“A democracy fails to be a democracy if the public are not allowed to change their mind”. Those are the words of Ian Murray, Scottish Labour’s sole MP in Scotland. Nothing could be further from the truth than those words. If we cannot change our minds then we do not live in a democracy. That is exactly the case here in Scotland. The discourse coming from both the Conservatives and Labour is shocking, and absolutely detached from reality. Again, what we see is parties who have failed to win elections in Scotland try and speak for the people who live here, telling us what we do and do not want. “Now is not the time”; “no one wants a referendum”; “I will do no deals with those who want to break up the UK”. We have heard it all. Indeed, the people of Scotland changed their mind on the Labour Party over the last 2 decades. A party that once dominated the Scottish political landscape, now reduced to one MP, 23 MSP’s and its worst ever Scottish Parliament election result in 2021 under devolution. As for the Tories? well they haven’t won an election here in over 50 years. Yet, these two parties sit in London and tell the people of Scotland what they want, what they think, what they need.
The word “allow” comes about again and again when Westminster talks about Scotland. “Will WE ALLOW Scotland to decide”. The language used by Westminster shows that Scotland is nothing but an after thought, nothing but something to cling on to.
Labour’s Tory Problem
As I write this article, over the past week I have been watching out what Labour have been saying. Keir Starmer is obviously taking advantage of the turmoil that the Tories are in, presenting himself as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This includes his thoughts on Scotland. Just two years ago, Keir Starmer on live TV stated that the decision over Scotland’s future is ultimately upto the people of Scotland. Two years on, and he has completely u-turned on that statement. 2 years on, in a recent statement, Starmer has claimed that he will not allow a referendum “no matter the political situation”. Translation: even if Labour lost all its seats in Scotland, it would still claim to speak for the people of Scotland. Alongside that, Starmer has committed to not joining the EU, single market or the customs union. And just last week Anas Sarwar announced his “alternative to Independence” which quite frankly was awful. It included a promise to replace the House of Lords (A promise first made by Labour over 100 years ago and have never brought us close to it whilst in government), and a policy of a legal obligation to cooperate with Westminster that completely undermines the very principle of devolution. You have to ask yourself, why take such a stance that you know will be wild unpopular in Scotland, a stance that you know will not win enough votes to bring Labour close to the type of party it used to be in Scotland.
Scottish Labour’s favourite Jackie Bailie was on record stating that we need to respect the Brexit vote because that’s what people voted for however is keen to ignore what Scotland wants. When asked if Labour would make clear what they believe would have to happen for Scotland to have a vote on Independence, the answer was “No“. You don’t have to remind Jackie Bailie that there is a Pro-Indy majority in the Scottish Parliament, that doesn’t suit her policy agenda. This pretty much sums up Labours attitude to Scotland. Votes only matter when they suit your own agenda so they can be ignored when they don’t.
The question that has to be raised here is – Who are they trying to appeal to?. The answer isn’t that they are appealing to soft yes voters, or SNP or even Green voters. The answer I argue is moderate Tories; voters who switched from Labour to Tory because of their stance on the Union. The Labour Party has dropped its socialist principles and ideas in order to out union the Tories. So much so, that the meaning of democracy is lost one them. It doesn’t matter to Labour if they are wiped out in Scotland, as long as they are seen as stronger on the union to voters down south. Labour do not offer any alternative other than an anti-democratic “union of equals”.
The Tory Leadership Contest
At the other side of Westminster the Tories are no different. We are currently seeing the next Conservative Leadership election, I have always made my thoughts clear on this. The Exit of Boris Johnson will not effect the yes vote. At the end of the day, he will just be replaced by another Tory, someone who knew what Boris was like when they first elected him as leader. At the time of writing this there are 9 declared candidates. But it shouldn’t surprise you that no Tory candidate would ever want to commit to “allowing” an Independence referendum.
But what are some of the classic excuses that certain candidates are making? Jeremy Hunt has been pulling random numbers out of thin air, claiming he wouldn’t consider an independence referendum “for at least 10 years”. No rational given, just 10 years. Ironically there is a paper that reported that independence should not be considered for at least 5 years. That was back in 2017. Saying you will consider something in 10 years is usually a good political strategy if you really want to avoid an issue. 10 years allows for time so that the original people that made the promise won’t be there and put the responsibility for the issue to whoever is in government next.
It’s the same tune from the Tories as it is from Labour. If they say No, it means No. It doesn’t matter if both parties lost all their seats on Scotland, they would still get the final say.
What next for Scotland?
I have always made my thoughts clear on Westminster. It does not matter who is in government for me, they will not care about Scotland. Whoever is Prime Minister will always claim that “now is not the time”. They will always claim to speak for Scotland. But in doing this, they will make the case for Independence. As independence supporters we always talk about how this union is meant to be a “Union of Equals”. Its time to stop and call it out for what it really is. This isn’t a “Union”, it never was a “Union” and will never be a “Union”. It is a unitary state were the political elite in Westminster get the final say. Both Labour and the Tories for me have merged into one, there is no difference. The Tories have not won an election here since the 50’s. Labour abandoned Scotland a long time ago. A party that had 41 MPs in Scotland just a decade ago are now reduced to 1 single MP, and with Labours latest stance on Brexit, that seat could be in danger of being taken away from Labour.
Since the First Ministers announcement of the referendum, all we have seen from the political establishment in Westminster is constant belittling of Scotland. It’s right to decide it’s own future, gone. Labour are not for democracy and neither are the Tories. Votes matter only when it suits their own policy agenda. The recent discourse really shows what Scotland’s place in this so called “Union”.
It does not matter who the Prime Minister is. It does not matter what Scotland says, how Scotland votes. It does not matter what Scotland requests. At the end of the day, the top man in Westminster will come knocking at Scotland’s door with his answer and it will be this. “I am Westminster, and I say NO”