RICHARD MACKINNON tells Scottish Labour to rethink its strategy towards fighting the independence referendum.


I think this piece may not be easy reading for Labour supporters but I have tried to be factual and objective and I do believe the subject is predominant amongst Labour activists in Scotland at this time. And that the future of the nation depends upon the outcome of the debate.

It appears to me that the Scottish Labour party is not facing up to the reality of the up and coming referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future. Rather than take the opportunity of formulating and articulating a stance that Labour believes is right for Scotland,  and in so doing advance the position of The Party in Scotland,  it seems to be placing itself against all it has fought for simply because to argue for more powers for the Scottish Parliament would be to create a safety net for the SNP.

The only arguments I hear from opposition politicians is ‘Salmond and the SNP are obsessed by independence’ and the ‘the delay (in calling the referendum) is damaging to the Scottish economy’. To argue that a nationalist party is dangerously obsessed with independence is so much of a contradiction it insults the intelligence. Also the SNP are now the government of Scotland and therefore have a mandate and it appears that there are those in Scottish Labour who are in denial of that fact. With regard to damage the delay (in holding the referendum) is doing to the Scottish economy,  2012 is 4 weeks away.

The referendum is to be held in 2014/15,  and the signs are that Salmonds’ offer of a second question has already been rejected; that Labour is adopting the position of  a straight forward one question ’yes/no’ even although,  the majority of the Scottish people and Scottish Labour probably want a middle way. When the Scottish Parliament was reconvened Donald Dewar said ’devolution was not an event it was a process’,  he was right, nobody who sits at Holyrood can argue against tax raising powers; you can’t have a parliament that spends money without the accountability of raising it.

If however Scottish Labour do see the logic of this argument and instead take the lead in shaping and campaigning for a second question,  then I have no doubt that that is the option that will win in a referendum. Labour would do very well post referendum.

On the other hand if Scottish Labour does not push Salmond for a second question, what will Labours’ campaign be? The choice is between a positive pro-union (‘look what the union has done for us’ during the worst recession for 80 years) campaign or a constantly negative campaign rubbishing the nationalists and trying to spread fear amongst the electorate.

Richard MacKinnon is a retired engineer, living in Glasgow, who was brought up in socialist family with politics in its marrow. He believes the Scottish Labour party is at an ideolgical crossroads and that they hold the key to the constitutional future of Scotland.