Why Scottish Labour should oppose the triggering of Article 50

mark-lazarowiczMark Lazarowicz, former MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, argues that given the mounting evidence of the damage Brexit will do, Scottish Labour should vote against the triggering of Article 50.


The result of the European referendum posed an immediate dilemma for those, like myself, who believe that the best future for Scotland is to remain in both the European Union and the union with the rest of the UK. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people started searching for options which would allow Scotland to remain in both the EU and the UK, even if the rest of the UK left the EU.

One of those who searched for such an option was Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, who went as far as to announce she had asked Labour’s Lord Falconer to look at possible arrangements.

It is clear that any such option of staying in both unions, even if the rest of the UK goes for Brexit, has now been rejected by Scottish Labour’s leadership. That is the only conclusion that can be reached from the decision by its MSPs a couple of weeks to reject the option of Scotland staying in the single market if the rest of the UK did not.

That decision is understandable, given that all the research done since the referendum has made it clear that there are no politically feasible options to allow Scotland to remain in the EU if the rest of the UK leaves, other than for Scotland to become a sovereign state (or as nearly sovereign as makes no real difference).

So, if Scottish Labour wants Scotland to stay in both the UK and the EU, the only practical way of achieving that is for the entire UK to remain in the EU.

And the inevitable conclusion if that is what Scottish Labour wants, then its elected representatives should vote against the triggering of Article 50 to give notice of the UK terminating its membership of the EU.

If Scottish Labour takes that position, we can anticipate that the Brexiteers will start shouting and complaining that would be to reject the democratic mandate of the referendum on June 23rd. The obvious answer to such a charge, of course, is that if Labour, both in Scotland and the rest of the UK, believes that the UK is now a partnership of equals, then there is nothing wrong in saying that fundamental constitutional change cannot be triggered by part of the UK alone.

To say that is not to take a nationalist position, but rather to recognise that it is normal in a state which is federal in nature (as the UK is now in many respects) for amendments to its fundamental constitutional arrangements to require much more than a simple majority across the state as a whole. In the USA, for example, constitutional amendments require two-thirds majorities, and approval by three-quarters of states. Most other states with federal or devolved constitutional arrangements have similar requirements.

So I urge Scottish Labour’s MP and MSPs to vote against the UK triggering Article 50, and in so doing reflect the choice of a clear majority of voters in Scotland.

I know that some in Scottish Labour might fear that to take such a line would ‘play into the hands of the SNP’: to which I suggest that if Scottish Labour doesn’t take a stand against the triggering of Article 50, that will certainly be used by the SNP to attack Labour, and provide a useful distraction for it from the fact that more SNP voters voted for Brexit than did Labour voters in Scotland.

Others might say that a vote against triggering Article 50 would be pointless, as the UK Parliament will vote for it anyway. To which I say that we have seen so many unexpected events over the last few months, nothing can be ruled out. Even if article 50 is eventually triggered by the UK Parliament, evidence that there are voices in Labour that are not prepared to allow the small minority of extreme Brexiteers who have taken over the government to go unanswered, will make it much more possible to build a majority in Parliament to keep close links with our European friends in the negotiations that will then take place.

Every day brings new evidence of the damage that the rush to Brexit is doing to our economy, our international standing, and our social cohesion. Now is not the time to be silent as the Brexiteers would like, but to speak up even more strongly.

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30 thoughts on “Why Scottish Labour should oppose the triggering of Article 50

  1. “the fact that more SNP voters voted for Brexit than did Labour voters in Scotland.”
    Can someone point me to this data please?

    1. Those figures should not be surprising as the number of SNP voters is now approximately three times that of the total number of labour voters.

  2. “More SNP voters voted for brexit than did labour voters in Scotland” :

    That’s because their are a lot more SNP voters than labour voters in Scotland, or did you not notice the results of the past few elections.

  3. “Why Scottish Labour should oppose the triggering of Article 50”

    Substitute “triggering of Article 50” with the “democratic will of the people” and you pretty much have Mark Lazarowicz’s entire argument.

    Its little wonder we are polling at 15%. If you look like, sound like and smell like the Liberal Democrats, pretty soon you’re going to be polling like them too.

    Mark Smith is right, Scottish Labour is a “middle class protest” Party.

    Let us airbrush out the fact that the Labour Party has traditionally been a Euro sceptic Party.

    In the Labour Party, Euro sceptics are widely considered to be “right wing bigots” and “racists”. Tarred as dreadful, uneducated, ignorant plebs who are neither wanted nor welcome in today’s frightfully posh “peoples party”.

