Staying in the UK isn’t less than what the SNP are offering, says GREG WILLIAMS; it’s more


In my previous article I wrote of the need for Labour to articulate an alternative positive vision for Scotland – a vision that would win over the aspirational members of Scottish society who voted SNP in this year’s election. Talk about setting yourself up for a fall!

Here, however, is my attempt at that vision. Next week I’ll be attempting the equally herculean task of revealing just why it is that people pay £80 to watch a cricket match then spend it reading a newspaper.

Scottish Labour should not be content with the Dewar devolution settlement. Neither is our vision simply for devolution max. We should be advocating devolution plus: Dewar’s devolution with enhanced economic powers plus all the benefits of the union. Having our cake and eating it; sharing the common ingredients with other countries in the Union but baking to our own recipe; knowing that we have the security of sharing that cake if need be.

I even think the SNP already know the attractiveness of this recipe. Anyway, enough with the cake analogies. I’ve grouped some details for this vision around four key themes before further articulating the vision of devolution plus at the end.


Labour’s Scotland, unlike the SNP’s independent Scotland, would not define itself “in opposition to our neighbours, but by ourselves and our basic values.” “We know our worth and take pride in it.” We are a bold and confident nation in the world and we exhibit that confidence as part of the United Kingdom. In our view, the “countries of Scotland and England stand together as equals.” We will not seek a role for Scotland in the constraints of 19th century nationalism and revel in “the memory of battles that no one alive fought in”, but face 21st century globalisation as partners, stronger together, supporting each other. Our Scotland will take an “active and positive membership of the EU”, but with the weight of the United Kingdom, not Latvia or Lithuania.

The economy

Scottish Labour recognises that “external trade, investment and the flow of knowledge and skills are crucial to our future as a dynamic, flexible and modern economy.” That’s why we embrace the Union as a trade market, knowledge base and investment source five times the size of our own and to which Scotland alone has the best access. Scottish Labour also advocates the strength of Sterling instead of embracing “the success [sic] of the Euro”. We want to maintain “security of employment”, not go it alone “in a cold world, but a community that is united to protect all of our people.”  We want to continue to enjoy a broad economic base and the backup of a stable welfare state, not bet our future on oil, a fluctuating commodity, vulnerable to bankers and traders.

Business and energy

Scottish Labour sees “barriers to business as barriers to national progress.” But we will not engage in a race to the bottom on corporation tax, taking money away from the state and handing it unearned to big business. Scottish Labour’s business policy will reward companies who train for the future and pay their fair share. Indeed, we will “make Scotland an attractive place for investment.” We won’t turn investment away right now when Scotland needs it most through the uncertainty of independence and unaffordable public spending commitments.

“Green energy…is at the heart of our economic policy.” But Labour’s Scotland will have a guaranteed export market for its electricity in the Union, with an already established transmission infrastructure. Scottish Labour will seek to “reindustrialise our country through marine renewable energy”, but we won’t jeopardise existing industry like navy ship building on the Clyde.

Our politics

The Scottish Labour party harnesses the benefits of the Union, and achieves “equality for Scotland” within it through our strong cohort of MPs in Westminster in a way no other party can. We will not be a “lobby group…begging Westminster for what should be ours”, but together as MPs and MSPs we will deliver those benefits. We will be the party that exhibits the strength of the devolution. Scottish Labour will “never lack in ambition for Scotland” and we will proudly “fight exclusively in the Scottish national Interest.” We would not dither about the fossil fuel levy – we would deliver it.


There’s a Manic Street Preachers track off their album The Holy Bible, released back in 1994, called ‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart.’ I think if Salmond told the truth for one day, his party would fall apart. Because he knows the best thing for Scotland is devolution plus – he’s already articulating it. All the quotes in this article, if you hadn’t guessed already, are from Salmond’s speeches since becoming First Minister. The clues have been there since 2007, but we’ve never effectively tackled the SNP on it.

Allow me a brief digression on this point: Labour is currently obsessing over how it finds a leader to tackle Salmond. Well, perhaps we should come at it from a different angle. Why don’t we start presenting a new, broad, articulate and confident team to take on this one man band? Our difference is our strength here – the breadth of the Labour movement and the quality of its advocates. A team of MSPs, MPs and even those not elected with collective responsibility for confronting nationalism.

