Scottish Labour should seize the opportunities of Brexit

Tom Harris, the satisfied if not victorious Grand High Panjandrum of Scottish Vote Leave, says Scottish Labour’s post-Brexit action plan was a missed opportunity to take the initiative on a host of issues.


As a Labour Party member I am not accustomed to bursts of optimism. But I submitted, briefly, to the feeling when I read yesterday morning that Scottish Labour had produced a post-Brexit action plan.

As I say – briefly.

The party’s “action plan” is worthy, of course. It reheats, for the most part, policies and soundbites that have been well used in recent weeks and months. Lots of talk about “investment” and “using the new powers” that are on their way to Holyrood from Westminster.

This “plan” did what it was intended to do. It garnished a few column inches in the press, a couple of headlines on the evening news bulletins and a sentence or two from Kez or Jackie. But it won’t do what it should be doing, which is informing the debate in Scotland up to and beyond the point at which we leave the EU.

No one reading this “plan” will be inspired. No one will read it and think, “Yeah, Scottish Labour really know what needs to be done.” Just look at the language used in the “plan”: “Brexit is likely to make matters worse… confidence is dissipating… uncertainty is the greatest concern for business…” Where’s the Rev. I.M. Jolly when you need him?

And yet there is an opportunity here for the party to take the initiative, to out-manoeuvre its opponents at Holyrood. But in order to do so it needs to adopt an entirely different mindset from the one it has had since the events of June 23.

Or perhaps Labour is happy to leave the “hopey changey” stuff to Ruth Davidson?

The decision on our EU membership has been made. While the Scottish Government contrives new excuses to hold a second independence referendum and spends taxpayers’ money flying Nicola Sturgeon around the continent to get selfies taken with EU leaders, they are deliberately refusing to talk about the opportunities for Scotland that will arise from Brexit.

Take minimum pricing of alcohol. Earlier this year, academics at the University of Sheffield concluded that a 50p minimum price per unit in Scotland would result in a reduction of more than 2000 deaths and nearly 39,000 hospital admissions in the next 20 years.

Yet because the UK is currently a member of the EU, we are subject to the dictats and judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that has ruled that, a democratic mandate to introduce minimum pricing notwithstanding, such a move is against EU law and is therefore illegal.

Where is the Labour MSP making the case for minimum pricing to go ahead once we’re outside the EU and free from the judgments of their lordships sitting in Luxembourg? Who in Scottish Labour will champion the cause of saving those 2000 lives once judges in a foreign court can no longer overturn votes by MSPs?

Next, public procurement. How quickly we forget that the threat hanging over CalMac until recently was there because of our legal obligation to seek tenders for the service throughout the EU. Outside the EU, the Scottish Government can decide for itself the rules by which such public contracts are tendered. Isn’t that something worth welcoming? Isn’t that something that might have warranted a mention in any “post-Brexit plan”?

At the STUC in Dundee in April, Nicola Sturgeon announced that her government, if re-elected the following month, would introduce new rules that would mean that any company that had been found guilty of tax dodging would be prevented from bidding for public sector contracts. She might as well have added: “… in an ideal world.” As I pointed out at the time, such a policy would be against EU rules and would be struck down as soon as it was legislated for.

So where is the Labour MSP willing to take a stand against such companies, who could, indeed, be frozen out of public procurement processes once we’re out of the EU? Anyone?

Lastly, and most importantly, why does Kez and Jackie’s plan make reference to new powers from Westminster but not to the new powers from Brussels? Scotland’s fishing communities voted Leave because they have lived through the devastation wrought on them by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Yet on the day we leave the EU, it will be Scottish, not EU, policy that applies to fishing and agriculture.

What will such a policy look like? Who’s doing the work on it? What do the fishermen think? What do the farmers think? Has anyone even asked them? Why hasn’t Scottish Labour initiated a consultation process among such communities, in the absence of the Scottish Government doing so?

While the SNP do what they do best – encourage division among the people of Scotland – there is an opportunity for Scottish Labour to embrace the will of the (UK) people.

Championing the right of Holyrood to impose minimum pricing of alcohol isn’t about nationalism, it’s about democracy. Creating a public procurement policy that favours ethical behaviour isn’t protectionism, it’s progress. Consulting farmers and fishermen about their future isn’t parochialism, it’s leadership.

It’s been a long time since Scottish Labour has inspired optimism in itself, let alone in Scotland. Brexit, counter-intuitively for a party that supported the Remain campaign, has given it an opportunity to do exactly that.

