Facing up to reality
Jamie Kinlochan says our politics has lost its focus on improving lives, but we can’t wish our constitutional divisions away.
The UK will no longer be part of the EU.
This is the fifth democratic event in Scotland in four years. We’ve had the independence referendum, the EU election, the UK general election, the Holyrood election and now the EU referendum. Labour staff, elected members and campaigners can’t be thanked enough for their work during this time.
How the country is formed, the constitution, has underpinned just about all of those, directly or indirectly.
When I watched the news as a wee boy, in a council house in Dumbarton, politics felt different to this.
One of my most vivid memories is watching the Good Friday agreement unfold: seeing Mo Mowlam be THE BOSS and take action people warned against in the name of public service and peace in Northern Ireland. When I was at school, I felt the difference that a government announcing plans to repeal Section 28 made, so that I could say I was gay out loud.
I remember Robin Cook representing the UK on the world stage, speaking out against Israeli settlements and trying to deliver a more ethical foreign policy. And when I was at home, I knew what a difference a government focused on family tax credits made because my mum didn’t have to leave for a factory shift at 6am every morning of the week any more.
Other wee people watching the news in council houses today will see Nigel Farage make his eighth triumphant speech by 5pm, will see the media hype Boris Johnson as the next leader of the country, and will see Michael Gove say “I told you so” all along.
I hope those wee people will look around their communities and see through the gurns, grins and false hope of privately educated millionaires. The result from working class areas, however, suggests that their parents and grandparents have not. Or that they have seen through them and not cared anyway.
Technically there is no such thing as a “Scottish” vote in this referendum – there’s only a UK vote. When we voted No in 2014, that was part of the deal. One electorate, one result. But in reality, I don’t think I’m appeased by that technical argument. Again, Scottish (and London, and Northern Irish) voters went one way, and the ultimate decision went another.
When does the tolerable become intolerable? The next independence referendum won’t be at 5pm today but if it was, I think we know how it would go. After Nicola Sturgeon’s speech today, it looks like we can expect the next referendum before the UK formally leaves the EU. It is on its way.
I don’t believe the argument has actually changed. We accept that a democratic deficit will happen as part of a larger nation. The SNP’s economic argument remains neither solid nor convincing. Time will tell if any of that matters when we revisit the question.
I’m a Labour Party member because I want to live in a society built on socialism and justice. I want poverty eradicated. I want folk who grew up in council estates to have a fair chance at education. I want the foreign policy my leaders pursue to reflect my ideals of a just world. I want equality for young people in care. I want an end to the pandemic of violence against women. I want to provide a safe place for those fleeing war and persecution.
I honestly don’t know when or how we’ll get back to talking about and delivering that. But I know we’ll never get there by wishing the constitutional issue away.