    1. I think calling Labour “traditionally” Eurosceptic is a stretch, Andy. We have been Eurosceptic in the fairly distant past, but for decades we have been strongly pro-Europe and continue to be today.

      1. In 1983 the Labour Party was a Euro sceptic party.

        As you say Duncan, for years now the Labour Party has had a majority pro EU stance.

        The problem is that Euro sceptics are now widely derided and ignored within the Labour Party and have either already left or are considering leaving our Party.

        Many of the people, who sneer at UKIP and its support, fail to realise that they helped to create that particular monster, by stifling debate within the Labour Party.

        It is an indisputable fact that many of the millions of people who now support UKIP, used to be staunch Labour Party supporters.

        The Labour Party are at a cross roads. In the recent past we were successful as we were able to count upon both working class and middle class support. Our biggest offers were routinely pitched at the middle classes as they had an electoral choice between Labour, Conservatives or the Liberals. Our offering to the working class was pretty much take it or leave it, as we were the only game in town. Today, with the SNP and UKIP this is no longer the case.

        Today’s Labour Party be it left right or centre, is very middle class in both its makeup and outlook and is pretty much disconnected from large swathes of our former bedrock working class support.

        Round our way, streets where you used to get a warm welcome are now virtual no go areas.

        Basically, we have to decide whether we are a party for the interests of the working class or the middle class, the two interests are now too divergent for us to continue to serve both.

        The EU referendum has highlighted the stark reality of the situation.

        At best, Mark Lazarowicz is shuffling about the deck chairs as the ship sinks. At worst, he is being anti democratic.

        1. Hi Andy, enjoyed reading your post, however, I think the choice these days is much more nuanced than your binary offering: “Basically, we have to decide whether we are a party for the interests of the working class or the middle class, the two interests are now too divergent for us to continue to serve both”.

          Tribalism is arguably the most powerful force in the world today, and therefore I agree that the tribal interests of the “middle class” are divergent from the tribal interests of the “working class” (whatever that means these days?). I don’t think appealing to either or, is the problem: Millennials for example are looking for Human Capital rather than money, Emotional Intelligence vs’s Economic Intelligence, Collaboration above Hierarchy, Meaning and Purpose before material rewards, Leaders (as in we are all leaders) rather than followers etc etc.

          I don’t accept that we can’t find a message that both tribes and enough of those in between can identify with. The motivation of members in both tribes is complex and varied. Nicola Sturgeon has managed to appeal to both +. Why can’t Scottish Labour? Anecdotally I meet working class folks and middle class folks that don’t like the SNP and would never vote Conservative or Liberal. A few have lent their votes to the Greens.

          Anyway, when I find the message, I will let you know, or if you find it, please let us all know.

          Finally, re your very last statement: It is the democratic will of the Scottish region in our defacto federal Britain to remain. We should accommodate that. I think Labour is a Submarine that deep dived and has now put up the periscope and is ready to come to the surface

          PS: I met a Millenial yes voter in the Scottish referendum who voted to remain, is well educated, married to a non EU national, can’t afford to buy in Edinburgh, works in a bar, parents were active Union members and has just joined the Scottish Labour party

      2. Labour have never really had a position on Europe. It has only become pro European because of Brexit. People are not as stupid as Labour like to think they are.
        Anyway what does it matter now what Labour are or were? The chickens are coming home to roost. If you think the SNP are a nightmare watch out what UKIP and their new Liverpool leader does with the Islington set. Get behind the sofa Duncan.

        1. That is simply codswallop. Since the 90s Labour has been solidly, vocally pro-Europe.

    2. I agree Andy. If Labour opposes Article 50 it will be seen as ignoring the democratic will of the electorate. The SNP can justify opposing it, but Labour is a unionist party. Mark Lazarowicz cant have it both ways.
      On another issue. I just heard Paul Nuttall speaking, Compared to the Islington set he sounds very ‘northern’ and plausible. I think UKIP is about to give JC, John, Emily and Dianne a major sore bottom

      1. “Labour is a unionist party”—Keir Hardie founded the Scottish Labour party whose aim was a self governing Scotland with Dominion Status (the same as Canada, Australia etc ).
        Perhaps you meant—Labour is now a British Nationalist party.
        But that cannot be correct either, as Scottish Labour MEP’s, MP’s, MSP’s, councillors, members, nearly in their entirety all signed the Claim of Right.
        So Scottish Labour—what ARE you?