And we need a large, quality team because it’s so difficult to offer an alternative vision as compelling as independence with no negative arguments or language. One of the main, if not the main, benefits of the Union is security, as I’ve highlighted above. The SNP will obviously paint our advocacy of security as negative; as fear. But it’s not. It provides Scotland with the foundation to be positive and thrive without the fear of standing alone in a rough, tumultuous world. It provides us with the security within which to pursue our own uniquely Scottish take on health care, education and public services. It gives us the foundation on which to revel in and foster our identity, not to be consumed and burdened by it.

So, let’s get to it. What’s my alternative positive vision? Being part of the UK is not less than independence, but more. Scotland should be bold, confident, empowered and aspirational with the security and the benefits of the Union. Scottish Labour listens to and acts for a Scotland that believes in better because we are a party that always aspires for better, for all of society.

And we are a nation that knows that we are better off together.

Greg Williams was Scottish Labour’s candidate in Aberdeen South and North Kincardine in May.

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39 thoughts on “The vision thing

  1. A lot of that sounds like it could have come out of an SNP manifesto. If imitation is a form of flattery then we should feel well flattered.

    But you are still left with the basic problem of trying to make two contrarictiry arguments at once – the cognitive dissonance issue.

    Think forward. The next UK general election is going to be held in 2015 right? So there will be some crossover with the referendum campaign.

    So you are going to have to fight two campaigns – one saying that Scotland benefits from being governed from Westminster and that we are equal partners and that the Union works and the other saying that the Tories are the worst thing since sliced bread, they are completely out of tune with Scottish values, they are a danger to everything we hold dear. Yet … in spite of that … please don’t break up this Union which works so well even though it results in us being ruled by Tories who are, like, totally evil.

    It’s going to be much easier for the SNP because our message is consistent no matter what.

    1. Not sure how pointing out the contradictions at the heart of the SNP’s independence rhetoric is flattery. But, you’re welcome none the less.

  2. Simple question: what are the benefits of the Union?

    Simple answer: do you really think in a world that’s becoming more global and interdependent, being a part of a larger union won’t help Scotland?

    Unionism is a good thing. It represents people sharing ideals, values and collaborating. Nationalism which the SNP represent, is divisive and fosters the notion that people are massively different. We’re not.

    1. Good answer, Tom, but don’t expect any cybernat worth his salt to accept that without a dismissive sneer. They don’t actually want an answer to the question – just an opportunity to show their contempt for anyone who dares disagree with them (in other words, most of the Scottish electorate).

    2. If we shared values with rest of UK we’d have a Con/Dem coalition in Holyrood…

    3. Of course people aren’t massively different. We are not massively different to the people of England but then again we are not massively different to the people of Ireland or Belgium or indeed the people of New York either. So what is your point? Are you advicating a single European Government – or a single English-speaking world government? If not, why not? If being broadly similar is reason enough to become a single political entity shouldn’t you be trying to achieve a single world government for that matter because all human beings have more in common than they have apart.

      1. And similarly, just because California could function perfectly well as an independent nation doesn’t mean it should become independent.

  3. Do we all share the same ideals and beliefs as Tory voting England? I’m not too sure. Obviously there are many underlying principles such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law but these connections won’t disappear just because the people of Scotland want to govern themselves.

    1. Do we all share the same ideals and beliefs as Tory voting England? What about Labour-voting Manchester, or Liverpool or Newcastle or Wales or large parts of London? What about the pockets of Tory support throughout Scotland? And is the difference in which party to support a genuine, serious reason to shatter the most successful political and social union in history? Of course it’s not, but the nats still want to do it.

      1. As I said, you are going to have some problems with the doom mongering anti-Tory rhetoric which worked so well for you at the last Westminster election if you are simultaneously arguing that being governed by the Tories ain’t so bad really.

  4. Perhaps its too late for Labour – I think Scotland has maybe entered a new phase/way of thinking and Independence might be inevitable no matter what policies Labour adopt.

  5. I’m not fully convinced by the idependence arguement but the claim that being part of the union isn’t a very strong case to use. The EEC is the collective protection for all European members. The arguementused here is akin to suggesting that being in a local trade union as well as a national union is better???

  6. answer: do you really think in a world that’s becoming more global and interdependent, being a part of a larger union won’t help Scotland?

    A. Far too vague an answer. Give me examples of how being in a Union within a Union helps Scotland.

    Unionism is a good thing. It represents people sharing ideals, values and collaborating. Nationalism which the SNP represent, is divisive and fosters the notion that people are massively different. We’re not.

    A. I fail to see how an independent Scotland can’t share ideals, values and collaborate with the peoples of the British Isles and beyond.
    Why does being independent stop us doing this?

