With the announcement that the EU referendum will take place a little over a month after the Scottish Parliamentary elections it seems David Cameron is confirming what everyone in Scotland already knows. That an SNP government is a foregone conclusion. Most discussion in mainstream and social media is not whether the SNP will win a majority but rather by how much, and whether SNP 1&2 is a good strategy.
For the Labour Party their decimation within Scotland will continue, no longer the Party of Scotland, they are now afraid to lose the mantle of the opposition party in Scotland, with the Conservatives getting ever closer to their share of the centre right vote. As a former member who left after the referendum, I take no pleasure in seeing their collapse. Too many good people have invested too much time in building this party that it is still painful to see it collapse in such a way.
Fingers are often pointed at the staggering contempt Scottish Labour showed the people of Scotland during the independence campaign campaigning with the Tories, others see the removal of clause 4, the era of New Labour and the illegal invasion of Iraq. In truth the beginning of the end for Labour started far longer ago. From the refusal to support direct action on the Poll Tax, the shift to the centre ground, changing it’s long standing position on nuclear weapons and position on the House of Lords. It is fair to say that Labour abandoned the policies, so strongly supported and therefore abandoned the people of Scotland long before the voters in Scotland abandoned them.
Campaigning in the Scottish referendum as part of Labour for Independence, we argued that the only way for Labour to be restored to the party of the people of Scotland was to support independence and remove itself from an English Labour Party who could only win an election by supporting ‘Tory Lite’ policies to appeal to Middle England. Ironically it is the Labour membership in England and Wales which has supported a return to real Labour values (despite protestations from the PLP), while the Scottish Labour Party has voted for a their list candidates to highlight the inadequacies of their current MSPs by bringing in Westminster already decimated by the SNP such as Anas Sarwar to top their regional list.
Supporters of the SNP and Scottish Independence may be quick to dismiss the importance of a Scottish Labour Party that is capable of challenging the SNP in opposition and as a potential governing party. There are however great risks involved in such dominance by one political party. Without the checks and balances of opposition the SNP are liable to end up the same way as Scottish Labour did... No longer representing the people they elected to represent.
Some of the shine may already be coming off the SNP train, with a worrying lack of commitment to banning fracking, the imposition of brutal local service cuts by SNP majority councils and a reticence to announce a referendum in their election manifesto. The problem being there is no political movement or party capable of offering opposition, nor a credible alternative to what the SNP propose.
After the referendum it became clear that the Labour Party could no longer be relied upon to deliver a coherent opposition let alone a vision for Scotland. I joined the Scottish Socialist Party with the belief that if it was able to organise and move from the far left fringes of the electorate to appeal to traditional Labour voters on a platform of transitional socialism. Unfortunately due to the alliance with RISE it seems the party is not capable of moving into a position of mass appeal. The political alliance is stuck firmly in far left political sphere leaving the Scottish political scene to continue to have a void of an effective political opposition to the SNP.
Scottish Deputy Leader Alex Rowley has recently stated that it is vital for Labour to be seen to be ‘standing up for Scotland.’ This is a clear indication that Labour for Independence’s critique is still a valid one, that the only way for the Labour Party in Scotland to embrace independence both as a party and for Scotland. Only then will they begin to develop a trust with the electorate that they really do have their best interests at heart.
These would of course only be the first steps. After a spate of elections, referenda and leadership changes, Labour need to use the post council election lull to begin to develop their own vision again, one centred in the communities of Scotland, representing the people of Scotland, the working class, those whom the Labour Party was created to serve. In the interests of plurality, in the interests of democracy, Scotland needs a strong real Labour Party... So too does the SNP.