Do We Need Scottish Labour?

On the LiberalOrange website (liberalorange.net/2014/11/04/slab-vs-the-network/), dmthomson1 says “SLAB is the only opposition in town for the majority in Scots politics. If we can’t have a half-decent opposition, then the SNP (unchallenged) will be a poorer government for it.” In the comment which I posted, I included the statement “Once Scotland is independent, then a strong opposition party will indeed be necessary.”

Having reconsidered this, I am not convinced that a strong opposition is really essential in a properly functioning democracy. If a government has a large majority because it has received a majority of votes cast at the most recent election, and it implements policies which are, as far as possible, in line with its election manifesto, then it is implementing the will of the people. Of course, a government with a large majority may be tempted to abuse their strength by amending the constitution to suit itself, packing the judiciary with its own supporters and so on, as is currently happening in Hungary. In such cases, it is probably more important to have media which are truly independent, and which will alert the electorate to what is happening, so that they can vote accordingly at the next election.

If the opposition is to make a positive contribution to the governance of a country, it is not enough for it to be strong; it must be good. Its criticism of the government must be constructive, and it must be willing to agree with, and support, the government where appropriate. If the main concern of the opposition is winning the next election, and if it relentlessly seeks every opportunity to discredit the government, by fair means or foul, then a strong opposition could do more harm than good.

I would therefore say that in any democracy, an honest opposition is highly desirable. What does this mean for Scotland in the present situation?

Above all, Scotland needs a strong party (or alliance of parties) to stand up for Scotland. What most people in Scotland want is for the Scottish Parliament to have substantially more powers than it currently has, whether that is through devo-max or independence. What Westminster wants is something as close to the status quo as they can get away with. With somewhat differing views prevailing in Scotland and the rest of the UK on many issues, such as Trident, EU membership, immigration and welfare, there is plenty of scope for disagreement between Holyrood and Westminster.

Arguably, as long as Scotland is part of the UK, the Scottish Government is part of the opposition to the Westminster government. This is particularly significant because there is a lack of real opposition within Westminster; although the two main parties will squabble over who should form the next government (and have access to ministerial salaries and perks), they differ only slightly when it comes to policies, and have been quite happy to co-operate on a number of matters.

In spite of some of the slurs that have been uttered by some Unionist politicians, the SNP government is not some kind of dictatorship. Even if the SNP were to win the Sottish election in 2016 with a spectacular majority, it could still not abuse this in a dictatorial way while its powers are controlled by Westminster. In the present situation, it is not necessary for there to be a strong opposition within the Scottish Parliament; it may not even be desirable, as a strong, and inevitably Unionist, Scottish opposition party simply allows Westminster to use a ‘divide and rule’ strategy.

What is certainly not desirable is an opposition whose principal aim is to take back the power that they believe is rightfully theirs, and whose main strategy is to attack the SNP and all of its policies, regardless of their merits or the interests of the people of Scotland. Yet this is more or less the kind of opposition which has been provided over the last few years by Scottish Labour, and it is the kind of opposition which they will presumably continue to provide as long as they take their orders from Labour HQ in London.

I expect that sooner or later Scotland will become independent, and then an effective opposition will become desirable. It is highly probable that one will emerge in the political shakeup which will inevitably follow independence, once voters no longer choose how to vote wholly or in part on the basis of their views on independence. I would not like to predict which parties will thrive after independence, and which will wither. Perhaps Scottish Labour will cut their ties to London, renounce Unionism and move back to the left? Perhaps. I would prefer to see a new party, possibly based on Labour for Independence, free from the likes of Jim Murphy, or for an existing party, such as the Greens, gain support. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that Scottish Labour join the LibDems on their way to humiliating defeats in in both 2015 and 2016.

Back to 1984?

The Wikipedia article entitled “Conspiracy Theory” includes the following :-

“Originally a neutral term, since the mid-1960s, in the aftermath of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, it has acquired a derogatory meaning, implying a paranoid tendency to see the influence of some malign covert agency in events. The term is often used to dismiss claims that the critic deems ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish, or irrational. A conspiracy theory that is proven to be correct, such as the notion that United States President Richard Nixon and his aides conspired to cover up Watergate, is usually referred to as something else, such as investigative journalism or historical analysis. ”

It has been suggested that the emergence of this derogatory meaning was encouraged by the CIA, who were keen to quash the idea that Kennedy was not killed just by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting entirely on his own, but by a group of people with close links to the CIA. The discrediting of the very notion of conspiracies has been continued by the use of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ to include ideas which would more accurately be described as wild fantasies, such as David Icke’s assertion that the Queen and other prominent public figures are really shape-shifting alien reptiles.

