Chris Davison is an active campaigner in Edinburgh Western CLP. He says we must fight to ensure Scottish politics is not entirely consumed by the national question.
I grew up in Northern Ireland, where your politics was defined by a border. Outside of the Nationalist and Unionist parties there was little by way of an alternative on the ballot paper, making every vote a border poll.
Recently Aiden Kerr, of STV, was lambasted in some quarters for suggesting that Scottish politics was undergoing Ulsterisation. Although not under the shadow of a gunman and without the deep sectarian context, Scottish politics is in danger of being entirely consumed by the national question, rather than a debate of social and economic ideas, whereby every vote from here on out is about the Scottish border.
In my own constituency, I saw first hand the effect of tactical unionist voting as the victorious Lib Dems squeezed the Labour vote hard. Their successful campaign was based in part on a message that a Labour vote was a wasted vote in the battle against the SNP, backed by almost weekly mailings stating this message and a doorstep campaign that focused heavily on the tactical voting. This resonated with many Labour supporters who ended up sharing their constituency vote with the Lib Dems, while giving us their support on the list.
I am not suggesting that in a straight fight this May we could have beaten the Lib Dems; Edinburgh Western has a long Lib Dem tradition and Alex Cole-Hamilton was a fine candidate. However, I do believe that the electoral battle in Edinburgh Western boiled largely down to Unionist versus National sentiment.
For me, this was profoundly depressing, but I am not without hope. I would like to see us work hard together in the following three ways to combat this trend:
- Kezia fought hard to move the debate forward from the constitution to a debate about taxation, investment and social policy. She dragged the other parties into that ground and the SNP and Tories were found wanting in all the debates. We can and must show that the fairer society that many Yes/SNP voters want can be achieved by our Parliament now using the extensive powers at our disposal.
We have started that conversation and we must redouble efforts to shift the narrative of Scottish politics forward in that direction. From engaging more actively in our local communities to amplifying our message online, we should demonstrate how we can make our positive and radical vision for a fairer Scotland come alive and dominate the political debate with our progressive politics.
- We must stop apologising for standing up for the Union. Many of us voted No because of our Labour values, not in spite of them. I am certain that no member of Labour voted No in the referendum because they wanted Tory rule. Rather, they voted No to protect the most vulnerable in society; to protect education and our NHS from an economic case that was flawed in the extreme; and because we did not want to leave our family in the rest of the UK behind in the fight for a fairer society.
We should never apologise for making that case for union, and as the SNP launch their summer campaign for independence we should combine that pragmatic case with our vision for a better, fairer society in Scotland.
- We should be shouting loudly about the achievements of past Labour governments. Labour’s achievements have been largely drowned out by our opponents’chant sheet including, but not limited to, ‘an illegal war in Iraq’, ‘shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in Better Together’ and ‘Voting for £30bn of austerity cuts.’ We have allowed our opponents to dictate the discussion because of political errors of the past.
However, almost all social progress in the UK over the last century has been a direct result of Labour governments, and we should not let our opponents or the electorate forget about our achievements which vastly outweigh our mistakes. From the NHS and the welfare state, to the minimum wage and the Child Poverty Act, every Labour Government has moved society forward and we should not hide that fact.
If we unite around Kez, and come out fighting with our heads held high, remembering our past achievements and expressing our bold vision for the future, we can hope for better times ahead.
56 thoughts on “Stop apologising and come out fighting”
Lesson no.3. is of note. Chris Davison should take a minute to reflect on his own words.
“We should be shouting loudly about the achievements of past Labour governments. Labour’s achievements have been largely drowned out by our opponents’chant sheet including, but not limited to, ‘an illegal war in Iraq’, ‘shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in Better Together’ and ‘Voting for £30bn of austerity cuts.’ We have allowed our opponents to dictate the discussion because of political errors of the past”.
“Illegal war” is not an easy one to move on from Chris, thousands of US and UK military dead. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, woman and children dead. Iraqi and neighbouring countries’ towns and cities, roads and bridges, airports and utilities, destroyed. Civil war in the region on going. Millions of refugees homeless.
