IAN MURRAY takes issue with those who claim that you’re not a proper Scot unless you support independence

 

The results of the Scottish Parliament elections in May were a real shock to the system. The Scottish Labour Party had given up a 10 point lead to hand the SNP a majority. The democratic process has spoken and the people of Scotland have given their verdict.

What has surprised me, however, is the fact that independence for Scotland was not uttered by the SNP during the six- week long election campaign, yet it is now the word on the lips of every SNP MSP, MP, activist and supporter. They seem to have drawn a false conclusion, namely that the people of Scotland have given the SNP a mandate to push forward with independence , despite not mentioning it at all in the election campaign that gave them that mandate.

There are probably few arguments that would stand up to scrutiny that would say Scotland could not be an independent country. Small nations all over the world are independent. But is this the real question? I think we must be asking ourselves and the Scottish people about what kind of Scotland we want for ourselves and future generations of Scots.

If we take the scenario that Scotland could survive as an independent nation then the question must be: will Scotland be a more prosperous and fairer nation as an independent country, or will it be more prosperous and fairer as part of the United Kingdom?

This question has to be answered with measured, well researched and honest debate. I happen to think the latter is the case, and we know the SNP believe the former. So lets examine the scenarios and inform the Scottish people honestly.

Will pensioners be better off? WIll our schools be better equipped with more teachers and staff? Will Labour’s NHS be well funded with scope for improvement? Will we have a responsive justice system? Will we have adequate resources for the police, fire and ambulance services? Will we have an improving transport system? Will our most vulnerable be looked after and protected? Will we be able to provide jobs and opportunities for our young people?

These are the real questions. Can they be positively addressed by a government whose top priority is independence, and which claims to be socially democratic while being, in fact, neo-Conservative economically?

I have been accused of being “negative about Scotland” by not supporting independence, whereas those who talk about it claim to be being “positive about the future of Scotland”. This is utter codswallop. I am no less loving of my country than a nationalist and the accusation that you are less of a Scot if you are not a nationalist is absurd.

Then we have the ridiculous “London Labour” nonsense. The Labour Party was created in Scotland and has fought for and delivered a better Scotland for generation. Furthermore, we must never forget that it was a Labour government who created the conditions to allow the Scottish people to choose our parliament.  It was Scottish Labour that led the “yes-yes” campaign. It was Scottish Labour that argued and adapted the Scotland Act through consensus and debate.

But that is a reflection on the past. Where are we today? New words and phrases have appeared in our vocabulary since May 6. Devolution max, Independence Lite, Calman-plus… What do these all mean? Are they smoke and mirrors for the SNP independence argument? And just because the SNP stick the word London in front of everything south of Berwick doesn’t make it anti-Scottish. The irony being that it was a London SNP Westminster MP who masterminded their campaigns in 2007 and 2011!

We currently have the Calman proposals going through both Parliaments. Calman was a wide ranging analysis of the powers of the Scottish Parliament and an attempt to take devolution to the next stage of development, set up by Scottish Labour with the will of the Parliament to look at the next steps of devolution. The SNP didn’t want to get involved in the process at all and didn’t… until now.

The Scotland Bill, enacting Calman’s proposals, is making its way through Parliament – a real debate and analysis of Scotland’s immediate future. Now, though, the SNP have come late to the table and want to add a wish list of additional powers. I see no problem with looking at these but I suspect the SNP know these additional powers are unworkable so they will pick another fight with Westminster on items they know would be impossible to achieve. And for what goal? To divide opinion that Scotland is being held back as a nation. It’s the oldest trick in politics: pick a fight you can’t win and claim victory for fighting it.

Scotland has a glorious and very proud past.  It was a world leader in invention and enlightenment.  It has appeared out of the dark tunnel of the ’80s and ’90s to thrive again. The current economic difficulties will pass and Scotland will go forward as a generous and proud nation.

Scottish Labour will now take time to reflect, remould and regenerate. But one thing is sure: every breathing hour for Scottish Labour is about a better, brighter, more prosperous and fairer Scotland. For the SNP to suggest otherwise is being disingenuous with the Scottish people.

Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South. Follow him on Twitter at @IanMurrayMP.

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59 thoughts on “The positive case

  1. I have been accused in print, by an SNP MSP, of “loath(ing) the very concept of Scotland”.

    The idea that you can’t a “a true Scot” and not be a Nationalist is common among Nationalist activists and is entrenched at the top of their party.

    1. If it is in print you might like to post a link otherwise one will take it as pure assertion on your part.

      1. Local paper, four years ago. No link exists unfortunately, but it’s true. You might not want to believe it, of course, but that’s not my problem.

        1. Of course it is your problem. You might as well say, “the Scottish electorate chose to not believe Labour when it comes to voting for them, but that’s not my problem.” You and you party really need to understand that and take it on board, up to now you have not.

          In my area East Kilbride, I read all the leaflets that came through my door. Andy Kerr’s so incensed me that I wrote and told him so, as he said he really wanted to hear from me, I await his reply not holding my breath.

          Andy id of course seeking a new career now, as are Labour.

  2. The real economic questions could be better framed as: Why did Labour fight the 2011 election to keep David Cameron as Prime Minister of Scotland? Why did Labour fight tooth and nail to ensure that Scotland remained under a Conservative government who are committed to slash and burn policies in public spending? Why does Labour believe Conservative rule is better than independence?

    If you say that the Labour party was created in Scotland I think you should tell London Labour because on the history page of the Labour party site the word, “Scotland”, doesn’t even get a mention. Labour may have implemented devolution but it was a defensive blocking action against the nationalists rather than any desire to see Scotland gain any autonomy. As Alex Salmond said, “Labour’s devolution bus runs on SNP petrol.”

