As we spectate, before our eyes attempts to suppress democracy in Scotland is playing out. And the perpetrators are not just the Tories: they now include the British Labour & Unionist Party. Two British/English nationalist parties are now in lock-step.
In a recent speech to the Centre for European Reform, Keir Starmer stated: “So let me be very clear. Under Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.”
He reasons that such moves would sow further division in Britain. Further division? He rather too easily casts aside that two constituent parts of his precious Union – Northern Ireland and Scotland – did not vote for Brexit. Moreover, once a majority vote for Brexit was achieved based on votes in England, the views of NI and Scotland were further ignored as the party of government in Westminster then imposed a ‘hard’ Brexit – out of the single market, out of the customs union, an end to freedom of movement. And the Labour leadership has the gall to talk about avoiding further division!
Labour’s position is based on just one thing – taking the lowest risk approach to achieving power. It wants to avoid ‘divisions’ that may threaten the party electorally in so-called ‘red wall’ seats. These are the English constituencies populated by many so-called ‘traditional Labour voters’ who in 2019 abandoned any sense of ‘solidarity’ and voted Tory. Yes, they abandoned that very same ‘solidarity’ Labour disingenuously, ridiculously accuses supporters of self-determination for Scotland of doing!
Of course the significance for democracy in Scotland of Labour’s policy position goes well beyond European matters. The Guardian on 1 July 2022 reported Starmer’s oft repeated rejection of any co-operation with the SNP, sharing with us another ‘vow’:
‘Keir Starmer will vow Labour will never deal with the Scottish National party and make it explicit his party would go into minority government rather than enter talks with nationalists, in a new effort to spike Conservative attacks on a “coalition of chaos”.’
Adding: ‘The Labour leader is expected to ramp up his pledge that the party would give no quarter to the SNP and would not grant an independence referendum, which will form part of his summer campaign.’
(A telling choice of aggressive words – ‘no quarter’!
Definition: ’no pity or mercy —used to say that an enemy, opponent, etc., is treated in a very harsh way’ See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/no%20quarter)
And just so no one is in any doubt, we are told: ’Starmer is likely to offer a procedural guarantee against any deal (with the SNP), including a motion to the party’s conference. That commitment would demonstrate Labour members were onboard with the strategy, sources said.’ If so, we can look forward to a good test of Labour grassroots’ values!
The reason is once again crystal clear – winning votes in England trumps concerns for democratic principles in Scotland. ’Senior figures around Starmer have been urging him to make the case in stronger terms to voters, especially those in England. “We must be louder making this argument,” one strategist said.’
To reinforce its intention to suppress, The Times on 6 July 2022 reported this: ‘Labour will block an independence referendum even if the SNP wins more than 50 per cent of the popular vote at the next general election, Sir Keir Starmer has pledged.’
(Anyone know if Labour plans to amend the Good Friday Agreement and its embedded principle of a democratic right of voters in NI to have a border poll – and to have one every seven years if democratically endorsed? Or is suppression of democracy being legitimised by Labour only in North Britain?)
Also from The Times’ article, Starmer on Nicola Sturgeon: ‘.. the Labour leader yesterday accused her of whipping up “faux patriotism” to further her party’s ambitions as he insisted he would not entertain any talks — or a referendum — if he were to be leading a minority government in Westminster. “It doesn’t change the principal position,” he said when asked about what it would mean for Scotland’s constitutional future if the SNP won more than half of the popular vote.’
Perhaps this was said by the Labour leader whilst posing in front of a patriotic backdrop – the now customary, elegantly draped Union flags!
(By the way, does anyone know if the Labour leader has now ditched his party’s longstanding sisterly relationship with the Social Democratic and Labour Party in NI? Yes, this SDLP: ‘The SDLP’s vision is a reconciled people living in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland.’ This pro-EU party straightforwardly states: ‘SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has expressed his firm view that the United Kingdom is coming to an end.’ So sisterly relations with a political party wishing to dissolve Labour’s precious Union is OK sometimes, somewhere? Labour seems to propose suppression of democracy ONLY in Scotland!)
Suck it up
Is there a more concise expression of the ‘suck it up Scotland’ politics of the Union now being co-promoted by the Tory and Labour parties than this? On 27 June, 2022, the Daily Express reports an analysis by Professor Ciaran Martin: he helped negotiate the 2014 independence referendum on behalf of the Cameron government. (I don’t necessarily think Martin is endorsing this ‘rightness’ of this, simply expressing his assessment of what pertains.)
On an independence referendum, he claims Downing Street has “blocked off all legal routes”. Martin states: “The UK Government is under no obligation to set out under what circumstances Scotland might become independent” adding that Number 10 was “refusing to develop a policy or enter into any discussions about what such a framework might look like”. He concludes:“So at the moment, while in principle Scotland can become independent, in practice it can’t, no matter how it votes at elections, or how often it does so.”
To all intents and purposes, based on the statements of its leadership, the British Labour & Unionist Party is joining with the Conservative & Unionist Party in the suppression of Scotland’s democratic right to choose its constitutional future – and will seek to do so regardless of the majority view of Scotland’s electorate.
A view from Wales
The recent hardline, anti-democratic position being adopted by the Labour leadership has caused some to consider its negative implications for the future of devolution in Wales. Published in Nation Cymru on 9 July 2022, there is an interesting critique (by Ifan Morgan Jones) under the headline: ‘Out of the frying pan? Why Welsh autonomy may not be entirely safe under a Labour UK government’. I think its worth reproducing extracts from this thoughtful article at some length.