  7. Yes, we need to develop this vision of devolution plus, of a confident and aspirational Scotland within the union. Add to this a historical perspective with which we can see Scotland taking advantage of the union after 1707 to enable the skilled individuals who were the products of her distinctive (and superior) education system to develop universities in Canada , shipping lines in New Zealand, jute factories in India.
    This vision looks to the future while being rooted in present realities. But it does not in itself appear to be enough. A message needs to evolve from it to show how a party with sound representation throughout the Union is best placed to foster the aspirations of the Scottish people. The message needs to focus more strongly on the economic pluses which Labour wishes to facilitate both in terms of trade and employment and in the beneficial development of renewable energies. The message needs to articulate how devolution plus within the existing union with those culturally and linguistically closest to us ( and with whom so many share family links) is an essential first step towards playing a full and ultimately rewarding role within the EU.
    Not so much a cake analogy, unless we are talking about one of those many layered continental Kuchen, but rather a series of building blocks of nations with similar values and beliefs.
    Then we are building better. Creating more. Delivering the plus.

    1. Alternatively -” Conservative Government, We don’t like it either but it’s a price worth paying to save the Union”.

  8. I’m going to have to learn to write shorter articles for the nats who haven’t bothered to read it fully. Benefits of the Union, as outlined above:

    – Positive dual identity
    – Greater clout in the EU
    – Unparalleled access to the UK market of investment and skills
    – The pound
    – Economic and welfare security of a more diverse economy
    – Fair rather than zero / reduced corporation tax regime
    – Continuity of investment (viz uncertainty of Independence)
    – Guaranteed export market for green energy

    That’s just the ones covered in this article. There are many more.

    I accept the challenge of making this positive argument in the face of a Tory regime in Westminster. We in the Labour camp have a lot to do here to make sure our voice is heard clearly.

    But I take a lot of heart that none of the cybernats have managed to address the core conceit – the Salmond already knows the Union is better for Scotland, as illustrated in his quotes. With more effective pressure applied on this front, the SNP’s arguments will unravel.

    1. Greg, you must realise by now that when Nats ask what the benefits of the Union are, they know in advance that whatever the answer, they will dismiss it out of hand. Because if you’re a Nat, then there are only benefits to independence – no downside at all. Similarly, if you’re a Nat, there can be no upside to the Union. None.

      1. if you’re a Nat, there can be no upside to the Union. None.

        Well list them instead of moderating anything that doesn’t comply with your interpretation of everything.

      2. Because if you’re a Nat, then there are only benefits to independence – no downside at all. Similarly, if you’re a Nat, there can be no upside to the Union. None.

        Simply the pot calling the kettle black, unless you can prove me wrong by listing the benefits of Independence, and/or downside of the union, from a labour perspective.

      3. Admin,

        you are far, far too rigid in you opinion of us “nats”. We do not think all is roses in the land of independance, likewise the Union is not all bad. As I said before, some of us are just “bored” with the Union and have a desire to do things for ourselves, basically because the current set up of the Union is not sufficient for a modern forward looking country. The Union is not set up as a union of equals and you as Labour do not see it as a running sore in our relationship with England.

        Hopefully the irony of “equals” is not lost on your good self? Your site seems to mention it so often that I was beginning to think it was the eleventh commandment! LOL.

    2. “Positive Duel Identity” – In what countries is a Scots identity held in lower esteem than a “UK” one (other than England)? If we never need to rely on that Duel Identity, it’s not an advantage to have one.

      “Greater clout in the EU”

      In the scenario where Westminster wants one thing in EU negotiations and Scotland wants another, i.e. fisheries policy, how much clout does Scotland have? (None at all is the answer you’re looking for).

      “Unparalleled access to the UK market of investment and skills”

      The French, Germans, Spanish, Italians, etc, etc all have the same unfettered access. It’s called the EU.

      “The pound”

      The pound is a weak currency but even accepting it’s an advantage, Scotland could peg its currency against sterling ala the way Ireland did for years.

      “Economic and welfare security of a more diverse economy”

      Again, the EU. Scotland would still have access to these same markets. Nobody (other than Unionists) is planning to build giant walls or run a rip saw through Carlise.

      “Fair rather than zero / reduced corporation tax regime”

      Yep, Scots are too stupid to set their own corporation tax regime. Much better to have it set in another country.

      “Continuity of investment (viz uncertainty of Independence)”

      Investment has increased despite talk of Independence. It’s only unionists who talk down investment opportunities in Scotland.

      “Guaranteed export market for green energy”

      I take it you’ve never heard of the EU?