    You’re certainly right that there has been a lot of new words and phrases like Devolution max, Independence Lite and Calman-plus appearing but they haven’t come from the nationalist side of the camp or from the leadership of the SNP. All of them appear to be ways to try and make unionism acceptable to nationalists in the same as devolution was meant to kill nationalism, “stone dead”.

    The SNP didn’t get involved in Calman as the remit of the Calman commission was set up to ensure the SNP could not take part. The remit of Calman finished, “…and continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom.”, which is in direct opposition to the aims of the SNP.

    What will Calman give Scotland? It will raise the current and unused ability of the Scottish parliament to vary income tax from 3p in the pound to 10p in the pound and it will assign some minor taxes to Scotland on the same terms as the income tax variation. The total funding of Scotland will still be determined by the Barnett formula and any tax reductions in Scotland will get clawed back out of the block grant to ensure that the Treasury loses nothing.

    The SNP don’t want more powers for Calman and the Scotland bill they just want it to have some power, any power, because at the moment Calman is a perfect example of how to make a lot of noise and smoke while doing nothing.

    “Scottish Labour will now take time to reflect, remould and regenerate. But one thing is sure: every breathing hour for Scottish Labour is about a better, brighter, more prosperous and fairer Scotland. For the SNP to suggest otherwise is being disingenuous with the Scottish people.”

    There is no such party as Scottish Labour and you won’t find it on the Electoral Commission’s register and Labour believe the Union is more important than a prosperous Scotland. Better Tory than independent is the Labour mantra.

    1. “The SNP don’t want more powers for Calman and the Scotland bill ”

      Some better tell Alex Salmond as apparently he’s been pressing Cameron & Clegg for more power in the Scotland bill.

      On this, I agree with him – maybe not on some of the things he wants, and I would like some things that he hasnt suggested (I think having the power to set benefit levels, rules etc would be good), but that is an area Scottish Labour should (indeed must) support the FM on, to show that it is a united Scotland, and not just a single party wanting these changes.

      Its good to see that the Uk Government has given in to more borrowing powers, but disappointing that it doesnt seem to be the Scottish bonds idea that Wendy Alexander and her Scotland bill commitee put forward in the last session.

  3. The implication throughout this article is of an unbroken tradition of Labour politics in the UK. That Mr Murray, is ‘codswallop.’ The privatising, war-mongering antics of the Blair/Brown era have done far more for kills of Labour support, even after a decade of Thatcherism. The reason that the Scottish Labour no longer has a heartland is because it has taken that geographical (and ideological) heartland for granted for far too long. You simply cannot claim, within any kind of historical context that the Labour party of Blair has any kind of inheritance from the party of Hardie, or Maxton.

    For decades now elected members of the New Labour party have continued to perform a very surreal form of radicalism, in which they turn up at protest events while remaining paid up members of the organisation that has created them. The organisation that starts illegal wars, that renewed Trident on the doorstep of its supposedly safest seats.

  4. “What has surprised me, however, is the fact that independence for Scotland was not uttered by the SNP during the six- week long election campaign”

    ..and that tired, tedious old lie is the point where I stopped reading. Keep living in denial if you like. The rest of us will manage fine with the SNP in power for the next 20 years.

  5. @DtD “The real economic questions could be better framed as: Why did Labour fight the 2011 election to keep David Cameron as Prime Minister of Scotland? ”

    is it really Doug? On what planet?

    1. SNP: Let’s leave the UK and be run by a Scottish Government.

      Labour: Let’s stay with the UK and be run by a Tory Government.

      Planet reality Alex.

      1. I rather think that Labours message at the last UK elections was “Lets stay with the UK and have a Labour Government”.

        I’m fascinated by the idea many nationalists put across that with an independent Scotland we will never again have a Tory Government. Will the conservatives be banned from standing for election? Surely no one can offer that guarantee in any democratic system?

        1. A guarantee? No, not that. But the Tories might come back in Scotland in the same way that the Whigs might. Or the Vikings, come to that.

          Half of the modern electorate wasn’t even born when Thatcher came to power, never mind have any memory of her as PM. Yet the Tories still managed just one MP out of 59 at the Westminster election last year, despite the balance of UK power swinging back their way. That’s been consistently the case in Scotland for 20 years now, whether the rest of the UK has elected a landslide Labour majority or a ConDem coalition. The scars are burned in deeply.

          I’m not offering a guarantee. But I’m in my early 40s, and I’ll offer you a bet instead – £1000 says the Tories will never again get a majority, or even a plurality, of seats in Scotland (either Westminster or Holyrood) in my lifetime. (You can pick a specified timespan if you’d rather the winner collected while we were both still alive…)

          Tory governments in Westminster are the skeletons in Labour’s closet. The people of Scotland know they face a choice between being ruled by Tories 50% of the time in the Union, or 0% of the time in an independent Scotland. That’s why the age demographic is so overwhelmingly tilted towards independence as you head towards the younger end, with pro-Union voters literally dying out, and it’s why the SNP will win. It’s (only a matter of) time.

        2. Incidentally”

          “I’m fascinated by the idea many nationalists put across that with an independent Scotland we will never again have a Tory Government.”

          Not just nationalists, John. Where, for example, might one have read this?

          “The Tories can’t win here – and that’s not just a Lib Dem bar chart, they really can’t.”

          Why, it was in the Labour Hame post directly above this one…

          ; )

          1. Theres a difference between saying they cant win here – and guaranteeing there will never be a Tory Governemnt in Scotland.