    3. It’s not the “democratic will of the Scottish people” Andy. Perhaps the penny has dropped for Mr Lazarowicz as to the reason Labour have lost the trust of the people of Scotland while it hasn’t for you. Until Labour start fighting to effect the will of the Scottie people instead, of sacrificing it in the pursuit of power at Westminster, they will continue to drift into insignificance in Scotland. Mr Lazarowicz may have sussed that. Maybe you should take his lead.

      1. 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 not a national, regional or a constituency vote.

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

        Therefore, how Scotland voted made not one shred of difference.

        Face the facts Me Bungo Pony; You’re grasping at straws.

        1. Well Andy, in 2014 Scotland “did” vote to remain part of the UK,

          But that was to be under certain promises made during the referendum campaign, so how do you think they have been honoured.

          How did you think the VOW went ? fit aboot the Devo-max the FFA, maybe you preferred EVEL and just to round it off their was a wee promise about staying in the EU.

          We may have voted to remain in the Union, but it was only under false promises promoted by labour and the rest of the torys.

        2. The 1998 Scotland Act constrains the powers of the Parliament and Scottish Executive (as it was then) by inhibiting it from acting in a manner incompatible with European Community law.

          While foreign policy is clearly a reserved matter, there are a range of areas where the EU has a direct impact on devolved matters like justice, fisheries, agriculture and the environment.

          The Scotland Act also states that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

          So to remove the reference to the EU in the Scotland Act would require the UK Parliament to seek legislative consent from Holyrood.

          They could of course ignore the decision if the Scottish Parliament failed to give consent which may lead to challenges in court, thus delaying the whole process.

          But we are in unchartered territory here and because of the UK’s unwritten constitution, things could get messy.

        3. “Therefore, how Scotland voted made not one shred of difference.”

          Anymore than it does for a Westminster General election? Is that right Andy?

          And knowing this you still support the idea that Scotland remains this helpless within this disunion of unequals?

          There is something serious wrong with folk like you.

        4. Not “grasping at straws” Andy, just stating a fact.

          Whatever the mechanics of the referendum vote, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU (had the whole “Holyrood electorate” been given the vote it would have been even more overwhelming). It is therefore the clear democratic will of the Scottish peoples that we remain in the EU.

          That you would dispute this by emphasising the Scottish peoples powerlessness under the UK is breathtaking. That you could state “therefore, how Scotland voted made not one shred of difference” with an air of triumphalism is equally breathtaking.

          You have openly declared the wishes of the Scottish peoples are meaningless to you and it is the UK that is your primary concern. If that means Scotland taking a hit, then so be it, we’ll just have to “suck it up” and accept it as our inevitable lot. It’s those kind of attitudes from the “Scottish establishment” that have been stunting Scotland’s prosperity for many, many decades if not centuries.

          It’s attitudes like yours that convince me of the absolute necessity of independence if Scotland is ever going to prosper to the extent ALL our small, independent neighbours do. With brit-nats holding your views calling the shots, our future is bleak.

          1. OK.

            Let me try to explain this in simple terms.

            In 2014 the Scottish people voted to remain part of the UK.

            In 2016 the people of the UK voted to leave the EU.

            They were both democratic referendums.

            In a referendum, one side wins and the other side loses.

            Scottish people may have been crazy to have voted to remain part of the UK.

            British people may have been nuts to have voted to leave the EU.

            Whatever the perceived right or wrongs on those or any other issues, you have to respect democracy.

            If you don’t respect democracy, what do you respect?

            Do you get it now?

          2. Oh I get it Mr McMillan. It’s you that seems to have a problem in that department.

            Wrap yourself in your semantic cocoon if it brings you comfort. It doesn’t change the fact the country of Scotland voted overwhelmingly Remain, and it is perfectly reasonable for its democratically elected representatives to try and effect that wish as best they can. That is what Democracy is all about.

            Democracy is a complex creature Mr McMillan. You seem unable to grasp that.

        5. And that’s how Labour, or indeed the other Unionist parties, are going to sell it to the majority of the Scottish voters who voted remain – basically “live with it”?

          Suicide note.

  4. This is the latest in a number of welcome articles on this site, trying to reflect and grapple with the new constitutional arrangements in the UK post devolution and post Brexit.

    I’ve always said, in order for genuine devolution to work, it has to be about both increased local decision-making AND an increased role for the devolved administrations at the heart of the UK political system.

    I’m a pragmatist and a realist and always favour political compromises as the best way to problem solve. Start at what you want and end up with what is possible.

    Devolution was a good start by Labour by introducing it but they lost their nerve a bit and have suffered as a result at the ballot box.

    For the record I have voted for all of the four main political parties in Scotland at various different levels of election (apart from the Conservatives). I was a Yes voter but recognise the majority of voters and the pro-Union parties won the right for Scotland’s future to be within the UK framework.