      Come on, is that the best list of advantages you can come up? (Oh, here comes admin to delete this post)

      1. As I predicted, cybernats only want a list of positive reasons to remain in the Union so that they can dismiss them out of hand. Presumably the contempt they display for Unionists who dare to support the Union is extended to the majority of Scots who are clearly too thick to understand how wonderful and perfect life would be in a separate Scotland.

    3. Benefits of independence

      – Allows for multiple – not simply dual – identity. Scottish, British, Irish, Pakistani, Polish, European etc or indeed none of the above.
      – A voice in the EU (and other supranational institutions such as UN). At present Scotland has no independent representation.
      – Continued access to EU markets including the UK
      – The pound
      – Control of economic and welfare policies to better align them with specific Scottish needs (e.g. an end to the disgraceful harrassment of genuinely sick people to satisfy the Daily Mail mentality currently being imposed on Scotland).
      – The ability to set corporation tax rates, without which all debate is ultimately meaningless.
      – Enhanced opportunities to attract and retain new investment by, for example, lowering corporation tax.
      – Full control of energy policy to ensure not only that Scotland can export green energy to widest possible market but end fuel poverty at home.

      To that could be added many other advantages which I am quite happy to list if you would like.

      1. None of these “advantages” would be peculiar to an independent Scotland and are, in fact, choices to be made by individual parties rather than consequences that would flow from breaking up our country. You can’t break the Union because, in this particular electoral cycle, the Tories happen to be in power and you don’t happen to like some of their policies!

        In fact, most on that list are available now. I can see the slogan: “Vote for independence so that we can keep the pound!”

        1. That is not the case. Scotland could only have a direct voice in the EU or the UN as an independent state.

          And if you are arguing that Scotland could have full financial independence including tax and welfare policy and full control of its energy resources while remaining part of the UK then that’s a very interesting position. Because that would effectively be independence only without calling it independence.

  9. Some of the wording of this article and subsequent comments by it’s author seem to emit a feel of intent to oppose the SNP and their plans, that in itself is nothing unique in relation to the Labour party of today.
    However in the context of this article it appears somewhat contradictory, everything Labour would like to be seen to be standing for in relation to moving Scotland forward in this article regarding the devolution of economic and political responsibilities in this article appear to be nigh on identical to what the SNP have already won the people of Scotland over with in the form of a speech delivered by the First Minister at one of the SNP’s last conferences before going to the people on May 5.
    Can I ask you Greg, do you believe in all that you’ve just posted up there or were you just trying to make a point by substituting the name of the SNP for that of Labour at the head of each speech made by the SNP leader? (modified version)
    What is Labour’s notion of equality in terms of nationhood and self governance as opposed to the SNP’s?
    How can Scotland and England be equal in terms of self governance and local accountability in relation to economic performance and delivering an acceptable GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in Labour’s proposals for moving Scotland forward?
    Ideally Labour in Scotland would prefer all responsibilities were left to London wouldn’t they?
    If not, why have they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into putting a coherent plan together to combat the SNP’s but also one for taking on the responsibility of governing the country in lieu of managing it?
    I don’t think they’ve even attempted to do that Greg, it appears Labour in Scotland are once again content on sticking to their “out there in the big bad World” speeches which is why I’m glad to see blogs like this, bloggers like yourself appear to be taking more of an interest and speaking a lot more sense than what’s been left up here to manage the wee group of MSP’s left in Scotland.
    Labour reconvened Scotland’s parliament in 1997 (after the people of Scotland were made to go through the democratic process of voting on it in a referendum TWICE with Labour refusing to recognise the sovereign rights of the people nearly 20 years before, when we initially voted to reconvene it).
    They said this would kill nationalism “stone dead”. I can only assume they meant it would kill Labour’s main opponents in Scotland, the SNP, stone dead, which in turn would kill off any more notions of equality or standing on our own two feet. Those voting Labour were supposed to be happy to endorse that ethos, it seems once again, like Labour of 1979, they’ve greatly confused the aspirations of Scots as a nation with that of what best suited them as a party.
    Thank God, not for the benefit of the SNP but for the benefit of the people, who, sadly for the decent ones still hanging about Labour, are now with the party that are being seen to be delivering for them.

    1. Maybe I should have been clearer – these are my ideas for a strong Scotland within the union, and I believe in them. I used the quotes from Salmond to demonstrate how some of his ideas are compatible with, even rely upon, the Union too. Everything outside the quote marks is me.