The negative connotations of ‘conspiracy theory’ seem to have led to a reluctance to acknowledge the reality of historical conspiracies. Over the years, I had read various accounts of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but it was not until I read a biography of Lincoln that I learned that his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was the leader of a group whose aim was to kill President Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward on the same evening. None of the accounts I had read previously had mentioned the near-fatal attack on Seward, or that the intended assassin of the Vice President lost his nerve and did nothing – which did not save him from being hanged.

There are some people who are predisposed to believe almost any ‘conspiracy theory’, and others whose knee-jerk reaction to anything which can be labelled as a ‘conspiracy theory’ is to dismiss it out of hand. I believe both these extreme viewpoints are misguided. Any possible conspiracy should be assessed on the basis of its plausibility and, above all, the evidence for and against it. Conspiracies have happened throughout history – one particularly famous one being commemorated each Fifth of November – but we should still be very wary of the crazier ideas.

I believe there is an alternative explanation for some of the conspiracies that are claimed to exist. As I do not know a better term, I will call this a pseudo-conspiracy. If there is a group of people who are in positions of power, and these people have broadly similar agendas, then they will naturally tend to work towards a common goal, without necessarily having come to any agreement to do so. There need be no overall organisation, no clandestine meetings, no coded messages, no secret agreements. The results could be well-nigh indistinguishable from those of a genuine conspiracy . There is one major advantage of a pseudo-conspiracy for those who benefit from it – there is no risk of being exposed as conspirators, since there is not really any conspiracy. However, some of the participants in a large-scale pseudo-conspiracy may well be involved in real, but more limited, conspiracies.

The biggest conspiracy in the world today, if it existed, would be the New World Order, which supposedly aims to impose an authoritarian worldwide government, and to destroy the sovereignty of nation states. There are a number of conflicting versions of this. Right-wing believers argue that the aim is to impose a communist dictatorship, left-wing believers say that the result will be corporate fascism, where power will lie with multinational corporations and their billionaire owners, while others bring an occult element or extra-terrestrials into the mix. As someone with left of centre views, who does not believe in the supernatural or alien visitors, I have no qualms about rejecting some of these ideas. However, the idea of a conspiracy to impose corporate fascism is much more plausible than the others. There are clear signs that we are currently heading towards a corporate fascist future, with America leading the way and Britain following on behind.

Governments negotiate secretive deals, such as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between America and the EU. This will significantly increase the power of corporations at the expense of elected governments if it goes ahead; for example, it would allow companies to sue governments for ‘loss of profits’ caused by new rules or laws imposed to protect the public or the environment, and it would make any form of re-nationalisation impracticable. One can imagine that in the future there will be many instances where public demand for some policy will be met by the government with the response “We cannot do this, as our hands are tied by such and such an international treaty” – which will be true, but they will have tied their own hands.

Politicians are virtually up for sale, with campaign donations, contributions to party funds, directorships, lucrative consultancies and after-dinner speaking engagements, but only the corporations and the wealthy can afford them. Regular meetings with David Cameron at dinners and other social events can be bought for £50,000 per year.

Democratic forms of government are rendered ineffective by the lack of any real choice – Tory or Labour, Republican or Democrat, there is little difference. When voters in the UK become disillusioned with the main parties, they may turn to UKIP, a seemingly populist party. However, UKIP is largely bankrolled by people who were previously major donors to the Tories, and leading figures within it are clearly members of the Establishment. As a party opposed to the EU, they could be expected to make a great deal of political capital out of the role of the EU in negotiating the TTIP; instead, they keep very quiet about it because they are happy to see the UK surrender some of its sovereignty, as long as it is to multinational corporations rather than the EU. UKIP are basically a fraud; they exist to attract disaffected voters who otherwise turn to some party which might not act in the interests of the Establishment. The Tea Party, funded by billionaires, has served much the same role in the USA.

Too many politicians are dishonest. They cheat on their expenses, employ their partners or children at the taxpayers’ expense, or take cash for questions. They promise one thing to get elected, and then do the opposite. They are allowed to take part in debates and to vote on matters in which they have a direct financial interest. Such dishonesty undermines what is left of democracy, as people become so disillusioned with politicians and politics that they do not bother to vote.