          2. The Tories can’t win at the moment. But, I presume, “indeepndence is meant to last for a long time, not just ’til the next Tory resurgence. Fifty years ago there were Tory majorities in Scotland…50 years is not a long time…

            Or is Nationalist policy to have “independence” for 20 or 50 or 100 years, and then, when the Tories threaten, run back to the UK?

            If we have “independence” we wil have Tory governments…… it’s inevitable…

          3. “If we have “independence” we wil have Tory governments…… it’s inevitable…”

            So let me just get this clear: we can’t guarantee no more Tory majorities in Scotland (no matter how strong the evidence), but you CAN guarantee that we WILL have Tory majorities again? Why are you allowed a crystal ball and we’re not? At least ours is logic-powered. Political parties DO die. Where are the Whigs now? Where are the SDP? Where’s the short-lived Scottish Labour Party of Jim Sillars? Do you think the SSP will ever have MSPs again? Etc etc.

          4. “Theres a difference between saying they cant win here – and guaranteeing there will never be a Tory Governemnt in Scotland.”

            I know there is. That’s why nobody “guaranteed” any such thing. I offered you a wager instead – are you accepting it, or not?

        3. Maybe in a couple of hundred years the Tories will become electable again in Scotland but for the foreseeable future they won’t be because the vast majority of people don’t like their policies and don’t like what they stand for.

          If Scotland was independent there would be absolutely no chance of the Tories being elected to government in your lifetime. I don’t see how you could sensibly argue with that.

          Equally, it is an inevitable outcome of supporting the Union that if the Tories win the UK election they win in Scotland too -and therefore get to control our ecoomy, set our pensions, decide on tax and benefits, represent us in the international community, decide on defence policy etc. And all you can realistically promise is the hope of a Labour government at the next election, provided the voters in England can be won over.

          The basic problem for Labour therefore – and it is one which can only grow over the next few years – is that you simultaneously want to present yourselves as the opposition to Tory government in Scotland while defending their right to govern Scotland. And the independence campaign will really underline that if Labour takes a hard unionist line because you will be on the same side with the Tories against the SNP.

          It will be interesting to see what strategies Labour adopt to deal with that conundrum.

          1. “Maybe in a couple of hundred years the Tories will become electable again in Scotland but for the foreseeable future they won’t be because the vast majority of people don’t like their policies and don’t like what they stand for.”

            Mm. I’m intrigued – has any political party in Britain EVER come back from 15% support to form a government, in the entire however-many-hundreds-of-years history of democracy in these islands?

            Also, isn’t it fascinating to watch all these Labour activists talking up the Scottish Conservatives?

          2. “has any political party in Britain EVER come back from 15% support to form a government?”

            The SNP?

          3. “has any political party in Britain EVER come back from 15% support to form a government?”

            “The SNP?”

            My question was phrased for unmissable clarity, but well done for missing it anyway. The SNP could only ever form a government at Holyrood. When has it ever secured as few as 15% of votes in a Holyrood election?

            That’s precisely why far fewer people vote SNP in UK elections – because the party has no chance of forming a government. Heavens, if anyone should appreciate the difference between Westminster (SNP vote share 19.9% in 2010) and Holyrood (SNP vote share 45.4% just 12 months later) elections, it should be Labour…

        4. Yes, but the English didn’t want a labour government, so we have a Tory one…like they wanted.

        5. Awful pedantic line of argument, Mr Ruddy. Noone is “guaranteeing” anything. The difference between can’t and won’t is irrelevant.

  6. I think this is a really interesting piece, and I welcome its attempt to develop a more positive discourse around the case for Union. I agree wholeheartedly that the political arguments need to be conducted in terms of what is best for the Scottish people – as I noted in a comment to John McTernan’s (I suspect deliberately and mischievously provocative) article, we in the SNP know why we want independence. But the Labour Party’s thinking seems to stop at THE UNION. So anything that begins to set out some arguments about why the union is a good thing is to be welcomed.

    Having said all that, I confess to genuine puzzlement. I do not doubt or dispute your commitment to ‘Scotland’. I just don’t understand your Janus-faced approach to it. Either Scotland is a nation or it is not. If it is, then surely the argument is how about how we deliver all the kinds of things that we want for the people of that nation. But it is also about how we engage most effectively on an equal basis with other nations, share our sovereignty where appropriate, and retain it where that makes sense. I believe Scotland is a nation. Therefore my arguments are about both of these elements. You don’t believe Scotland is a nation, though you are willing to pretend that you do when it suits you.

    The point here is equality. The current Union is not a union of equals – therefore, those who support the Union, by definition do not hold to the proposition that Scotland is a nation – since you expect sovereignty and political authority to be shared in an unequal manner. Yet they insist on arguing that “every breathing hour for Scottish Labour is about a better, brighter, more prosperous and fairer Scotland”. I don’t doubt your sincerity – and there are no doubt those who feel the same about Yorkshire, or even Edinburgh. But those are not nations. I don’t accuse you of not being a ‘proper’ Scot. I just think we mean different things when we say the word Scotland. I mean a nation. You mean a region of a larger nation.

  7. The article is headlined “the positive case” yet it seems that you have no vision positive or otherwise for the future of Scotland. Until Scottish labour realise that they must stop talking about the SNP and start putting forward how they see Scotland progressing within the union, then I am afraid that the party is heading nowhere. One question I would like answered is, how can Scottish Labour promote the union as beneficial to the people of Scotland, whilst at the same time claiming that everything the UK coalition govt is doing is bad for Scotland? Are we to believe that Scotland can only flourish within the union under a Labour Government?