Before ‘shouting about the achievements of past Labour governments’ might I suggest to Chris Davison that it would be more honest and decent of Labour if it was seen to show real contrition for past mistakes. Labour will not ‘move on’ from Iraqi until it shows to the electorate that it has acknowledged the error of going to war without proper cause. It could start this process by pushing for the prosecution of Tony Blair for war crimes.
Thank you for your feedback. Both Milliband and Corbyn have apologised for Iraq and I am sure there will be more to follow after Chilcot is published. I left Labour over Iraq, and like me, many Labour members protested against the war. However, I returned because I want to make Scotland & the UK a better and fairer place and that is what I want to focus on as a Labour activist.
Not good enough. You don’t just get a ‘do-over’ after mass criminal slaughter. It’s a permanently disqualifying event. As frankly, is BetterTogether, for that matter. No more apologies. Just incarcerations.
Have to agree with Chris.Labour I liked there early stuff, not so keen on their new stuff.
Labour’s big problem is that nothing of note is going to happen in the Party until the coming war is over. Will the right-wing be allowed to depose “unelectable” Corbyn or will the rank and file members dig in their heels and back him in sufficient number. Everything else is just distraction and everything is on hold until that is settled.
Is the debate in Scotland entirely about British Nationalism/Scottish Nationalism? I don’t think so. There is plenty of meat on the bones of social fairness/ job creation/ education/ infrastructure spend to be getting on with.
Is England/UK being “Ulsterised” because the entire debate down there is about “borders”? No, apparently we in Scotland are alone in our “Ulsterisation”.
Chris seems to think income tax powers are “extensive powers at our disposal”. Time for a wake-up call for Scottish Labour. Income tax rates are peripheral to the concerns of many on low rates of pay, or those wishing to grow Scotland’s economy, or those wanting a more egalitarial society.
The rich can always pay themselves in dividends rather than income, or pay into an off-shore account.
Kezia’s call for across the board tax rises, were in my view, a vote loser and a poke in the eye for most ordinary people who have seen their incomes stagnate for a decade or so. My opinion!
“Standing up for the Union” ? What does that actually mean? Why cant Scotland be an equal partner of England within the European Union?
You want Scotland to be highly dependent on decisions made in the highly populated south of the UK, whether they are to our benefit or not? To continually have to pay a whack of infrastructure spends which are of no direct benefit to us? While we have to meet our own costs for infrastructure ( like the new Forth crossing )? It always seems “National” infrastructure means infrastructure OUTSIDE Scotland ( and mostly in London/SE of England).
Labour can shout all it wants about PAST achievements, but its the future that concerns most people. Relevance is all! If Labour cannot form a government because it has no support in Scotland, either its own MP’s or a deal with the SNP, then it has to face up to that.
Thank you for your comments. I agree there is plenty of meat on the bones to focus on, my concern is that this gets sidetracked by a debate over a border at every election. We can argue about the extent of powers or we can argue about how we use those powers to build a better society and it is the latter that I want us to focus on.
Standing up for the union, is defined in my blog, but I don’t want Labour to become a solely unionist concern. We should recognise that many Yes voters saw independence as a route to a fairer and better society and we should work to provide a vision and path to that society which doesn’t risk hurting the poor and vulnerable through a leap into the unknown. I recognise that some
of the shrill voices on the No side have made it difficult for many former supporters to come back home to Labour, but we must try and change and offer those people an alternative vision for a fairer Scotland.
Thanks for your reply Chris, we are probably close on some issues but apart in others.
Keir Hardie founded the Scottish Labour Party. He believed Scotland’s constitutional position should be Dominion Status–the same as New Zealand, Canada etc. I’m with Keir.
I think “borders” will dominate elections North and South of the border for as far ahead as can be seen. It has become an issue for us all in these Islands.
I find difficulty in accepting “Unionist” as a defining label, when I see the debate about the EU going ahead with so called “Unionists” in the UK debate also becoming “narrow nationalists/separatists” in the EU debate–but then it seems slogans like that only apply to Scots who wish for self government!
As for the future, you wish Scots to pay more tax to alleviate the cuts in budgets from Westminster. I would prefer, if we are to pay more in tax, then pay it to build a Scotland we can run to the advantage of all. We should cut our cloth to suit OUR needs, not the needs of right wing zealots who run the present UK economy to benefit the well-heeled and connected (which sadly includes some from the Labour party).