The media are mostly owned and controlled by the mega-rich; television, the new opiate of the masses, keeps many people’s attention away from serious matters with soap operas, misnamed ‘reality TV’, shows with ‘celebrities’, sport and so on. They happily assist with the Establishment’s strategy of ‘divide and conquer’, which uses the poor and immigrants as scapegoats for the country’s economic problems. During the referendum campaign, we saw how the supposedly trustworthy ‘public service’ BBC acts now as the state broadcaster, to such an extent that sometimes a Russian broadcaster provides more accurate reporting of events in this country.

The other side of corporate fascism will be its authoritarian nature. When people realise that voting no longer provides even an illusion of democracy, they may protest. To anticipate protests, and nip them in the bud, the population will be subjected to ever more comprehensive surveillance. Edward Snowden’s revelations show how far this has already gone. The East German Stasi filled a building with filing cabinets, but the amount of information they had on file was truly minuscule compared with what the NSA and GCHQ can collect, process and exchange with each other. People will be tracked everywhere they go by their mobile phones and by GPS systems in their cars; some phones may well have back-doors which allow the security services to turn on their microphone or camera even when the phone is switched off.

People who do take to the streets to protest in London risk being ‘kettled’ as a punishment for daring to challenge the Establishment; in future, they may be blasted with water cannons. Groups organising environmental protests have been infiltrated by undercover police, who allegedly tried to persuade them to commit criminal acts so that they could be arrested and jailed.

Police forces will all have military grade weapons and equipment, as many in America already do – I read recently of an American school police force which owns a mine-resistant armoured vehicle. Corporations will have their own police forces, or employ private security companies to spy on anyone who might threaten their interests. All of this will be justified by the supposed need to protect the public from terrorists, which has spawned a huge industry in the USA providing ‘security theatre’ at places such as airports, to remind the public that they have to let themselves to be scanned and groped to keep them safe from terrorists. Meanwhile, undercover FBI agents persuade foolish Muslims to join them in terrorist plots which can then be ‘foiled’ with great publicity, to keep the public frightened and submissive.

The real threat to the public is that of being classified as terrorists if they dare to protest, as is already happening in America to non-violent protesters. (In some states it is a criminal offense to expose mistreatment of animals on farms and livestock facilities, and anyone who breaks these ‘ag-gag’ laws is likely to be labelled as an animal rights terrorist.) If someone is accused of being a terrorist, they may be subjected to draconian restrictions, an even be denied the right to a fair trial, or even to know what the evidence against them is.

Now there is a proposal to take the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, even though the vast majority of cases which are submitted to it are rejected without a hearing. Freedom of speech is also under attack; it is proposed that people with ‘extremist’ views could be prohibited from speaking in public or posting anything on the internet with prior approval, and it would be the Home Secretary, not a court, who would decide who is an ‘extremist’.

There is probably no New World Order conspiracy, but that does not mean that a dystopian future, similar to that of Orwell’s ’1984′, is not on the way. Rich people and multinational corporations tend to have similar interests; they do not need some grand conspiracy to pull in much the same direction, which is strongly to the right. As power shifts from elected governments to corporations and their owners, and as wealth becomes even more concentrated in the hands of a very small number of very rich people, it does not really matter whether the drift towards corporate fascism is the result of an organised conspiracy or of a pseudo-conspiracy; the end result will be much the same, although a pseudo-conspiracy may take a little bit longer to reach it.

One of the tragedies of the No vote in the referendum is that it denies Scotland the opportunity to push back against the erosion of democracy by the advancing tide of greedy corporate power. Perhaps Scotland would have had little more success than King Canute is supposed to have had, but at least we could have tried. Within the UK, where a corrupt, backward looking Establishment is so firmly entrenched, I fear it is hopeless, which is why we must keep trying to break free.

A Crazy Thought?

One of my thoughts, when I read that membership of the SNP had overtaken that of the LibDems, was that it will now be more difficult for the unionists to exclude the SNP from any televised debates involving party leaders in the run-up to the next general election. Then I thought, maybe they will try the argument that the SNP is merely a regional party and therefore does not rank alongside the UK parties.

This led on to another idea – could the SNP take a lesson from the Robert the Bruce’s fight for Scottish independence, when he raided deep into the North of England, not to seize and hold territory but to keep up the pressure on Edward II? What if the SNP were to make a statement similar to the following one?

