The positive case
IAN MURRAY takes issue with those who claim that you’re not a proper Scot unless you support independence
The results of the Scottish Parliament elections in May were a real shock to the system. The Scottish Labour Party had given up a 10 point lead to hand the SNP a majority. The democratic process has spoken and the people of Scotland have given their verdict.
What has surprised me, however, is the fact that independence for Scotland was not uttered by the SNP during the six- week long election campaign, yet it is now the word on the lips of every SNP MSP, MP, activist and supporter. They seem to have drawn a false conclusion, namely that the people of Scotland have given the SNP a mandate to push forward with independence , despite not mentioning it at all in the election campaign that gave them that mandate.
There are probably few arguments that would stand up to scrutiny that would say Scotland could not be an independent country. Small nations all over the world are independent. But is this the real question? I think we must be asking ourselves and the Scottish people about what kind of Scotland we want for ourselves and future generations of Scots.
If we take the scenario that Scotland could survive as an independent nation then the question must be: will Scotland be a more prosperous and fairer nation as an independent country, or will it be more prosperous and fairer as part of the United Kingdom?
This question has to be answered with measured, well researched and honest debate. I happen to think the latter is the case, and we know the SNP believe the former. So lets examine the scenarios and inform the Scottish people honestly.
Will pensioners be better off? WIll our schools be better equipped with more teachers and staff? Will Labour’s NHS be well funded with scope for improvement? Will we have a responsive justice system? Will we have adequate resources for the police, fire and ambulance services? Will we have an improving transport system? Will our most vulnerable be looked after and protected? Will we be able to provide jobs and opportunities for our young people?
These are the real questions. Can they be positively addressed by a government whose top priority is independence, and which claims to be socially democratic while being, in fact, neo-Conservative economically?
I have been accused of being “negative about Scotland” by not supporting independence, whereas those who talk about it claim to be being “positive about the future of Scotland”. This is utter codswallop. I am no less loving of my country than a nationalist and the accusation that you are less of a Scot if you are not a nationalist is absurd.
Then we have the ridiculous “London Labour” nonsense. The Labour Party was created in Scotland and has fought for and delivered a better Scotland for generation. Furthermore, we must never forget that it was a Labour government who created the conditions to allow the Scottish people to choose our parliament. It was Scottish Labour that led the “yes-yes” campaign. It was Scottish Labour that argued and adapted the Scotland Act through consensus and debate.
But that is a reflection on the past. Where are we today? New words and phrases have appeared in our vocabulary since May 6. Devolution max, Independence Lite, Calman-plus… What do these all mean? Are they smoke and mirrors for the SNP independence argument? And just because the SNP stick the word London in front of everything south of Berwick doesn’t make it anti-Scottish. The irony being that it was a London SNP Westminster MP who masterminded their campaigns in 2007 and 2011!
We currently have the Calman proposals going through both Parliaments. Calman was a wide ranging analysis of the powers of the Scottish Parliament and an attempt to take devolution to the next stage of development, set up by Scottish Labour with the will of the Parliament to look at the next steps of devolution. The SNP didn’t want to get involved in the process at all and didn’t… until now.
The Scotland Bill, enacting Calman’s proposals, is making its way through Parliament – a real debate and analysis of Scotland’s immediate future. Now, though, the SNP have come late to the table and want to add a wish list of additional powers. I see no problem with looking at these but I suspect the SNP know these additional powers are unworkable so they will pick another fight with Westminster on items they know would be impossible to achieve. And for what goal? To divide opinion that Scotland is being held back as a nation. It’s the oldest trick in politics: pick a fight you can’t win and claim victory for fighting it.
Scotland has a glorious and very proud past. It was a world leader in invention and enlightenment. It has appeared out of the dark tunnel of the ’80s and ’90s to thrive again. The current economic difficulties will pass and Scotland will go forward as a generous and proud nation.
Scottish Labour will now take time to reflect, remould and regenerate. But one thing is sure: every breathing hour for Scottish Labour is about a better, brighter, more prosperous and fairer Scotland. For the SNP to suggest otherwise is being disingenuous with the Scottish people.
Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South. Follow him on Twitter at @IanMurrayMP.