    1. I think the article is arguing that we must make a positive case. And Ian is quite right. We should.

      Of course we are arguing that Scotland can flourish under the union with a Labour government. Just as we argue that England can only flourish with a Labour government. We must make sure that our policies are designed to do that – why else would any party want to have policies which are designed to destroy one part of the country….. well, except the tories!

      1. But Good Lord can you not see the big gaping flaw in your argument?

        You are saying Scotland CAN flourish in the Union under a Labour Government. And go to hell in a handbasket under a Tory Government presumably.

        Either way we – the Scottish people – do not get to decide. We are just bit players in an electoral drama that stars the voters of middle England.

        Do you not think it would be a lot simpler if we just had a Scottish Government elected by the Scottish people to govern Scotland?

        1. “Either way we – the Scottish people – do not get to decide.”

          But we do get to decide – at every election Scots have voted for parties which support the Union. But let’s move on, Indy: when the referendum comes, and if Scots vote to remain part of the UK (I know you believe that’s impossible, but indulge me), will you accept that decision and respect it?

          1. Of course when people vote for unionist parties they accept that they will be governed in reserved areas by whoever English voters elect. I am not arguing otherwise.

            What I am saying is that the SNP position is quite straightforward. The Scottish people should elect a Scottish Government who govern Scotland, end of story. That way we – the Scottish people – decide who governs us.

            Labour’s position is more complex. You agree that Scottish people should elect a Scottish Government to govern Scotland in devolved areas. But you also argue that the UK Government – elected in the main by English voters who are numerically far superior to Scottish voters – should govern Scotland in all reserved areas, while you simultaneously try and present yourselves as the defenders of Scotland when the voters in England elect to government a party whose policies you oppose (and who only manage to get one MP elected in Scotland) even though you are committed to the constitutional arrangement which allows them to do that.

            It’s quite a pickle really.

            But if the Scottish people vote to continue with that state of affairs of course that is their democratic right and the whole point of a referendum (which you guys opposed) is to enable people to make that decision directly.

          2. But Indy, If there is a No in the referndum, will the SNP still be pressing for another referendum on independence at the Scottish election in 2016?

            I can tell you now that at least one SNP MSP wants to keep having referendums until “we get the right answer”.

  8. DougtheDug is right, Scottish Labour would rather see a right wing Tory Government ruling us from London than a left of centre independent Scotland standing up and caring for the most needy in our society.

    I left the Labour Party because it didn’t stand up for Scotland, nothing on this site yet, and certainly nothing in Ian Murray’s poorly written article, has convinced me otherwise.

  9. Interesting that the two posts from Nationalists don’t put any positive case for “independence”, but are attacks on another party.

    Could be because Nats cannot argue positively or that they are naturally negative.

    or both….

    1. There was only aspirations from labour surely Alex.

      “every breathing hour for Scottish Labour is about a better, brighter, more prosperous and fairer Scotland”

      Is that a new aspiration, or did they aspire to that for the last 60 or so years? if so they’ve made a hell of a mess of it.

      Most of the post was a criticism of the SNP and a series of questions about whether we would be better off under a left of centre independent Scotland government or an right of centre UK government?

      There were no answers. Nothing positive at all.

    2. You will never learn that you might be part of the problem that the Labour party in Scotland is in by insinuating that others are negative, keep it up.

    3. “Could be because Nats cannot argue positively or that they are naturally negative. or both.”

      Alex, I’m not sure if your comment was directed at me but if you want a positive case for independence:

      Scotland has its own education system, legal system, music, languages, customs, holidays, history, geography, natural resources and sense of identity. It is a nation and deserves to be a state. And if it was a state Scots would be more self confident, richer and therefore healthier.

      We also would not have to put up with Conservative Governments elected in England which have ruled the UK for more than 36 years since the end of the Second World War and which the Labour party in Scotland regards as a price worth paying for the Union.

      1. “Scotland has its own education system, legal system, music, languages, customs, holidays, history, geography, natural resources and sense of identity. ”

        So what’s the problem. We’ve got all these things (which you consider important, apparently) as we are. Which means we couldn’t get them with “independence”. So why bother?

        ” It is a nation and deserves to be a state. .”

        “deserves”,… what does that mean?

        1. Scotland has its own education system, legal system, music, languages, customs, holidays, history, geography, natural resources and sense of identity. It is a nation and deserves to be a state. And if it was a state Scots would be more self confident, richer and therefore healthier.

          …which you consider important, apparently

          Ahh, Alex, the true voice of unionism. You don’t consider any of these Scottish attributes of identity and culture important.

          “deserves”,… what does that mean?

          Scotland has all the trappings and identity of a nation without the power and self-determination that statehood brings.

        2. “So why bother?”

          Because when we are dealing with other countries we want to do so on an equal footing, not accept that another country is better able to present our position.

          Because we don’t want all our tax filtered, with appropriate deductions, through London, England.

          Becaus we recalled our Parliament; we don’t want another Parliament to have “reserved matters” which can be perfectly well dealt with in Scotland.

          Incidentally, people know that voting for the SNP means voting for a party that has the aim of “Independence” ; just like voting for Labour means voting for a party that has the aim of “Socialism”…or does it? Socialism wasn’t much mentioned during the election!

          1. So I presume you dont want an independent Scotland being a part of the EU where another parliament has reserved matters that could be dealt with perfectly well in Scotland?