The three main UK parties all pledged substantial additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, but it may be difficult to deliver such powers in a satisfactory way, unless there are substantial constitutional changes for the whole of the UK, such as the introduction of a federal system or of something similar – hence the recent proposal for a constitutional convention. There is therefore a possibility that a consequence of the recent referendum may be a major overhaul of the relationships between all the constituent parts of the UK.

There are many people in the North of England who have long been unhappy with the London-centric nature of UK politics, and believe that their part of the country has been unfairly treated in comparison with London and the South of England. At present, they do not have a party to represent their interests at Westminster, in the way that Scotland has the SNP and Wales has Plaid Cymru; all their MPs belong to parties which have pursued London-centric policies. Now, when possible further devolution across the UK, or even federalism, may be seriously considered in the near future, the lack of such a party may make itself felt.

There is now little more than seven months left until the general election, which leaves little time for any new party to form, become organised, select candidates and contest the election.  The SNP therefore proposes to invite people to put themselves forward for selection as SNP candidates for constituencies in the North of England. All selected candidates will be asked to pledge that, should they be elected, they will immediately form a new party; the SNP will then ask all its members who have addresses in England if they wish to transfer their membership to the new party.

Apart from anything else, there must surely be many voters in the North of England who would welcome the chance to vote for a centre-left party, now that Labour has moved so far to the right, or even just register a protest vote without having to vote for UKIP.

United We Stand….

My political views have always tended to be fairly left-wing, but I have long been wary of the more radical left-wing parties. It is not that I necessarily disagree with their aims; it is their effectiveness that I doubt. I have never been a member of any political party other than the SNP; my view of the more radical parties is that of an outsider.

The more radical parties, being towards an end of the political spectrum, are inevitably smaller than the more centrist parties. It seems likely that they will attract people with very strong views on various matters, and strong views may lead to a clash of opinions. This often leads to these parties splitting, as satirised in ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’. There is a Communist Party of Britain, a Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), a Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist–Leninist), and a Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist–Leninist). My impression is that this tendency affects far right-wing parties as well (British National Party, National Front, Britain First, English Defence League).

Another issue which affects radical left-wing parties is that of idealism. Of course idealism is good; it is essential for any left-leaning party. The problem arises when idealism becomes a quasi-religious zeal which leaves little room for pragmatism. Religious zealots sometimes become obsessed with details of religious rituals and obscure points of theology, and bitter disputes have arisen over differences which seem trivial to outsiders.

Apart from causing fissiparous tendencies, excessive idealism can leave little room for pragmatism, creating a mindset where no compromise is acceptable. The goals of the movement must all be achieved, and they must be reached in an ideologically pure way; otherwise, it is better for the struggle to continue forever. It is this mindset which leads to the assertion by some on the left that Scotland should show ‘solidarity’ with English people by continuing to suffer with them under Westminster governments which they have chosen.

In my view, a political movement should blend idealism with pragmatism. On the right, pragmatism outweighs idealism, leaving a moral vacuum which selfish creeds like Thatcherism to thrive. On the left, it is too often the case that pragmatism is in short supply, making left-wing parties worthy but ineffective.

This is why I am delighted that Tommy Sheridan has shown that he can combine pragmatism with his undoubted idealism by asking his supporters to vote for the SNP in the meantime. [1] He does not agree with many SNP policies, of course, but he recognises that independence would move Scotland closer to being the kind of society which he passionately advocates, and believes that achieving it must be given a very high priority.

Tommy Sheppard, former assistant general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, has joined the SNP and has written an article on Bella Caledonia about reasons for doing so. [2] Both Tommies campaigned for a Yes vote, and are determined to continue the struggle for independence. One will be within the SNP, the other will be alongside it.

Remembering how the SNP faltered after the unsuccessful 1979 devolution referendum, the unionists probably hoped that a No vote, however it was obtained, would damage the SNP and rob the independence movement of its momentum and its passion. It is imperative that we prove them wrong, and keep up the pressure. In my view, the message to Westminster should be “Give us the powers that people were led to expect after a No vote, or give us another referendum – and whichever it is, deliver it soon.”

If Westminster does actually deliver significant, useable new powers to the Scottish Parliament, over and above those which have come out of the Calman Commission, then the referendum will have achieved something. Every power transferred from Westminster to Holyrood is a step in the right direction.