Will it take it?

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29 thoughts on “Scottish Labour should seize the opportunities of Brexit

  1. So while Labour are seizing the “opportunities” of Brexit what are the majority of the people of Scotland supposed to seize as they are forced to endure a Brexit they didn’t vote for and are only having to endure at all because of the greater loss to their sovereignty in the UK you voted to leave the EU for because you didn’t like the idea of people losing their sovereignty to unelected officials?

  2. Who believes it will be Scottish policy that will apply to fishing and agriculture after we leave the EU, or Westminster policy ??? yep we can all see Westminster letting go of that trade bone.

  3. Tom’s big Brexit plan, steal the SNP’s policies on minimum pricing of alcohol & banning tax dodging companies from bidding for public sector contracts as well as re awarding CalMac the contract for ferry services.

    Brilliant out of the box thinking from Labour.

  4. Instead of planning for Brexit Kezia went to America, instead of planning for Brexit Kezia lays out a plan that would mean the Scottish government would be required to plug the EU funding gap and yet she doesn’t challenge her party in Westminster to demand the UK government provide the money to do so. Also why should we plan for Brexit when we voted to remain, we should be looking at ways to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard above the din imside Westminster, and by the way the din isn’t them hammering out a Brexit plan it them fighting among themselves because they haven’t got a clue what to do next.

    Labour in Scotland should be angry that Scotland land will be dragged out of the EU against its will and should be fighting with other pro Brexit parties to ensure every avenue is explored and if that fails they should be making sure that Scotland never has to leave the EU and the only way to do that is by Scottish independence.

    The Labour Party in Scotland has mostly Scottish MP’s who live were born and raised here and should be putting Scotland and the people before the Union as this is the only way that can be achieved. They seem not to have any confidence in Scotland or the people of Scotland and it seems they have no belief and confidence in themselves to be the government of Scotland and even less of a belief in a Scotland that has the ability to run its own affairs. This is a very sad situation we find ourselves in when our politician in the Labour Party in Scotland believe that they do not possess the necessary skills to take us forward and enable us to become a prosperous country and only believe that another country is capable of such things.

    Have confidence in yourselves believe you can do great things especially when your hands aren’t tied behind your back and with the big London boys whispering in your ear you can’t do that because it will impact badly on England. Let England have its own government let them do what is best for them and we can do what is best for us,my ou have nothing to lose unless you are willing to lose what little you have left. You were great once and can be again but only if you put Scotland and the people first before Union.

    1. You missed the whole point of the article Tom Harris is talking about whats best for Labour in Scotland not whats best for anybody else in Scotland. He wants Labour to make as much political capital as it can from the decision taken by England and Wales to take Scotland and NI out of the EU by default of a constitutional setup within an unbalanced unrepresentative disunion of Nation States.
      The irony being he himself supported the leave campaign because he doesn’t like the idea of England and Wales being part of an in his eyes constitutional setup within an unbalanced unrepresentative disunion of Nation States due to the minor loss of sovereignty paid for the price of access to a single trade market.

      Couldn’t give a monkeys about Scotland and NIs almost full loss of sovereignty within the UKs unrepresentative unbalanced disunion of course because being too wee too poor and too stupid in relative terms to being in union is no way for a State to go eh um er………… unless its England and Wales.

  5. So, Theresa May bInning the Human Rights act is and emasculating all of the good Labour Laws the EU has overseen (which she will) is an ‘opportunity’ ? – but then again when Labour had 18 years to rescind the anti Trade Union legislation Thatcher brought in, they never wen’t near it. This alone tells us much about Labour’s relationship to ‘the workers’.

    And losing Scotland a market of 500 million in another ‘opportunity’ ? – I think ScotLab lives on a different planet, no wonder they are behind even the Tories.

    1. The Tom Harris solution when things went pear-shaped was to roll around on the carpet wi’ the dug, thinking—- “oh man, I am so fucked, sob!”.
      But then he gets a job with the Torygraph, bad-mouths Labour and joins Nigel and Boris as best Britnat buds—-oh whit a jolly wheeze!
      Separatism and narrow nationalism—the new, New Labour.

  6. Man, I get it now ! – deflection ! ScotLab know that London Lab is in such a shambolic mess that the chances of them becoming an ‘effective opposition’ (never mind electable) is many many years away, thereby cursing Scotland with a Tory gov’t for potentially a decade. Now it’s ‘let’s talk about ANYTHING’ but Labour’s complete impotence and powerlessnes to do anything about it – Brilliant !