  10. Hello Ian,
    Some observations if I may…
    I’d suggest that it is unfair and untrue to say that independence was never mentioned during the campaign. Firstly it was by SNP candidates and particularly by the First Minister. I remember him talking about the referendum bill being brought forward again; I remember him being asked on a tv interview with Mr Brewer about when it would be. I remember his saying that he wouldn’t set an exact date, because, he said “I made that mistake before”.

    I also remember that in the TV debates that Tavish Scott, almost screaming that A VOTE FOR THE SNP IS A VOTE FOR INDEPENDENCE.

    Latterly, when Iain Gray had decided not to fight the Tories (maybe you have some idea why initially he thought that a good idea, I, for sure, don’t), he too banged the independence drum.

    Certainly, over the last couple of weeks of the campaign, independence figured in a lot of discussions on tv.

    I’d agree that in the local forums, which I attended, where candidates answered questions from public, no one posed a question about independence, which meant that no candidate had the opportunity to talk about it, for or against.

    I also think it’s a tad disingenuous to assume that the public doesn’t know by now, especially after 4 years of government that the SNP stands for independence. The ones who bother to vote almost certainly do understand that to a man.

    It’s unfair too, to put the blame for its alleged “sudden emergence” on the SNP. The minute that it looked like we were winning, it was all that the commentators could talk about. We didn’t mention it any more than before. Alex made it clear that we would await the results of the Bill going through Westminster before we started on an independence Bill in Holyrood. He did so courteously, and in accordance with your Calman commission.

    I’m happy to see that you, at least, agree that the country could stand alone. Some people do not. That I find strange. Given that Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta, all manage. (Yes, I know that both Iceland and Ireland have had some problems.) [Cont.]

    1. Yes Tris remember it was hidden on page 28 of the SNP manifesto (according to Lord Forsyth) ahead funnily enough if sport and the environment. The SNP must have been hiding the Commonwealth Games and their Environmental policy even more than their independence agenda!

      As for that tripe about Labour granting the Scots devolution. Was it not a Scottish Labour MP (for the English constituency of Islington South and Finsbury) George Cunningham who tabled the notorious 40% amendment to the 1978 Scotland Act that sank devolution in 1979? Labour and especially Scottish Labour have never been that keen on Scottish devolution. It was only ever in Wilson’s manifesto because they got the willies put up them when the SNP won 11 MPs in 1974. The situation in 1997 has already been mentioned so I don’t need to repeat it. But as usual Labour are dragged kicking and screaming along with the will of the Scots heels firmly dug in. I’m sure that if the SNP pull of a similar trick in the Inverclyde by-election it will focus minds on the green Labour benches like 80+ years of Labour hegemony in parts of Scotland never has.

      1. “hidden on page 28 of the SNP manifesto “

        Ah yes. I remember the flood of outrage and shocked newspaper headlines when people spotted it.

        “SNP Turn Out To Be In Favour Of Independence! Nation Stunned! ‘Why Weren’t We Told?’, Demands Lord Foulkes”

        What next? Will you be throwing your arms up in horror that Neil Lennon doesn’t make a big deal out of announcing at the start of every press conference that he actually quite likes Celtic?

        1. Yes if they don’t hide it on page 1 then it appears that it is not mentionmed at all. I’m wondering if the name Scottish national party is not a huge clue!

  11. But then so has the UK. Is not EVERYTHING except the Lords, the Royals, MPs’ salaries and bankers’ incomes being cut drastically? Do they not have to cut the police budget, students’ finance, benefit to the poorest, housing benefits and the once sacrosanct pensioners’ winter fuel payments? Are the English not dismantling their health service? Is there not a very real crisis at the moment about what we are to do with people in retirement homes? Ms Bailey and Ms Sturgeon seem to think so, and the situation is as bad or worse in England.

    You ask: Will pensioners be better off? Will our schools be better equipped with more teachers and staff? Will Labour’s NHS be well funded with scope for improvement? Will we have a responsive justice system? Will we have adequate resources for the police, fire and ambulance services? Will we have an improving transport system? Will our most vulnerable be looked after and protected? Will we be able to provide jobs and opportunities for our young people?

    Well, they are good questions. But theya re equally appropriate for the status quo. Under the current regime pensioners are going to be worse off. (£4,50 weekly increase in pension, £1 or £2 weekly reduction in winter fuel, and a reduction in additional pension increase rates.) We are getting smaller handouts from Osborne to pay for schools and YOUR health service (I thought it was OURS). Our transport system is lamentable. I grant you mainly due to Tory policy of privatization. But our roads are in a lamentable condition and our trains amongst the worst in Europe. North of Edinburgh we are using an antiquated diesel system, whilst nearly all of England is electrified. Police are being cut in England; the SNP government wants to try to find a way of keeping the numbers here, but our total spend is decided by Tories in London.

    I don’t think it is absurd to talk about London Labour. The best of your people always want to have a seat in the London parliament. You lost a few good people to London recently. Decisions may or may not come from there, but Wendy Alexander bit the dust fairly soon after she wanted to bring it on, against Gordon’s wishes. It is also true that there is no actual registered Scottish Labour party. It is merely a regional branch of the party in London as far as I can ascertain.

    You sneer at the SNP for coming “late to the table” over Calman. But seriously; you set up a commission to look at the future constitutional set up of Scotland, and despite an SNP Scottish government, Wendy Alexander’s commission expressly excluded discussion of independence. What did you really expect? That the SNP would sit quietly in the corner?

    Why wouldn’t unionists discuss it? It was an elephant in the room. Even at the lower end of the polls over 30% of the population wants it. To exclude it excluded over 30% of the population.