However, even if the UK Government is willing to deliver extra powers – something which is doubtful, to say the least – it may well be politically impossible to do so, because of opposition from a significant part of the English electorate, both to the very idea of more devolution and to the constitutional changes needed to make it work properly. Failure to deliver because of opposition from within the rest of the UK would not be an excuse; if the leaders of the unionist parties were unaware of the potential problems when they made their ‘pledge’, then they must be too politically incompetent to be fit to run a country.

The bargain offered at the last minute was extensive new powers, in return for a referendum outcome which would rule out independence for perhaps a couple of decades. If the unionists renege on their side of the bargain, they should not expect us to be bound by it. Already there are No voters who are realising that they have been misled by unionist ‘pledges’ that are unlikely to be met. They are angry, and that anger should be channelled in the right direction.

There are some people who are understandably weary and emotionally drained by the intensity of the referendum campaign and the disappointment of the outcome; they believe that the independence movement should drop any talk of a further referendum for the time being, and concentrate instead on arguing the case for further powers. However, Andrew Neil, himself a unionist, said some time ago that the only reason there was any talk from the unionist side of possible further devolution was the possibility of independence.

If the SNP and others who support independence were to rule out the possibility of another attempt at independence for a ‘political lifetime’, we would not be settling for the extra powers promised, but for nothing, or maybe even less than nothing, because we will have given away the only real bargaining counter we have. In the worst case scenario, this will be perceived as weakness and encourage the unionists to change the UK constitution to deny Scotland any right to self-determination, as has been proposed by Jack Straw.

[1] http://munguinsrepublic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/a-personal-view.html

[2] http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/09/24/beyond-the-45/

Is There a Way Out of Here?

The Westminster parties have put themselves between a rock and a hard place. If they fulfil the more extravagant pre-referendum pledges made by them or on their behalf, they will incur the wrath of the xenophobic part of the English electorate – a minority, no doubt, but a very important minority to the Tories and and Labour when they both have a chance of winning the next general election, and UKIP is waiting to profit from disaffected Labour and Tory voters. If they try to honour their pledges, but are foiled by their own back-benchers, they will antagonise people in both England (for trying) and Scotland (for failing).

If Westminster does not devolve significant new powers to the Scottish Parliament, and even more so if Westminster cuts the Scottish block grant, they will gain brownie points in England, but in Scotland there is likely to be a marked increase in support for independence as many No voters, especially those who were conned by newspaper headlines into thinking that they were voting for devo-max, realise that they have been badly let down.

Unionist politicians do not want further powers for the Scottish Parliament; the more autonomy Scotland has, the smaller, and less daunting, the leap to full independence will seem. Given that, and the pressure they face from a part of the English electorate, I expect that Westminster will try a delaying action, referring everything to the constitutional convention which has already been proposed for next year, in the hope that interest in Scottish independence will have faded somewhat by the time the convention comes to any conclusions. Maybe the end result will be a few almost meaningless extensions to existing powers, perhaps with a significant price attached such as a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs. Alternatively, if anything which, by some stretch of the imagination, could be described as devo-max is offered, it will be linked to substantial constitutional changes for the UK which will have to be ratified in a UK-wide referendum, and which may well be rejected by voters, especially in England.

What might happen if the pre-referendum pledges are not met? Of course, there are a number of factors which will affect the level of support for independence, such as the outcome of the next general election, and which cannot be predicted with any confidence, but for the sake of argument I am going to assume that, within about a year, opinion polls will start showing a clear majority in favour of independence as No voters who hoped for devo-max lose patience with Westminster.

Independence is clearly a constitutional matter, and constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster. That is one reason why securing the Edinburgh Agreement was highly desirable; it removed the possibility that someone might raise a legal challenge to the referendum. Westminster would like to consider the issue of independence as settled for at least the next twenty years or so, and thus the chances of a successor to the Edinburgh Agreement within the next few years look very slim. Any referendum which is held within the next few years would probably only be a consultative referendum, which Westminster would be free to ignore. It is likely, however, that Westminster would seek to block any referendum completely, and I expect that they would succeed.

However, there is an alternative to a referendum. Alex Salmond has raised the possibility that the election for the Scottish Parliament could be turned into a plebiscite for Scottish independence, if the SNP (or better, an alliance of independence parties) were to announce that they would treat a majority vote for them as a mandate for independence. This would, of course, be a gamble. There are some people who are willing to vote for the SNP, but do not back independence; most of these would presumably not vote for the SNP if that meant they were also voting for independence. On the other hand, there would be people who would normally vote for a unionist party even though they support independence, and some of these would be prepared to vote SNP for the sake of independence. Which of these two groups would be bigger? Presumably the SNP would commission opinion polls to assess this question very carefully before deciding whether to go down this route.