I can no longer trust a regime which takes huge oil and gas revenues from Scotland for 40 years while our old industries were disappearing, invests little in industrial and social renewal, then when the world oil price drops, declares Scotland to be “bankrupt”—its a little like paying all your wages into a bank, spending a pittance, then being told your account is empty.
And if the UK wouldn’t invest in Scotland while the oil revenue was flowing, they wont now its stopped—-and its the UK government which holds ALL the fiscal cards.
In what way is national self determination a “leap into the unknown”? Its the preferred choice of every Independently run nation on the planet. Its a tried and proven successful method of National Government. Its Devolution and its various levels of conflicting and unworkable authority which is the great unknown and with it the continued risk of getting it wrong.
Why do you think nobody can agree on a set level of devolved power and authority which is the most beneficial? Rhetorical question its because there isn’t one.
There is no positive case for Devolution in relative terms to full self determination. Never has been never will be.
Chris, why do you call a debate about powers “a debate over a border?” It is all very well to state that “standing up for the Union” is something other than unionism but you fail to explain how. Your statement “……many Yes voters saw independence as a route to a fairer and better society and we should work to provide a vision and path to that society which doesn’t risk hurting the poor and vulnerable through a leap into the unknown….” completely misses the point because Scotland’s poor and vulnerable are hurting NOW and believe that we could run things better than what Labour has to offer, continuing Tory rule.
The argument that you recommend is exactly what Labour has been offering for decades. It’s why you are crashing and burning. You want to engage in the debate about how to create “a fairer and better society”? Then engage with the national question.
“Chris Davison is an active campaigner in Edinburgh Western CLP. He says we must fight to ensure Scottish politics is not entirely consumed by the national question.”
Think about that one. The politics wouldn’t be “Scottish” is it wasn’t consumed by the national question. By asking people to put aside the national question in favour of dealing with issues within the status quo you asking them to give up their belief and reason for supporting fundamental constitutional change in order to get to a place where we can actually improve every other issue and political policy.
We are in a new status-quo with the new powers and the debate can and should move onto what we do to create a better society now rather than waiting for a change in Scotland’s constitutional status. If people sit and wait rather than acting now, services, education and the vulnerable will suffer. It doesn’t have to be that way, we can act now and be radical and SNP supporters should push their team to do so if they are truly progressive.
” New status quo….new powers……move on “.
Isn’t this what Mundell stated was a “fiscal trap” ?
A quicksand to mire Scotland’s political debate in the minutia of a feeble tax power—–and one which Westminster has actually declared is a tax power THEY wont use.
How sad that a TORY argument is once more dragged out by Scottish Labour to keep Scotland in “its place”.
Reminds us mere mortals of Lord Darlings tumultuous reception at the Tory conference.
C’mon Chris, rise above this patronising tripe.
Time doesn’t stand still and neither does Government. You write as if nothing happens between constitutional debates. Life goes on. Policies are introduced and enacted upon. The day to day running of Devolved Government occurs. The constitutional question doesn’t stop time nor everyday occurrence I don’t get where you’re coming from at all.
Education and the vulnerable are suffering as a direct result of Westminster right wing tory ideology. Surely even the Labour faithful can admit to that. Suffering we wouldn’t have to endure without Westminster Tories cutting our budget ideologically rather than for necessity.
The more power we remove from the hands of right wing Tory Governments in London and place in the hands of politicians voted for by the people of Scotland then the better grip the people of Scotland will have on those policies and ideologies and the less the vulnerable in Scotland will suffer.
All you’re giving us is the same whats best for Labour ideology and not whats best for Scotland. I get the bit where Labour is a UK party and would suffer as a direct result of having to split but Scotland shouldn’t have to suffer just so Labour can prosper and get the odd chance at Government.
When Labour in Scotland can actually convincingly promote their passion for Scotland relative to themselves then maybe you will get some voters back.
I think what you may be missing, Mike, is that many people don’t share your absolutist view that the *only* way we can achieve improvements is by moving powers. John Swinney, for one. Nicola Sturgeon for another. They have both acknowledged that educational attainment, for example, is the responsibility of the Scottish Government and that we have the powers – and finally apparently the will – to address it.
