Scots Untamed

13 Scottish_flagThe Independence debate north of Hadrian’s Wall is hotting up as JOHN KNOX, who covered Scottish Assembly politics for the BBC, reports.

The way things are going, Socialists throughout the UK are about to lose their biggest brigade. And it will be largely their own fault. Braveheart Alex Salmond is on a roll, having come out fighting from the SNP’s last party conference before the referendum on 18th September.

“The No campaign is the most miserable, depressing, boring and thoroughly negative campaign in political history,” he told his cheering supporters in Aberdeen. “Its leaders have not just lost touch with the people of Scotland, they’ve lost touch with reality….their campaign is laughable and ludicrous.”

He poked fun at Labour’s George Robertson – Tony Blair’s defence secretary and later secretary general of NATO – who last week declared that Scottish independence would be “cataclysmic” for the defence of the West and welcomed by “the forces of darkness.” Was he talking about Darth Vader or the Daleks, Mr Salmond wondered.

The Yes campaign on the other hand was “positive, hopeful and up-lifting.” He promised that an independent Scotland would be a more prosperous and fairer country, free from the Tories, with their one MP in Scotland, their Trident nuclear weapons, and their assault on the welfare state and the NHS.

“The Labour leadership in Britain has lost its way,” Mr Salmond declared. “Independence would be good for Scottish Labour because it could return to its core values.”

This has been one of themes of the SNP’s Aberdeen conference – an appeal to Labour voters to join the Yes campaign as a means of rebuilding their party in Scotland. “The referendum is about Scotland, not the SNP,” said Mr Salmond.

The other theme has been an appeal to women voters. Independence, the SNP says, would mean a transformation in child care, allowing more women to return to work. In his conference speech, Mr Salmond set a target for all organisations in Scotland that 40 per cent of their board members should be women. And to set an example, he promoted two women, there and then, to cabinet rank.

Alex Salmond: bouyant

Alex Salmond: bouyant

So, the SNP and the Yes campaign are riding high in the opinion polls. They say they’ve climbed from 38 per cent support to 46 per cent since the autumn. A poll in The Scotsman last month puts them at a more modest 37 per cent. But it’s clear from all polls that the Yes campaign is gaining ground. It was particularly boosted by the Chancellor George Osbourne’s remarks in February that an independent Scotland could not share the pound sterling.

For weeks now the No campaigners – Labour, Liberal Democrats and Tories – have been telling themselves that they must be more positive. But they’ve found that difficult to put into practice. Their Better Together campaign, led by Labour’s Alistair Darling, has a tradition of saying, “Ye canne dae it.”

First the referendum was declared “illegal”. Then the No campaigner didn’t want a second question about more powers for the Scottish Parliament on the ballot paper Then they didn’t want 16 and 17 year olds to vote. Then they said an independent Scotland would find it difficult to join the EU or NATO. Then they floated various scare stories about pension funds and company headquarters. And now they insist Alex Salmond will not be able to use the pound sterling. All of which, of course, has just encouraged the Scots to say “O yes we can !”

So instead of Project Fear, there’s been some talk from the No parties putting forward a positive alternative to independence; ie a promise of more devolved powers for the Scottish Parliament. But so far they’ve not agreed on anything. The Liberal Democrats want a full federal arrangement between Scotland and the UK. The Tories have yet to publish their proposals. And Labour have been in disarray for the last 18 months over this. Eventually, Gordon Brown had to be brought out of post-prime-ministeral hibernation to knock heads together and produce a plan which gives the Scottish Parliament slightly more power over income tax but little else.

As a result, Alex Salmond is within touching distance of 51 per cent in the referendum. Labour would then would lose 41of its MPs at Westminster at a stroke. Many inside the Labour Party are asking: “Where would the fight for Socialism be then ?” There is no guarantee that the rest of the UK would adjust to the loss of the Scottish Labour contingent and settle down to a two-party system again. The Tories may enjoy a large majority at Westminster for decades.

Then, as Neil Kinnock famously said: “ I warn you not to be ordinary, not to be young, not to fall ill, not to get old.” If they really want to save Socialism or neo-Socialism or Newish Labour or whatever they call it these days, Labour will need to come up with a proper alternative to Scottish independence.

And fast.

2 thoughts on “Scots Untamed

  1. England may just have to seriously think about losing 40 Labour MPs if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ What then?

  2. And what happens if Scotland goes it alone, votes in a Labour govt and then England gets a Labour vote in ’15? Labour negotiating with Labour over a border it didn’t want?

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