The advantage of using an election as a plebiscite is that there is no obvious way for Westminster to block it, short of trying to shut down the Scottish Parliament. The disadvantage with this approach, which it shares with a consultative referendum, is that, even if it provides a mandate for independence, Westminster might well simply refuse to negotiate an independence settlement. If they did just dig in their heels, there would only be one way left for Scotland to gain independence, and that is through a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

In the worst case, the UK might use force to maintain their control over Scotland. Even if they did not, a UDI would certainly be messy, it would not be respectable, and it even has a whiff of illegality about it. International recognition of Scotland as an independent state could take some time. There would be no chance of Scotland being treated as a successor state to the UK; the rUK would definitely be the sole continuator state and Scotland would be a new state, with no right to share the assets of the UK, but no part of the crippling UK national debt. Scotland’s relationship with the EU would be difficult, to say the least.

A few people commenting on blogs seem to think we should not even talk about a UDI. I do not agree. Obviously, a UDI should only be used as a very last resort, and only if there is a clear mandate for independence; it is in effect the nuclear option. Advocates of nuclear weapons argue that their value is as a threat of mutually assured destruction (appropriately, MAD); if the cost of a war is too high, they say, then there will be no war. Similarly, UDI must be the independence movement’s nuclear weapon. A UDI may be costly for Scotland in the short term, but it will also be costly for the rUK. If they try to repress it, the UK’s international status and its image as a democratic nation will be badly tarnished. More importantly, confidence in the UK’s stability and reliability will drop amongst its creditors. If the UDI is allowed to go ahead, the loss of oil reserves, whisky exports and so on could easily push the rUK into another financial crisis.

The possibility of a UDI should make a negotiated independence a relatively more attractive proposition. It does not have to be raised stridently or frequently, but it should be there in the background. It was only the possibility of independence that forced the Unionists to consider more devolution, according to Andrew Neil, and so it is likely that only the possibility of a UDI that could persuade them to negotiate Scottish independence.

If the independence movement were to renounce any possibility of a UDI under any circumstances, it is my belief that Scotland will not become independent, or get devo-max or even devo-just-a-little-bit-more. Ruling out a UDI would be an unconditional surrender to the Unionists. Without that threat, the independence movement would have little leverage. Scotland could elect mostly pro-independence MPs, who could then make as much a nuisance of themselves as possible at Westminster, but probably the Unionist parties would gang up to cut the number of Scottish MPs and to reduce their status, in the name of solving the West Lothian Question. The only other option would be to rely on Westminster’s sense of decency and fair play, but the part that Unionist MPs have played in the No campaign suggests that is virtually non-existent.

There is, however, one situation in which another referendum might just be possible, and that is if the UK holds a referendum on EU membership. Presumably the EU would not be keen on Scottish oilfields leaving the EU. Perhaps Westminster could be persuaded through the EU to include a second question on ballot papers in Scotland, asking “If the UK leaves the EU, should Scotland become independent?” Alternatively, if the UK as a whole votes to leave the EU but Scotland votes to stay in, the EU might then be more inclined to back a Scottish UDI.

If the No campaign had been reasonably decent and honest, instead of relying on threats, lies and promises which will probably not be kept, it would have easier for supporters of independence to have accepted a No vote. However, it is much more likely that the outcome would have been a Yes vote, and the two governments could have negotiated a Velvet Divorce like that of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Scotland and the rUK could have been friendly neighbours, sharing common institutions wherever it would be mutually advantageous. Now we are stuck in a union which is becoming increasingly acrimonious, and the eventual divorce is likely to be much messier than it should have been.

Time for a Party?

Disclaimer – although I am a member of the SNP, the following opinions, as in all my posts, are my personal opinions.

In my first attempt at blogging, I considered the future of the Labour Party in Scotland if there was a Yes vote; now, regrettably, I have to discuss the future of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party following a No vote. The referendum vote makes it clear that many previously loyal Labour voters have refused to toe the party line on independence. No doubt some will merely revert to type, and go on voting for any candidate with a red rosette, but others will have had their eyes opened to to the fact that ‘Scottish Labour’ is not going to act in the best interests of Scotland. The close co-operation between Labour and the Tories must have made quite a few Labour voters realise how little difference there is now between the two parties.