The Scottish Parliament can make different choices on how much money it raises and how much money it spends, and it has complete control over how it spends it.
The reason you’re so keen to spread the lie that raising taxes doesn’t raise any more money is that it undermines your argument significantly. But the fact is that the Scottish Government can raise more money if it chooses to. Blaming big bad Westminster doesn’t wash any more.
“many people don’t share your absolutist view that the *only* way we can achieve improvements is by moving powers.”
Perhaps if you explained how you improve things without the power to do so we can go from there?
What you’re in effect saying is that no matter who the Government is in Westminster or Hollyrood the Government in Westminster will always serve Scotlands best interests in relative terms.
That’s how ludicrous the unionist position is from Scotlands perspective.
I’m saying we have the powers. The law, criminal and civil, and the justice system; education from early years through to tertiary; transport including rail franchising and roads; health, from cradle to grave; economic development, including control over infrastructure; fiscal policy, including the ability to amend tax rates and welfare policies; local government and all the core public services which people rely on in their everyday lives; and much much more.
It is utterly dishonest to describe our devolved parliament as being “without power”. It is the dishonest argument of independence fundamentalists. You will ALWAYS demand more power even when the people have voted for the UK government to retain it, because you are not democrats and you are not logical. You want independence. Scots want devolution. We have devolution. Use it.
This delusion that labour keeps having about how they are still right even after the voters have said NO, here’s an example. From your (No 1.) paragraph you go on about taxation, investment and social policy and how Kezia “dragged the other parties into that ground and the SNP and Tories were found wanting in all that debates”.
You do realise that everyone else was actually watching the debates, and that we all saw how bad Kezia was, and how the other parties tore through labours policy’s like a hot knife through butter.
At the last leaders debate even Willie Rennie made a bigger impression than Kezia and that takes some doing. Everyone has seen through labour apart from yersels, yet you still come out with the same nonsense and pretend nothing ever happened in the past.
Do you think the people of Scotland would forget how labour MP’s, MSP’s and councillors ripped into Scotland during the referendum, their must be at least three generations of Scots who will remember this, and still you continue with the same delusions.
You mean delusion like when Scotland voted no against independence but the SNP still go on about it?
Scotland did vote NO, and yet for some odd reason after that our membership increased by around another 300 plus %, we took every MP seat bar three in Scotland in the 2015 election and we also won this last general election in Scotland, how did it go for labour ?
It could be that Scotland likes being treated as a grown-up, and now see’s past the delusions being offered to it by yersels.
As for the SNP still going on about independence, well we’re genetically programed for it.
Perhaps that has something to do with the commitments Scottish Labour people made.
Gordon Brown—“As close to federalism”. “Home Rule”—though apparently not the Keir Hardie Model No1..
Alistair Darling agreeing with Jackie Bird that Devo Max would be Scotland’s if a NO vote was attained.
We might at this juncture ask, “where’s the beef”? Because THAT failure to deliver, is part of Labour’s problem with its lack of constitutional honesty and coherence.
Sick to the back teeth of this dishonest argument on powers. You want independence, nothing less. Scots want devolution, nothing more. We need a set of powers that makes devolution work, not an endless demand for more and more powers until independence is arrived at by stealth.
We had a vote. The people said no. It is incumbent on us all to listen and deliver what folk want.
Yes Duncan, we are ALL sick of this dishonest argument on powers. We can all see internet coverage of what the reality of the independence debate was.
Might I also remind you that all polling for years, including the important Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, report that a majority of Scottish residents want Holyrood, rather than Westminster to have power over most aspects of their lives.
Its my opinion that the reticence of Tory, Labour and Lib Dems to offer what Scots say they ACTUALLY want is driving the independence vote up.
Its not hard to know why Labour don’t want to reflect the wishes of the Scottish electorate—-power at Westminster.
That is a difficult conundrum to solve and while some senior Westminster Labourites want a “Patriotic English Labour Party”, your puzzle seems unsolvable!
Holyrood DOES have power over most aspects of their lives. That’s what I mean about a dishonest argument.