  7. I think we will find, when the Westminster EVEL Parliament sends out THEIR team of negotiators, the main item on the agenda will be the City of London and ITS access to the EU financial markets. Anyone else in the UK might as well write to Santa.
    Because there will be financial centres across the EU from Frankfurt to Paris who will see BREXIT as a great chance to impose restrictions on the square mile.
    So what will be the bargaining chips used to smooth Londons path?
    Fishing will be right up there. Ted Heath used them before, the BREXIT team will do so again.
    What would Labour consult farmers on? Until we know what kind of budget Westminster will find to replace the Agricultural Policy, where is nothing to discuss.
    Minimum Pricing—-didn’t Labour oppose that?
    In fact isn’t it Labours policy to oppose anything the SNP propose?–the Bain Principle.

    1. I just read a couple of articles in the German press about the very strong possibility of a bit of a property boom in Frankfurt as that city lures sections of the City to relocate to Germany.

  8. ECJ has not ruled that MUP is illegal. It is ok if Scottish Gov can satisfy Court of Session that it is likely to be more effective than taxes and excise. In front of Court of Session at present and decsion should be soon – so it is a Scottish Court making the decision. Further appeal to Supreme Court possible though. Also surprised that you don’t mention our plans to increase income tax by 1p. A real vote winner that.

  9. I think Tom Harris has an idea here which will pay dividends for Labour in Scotland if it had the sense to pick it up and run with it.
    There are in the pipe line yet undefined powers coming up to Holyrood post the Brexit vote. The SNP and the unionist parties are still unsure how to react to the result. Sturgeon is trying to work out a way of manipulating the ‘Scotland voted remain but is being dragged out…………..’ narrative to the nationalists’ advantage. Which is as you would expect. Davidson seems to be uncertain how to react. Dugdale must be on her holidays.
    If Labour were to grab the opportunity and, for example demand all the powers that reside at present with the EU on fishing, farming, land, and environment to come to Holyrood and come up with sound proposals that were seen by farming and fishing communities as sensible, Labour would steal a lead on the rest that could be significant. Imagine if Labour in Scotland were seen as the only party that understood the advantages of Brexit?
    But, and it is a big one, Labour needs a change of policy direction from the present ‘Scotland ………….forced against its will………..’, to accepting the result and moving to the second stage of, ‘how do we make this work to our advantage?’ Tom Harris may have the vision but I just cannot see this within the branch office; those that have the nous and ability to grasp the opportunity, and then more importantly implement as a policy?

    1. “I think Tom Harris has an idea here which will pay dividends for Labour in Scotland if it had the sense to pick it up and run with it.”

      Oh undoubtedly! If you don’t mind the continued and everlasting resident status in the Scottish political wilderness as it goes against the grain of the majority of voters in Scotland again.

      “There are in the pipe line yet undefined powers coming up to Holyrood post the Brexit vote.”

      How can you tell its more powers if its undefined? That’s like saying there is something blocking my pipeline it must be valuable and beneficial by default because there’s no way it can be anything else.

      “The SNP and the unionist parties are still unsure how to react to the result.”

      Except the SNP is the ONLY party to react to the result! The conservative and Labour Tories are tearing themselves apart the libdems have gone into hiding and the SNP are looking at any and all options to keep Scotland within the EU irrespective of what happens to England and Wales which looks awfie like preparing for Indyref 2 to me.

      “If Labour were to grab the opportunity and, for example demand all the powers that reside at present with the EU on fishing, farming, land, and environment to come to Holyrood”

      Except it was Labour in 1999 who determined what powers the New Scottish Parliament should or shouldn’t have! And again during the Smith commission it was Labour who came up with the minimum packet of proposals possible.
      So if Labour were to go to the Scottish electorate telling them how much they so want to give Scotland lots more autonomy I’m sure you’d understand their inevitable scepticism and sheer disbelief based on what Labour do in practice when they have the authority relative to what they say they will do when they don’t.

      ” Imagine if Labour in Scotland were seen as the only party that understood the advantages of Brexit?”

      Or alternatively we could all imagine what it would really be like to have fairies living at the bottom of our gardens.

      “But, and it is a big one, Labour needs a change of policy direction from the present ‘Scotland ………….forced against its will………..’, to accepting the result and moving to the second stage of, ‘how do we make this work to our advantage?”

