Time to take on the failing SNP and the Brexiteers

davidgowDavid Gow says Scottish Labour must seize the opportunity of the SNP’s floundering to be stronger on Brexit and economic policy, and Owen Smith has recently demonstrated the way.


Brexit has changed everything, but few in Scottish politics will admit it.

This applies not least to the SNP, whose renowned sure-footedness has all but collapsed. Nicola Sturgeon has belatedly appointed Mike Russell as Brexit minister, weeks after Theresa May anointed two (or three with Boris) – and only after it became blindingly obvious she cannot deliver on her pledge to keep Scotland in the EU with or without independence. His job presumably is to keep an eye on the squabbling trio and try and cosy up to the EU’s (various) negotiators. Either way, the second independence referendum looks like a broken dream.

Now we’re left flabbergasted by the self-delusion (or cynical disingenuousness) of senior SNP spokesmen such as Derek Mackay, Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government, who blandly reassured Good Morning Scotland listeners that a £14.8bn budget deficit worth 9.5% of GDP would not prevent Scotland from entering the EU as a full member. After all, he said, the UK ran up a 10%-plus deficit in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and was not expelled.

But that was in 2009-10, when western governments undertook a fiscal expansion to help prevent a global slump after bailing out the banks with multi-billion aid! (Austerity really kicked in later). The UK did, however, end up in the EU’s excessive deficit procedure, which is not a prelude to exclusion but, potentially, to big fines for failing to reduce the deficit below 3% and debt below 60%.

The economic criteria for joining the EU are entirely different – far more stringent – and those for entering the euro, as Scotland almost certainly would be forced to do, even more so.

A more realistic, sober assessment has been given by Scotland’s greatest living historian, Sir Tom Devine. He has set a 5-year timeframe within which the SNP can stage and win a second referendum. But that seems generous. It may assume that the real negotiations via Article 50 start next year (at the earliest), conclude formally in 2019, and there’s a second indyref in, say, 2020-21.

That’s a load of assumptions. By then, of course, the real costs of that stunningly stupid Brexit vote will be apparent in terms of lost output and other disasters. The UK and/or Scottish economy will most likely be in a poorer shape than now, not least because the evidence that May will deliver on her “let’s look after the poor and alienated” is non-existent.

Step forward Owen Smith, still the likely loser when Labour’s leadership election result is declared a month ahead. He at least has had the merit of proposing a plan: parliamentary approval required to trigger an Article 50 application and a general election or referendum to consider the outcome of those Brexit negotiations. By contrast Jeremy Corbyn simply cannot wait for the UK to exit the EU and, presumably, conclude trade deals with his beloved Venezuela, Cuba et al.

Our second-term leader-in-waiting has plenty to say about “solidarity” and “leaving no community out” but – as we know from his ex-economic advisors now leaving the sinking ship – not one viable plan for delivering in government. What’s more, he and his team are simply letting the May and Sturgeon governments off the hook when neither is capable of dealing with the real legacy of 2008: growing inequality/poverty, precarious employment, stagnant incomes, threats to decent pensions, educational, and digital and technological gaps. In July new UK infrastructure projects collapsed to a new low: has Corbyn and his team said anything? Oh yes, a wholly uncosted £500bn national investment bank/programme ”financed” by taxing the rich and clamping down on tax evasion (Osbornomics revisited).

Scottish Labour needs to be stronger on both Brexit and the economy now that the SNP is starting to be past its peak – and, above all, its stewardship of the economy and society is being shown up as wanting across the board. It needs to draw up some attractive and workable plans for both economic and social policy in the timeframe set by Prof Devine or even earlier. It needs to start talking to its European allies/sister parties about viable anti-austerity programmes. Because, let’s face it, Team Corbyn won’t – and it cannot be allowed to drag Scottish Labour, already in deep trouble, towards its terminal crisis.

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18 thoughts on “Time to take on the failing SNP and the Brexiteers

  1. How can you blame Corbyn for letting the tories ‘off the hook’ as you put it when the likes of Owen Smith and many of his parlimentary colleagues had more interest in stabbing their democratically elected leader in the back,choosing to launch their cowardly coup at the same time the tories were ripe for the taking?
    Maybe if the Labour Party had stuck together and took fight to the Tories rather than try destroy itself,they wouldn’t have got such an easy ride.
    To blame Corbyn for not taking advantage of the Tories being at a low ebb while the cowards sticking knives in his back were seated behind him on his own benches is beyond ridiculous…

    It’s as silly as Owen Smith berating a scottish labour audience for laughing at him saying Kezia Dugdale had done a good job (despite the shambolic results under her stewardship) while him and his colleagues jeered their own leader in parliament…

  2. “those for entering the euro, as Scotland almost certainly would be forced to do”

    Is there a reason behind your assertion that different entry rules would apply for Scotland than for any other country joining the EU?

    Poland joined the EU 12 years ago & since it’s currency is still the Zloty, clearly Poland has not been “forced” to join the Euro. Some other examples are:

    Bulgaria (2007)
    Croatia (2013)
    Czech Republic (2004)

    Again since they are not using the Euro, none of the “force” you claim will be put on Scotland has been exerted on these nations.

  3. “Owen Smith…..at least has had the merit of proposing a plan: parliamentary approval required to trigger an Article 50 application and a general election or referendum to consider the outcome of those Brexit negotiations”

    First and foremost, I am not a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, nevertheless, at least he has the decency to respect the democratic result of the EU referendum.

