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.