      Not sure how you can present “How do we make this work to “LABOURS” advantage” to the people of Scotland who have just had their democratic will shat on again due to a broken and corrupt unbalanced unworkable unrepresentative constitutional setup.

      Do you no get the part where trying to tell folk whats best for Labour is in their own best interests doesn’t wash?

      Despots throughout history have failed every single time they’ve tried to get that message across.

      1. On the button sir. It’s ScotLab’s contortionist mantra – ‘the Union at any cost’, even if it’s at Scotland’s

      2. Mike,
        I take it you don’t agree with me. I can see the logic of Tom Harris’ proposal. Tom Harris is articulating a position that the Labour Party in Scotland should adopt from a Labour member’s perspective. It comes from a supporter of Leave EU. I voted to Remain for what its worth, but it doesn’t stop me from understanding the point Tom Harris is making, which is that Labour should be the first to accept Brexit.

      3. Mike,
        I understand you. Your angry. Scotland voted to remain. England voted to leave. They took their chance, we didnt.
        I can see you are interested in politics. May I suggest you try and approach the whole subject without so much passion. In fact if you want to seriously study politics, dont have an opinion. Good historians dont take sides.
        Look at this article again and first of all ask the question ‘who is the author’? What are his motives? and then ask yourself ‘to whom is this idea pitched at’? After that, once you understand the source and the target group, think about the argument. . Does it make sense?
        Look at this article again with these things in mind, hopefully you will see why Tom Harris’ idea is a clever one (for the branch office).
        Mike, get out of the box, start looking in.

        1. No you clearly don’t understand me at all I’m not angry about the EU ref result I’m delighted! It has driven home to people who up to that point were totally confused about Scotlands place within the UK.
          People in Scotland for the first time in their lives are actually questioning the constitutional setup of the UK. For the first time are understanding the unbalanced nature of the power and influence that drives it.

          We are heading full tilt towards Indyref 2 only this time the Pro Indy ideal is not fighting from a 20 point deficit in support but from a parity to 5 point lead.
          The rules of engagement have topsy turvied! We are in the unknown arguing to get back into a stable constitutional arrangement!

          And all the Labour faithful can do is harp on about how they can best manipulate the situation to favour them as a political party across the UK in the hope that people believe they are talking about manipulating the situation in order to support the majority of Scottish voters.

          Its seems its you who needs to have another long hard look at reality and hopefully you will see that Tom Harris is completely and utterly devoid of any care or consideration that doesn’t concern his place within the Labour party.

          You on about boxes when you’re unable to square the circles of your own lack of convictions and credibility.

          Spare me the patronisation attempts its insulting.

          1. Mike, I didn’t mean to patronise you and I apologise if it came over that way.
            I agree the UK/EU referendum result was the nationalists best outcome/last hope (delete where applicable), but unlike you I don’t see us heading full tilt for indyref2. Lots can happen in a short space of time. Europe may not look the same in 12 months.

    2. “If Labour were to grab the opportunity and, for example demand all the powers that reside at present with the EU on fishing, farming, land, and environment to come to Holyrood”

      Aye, but there’s not a hope in hell for THAT Richard. Labour were offering even less that the Tories (for goodness sake!) when it came to Extra Superpowers.

      Nah, Labour (particularly SLab) don’t do change, they do pretend listening to the electorate (remember ALL the former ‘leaders’ saying that?), commissions and focus groups. You couldn’t focus them with an electron microscope.

      I think Labour in Scotland are doomed because they don’t even have two groups to factionate into. Sad times for a once proud party people could believe in.

      1. I think your right PM. I cannot see Scottish Labour taking on Tom Harris’ suggestion. They don’t have the ability, knowledge or contacts to speak to Scotland’s farmers and fishermen and come up with sound proposals.

  10. I am sick of this Scottish Government that’s including all the parties playing the victim instead they should not wait on the so called new powers on fishing, farming, land, and environment etc and just do it that is to say push the envelope start doing things as a seperarate devolved government and then see what Westminster will do. On another note if it comes to a second IndyRef I think there should be 2 options on the ballot 1. Independent Scotland and a member of the EU Or 2. Independent Scotland I would rather see an Independent Scotland outside of the EU on a par with England, Wales and Northern Ireland and instead of whinging we should be fast tracking Brexit.