      I can’t speak for Labour’s position previously. Probably not even now since I’m neither elected or a party spokesman! But I’m not sure what picking over previous actions will achieve. You are right that Scotland has moved on, and Labour hasn’t. That was clear in this year’s election result.

      Labour will be more successful electorally if we don’t resort to the big bad world rhetoric, but present a positive case for the union. Or devolution plus as I’ve termed it here. This article is just a start, one of a few starts we’ve seen on this site. There’s a lot more to do.

  10. – Positive dual identity
    Don’t see any evidence of this at all. Last Yougov poll showed those who feel equally proud of being Scottish and British is about 20%. Another poll shows it as low as 14%. Being proud of being British alone was just 3%.

    – Greater clout in the EU
    You will need to give me examples of how this is true. What does the UK get from the EU that Ireland doesn’t or wouldn’t for example? Genuinely interested btw.

    – Unparalleled access to the UK market of investment and skills
    Rather vague answer again. Would an independent Scotland not get access to these markets?

    – The pound
    I believe we would still keep the Pound after independence.

    – Economic and welfare security of a more diverse economy

    Jeeze, examples please!

    – Fair rather than zero / reduced corporation tax regime

    Wouldn’t say that was a benefit

    – Continuity of investment (viz uncertainty of Independence)

    Not seen any evidence of companies not willing to invest in Scotland even though we were told by the Unionists such as the Labour party there would be when the SNP announced there would be a referendum. More scare stories…

    – Guaranteed export market for green energy

    To where??? And why would an independent Scotland not have access to these markets?

    1. That’s quite a negative, opportunistic attitude…give up on a British identity that has pervaded for the last 300 years because of a couple of poor polls. The SNP haven’t given up on independence when polling went against it!

      And as for this mishmash policy towards Europe. I think that should be the subject of another article, where I can address your comments in detail, rather than in the comments boxes. In fact that probably goes for most of the individual points above.

      1. Greg, Scots were British before the union and will be British after it, in exact same way as Norwegians are still Scandinavians. So we would be giving up nothing, identity wise, by voting for independence and it’s a blatant lie to suggest otherwise (is this going to Labour’s tactics in the forthcoming referendum campaign?). But, you’re assertion was that having a dual identity was an advantage. In what way? Where in the world (other than England) would I have cause to resort to a “UK national” identity because a “Scots” identity was getting me nowhere?

          1. You are actually making Don’s point for him. How better to de-toxify the term “British” than for the constituent parts to be become politically independent while retaining their common cultural identity?

  11. Well it’s not just a couple of polls is it? Britishness is on the wane on both sides of the border not just here in Scotland.
    300 years of Union and it looks and feels out of date. It just can’t last in it’s present form.
    I look forward to your article on Europe with interest. I hope you give detail of how a Scotland within the UK is a better option for us in the EU than an independent Scotland within the EU.

  12. Scotland is 2nd class at westminster, dual identity- as long as it is?
    What has labour or the tories done to protect scottish culture/ history or language.

    Corp tax_ scotlands economy is in a better state under the SNP. With fewer powers. Corp tax control would help investment , jobs.

    The union is stuck in the past.

    Eu representation
    Well . I see another votes coming up on the eu. Its not always been so great has it.
    For scotlands size and trade options, who’s worried?

    An equal union would benifit all parts of the uk. And it does not

    Gers figures show that we would be dandy on our own.

    Labelling someone a cybernat does not mean they are niave , ill informed.
    You’ll find that we can back up facts. Were as you. Cyber unionists ( not nice is it) can not.

    Scotland doesn’t need another bout of the tories to finish us off.

    Look at the political map. 69 constituencies have faith in a more compitent gov. One that looks after the people. One that has a vision, and one that is proving itself. Where mr osbourne is not.

    Laps border control. And eco meltdown is making this snowball effect storm toward an independent scotland, because the people have a taste for it. And the union as they struggle to control it will only show their true colours.

    England is moving toward acadamies with no money.
    A employment force with no jobs
    An econmomy with no money , and foreign labour through the roof.
    Wars they can’t afford
    And a privite health service,
    And what’s going to happen with your rising problem of the elderly. When they can’t run their own affairs. We’re dammed if we believe they can run ours.

    Snp! Best gov scotlands ever had.

  13. Incidentally there is quite an interesting report out from Adam Price, former Plaid MP now at Harvard, called the Flotilla Effect. It identifies four key qualities which make small countries economically successful – openness to trade; social cohesion; adaptability and the EU’s flotilla-like structure.

    Worth a read even if you are a unionist!

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