    [Cont]

  12. If it is such an unreasonable idea; if what you propose is so obviously so much better, why will you not entertain a discussion about it? Why wouldn’t Calman take submissions on independence? It’s not treasonous to talk about it. It might have buried it forever. It might have made Scottish minds concentrate on it. If it is as bad as unionists say, then surely the sensible Scottish public would have seen that and rejected it. But in any case, it is silly to expect that a party whose raison d’être is independence would want to join a constitutional convention that expressly ruled out discussion of the subject.

    If Labour is about a better, brighter, more prosperous and fairer Scotland, why after 13 years of Labour rule does Scotland boast some of the poorest areas in Europe?

    Why do some towns, particularly in the West, where Labour has had power for 60 years, look 3rd world; decayed, dilapidated buildings, graffiti everywhere, litter, high streets full of charity shops, betting shops, pubs and pound shops, with poor, sad, pinched people standing on street corners bored and vacant with no work, looking angry. Why are they scary places with evidence of drug taking on every piece of parkland? Why are they falling to pieces? Why in the last 50 years has someone not done something that works for these people?

    Leaving aside the matter of national pride, and the matter of running our economy to suit our people, not the people in the South East of England, one of the massive problems is that although Scotland NEVER votes for them, we are, thanks to the more prosperous English, forced to endure years of Tory government. Years of neglect of Scotland, disrespect for a country (or region) where they get no seats and where therefore it’s not worth wasting much money. Years of being ruled by Eton and Oxford lads, Bullingdon Boys whose only experience of Scotland is a spot of shooting on the moors, don’t you know.

    Being a part of the UK gave us 10 years of Thatcherism which sucked the life blood from our country. Then we had 7 years of Major, and the misery that brought. Labour said vote Labour to keep the Tories out, but England was sick of the Tries and despite the fact that Scotland did exactly what you asked, here we are… David Cameron’s face smiling out of every paper, sitting in Easy Jet departure lounges looking as if he were an ‘ordinary person’, off on his second holiday in as many months.

    For no other reason than what the Conservatives do to us, surely independence, and a country where OUR votes count (benefiting Labour) has to be a winner.
    [end]

  13. Mr Murray must be delusional. Labour were hammered at the election. Labour hadn’t taken on board the lessons of the previous Scottish Parliament or council elections. The electorate’s message was that the party had been too long in power. That power had corrupted. A change was necessary. The same old dogs were not going to produce any new tricks.

    The latest campaign was negative and poorly managed. It didn’t address Scotland’s needs in any adequate respect. The result: an SNP majority and loss of traditional power bases. It’s a long road back. Mr Murray says nothing to encourage the thought that he or the party have learned anything. The rose-tinted specs don’t work any longer.

    Oh he was right on one thing. You don’t have to be a supporter of the SNP to be Scottish. If not, I’ve been delusional for the last sixty years.

  14. So lets examine the scenarios and inform the Scottish people honestly….Will our most vulnerable be looked after and protected?
    – As the Labour Party in government in Westminster was responsible for starting and continuing the so-called welfare reforms, currently being carried out by the ConDem Government, and continues to fully support them, then the answer is no.

    The British Labour Government are the ones who first contracted the IT company and medical abusers Atos to examine sick, ill and disabled to see if they are fit for work. The DWP-approved Atos continues its reign of terror and abuse amongst the most vulnerable and weakest members of our community. Many sick and ill people are dying whilst awaiting appeals tribunals after being found fit for work by Atos. Others have committed suicide.

    Ian Gray and Ed Miliband used the Atos HQ in Livingston last January to hold a meaningless news conference where Ed Miliband state Atos were doing a fine job –
    Speaking after the visit, Mr Miliband said:
    “I am very pleased that Lawrence Fitzpatrick and Iain Gray invited me to see the great work that goes on in Atos Origin – everything from supporting the NHS to helping run the Olympic Games.

    http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/iain-gray-and-ed-miliband-visit-veterans-charity

    Just as the Labour Party have attempted to privatise the NHS and burden it with vast PFI debts, the fundamental aspects of the welfare state are being destroyed with full Labour Party involvement and support, with much of it being privatised and used to line the pockets of private contractors. The Panorama documentary about Winterbourne Park was no anomaly but the result of accumulated British government policies.

    I hope the SNP will recognise this and oppose these Labour/ConDem reforms, which are no reforms at all, but are the destruction of the state support the most vulnerable need just to stay alive.

  15. Mr Murray asks a lot of valid questions about what an independent Scotland would be like – “Will our schools be better equipped? Will the NHS be well funded? Will we have a responsive justice system? Will we have adequate resources for the police, fire and ambulance services? Will we have an improving transport system? Will our most vulnerable be looked after and protected? Will we be able to provide jobs and opportunities for our young people?”

    These are all vital issues already controlled by the devolved Scottish Parliament, and I’d say much better now than they were by Wesminster before devolution. Independence on its own will not automatically answer all those questions, but what we do with independence will.

    The answer to all these questions is it depends on what type of government we elect after independence and what they do. I’d say it’s wrong to assume the SNP will be in government forever just because Scotland is a normal independent country. No party will have an automatic right to be in power. Most of the time there will be a centre-left, social democratic government controlling ALL issues, but it could be an SNP government sometimes and Labour at other times. The major advantage is that we in Scotland will be controlling the purse strings, and not relying on Westminster which means having the Tories deciding how much we can spend at least half the time. We could decide to not spend billions on things like Trident and illegal wars, and spend them on things we do want as Mr Murray has listed above.

