Paul Bisland, a Labour member who voted Yes in 2014, says in the light of the EU referendum result Scottish Labour should support independence.
If the late nineties and the noughties were the glory days of the Labour Party, then the tens have been the hangover. As the dust from the EU Referendum settles, and we find Labour on the end of another defeat, we once again must confront the question of how Labour will reconnect with those who we assume to be our core voters.
Essentially the question comes down to what the Labour party are for. Put plainly, the SNP are for independence, the Conservatives are, as ever, for themselves but they have cornered the unionist position in Scotland. If Labour did not exist in Scotland, then nobody would invent us.
Parties need a niche to differentiate themselves from everyone else. The UKIP success (I appreciate that they only have 1 MP but they did cause this whole referendum) was built on this, the same for the Lib Dems in 2005 and 2010 based on Iraq. Right now we have no niche, the SNP are wearing our clothes on the (albeit very moderate) left and the Tories are defending the union to our right. It is incumbent on the Scottish Labour party to make ourselves relevant and to reconnect with the people our movement was established to represent.
Our forthcoming removal from the EU, against the will of those who voted in Scotland, represents a monumental change in Scottish politics. It has raised the question of independence once more and this time we should grasp the chance to secure our place within the European Union by giving up our place in the UK.
A Labour commitment to independence could transform our party and galvanise our former voters. It would be in line with the prevailing view of our biggest city, a traditional Labour city, and with the sentiment expressed in several forums as the day unfolded following the EU result. Our friendliest newspaper, The Daily Record, is calling for a referendum on its front page. Henry McLeish says the EU result has changed his mind on independence. Even JK Rowling has suggested that Brexit will force her to look again at the issue.
In the aftermath of the result, Kezia Dugdale said that Scottish Labour does not support a second referendum. She continued by saying the following,
“However, on the question of independence, many of the fundamental questions that were unresolved and unanswered in 2014, remain so.”
It is on this quote that the Labour Party in Scotland can find her niche and make herself relevant once again. We must change our thinking away from the SNP vision of independence, which does still contain unanswered questions, and present a Scottish Labour vision of independence. We should not be a hostage to fortune, we should take a lead role and provide Scottish Labour answers as we argue for independence.
Let’s show some leadership. Let’s present our vision and answer the questions ourselves. Scottish Labour should present a vision of a socially just, independent Scotland, with EU membership, which would espouse the Labour values of internationalism, solidarity and fairness. We should take a position on all the controversial issues; our currency, our border situation, our NATO membership, Trident and the rest.
We can be an opposition to the SNP from the position of the same objective. After all, the next Scottish Parliament election looks increasingly likely be the first of an independent Scotland and we should keep that in mind. To oppose independence would make us irrelevant post-independence whilst to advocate independence, but with significant policy differences to the SNP, would put us in a good position to fight the first independence election based on the policy issues of the day.
Calling for independence would put us in conflict with the Labour party nationally, but that would only be good for the sincerity of our independence credentials. The inevitably leaderless central party, who will be caught up replacing Corbyn, are in no position to treat Scottish Labour as a branch office, and by simply ignoring their calls to drop independence the Scottish party would be in control of her own destiny, whilst being seen to be in control by the Scottish people, addressing a central criticism of Labour in recent years.
The SNP have fallen short in many areas over their nine years in office, but many are willing to look past this to secure independence. Only by offering independence to these people, many of whom are our traditional voters, can we expect them to judge us on the other issues.
May and June of 2016 have shown that the constitution is the only show in town. We would be wise to realise that Scotland has changed, that independence is an inevitability and that only by supporting it will we play any part in shaping it in the years to come. Let’s answer the unanswered questions and lead Scotland to independence with Scottish Labour values.