    1. I stated during Indyref1, that I would prefer a new Scottish currency.
      I also stated that I would have no objection to Scotland utilizing the Norwegian model for our relationship with the EU.
      I was repeatedly abused by CyBritnats for that.

      However, it seems to be that some of “Mays Muppets” would NOT want to use a Norwegian or any similar model for EU access, but would prefer to be entirely “off the books” with the EU.
      I that were the case, then we would not be on a “par with England”.
      It would seem no matter what path we chose, we are never going to be alongside our giant southern neighbour, so we should just do the best for ourselves.

    2. Apart from minimal tax and welfare powers we get (list from the Scottish Office):

      Consumer advocacy and advice
      Equal opportunities – for example, deciding whether Scotland’s public sector boards should be required to be gender balanced
      Gaming machines – specifically controls on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in licenced high street bookmakers
      Parking – preventing inconsiderate parking, for example on pavements
      Policing of railways in Scotland
      Speed limits
      Traffic signs

      Do you see Farming, Fishing and the Environment (Scotland is already responsible for the environment – sheesh!) etc here?

      “Wait and see what WM do”? FFS!

  11. In order for Scotland to get to the point where it can decide for itself whether it wants to be in or out of the EU it has to first end the union with England and Wales.

    Only post Sexit will he Scottish electorate be in the position to make that choice.

    All this mince about being in both the UK and EU is pure fantasy! All the major players know it. They are having a dance while they get all their ducks in a row in order to contest Indyref 2.

    I hope I didn’t type too fast for you?

  12. Does anyone actually listen to Tom Harris anymore…? Really?
    Only in the parrallel universe that is the Labour Party in Scotland could that be even imagined.
    A relic from a long gone era…. nothing more.

  13. “Mike, I didn’t mean to patronise you and I apologise if it came over that way.
    I agree the UK/EU referendum result was the nationalists best outcome/last hope (delete where applicable), but unlike you I don’t see us heading full tilt for indyref2. Lots can happen in a short space of time. Europe may not look the same in 12 months.”

    Ok that’s a fair point. Its not inconceivable for a crises to develop within the EU triggered by another country having its own In Out Referendum. it all depends whether the EU is sitting on solid foundations or is simply a house of cards.
    But the EU was only 1 of a number of Indyref triggers don’t forget Trident renewal was another and now we have both occurring at the same time.
    And there is even a cherry on top in the form of EVEL.
    Labours civil war is also another factor it may not be a trigger in itself but its absolutely going to affect pro union support in Scotland. We now see nothing but a future of perpetual Conservative Government and if Corbyn looses a perpetual Red Tory opposition as well.

    The EU may be the biggest elephant in the room but it isn’t the only one.

    We are heading full tilt towards Indyref 2 because the opposition can no more change their spots and stop acting on their ideological agendas than people can stop suffering as a result.

    I honestly don’t know whats been holding this union together for so long. The lack of social media up til now probably.

  14. Can something be done about energy now we are out the EU?
    The examples given aren’t going to gain a large amount of votes, but energy and oil is still a big deal, even in times of lower prices.

    Tom was all about ‘taking back control’, so why shouldn’t that apply to Scotland also ?

    If Labour proposed devolving some degree of energy policy to Scotland, that could be a massive vote winner, Especially if a share of oil, gas could end up in public hands.
    I think there were EU restrictions against that before ?

    It really is strange that Scotland doesn’t own at least a small share of our offshore oil and gas assets, and it may be possible to rectify that in an era of lower prices, perhaps along with deals on decommissioning. It could protect jobs and investment in the north sea instead of seeing fields shut down early.

    There is an opportunity here for Labour to have a unique selling point and a patriotic one too.

    1. Maybe if you or anybody else in Labour can explain why Always getting “MORE” powers is better than getting “ALL” powers?

      In what way is it better or beneficial for any Parliament anywhere to have some relative to all powers and authority?

      And when is “SOME” Enough? What is this mysterious ever eluding value of “SOME” which gives the greatest benefit?

      Why are supporters of “SOME” always also supporters of “MORE”?

      Answer that one and you may even come up with a positive case for this disunion.

    2. WTF is strange about Scotland not owning any of its own natural resources within this criminally corrupt unbalanced one sided disunion?

      This unbalanced abomination has a 309 year history and you’re asking why Scotland isn’t in control or has ownership of its own natural resources?

      Are you sure you cant bring yourself around to understanding the in your face transparent and unarguable case for Scottish Parliamentary Independence? Really?

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