    I’d like to see us move towards a proper federal system like the US, where individuals are considered citizens of both a state and the US.

    Each state is central to the constitution, sharing sovereignty with the federal government and share joint responsibility to set their tax and spending limits.

  5. The UK Labour Party are in favour of Triggering article 50, apparently in fear of UKIP “stealing” what little support they have left——- A UKIP which is a total shambles of a party, but Labour is petrified of them. Says it all, really!

    This Brexit issue goes to the heart of what the present Scottish Labour party is. What it believes in. What principles it stands for.
    Does Scottish Labour think Scotland is “bound” to a UK which is xenophobic? Doesn’t that nullify the “Claim of Right” so many Scottish Labourites signed?
    Is it Scotland’s “duty” to follow England out of the biggest trading market in the world, even though it is patently not in our interest to do so?
    Is not the UK, now, a separatist, narrow nationalist country?, if it follows this path to Brexit?

    I have no doubt Scotland cannot remain within the Single Market while it remains within a UK which is outside. All the evidence points to that.
    We KNOW that Brexit will damage the UK financially. We can extrapolate that into serious damage to Scotland’s economy, probably for decades to come.
    This UK government is stripping Scotland of defence assets right now. We will be left with virtually no defence structure except Faslane—while the UK spends 2% on defence, Scotland will pay its whack, but will receive only a tiny proportion in defence procurement and defence spending.
    So where is Scottish Labour in all this? Clinging to Matrons(London) apron string? One step behind Ruth Davidson?
    In the MERDE, that’s where Scottish Labour is. Or is that too EU for you?

  6. well this blog will set the cat among the pidgeons it was a uk wide vote not just a Scottish one.having said that I voted remain and I think brexit is a disaster . I don’t see how we can just ignore a vote.i don’t think any of the parties have a clue what to do nor do I .this was caused by a pm on the run from ukip and the loonatics in his own party . the nutjobs won how did remain not see that a lot of people were not looking past immigration .they should have see it coming because I did

  7. Ireland is content, that as a small country, it is an equal in a community of independent countries.
    Scotland is not given the status of an equal in the UK (see Brexit), even after 300 years and as a founding member.
    Scottish Labour should consider that fact.

  8. The author seems confused. When labour abstained on the vote for Scotland to be a member of the single market that was not about Scotland retaining EU membership. That was for Scotland to be part of the EEA outside the EU in the way Norway and Iceland are.

    Scottish labour seem very confused about what it actually wants and has now downgraded its ambitions to some sort of access to the single market whatever that means. Given we are told we cannot be in the single market and have it a la carte, then we are either in or out. labour seem to want accept whatever the tories of fox and davis etc negotiate. Much easier than setting out a position for Scotland and arguing for it because when the tories do what they do labour in Scotland will just swallow it.

    Labour really should get together with the scottish government and fight for Scottish membership of the EEA single market.

    There seems 3ways for that be achieved within the union.
    1. UK signs of on any deal for Scotland as the sovereign entity. Remember not all Norway is in the EEA.
    2. reform the UK to a confederal arrangement where Scotland is a sovereign nation within the UK.
    3. the UK grants Scotland rights in the same way Denmark granted the Faroes so that it can legally sign trade deals like this.

  9. When is Labour in Scotland going to admit and acknowledge that Brexit is only a crises for Scotland because we’re powerless within an unbalanced corrupt and unconstitutional disunion of unequals?
    This is our answer to voting no to Independence and its way past time Labour in Scotland started saying so.

  10. like I have said before brexit was a disaster. nobody has a clue what to do . stop blaming labour for the indy vote Alec Salmond spent 2 years trying to sell indy and failed we need to move on

    1. In what universe has he failed? He turned a 25% support into 45% now 48% and heading one way only. That’s now 51% within the standard 3% margin of polling error. And that’s only if you have faith in the same polling process that told us we would have a Labour Government and would remain in the EU.
      Make no mistake Brexit has changed the parameters of an Indyref Empirically.
      The next Indyref campaign wont be starting from a 25% deficit but AT THE VERY LEAST on a parity with the support for the union.
      Every calamity projected on a Yes vote has occurred as a direct result of our No vote.
      There was never a positive case for union now there isn’t a negative one against Independence either.
      The only shot the UK Government has to save the disunion is to deny another Indyref and we know what happens when Westminster denies the democratic rights of its subjects.

  11. Is he arguing for the one Scottish Labour MP to vote against BrExit? It might be better to convince the whole of Labour to do so, it might have a chance of actually blocking it

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