Holyrood does NOT have the powers that a majority of Scots, when asked, want Holyrood to control. The polling is easy to look up, and is consistent over the long term.
Scottish Labour were the Party which offered least in the Smith talks, never mind living up to the commitments freely given during the referendum.
Dishonest argument, indeed!
Show me a poll where current and desired powers were enumerated clearly, rather than being referred to in ill-defined terms like “Devo Max” or “Home Rule”. Thanks.
Duncan, you can check out any number of legitimate polling sites, and the polls they have run in Scotland, asking about “powers” and where they are best exorcised.
You can check out the Scottish Attitudes Survey, and the questions THEY ask the electorate about “powers”
You can go back year after year, and find the same results.
Its not hard, and its not a trick, and its not a “dishonest argument”.
Do you mean “exercised”?
If it’s not hard, please point me at one that enumerates powers rather than using vague terms, as I asked. Thanks.
For better or worse, Scottish Labour is going to be the third party in Scottish politics for at least a generation. The question is: what should it do in its new role, to provide a constructive influence on the way politics develops in Scotland? I’d suggest focussing on a small number of flagship issues, where it can genuinely outflank the SNP government on the left. For example:
Land reform is going to be the big political issue of the next five years. The government is minded to be radical on this issue, but will be inevitably driven rightwards by vocal Tory opposition. Labour’s role here is simple – do everything it can to pull the government to the left on land reform, in conjunction with the Greens.
Basic income, possibly funded by a radical Land Value Tax.
I’m a centre-left, former Labour voter who chose Scottish nationalism over British nationalism in 2014. That was a choice for life, and I’m committed to following it through. Labour chose British nationalism, so we had to go our separate ways. I probably won’t vote for the Labour Party again. However, the only way I could be persuaded is if Scottish Labour: (a) stop spouting incoherent ramblings about ‘nationalism’ – most socialists and social-democrats in Scotland are Scottish nationalists, and you’re going to have to get over that; (b) focus on genuinely radical policies like land reform and basic income, where there the SNP membership is more radical than the government, and where Scottish nationalists might be tempted into a protest vote.
“most socialists and social-democrats in Scotland are Scottish nationalists, and you’re going to have to get over that”
It’s amazing that even those who have first-hand experience of how changeable the electorate is can be blind to that very fact when it suits them.
I think ‘changeable’ is the wrong word. I certainly didn’t *change* from being a British nationalist to being a Scottish nationalist back in 2014. It was rather a process of *clarification*. Until that point I’d been fuzzy on the question of my nationalism, and having lived abroad for many years had never really needed to confront it. The referendum gave me the opportunity to clarify my political identity, both ideologically and nationalistically. Most people I know appear to echo this perspective.
Unless Labour makes some kind of accommodation with Scottish nationalism in the near future, it will alienate yet another generation of progressive young Scots. You need to think about what you can add constructively to Scottish politics, stop thinking of yourself as the “opposition” (the Tories will always beat you hands-down on that one), and make a serious attempt to engage with the more radical Scottish nationalists.
I’ll say it again: land reform, land value tax, basic income.
I completely agree with your analysis of the problem facing Labour now and for the future. The key issue that Labour need to address is that they never have been accommodating to the SNP though both parties share many socialist opinions.
Rather than oppose the SNP for the sake of it, I believe Labour would gain support by being more consensual and at least would start to regain some support from the members who became so disillusioned with them.
Hear hear. Scottish Labour still contains good people. They need to be given a voice.
The SNP want to destroy Scottish Labour as they know this is their only route to independence.
The SNP prey upon the weaker elements within our party offering them false friendship. Sadly we have people in our ranks that are gullible enough to fall for this.
The trade union bill wouldn’t be happening if we didn’t have a Tory Government. The SNP scared the rest of the UK into voting Tory, as they did not want the SNP pulling the strings in a minority Labour Government.
Through weak leadership, Ed Milliband refused to rule out a deal with the SNP until the 11th hour. Therefore, he was happy to sacrifice the Scottish Labour MP’s in his quest for power. Milliband only ruled a deal out when he was forced to and by then it was far too little too late.
We should learn from this lesson. We should not share platforms or do any deals with the SNP; they are out to destroy us.