    So independence is not just about being able to decide how Scotland’s public services are managed, but how it can shape the kind of Scotland that we want to live in, and that will depend on how the people vote and how the politicians act after independence.

    I would never for one minute dream of accusing unionists as being any less Scottish than nationalists, but I do distinctly get the impression that many in Labour are not quite so comfortable with the Scottish part of their identity than we on the independence side are. For us being Scottish is a natural and integral part of our identities, for unionists it seems to be a bit of an add on, and something that can sometimes be expressed in an old-fashioned stereotypical way. Putting a bit of tartan on and shouting “Jings Crivvens, Hoots Mon!” while doing the Highland Fling went out with the ark (if it was ever in, in the first place), although that is how a lot of people (especially in the South-East) of England think we still behave, and some unionists feel they have to play up to this to be seen as Scottish. Even the name / layout of this website is an illustration of that (although done in a post-modern “ironic” way as 1 or 2 comments have already said). I find it highly unlikely an SNP or independence Forum would call itself “SNP Hame” or be covered in a tartan logo. For many of my friends who are Unionists, they see the only outlet for Scottishness comes when they see people acting as if it’s the 1978 World Cup, or the White Heather club all over again. This is not what being Scottish in 2011 is about. The sooner unionists come to realise this, the more comfortable they will be with the Scottish part of their identity, and the less some on our side will (unjustly I have to say) accuse them of being “less” Scottish.

    1. Even the Noble Barn ffoulkes agreed that they were better… and on purpose.

      But in fairness, even when it was the Liberal-Labour governments of the past, things were better here than they were in England.

      Government closer to the people.

  16. @Paul “I would never for one minute dream of accusing unionists as being any less Scottish than nationalists”

    is that right…?

    followed by “but I do distinctly get the impression that many in Labour are not quite so comfortable with the Scottish part of their identity than we on the independence side are.”.. Is that right? So you wouldn’t dream… but…

    followed by ” For us being Scottish is a natural and integral part of our identities, for unionists it seems to be a bit of an add on” so from “I wouldn’t dream of accusing unionists of being any less Scottish” to… well… accusing unionists of being less Scottish than “us”.

    Are you a “unionist” plant Paul, designed to show Nationalist bigotry and foolishness?

    Or are you confused?

    I do hope it’s the second, as the alternatives are too insulting to list…

  17. Still waiting for a positive comprehensive and reasoned argument in favour of “independence”…

    Economic….

    Cultural…

    Politcal…

    Any reason you can think of…

    Where is it….?

    1. The argument for independence is very simple. Scotland will be better governed and will be more successful if the Scottish people elect a Scottish Government with full powers to govern Scotland instead of the somewhat convoluted arrangements which currently exist.

      And you know what – Labour already accepts half that argument. You agree that the Scottish Parliament and Government should have control over devolved areas and you would fight just as hard as the SNP to stop Westminster gaining any control over devolved areas because you believe that the Scottish Parliament should have control over those areas.

      Labour accepts the argument that Scotland is a distinct nation with distinct characteristics and distinct challenges and issues which require distinct powers and policies. Indeed you accept that policy-making in areas such as health should be separate to policy-making south of the border because you recognise that Scotland is different to England.

      And that is a problem for you because it makes very little sense to say that Scoland is different in devolved areas and therefore requires its own decision-making powers but that Scotland is not different in reserved areas and therefore does not require its own decision-making powers. That’s obviously nonsense. The only real difference between policy areas like health and policy areas like welfare are that some are devolved and some are reserved. That’s quite an arbitrary difference isn’t it?

      Where is the logic in saying that Scotland should be able to go its own way when it comes to health policy but not when it comes to the welfare system? Where is the logic in saying that Scotlan should be able to go its own way on culture but not on broadcasting? Where is the logic in saying that Scotlland should be able to go its own way on renewable energy but not on any other kind of energy?

      That really doesn’t make any sense. If – as Labour accepts – Scotland is distinct enough to require decision-making powers in devolved areas to enable us to come up with “Scottish solutions to Scottish problems” as the mantra goes then why should we not have the powers to come up with Scottish solutions to Scottish problems in reserved areas too? Why is it so important to you that Westminster should retain control over those areas?

      These are the kinds of questions you are going to have to answer over the next 4 years and it will be interesting to see what arguments will be put forward.

    2. “Still waiting for a positive comprehensive and reasoned argument in favour of “independence”…

      Economic….

      Cultural…

      Politcal…

      Any reason you can think of…

      Where is it….?”

      Sigh. You’re not waiting for it at all. You’ve been given a dozen reasons on this blog alone, but you just ignore them all and keep honking out the same deaf-eared denial that got you such a spanking from the electorate last month. Fair enough. Good luck campaigning in the referendum on the same negative girning and whining, maybe it’ll be third time lucky. But don’t say we didn’t try to help you.

  18. Dear Mr Gallagher – I’m not prepared to get into a slanging match in an internet forum, but at no point in my previous comment did I say that I thought that unionists or anyone in the Labour party were any less Scottish than anyone on the pro-independence side of the debate. I’m sorry if you interpreted my comments later within the same post in that way, but that’s certainly not what I was saying.

    I knew what I meant when I wrote them. Saying that it appears to an outsider that somebody doesn’t seem to be as comfortable as another person who has a characteristic they both have in common, is not the same as saying the first person does not have that characteristic or have it to any less degree than the second person. Of course we’re all Scottish, but the difference is there seems to be different points of view across the divide about what being Scottish means. If you think that is bigoted to acknowledge that people hold different points of view and sometimes disagree then call me a bigot, but I wouldn’t say so at all.

