasty party.

    Labour in Scotland needs to focus on its constituents and do something good for the people who need protection from the capitalists and gamblers in the City of London. Is Labour up to the job or will a new party rise from all this in a few years time when people have truly had enough. I think so and I hope so because I don’t think Labour can change, self and vested interest have taken over the mission and values of the party.

  18. I should be a natural labour supporter, indeed i used to vote for Ron Brown in Leith wayback. Now i would never dream of voting labour ever again in my life. I am a socialist at heart and believe in Independence for Scotland, i firmly believe that it is “labour” MORE then the “tories” who are the real enemies of Scotland. Why do you wish to see Scotland governed by tories rather than by ourselves? I am English by birth before you write me off as a rabid cybernat!

  19. We can spend ages debating who’s more left leaning, the SNP or Labour, but the bottom line is if Labour jump in bed with the Tories in order to protect their Westminster careers then it will be the death knell for them. Nobody believes this cack about ‘Chicken Licken the sky will fall in’ as those very same scare stories were defeated BY LABOUR during the devolution campaign. They may not desire independence or even devo max but surely it’s better to campaign on social justice under whatever parliament/government they are members of, rather than ‘Westminster or bust’.

  20. This is by far the best blog I have read on Labour Hame, and I congratulate mr Chalmers on it.
    If Labour keep on the same track, it will be a toxic brand along with the tories and lib dems, and I think that the party in Scotland has lost its direction and ability to win.
    Just to add my own view, I think the bitter anti SNP sentiment which this site is full of, should end and we have to think about whether we continue to fight for a union that is rappidly losing support and credability.

    1. The problems which the Labour party are cnifag are not just local issues but national ones. Who do the Labour party represent in society ? It most certainly is not the poor and the vulnerable or the man in the street. Child poverty rose at an alarming rate during Labour’s time in office. There were no socialist policies passed either during their time in office. The best they done was the minimum wage where families needed tax credits to survive. A person working a full week should be earning enough to keep their family without having to go cap in hand for a state top up.The Labour party has changed drastically over the past 35 years, how many senior members of the shadow cabinet or for that the number of MP’s who come from a trade union background ? The majority of them come from middle class backgrounds have been privately educated and have as much in common as they do with the man in the moon. They are like the Tories, only in politics for themselves and what they can get out of it for them and their friends. That is why there are four ex Labour MP’s in the jail.Locally the Labour party appear to be in turmoil and throwing people out at this stage will only lead to chaos internally. They need to sit down and ask themselves why they joined the Labour party ? They also need to ask themselves who does the party represent and how far they are prepared to change their views ?The reason the SNP have been so successful has been that they have taken over the mantel of representing those that Labour have abandoned, the man in the street. Regardless of who their candidate is they will be unsuccessful until the party adopts policies which benefit the people not themselves.

  21. Well said james,if the scottish labour party and all their politicians and unions realy cared about the working man and the common weal of scotland and all her people,then they should be fighting for independence too.Its simple independence = no more tory rule over the scots period!

  22. James is absolutely right, it may be that because my background is also from the Fife coal-field that I find his opinions so obvoiusly correct, but I don’t think so, I think it is because they are.

    If people like James and I, who were brought up in the heart of Scottish Labour can see that it has no future as another right-wing party in the UK, why is it so difficult for the Labour leadership in Scotland to see it?

  23. I watched the debate on the independence issue today and as I have stated on several posts before “why can I not vote Labour and for Independence”.

    If the approach of Labour in Scotland is going to follow that witnessed today I will not only be voting for independence I will be voting for another party as Labour is failing to address my concerns as a Scot.

  24. Wow !
    great article – actually stating the facts about Labour in Scotland.

    Every time I did that I got “modded off”.

    Henry MacLeish is pointing the right way and if Scottish Labour supporters don’t want to follow the Tories and the Libdems into oblivion they had better stop playing footsie with the Westminster Tories and come up with the “3rd question”.

  25. I have never been a member of any political party, I am, however, a member of that Clan, The Scottish Working Man.
    I am also a ‘Baby-Boomer.
    My father canvassed for Willie Hannah, the MP for Maryhill, Glasgow, after the war.
    Thats when Labour represented working folks and had working folks representing the voters.
    Nowadays, MP’s & MSP’s, for the most part (Like Brown!) have never done a hard days work in their lives!
    They come straight from College or University (Or give up their Law Practice) and bring their Middle Class ideals and Politically Correct values with them.
    They have absolutely no idea what ordinary people think. Whats more, they dont care either!
    That applies to all political parties.
    The electorate therefore vote for who they think will do less damage to them (If they vote at all!)
    Labour now being ‘The Red Tory Party’ doesnt endear themselves to those who get their hands dirty.
    The fact that Milliband and Cameron cosied up to each other at Westminster recently wont do Labour much good this side of the border either.
    The Red Tory’s and the Blue Tory’s. You could’nt put a fag paper between them!
    Shame on Labour!
    James Chalmers has told it as it is. Thank you, Sir!

  26. A well written and reasoned piece. As someone who has a natural left leaning, I am very disappointed by the rabid unionist vitriol which heads in my direction anytime I suggest that independance is the way forward. I have yet to hear any compelling argument as to why being a supporter of labour, and a supporter of independance are mutually exclusive? Surely in an independant Scots parliament, the natural will of the people (Which I believe to be in favour of social justice, fairness and re-distribution of wealth) would ensure a leading place for a Scottish labour party who would act, not only in the interests of the common weal of Scotland, but be in a position to possibly have international influence. Keep up the civilised debate foks!

  27. My best friend and I both joined political parties MANY years ago, she the Labour party, myself, the SNP.That was in the days when activists from both parties could still go for a drink together, discuss political ideologies, and get on well for the most part, respecting that we all wanted the best for the electorate, though coming at it from different view points. It goes without saying that we all considered ourselves socialists. Something happened in the late seventies, and it all turned rather nasty.
    As you may well imagine, she and I have had many heated debates, over the years, but the one that utterly defeated, and STILL, defeats me is that when asked, would you rather live in an independent Scotland, where you would more than likely always have a socialist govt. in some form or another, or live within the Union, where at regular intervals you will be subjected to the ruthless capitalist policies of a tory govt., the answer is, stay within the Union. Can anybody explain this to me? This article is so on the money, that I really can’t understand the Labour party’s intransigence, even when confronted with two election defeats at Holyrood. Could we not all work together to get a better Scotland, and then go back to our natural political homes, in my case probably the Communists ?

    1. Can’t speak for her, but as a socialist, or a social democrat, I cannot distinguish between the plight of a working man in Edinburgh or Dundee from that of one in Liverpool or Cardiff. I just can’t. I see that solidarity transcends ethnicity and nationality. To me the Scottish National Party does not see this. It says it is an internationalist party, and I accept it is, but to me as a Scot and a Labour party member I think we have a common bond across these nations of the UK which transcends our nationalities and brings us together. When I see someone living in substandard housing, in a run down estate, no job, poor local facilities, no hope, it doesn’t matter to me where they live. What part of Britain they come from is not an issue to me. All I care about is that we have a common effort to rid ourselves of that standard of living and say NO not in my name. To me Nationalism, is a barrier to that. The common history and experiences of the Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish is something which binds us and makes us unique in itself, and that bond is what gives our solidarity and hatred of poverty and idleness and ignorance stronger. If we have to go through pain together every 10 or so years then so be it together.

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