    Own Smith’s attitude resides firmly in SNP territory. By not accepting the will of the people, Owen Smith, through his weasel words and actions, shows himself to be thoroughly anti democratic and unfit to hold public office at any level.

    1. The Scottish Governments job is to accept the will of the people of Scotland not the people of England and Wales. That’s Labour job because they are an English political party run from London. The London that also voted to remain.

      1. The SNP position on the EU referendum is a joke. If they were truly interested in more power being invested upon the Scottish people they would want out of the EU.

        The “there will be another referendum if Scotland is taken out of the EU against her will” is a third rate con trick.

        In 1975 the UK voted to remain part of Common Market.

        In 2014 Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.

        In 2016 we voted as the UK whether to remain in, or leave the EU.

        It was a UK wide vote, every vote stacked and every vote counted.

        How Scotland or London voted made not one shred of difference.

        Face the facts Mike, it’s over.

        1. I thought the SNPs position on the EU was the same as Labours?
          Is it not you who is out of touch with the majority in Scotland not the SNP or even your own party?

          Nobodys vote is for eternity Andy. A vote lasts only as long as the majority of voters dont change their minds.

          Thing is it shouldn’t have been a UK wide vote Andy the UK is not a country its a Parliamentary union between countries. 2 countries voted to remain 2 voted to leave thats a democratic impasse not a mandate.
          We are now in constitutional crises mode because the UK Government tried to ignore the fact that the UK is not a country.

          It made a difference to Scotland and London Andy.

          Face the facts Andy nothings over.

  4. Let’s see if I have got this down correctly.

    It’s SNPBAD followed by SNPBAD X 2, then Corbyn BAD and possible redemption from Saint Smith , finishing with another SNPBAD.

    Of course the real legacy of 2008 was labour blowing the UK economy to bits, which resulted in the Tory austerity and inequality/poverty of today.

  5. Reading this from from the Languedoc, with my tiny State pension increasingly diminished by the narrow British Nationalist/separatist Brexit cut to the value of the pound brings a weary smile to my face. But at least I have the sunshine for another week before returning to Brexitland.
    Some straws in the wind—-
    May will Not require Parliament to approve Brexit.
    Labour are to lose seats due to boundary changes—-Scotland also losing 10percent of its MP’s.
    German deputy Chancellor/Economy Minister stating the UK will lose the “good things” due to Brexit.
    Mr Gow seems to be living in a bubble of his own, where the Tories, Snp, Corbyn et Al are all there to be defeated by the might of Scottish Labour—-a Party with few followers, fewer policies though many strands of opinion.
    Mr Gow is, like many British Nationalists, quite keen on Brexitref2 while totally opposing Indyref2.
    As for Scotlands economy, it is, and always has been up till now, been run from London.
    Perhaps he can explain how Scotland has gone, in a century, from one of the world’s strongest economies to one with a huge deficit via a huge oil field?
    Is it because, unlike Norway, Scottish industry was by passed in the desperation for revenue?

  6. Started to read this but had to give up after three paragraphs as the arrogant, disingenuous, self-delusion being exhibited was just too much for me. I’ve been waiting days for something to appear on this site, and when it does, its just more of the same old nonsense the Labour-till-I-die brigade have been spouting to no avail for the best part of a decade. Sigh!

  7. ‘viable anti-austerity programmes’ – Westminster Labour abstained on Osborne’s ‘austerity’ Welfare budget thereby giving it the green light. You folks really do have short memories…
    (and criticising the ‘stewardship of the economy’ when another country holds most of Scotland’s economic levers is ridiculous but you know that already)

  8. “By contrast Jeremy Corbyn simply cannot wait for the UK to exit the EU and, presumably, conclude trade deals with his beloved Venezuela, Cuba et al.” Sorry but this is just bile. To complain that Corbyn supposedly has nothing to say about Brexit other than bring it on and to proffer such a characterisation completely evidence free is frankly pathetic.
    Then there’s this beaut – “It needs to start talking to its European allies/sister parties about viable anti-austerity programmes. Because, let’s face it, Team Corbyn won’t”. Perhaps if instead of blowing steam out your ears you had actually listened to what Corbyn has been saying at the various hustings so far you would have heard him say that one of the first things he did following the referendum result was meet with the leaders of the party of European Socialists to work out precisely what you advocate. If you like you can hear and see him doing just that here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZXyHC5AVc0

  9. No-one knows what effect Brexit is going to have until we find out the final deal.

    Any speculation on how to react to that issue is pointless until we actually know where we stand.

  10. Owen Smith’s proposals are completely illogical, yet the media is ignoring it. Had Corbyn suggested anything similar he would have been lambasted as being politically inept.

    So, to recap: Owen suggests that we should get to vote on whether to accept the Brexit terms at the end of the negotiations. What about the fact that Article 50 has to be triggered before negotiations begin? So Owen Smith wants the UK to get to vote to accept or reject the terms of Brexit, ignoring the fact that voting to reject that terms would not keep us in the EU – it would just mean that the UK would leave without negotiated terms. f course we could beg that the UK had changed its mind and wanted to stay but all current EU countries would have to vote to allow the UK to remain – and they would be unlikely to agree to that on the current terms, if at all.

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