Your last sentence contains a typo. Corrected.” We should not share platforms or do any deals with the Tories; they are out to destroy us.” Labour & Tory hugging each other after the Referendum result did more to destroy Labour than anything else.
If this kind of comment is representative of Scottish Labour, then you’ll be the fourth party in Scotland before too long. I know a fair few SNP members and none of them are remotely interested in the Labour Party. To be blunt, they reckon that they have *already* destroyed Scottish Labour. As a non-party political Scottish nationalist, I think that Labour can continue to play an important, constructive role in Scottish politics, if they are clever and strategic enough. The question is though: Is there any genuine talent left in Scottish Labour? Or are all the young people now in the SNP and Greens?
And right there is your biggest problem. The Labour faithful think in terms of parties while the electorate think in terms of ideology and policy.
The electorate sees labour rightly as thinking of nothing but Labour while the SNP courts them with policy and political direction ideology and compassion.
That post was a typical example of labour thinking far removed from the thinking and priorities of the electorate.
The SNP are tuned in Labour are tuned out.
It aint even rocket science.
Let me sum up Labours ludicrous position right now.
What Do We Want?
A Measure of Devolved Administration!
When Do We Want It?
As Soon as it’s Convenient!
We have devolved administration. Labour’s position is stop lying about what powers we have and start using them.
If Labour wanted Scotland to have the present level of Devolution why didn’t we get it in 1999? And why did Labour not advocate for it in the Smith commission compromise?
The 1999 devolution settlement was the result of the deliberations of the Scottish Constitutional Convention.
It’s hilarious how folk like you on the one hand deny that Labour delivered devolution, and on the other condemn Labour for what was delivered. Sheer hypocrisy.
If Devolution was delivered in 1999 what was delivered recently?
Changes to it.
If its been changed from Devolution what is it now?
It hasn’t been changed from devolution. What is it you think the word devolution means?
So if we had Devolution in 1999 what did we get recently? Did it change from Devolution to Devolution?
It’s still devolution.
“I’m saying we have the powers. The law, criminal and civil, and the justice system; education from early years through to tertiary; transport including rail franchising and roads; health, from cradle to grave; economic development, including control over infrastructure; fiscal policy, including the ability to amend tax rates and welfare policies; local government and all the core public services which people rely on in their everyday lives; and much much more.”
No what you’re saying is if Labour advocated for powers = x or powers = x-y or powers= x+y or no powers at all you’d go along with it.support it condone it praise it excuse it and lie about it being the best of all worlds.
You have to laugh at these jokers from the SNP, bleating on about this power and that power.
The SNP are more than happy to cede all our democratic powers to the EU, but get all put out about devolved powers from the UK Parliament.
What planet are these characters on?
Really? Germany, France, UK, Netherlands et al——have ceded “all democratic powers to the EU” ?
Are you serious?
What planet are YOU on?
Like the rest of the world a different one from you
If the UK had ceded all of its powers to the EU we would be asking the EU for our Independence not Westminster.
That’s the view from down here on planet Earth Andy.
What your not getting is we Nats want Westminster to have as few powers over us a possible, if we can have the power in Scotland, great but if it has to be in Brussels we can live wi that
Scotland has not voted Tory since 1955 and in 2016 they celebrated 22% like a landslide victory. Yet the Tories remain in firm control of Scotland’s economy and look like they are going to remain so into the foreseeable future. This is why “the National Question” remains crucial to the vast majority of anti-Tory Scots.
I find it utterly astonishing that any Labour activist remains blind to this and views it as some form of “Ulsterisation” as if the Scottish working classes are unable to understand the connection between the continuing Union and the “debate of social and economic ideas.”
It is Labour’s blind and stubborn unionism (because, make no mistake, that’s what it is) which is more likely to lead to “Ulsterisation” as far-right sectarian groups like Britain First, the SDL, the Orange Lodge etc back tactical voting to “smash the SNP”.
People see different things differently.
In 2014 I didn’t vote for Scottish independence from the rest of the UK.
Nevertheless, on June 23rd I will vote for the UK to leave the EU.
Therefore, I will be voting for a more powerful, independent Scotland.
Comments are closed.