    I thought I was trying to offer a reasonable explanation of how I saw a point of view opposite to mine and trying to understand why people might have that view. It’s always helpful in life to try and understand the other person’s point of view and where they are coming from even when you don’t agree with it. That’s how we as a nation will work our problems out, not by shouting at each other but by reasoned discussion. I won’t bother next time as it’s obviously a waste of time for some people.

    It’s a real shame that all too often discussions between Labour and SNP people seem to descend into bitter argument and sometime personal insult on occasion. If you dig deep down you’ll probably find that we have more in common on wither side than we’d like to admit to each other most of the time. I’m sure all of us want to see Scotland as a better and fairer country to live in – we just disagree about the means that this should be achieved.

    The way you seem to dismiss all nationalists or anyone sympathetic to independence as bigots and fools is just as bad as nationalists who dismiss unionists as being somehow anti-Scottish or less Scottish.

  19. Scots must pay £12.546 billion every year just to stay in the Union according to Office of National Statistics (ONS) information. UK public sector net borrowing (excluding financial interventions) was £139.4 billion in the year 2010/11 and so Scotland’s share based on 9% population amounts to £12.546 billion.

    This is at least the annual cost for Scots of remaining within the Union as Scotland’s national accounts show a surplus meaning none of the debt is accrued in Scotland.

    According to world-renowned economic expert Professor Andrew Hughes Hallet Scotland’s economy, unlike the UK economy is in robust shape:

    “Scotland’s accounts, rather than those compiled in London, show that Scotland has a small net surplus, rather than being a net beneficiary from the UK.”

    The bad news for Scots is that the UK treasury is accruing debt which is accelerating owing to bad house-keeping south of the border and dragging the Scottish economy down with it.

    Think Tank statement

    An analysis from the right-wing think tank – the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – shows Scotland’s share of the UK’s skyrocketing public debt will be a staggering total of £110 billion by the time it is likely to become independent.

    This sum is startling and, to make matters worse, is set against official UK Government figures which forecast unprecedented levels of UK debt which will surge past £1.1 trillion this year.

    Perhaps not surprisingly these figures will be used by pro-independence supporters to show that Scotland must get out of the sinking UK ship as quickly as possible.

    There’s no cause for alarm though as Scotland will have the ability to escape this problem if it votes ‘Yes’ in the forthcoming independence referendum. The real problem facing the budgets of Scots families, institutions and businesses is that the SNP Government may wait too long to call the independence referendum while each year Scots have to pay £12.5 billion and rising – merely to be ruled from London.

    Based on the official figures it costs every single Scot £2, 413 per year to pay off a debt they didn’t cause. This debt could be avoided if Scots vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum and so would be an ‘independence dividend’.

    With full independence Scotland will control its oil and gas reserves and so have no problem picking up this ‘Union tab’ but how much longer will Scots tolerate austerity and benefit cuts designed for a plummeting UK economy?

    Scotland’s share of UK debt is unlikely to be as bad as the analysis by the IEA’s Richard Wellings suggests as it bases its figures on Westminster public spending figures which are exaggerated. For example the entire cost of maintaining Trident is classed as a Scottish expense rather than a UK one. Wellings’ analysis though does say that there is a preferable method of estimating Scotland’s share of debt:

    “Better still would be an estimate that also took account of the share of UK tax revenues generated in Scotland, but such a calculation is complicated by significant fluctuations in North Sea receipts from year to year.”

    As we know Scotland is in surplus and that is calculated based on our population share of North Sea oil and gas reserves. An independent Scotland would be entitled to far more of those resources than its population share and so it reasonable to assume that Scotland’s share of the debt will be estimated downwards during independence negotiations with London.

    Certainly, whatever Scotland has to absorb from the UK’s debt mountain will be manageable – once Scotland is independent – as when oil and gas revenues are added to a Scottish exchequer our debt to GDP ratio will be far less than England’s.

    At the moment exports from Scotland’s huge financial services sector are credited to London which means Scotland’s current GDP is hugely underestimated. Post-independence this picture will become clearer and Scotland will look in much better shape to face the future.

  20. I read the article with interest, in search of a positive case for the Union, but it gave every appearance of being about the failings of the SNP and people who believe in Scottish independence. Why is that?

  21. “I can tell you now that at least one SNP MSP wants to keep having referendums until “we get the right answer”.”

    Let me put a little bit of political honey on this comment from John Ruddy. One of the clear results of a significant number of Scots voting for the SNP is the development of the “Union”. The other is I now have the clear, undiluted political CHOICE on how GB will be formulated in the future. If Westminster rejects our ideas i am also happy to walk away.

    I have looked at all the arguments that have been raised against the latter option, and really they don’t phase me. Truth would be a stranger to you.

    The Labour party seem to be in perpetual reactionary mode when it comes to the issues that principally are Scotlands interests, for example Oil, Fisheries, UN, NATO, EU etc. You have allowed London to define those matters, and others, as being “reserved”.

    My question is when did you ever ask us if the London government should be allowed to aquire these “reserved” matters? Especially when the Articles of Union are quiet on these matters.
    Here is a hint, if these reserved matters are not specifically mentioned in 1707 then your “Default” position should be they remain under the auspices of the Scottish people until such time Holyrood deems them not.

    As I’ve said before, you have a lot of soul searching to do before I feel good about having you as an effective option on the ballot paper.

  22. How did we lose the saltire to the nats?
    We refused to recognise the arguement that we have some geographical differences e.g the rural transportation / ferry costs / postal charges to specific post codes. Unless we recognise true differences we will be seen as a party of middle England. We need to win this ground back!!

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