Labour for Independence – A Reply
It is an interesting dichotomy within Scottish politics today. While we have a Nationalist leader not only holding back the tide by stalling on any future independence referendum, but also arguing the case for further multinational governance. At the same time the socialist leader of the Labour party has stated that Brexit means Brexit while offering breadcrumbs to Yes supporters within his party by stating he will not stand in the way of the will of the Scottish people.
The argument of Labour for Independence in the 2014 referendum was that rather than abandoning the ROUK as many No voting comrades asserted, it was an opportunity to lead by example. To prove that we can achieve a society which protects those who most need our support, that provides infrastructure, and rebuilds the manufacturing sector through greener innovation moving towards our future of automation with confidence. Putting the many first, before the few. I, along with many others were proud to attend many events throughout the country between 2012 and 2014, setting forth the vision of a real Labour Party in an independent Scotland.
Since the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has rebounded throughout the UK, overwhelmingly supported by the youth in the country, as was a Yes vote in 2014. Much of what Labour for Independence offered for an independent Scotland was now in a General Election manifesto, for the many not the few was now no longer a line that was used by Labour for Independence often in the referendum, but now the standard bearer of the biggest left-wing party in Europe.
While this occurred, the plurality of the Yes vote has dwindled with the overtly dominant nature of the SNP and subsequent fan boy attacks of anyone who disagrees with any policy of the SNP, has led to many removing themselves from active participation within the Yes movement and a domination of the movement by the SNP.
This has led to many Yes supporting Labour members, supporters and voters to reassess whether to continue to support independence. If, like me you supported independence based on the possibility or transformative change within society, then you are now faced with the option of supporting Labour in the pursuit of change under a socialist Labour Government in Westminster, or having to support independence through the SNP, who in a mere matter of weeks have shown that their vision for this nation would offer very little change. This is inclusive of their attack on trade union rights within the teachers dispute and the equal pay dispute in GCC while voting with the Conservatives against public ownership of our railways.
The one caveat to this is the democratic deficit that we have in this country. We cannot be sure that even with a Conservative party imploding that Southern and Middle England will vote anything other than for neo liberal capitalism of the Conservative Party no matter how many children live in poverty. Should there be a General Election soon in which the Tories regain power, it may very well be a final acknowledgement by many Scottish Labour members that the kind of society we seek will never have a democratic mandate while we share our institutions with the rest of the UK.
It was therefore encouraging to see a recent article on Bella Caledonia under the title of Labour for Independence which was based around comments of two new(ish) members of the Labour Party in moving forward the case for an alternative left-wing vision of Independence once again led by Labour members. Unfortunately, the article seemed to suggest that the way forward for this is to create or rather re-create another Radical Independence Convention rather than to work within the confines of party itself.
One of our gravest mistakes within Labour for Independence was that we spoke too much to Labour voters without consolidating the membership base. This led to us being openly critical (in some cases rightly so) of the party. This however created a tension and made it more difficult for members to be openly pro-independence. In any future referendum, any regeneration of a Labour for Independence would not need to be as critical as the leadership both set out visions for a socialist government.
Furthermore the purpose of having a left wing vision may only serve to recreate the confines of the last debate in which the Yes campaign were forced to offer varying visions of what independence might look like rather than focussing on the constitutional argument. It is my view that to win the next referendum, the visions of individuals and political parties need to be removed from the campaign.
This campaign should be based around convincing the public and in turn Labour members and supporters that regardless of your political persuasion or view of Brexit or the SNP or NATO. The only way for Scotland’s voice to be heard is to have the democratic right for its people to make their own decisions. Any vision of an independent Scotland loses voters that disagree.
The vision for the kind of Scotland we want to have is one for the Scottish people to decide when they take to the ballot box in the first elections of an Independent Scotland. To that, any revival of Labour for Independence or RIC or WFI should be to organise and persuade within its constituents, not creating a platform for what a future Scotland might look like.