‘Scottish Labour’, as it calls itself on ballot papers, is merely part of a Westminster party, whose main priority is to provide as many MPs as possible so that Labour can get their turns at the perks of power at Westminster. If it were more important to Labour’s London HQ, would they not have persuaded one of Labour’s Scottish MPs to act as Scottish leader rather than make do with Johann Lamont? (It probably would not have resulted in much of an improvement.)

Previously, there was speculation that independence might lead to a rebirth of Scottish Labour; forced to separate itself from the UK party, it might have returned to its roots and moved back to the left of the SNP. That possibility has now gone; the Scottish branch will see no reason to change, and in any case would probably not be allowed to by the party’s London HQ, which appears to consider ‘socialism’ as a dirty word and phrases such as ‘social justice’ merely as rhetoric, not to be given any substance.

The No campaign has been disgraceful and thoroughly dishonest, and while the Tories and LibDems are far from innocent, it is Labour which must be assigned the greatest share of the guilt. The Scottish branch of the Labour party deserves to wither and die. It would be a further disgrace to Scotland if Labour were to be rewarded, in the general election next May, by Scotland returning enough Labour MPs to allow Labour to form a government. There is no merit in voting tactically for Labour to keep the Tories out, as there is little difference between the two when it comes to policies rather than rhetoric, and Labour is unlikely to reward Scotland in any way, for fear of offending English voters.

Efforts should be made to encourage anyone who still supports Labour to switch to another party. If they cannot bring themselves to support the SNP, they could back the Scottish Greens or the SSP. There is some talk of the need for a new left of centre party which could attract former Labour voters. Perhaps Labour for Independence members will decide that there is no future for them in the Labour party, and decide to form a new party – one which is both genuinely Scottish and genuinely Labour.

On the one hand, a new party which was able to attract more support than the Scottish Greens or the SSP can currently manage would help to show people that the independence campaign and the SNP are not synonymous, and that the SNP would not necessarily form the government of an independent Scotland. It could certainly attract more people out of the clutches of the Labour party. There may be a significant number of Scottish voters who find the present Labour party too right-wing for their taste, but who stay with it because, for some reason, they distrust the SNP – perhaps because they have been indoctrinated by the Labour party with the idea that the SNP are evil tartan Tories.

On the other hand, there is a risk of the pro-independence movement becoming fragmented. It is important to have as many pro-independence MPs as possible after the next general election to keep up the pressure, especially as there is a good chance that neither the Tories nor Labour will win an outright majority next May. I have not seen any poll results for Scottish voting intentions for Westminster for some time, but they were showing the SNP level with or ahead of Labour. Especially if the recent surge in SNP membership figures is a useful indicator of voting intentions, it is just possible that the SNP might hold the balance of power in the Commons after the next election.

If a new party is formed, it seems unlikely that it could be ready to effectively contest an election in not much more than seven months from now. However, if a new party did manage to reach a stage where it had a realistic chance of winning seats, as an SNP member I personally would support an electoral pact with that party. Ideally, for a Westminster election, whichever pro-independence party has the best chance of winning a particular seat should put up a candidate, and the other pro-independence parties should ask their supporters to vote for that candidate. Perhaps a similar deal should be done with regards to the constituency seats for a Holyrood election, as it is vital to have a pro-independence majority there, to keep up the pressure on the Westminster parties to honour their pledges and, if they fail to do so, keep reminding the Scottish electorate of the Unionists’ duplicity.

There is surely a great deal of anger about the way in which the Unionists bought their referendum victory with promises which they will not keep. (They almost certainly could not keep them, even if they wanted to, given the present political climate in England.) That anger must not be allowed to fade into resignation, or Scotland will not be free as as long as the is still oil to prop up the UK’s mismanaged economy. Perhaps a new party could channel the anger, and keep it alive, by saying things that the SNP, as the ruling party at Holyrood, should not.

Where Now?

I cannot feel disappointed by the referendum result, because at the moment all I feel is anger that

- the Unionists won with a campaign based on threats, smears and downright lies, and so many people must have let themselves be fooled by these;

- British nationalism has triumphed while its proponents said all nationalism is evil;

- the BBC showed such disregard for the idea of impartiality;

- Scotland will remain under the control of the Westminster Parliament which is both corrupt (with politicians voting on issues where they have a substantial financial interest, something which local councillors are, rightly, not allowed to do) and nowhere near as democratic as it pretends to be;

- that Scotland will continue to be denied a proper codified constitution to assert the rights of its citizens.

One scandal is that the Unionist leaders came out with a last minute promise of more powers for the Scottish Parliament, widely but misleadingly reported as something like devo-max, although neither government was supposed to announce any new policies which might influence the referendum result within the ‘purdah’ period. I have seen it said that this is acceptable because Cameron was speaking as leader of the Tory party, rather than as the Prime Minister. Would Alex Salmond have been allowed to get away with this kind of trick? However, the Electoral Commission has already shown that it is merely a tool of the British Establishment in its dealings with the CBI.

I will never forgive the leaders of such a dishonest campaign – may they rot in hell. As for those of them who are, or claim to be, Scottish, I see them as renegades and traitors. Given that so much of the No campaign’s funding came from outside Scotland, yet again, as Robert Burns wrote, “We’re bought and sold for English gold – Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”

I will never forgive the BBC for acting as a propaganda mouthpiece for the British government. I urge anyone reading this not to support them by buying a TV licence, as the internet provides alternative sources of both information and entertainment.

I will find it very hard to forgive those who voted No because they were afraid that independence might cost them a few pounds, or incomers who voted No because they see Scotland as an English colony. I will not forgive anyone who voted No because they want WMD to continue to be based 25 miles from the centre of Glasgow. I do not think much of people who based their No votes on uncritical acceptance of what they read in newspapers or saw on television, or of people who were too timid to grasp an opportunity to have a better, more democratic country. I despise people who voted No because they do not like Alex Salmond, because they are fools who could not understand that the referendum was not about one politician.

I am deeply suspicious of this result. Before the referendum, I occasionally saw suggestions that the British Establishment would rig the result, and I fear that is just what has happened. There were good reasons to believe that the polls were, if anything, underestimating the Yes vote. Could the Western Isles, an SNP stronghold, really have voted No? Is the significantly lower than average turnout in Glasgow plausible? Of course, many people assume that vote rigging is something that only happens in other countries, but when one looks at how corrupt the British Establishment is, it is easy to believe that they will resort to such tactics if they feel that their interests are being threatened. It would be, in my opinion, naive to believe that they could not rig a vote if they decided to do so. I saw a report that one bookmaker started paying out on bets on a No win even before the referendum; did they have inside information?

The fight must not end here.  If the dream of independence is allowed to fade, Westminster will trample all over Scotland; the Scottish Parliament will lose powers, not gain them, the Scottish budget will be cut, and the number and status of Scottish MPs reduced. It has become all too clear that there is a considerable amount of anti-Scottish feeling in England, which has been encouraged by certain newspapers. This is likely to be exploited by UKIP which has always been hostile to devolution, and the other parties will counter this by attempting to appease potential UKIP voters. Only the possibility of independence can protect Scotland, and there is only one effective way now to maintain that possibility, and that is to keep the SNP strong.

I would urge everyone in Scotland who supports independence, or even just devolution, to vote for the SNP next year, and again in 2016, even if you do not agree with all their policies, and even if you do not like Alex Salmond. You might feel more in agreement with the Greens or the SSP, but while there is much to be said in their favour, they simply do not have enough support to be effective. You might feel loyalty to the Labour party, and have supported LfI, but UK Labour is a profoundly Unionist party which has been completely assimilated into the British Establishment, and Scottish Labour do the bidding of the UK party. Labour would probably be happy to see Scotland assimilated into Greater England, unless they can regain control of the Scottish Parliament and reduce it to subservience to London. You might even like the LibDems and their talk of a federal system, but they have been talking about it for a long time and have never come close to being able to deliver it. Even as part of the UK Government they could not deliver reform of the voting system or the Lords.

We should be willing to wait another 15 or 20 years for another referendum only if the Scottish Parliament is given substantial, useable additional powers in the very near future.  If, as seems likely, the Unionist parties are either unwilling or unable to deliver these powers, another referendum is much more likely to deliver a Yes vote once some of the people who voted No this time realise that they have been conned.

After the infamous 1979 referendum, when Scotland was denied the devolution it had voted for, demoralisation set in; the number of SNP MPs dropped and Thatcherism wreaked havoc on Scotland. Probably, having a few more SNP MPs would have made little difference, but what if Scotland had returned a majority of SNP MPs? This time, we have the Scottish Parliament to provide some protection, and we have the possibility next May of another hung parliament where a good number of SNP MPs might be in a position to force concessions, perhaps even another referendum. Certainly, a majority SNP Government at Holyrood and an SNP majority amongst Scottish MPs could raise the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence as a last resort.