‘… I think there’s a real danger that UK Labour’s attitude to devolution would be more lukewarm than some may think. This would in the main be due not to Labour’s attitude towards Wales but their attitude towards Scotland.’ (my emphasis)
‘… we hear that the UK Labour party has rejected Gordon Brown’s interim strategy to reform devolution across the UK. Knowing Gordon Brown, these proposals were unlikely to be particularly radical, and yet now face being watered down.’
‘… the Labour leadership not being particularly comfortable with autonomy for the constituent nations and regions of the UK. In fact, in an effort to impress voters from Nuneaton, they may aim to flex their own ‘muscular unionist’ muscles to match the Conservatives.’
In the context of Starmer’s outright rejection of rejoining the EU, or even the Single Market: ‘The attitude at the moment seems to be that, however popular something is within the Labour party, if it’s any obstacle to winning the next election, it can be thrown overboard. With that mindset, how unlikely would it be to see some kind of commitment to bind Wales and Scotland once and for all to the Union in a Labour manifesto, in order to impress voters in England?’
And a warning: ‘We got a preview of this in the last week when Scotland Labour leader Anas Sarwar promised legislation to “require joint working between governments in areas of shared interest”. But how do you guarantee joint working between governments that fundamentally disagree, as the Welsh and UK Governments have done on occasion? Any kind of legislation would ultimately have to ensure that one government has a legal duty to agree with the other. And it’s fair to say that Westminster would not legislate to bind itself to the views of the devolved parliaments. This would ultimately require the devolved governments to ‘work with’ No 10 and Whitehall whether they wanted to or not.’
Indeed! Sarwar’s proposal is a blatant attempt to restrict – to suppress – the agency of devolved parliaments and governments – and to negate electoral mandates that do not suit those in power in Westminster. One might have thought the Tories’ UK Internal Market Act 2020 was bad enough in undermining the powers of Scotland’s Parliament and Government. The British Labour & Unionist Party may not be satisfied with this: worse constitutional imprisonment may be coming unless we dissolve the Union and quickly!
In short, the Labour leadership is now radically altering the political landscape: the party’s members and the wider electorate in Scotland need to be made aware of the full significance of what Labour is proposing in order to appeal to voters in middle England!
7 thoughts on “The New Suppressionists – the British Labour & Unionist Party’s vow to Scotland”
TO LOOK AT SCOTLANDS FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE IN ANOTHER WAY… I DO SEE WE SCOTS COMPLAINING A LOT ABOUT BEING RULED BY OTHER INCOMPETENT ENGLISH POLITICAL PARTIES THAT KNOW NOTHING ABOUT SCOTLAND BUT NEED TO KEEP A HOLD OVER IT LIKE NAUGHTY CHILDREN.. WHAT IM TRYING TO SAY IS WE SCOTS THAT WANT INDEPENDENCE NEED TO BE MORE POWERFUL WITH OUR KNOWLEDGE ON AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND AND HOW IT WILL FLOURISH WITHOUT ENGLAND MAKING THE RULES… WE NEED TO CONVINCE NON BELIEVERS THAT THIS WILL WORK…
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This is a pretty good synopsis of the position adopted most recently by the Labour Party. It seems to me that they have become, explicitly, a British/English nationalist party.
Labour always was a British party, initially based on an internationalist socialist perspective of fraternal solidarity of working people. However, despite this, iot consistently failed to address what ‘Britain’ and ‘Britishness’ connoted.
Keir Hardie was a ‘home ruler’ and ‘home rule’ was a feature of the aims of the Labour Party in Scotland up to at least 1950. Tom Johnstone, a Labour Secretary of State for Scotland, was very strong on ‘home rule’. However, not only was the home rule aim pushed to the background, but, increasingly the socialist and working class solidarity aspects have been jettisoned.
To be fair to John Smith and Donald Dewar, they kept the concept of ‘home rule’ alive and Dewar ensured that we now have a Scottish Parliament. Dewar also viewed devolution as a ‘process’, implying a gradual increase in the devolved powers.
Labour, under Blair, simply put up with devolution and, in Blair’s infamous phrase, saw it as no more powerful than an English parish Council.
Although the Lab/LibDem coalition made some genuinely radical changes, mainly, it saw its role as ‘keeping Scotland quiet’ and, on a couple of occasions did not even spend its entire budget and remitted the unspent funds back to the Treasury.
On losing power in Scotland in 2007, Labour went into a monumental sulk and became, and continues to be oppositionist. In the Smith Commission discussions it was the most obstructive of all the parties. Even the Tories, under Annabel Goldie were prepared to devolve more powers. Indeed, Murdo Fraser mooted an independent Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
Come 2014, huge numbers of Labour voters said, ‘no more’ with regard to the Labour Party. Its power base in Scotland has vanished like snaw aff a dyke’.
Labour, in Scotland and in the rest of the UK has no narrative other than ‘get Brexit done’ and ‘protect the union’. In interviews on Sunday on BBC Scotland, Jackie Baillie and Tom Tugendhat, separately, gave virtually identical messages, even down to similar phraseologies.
It never has had a message for the people of the North of Ireland. It’s only remaining power base outside of London, is in Wales and, there, it has retained power because it has explicitly moved towards increasing powers for Wales and, unlike Scotland, support for independence does not mean black-balling as it does in Scotland.
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Labour is no longer the party of Keir Hardie, but now adheres to the political of “North Brit Brown” and Lord Baron Ffoulksakia.
They have had a long relationship with an Irish nationalist party (SDLP), and have announced they would stay neutral in any “border poll” for Irish re-unification. One of their ideological Guru’s is Brian Wilson, an Irish AND British nationalist , who openly boasted about singing Irish rebel songs in Hillsborough Castle whilst a government Minister. He has always detested the thought of Scots having any degree of political power.
In Wales Labour has a good relationship with a Welsh independence party (Plaid Cymru), and works alongside them. They have instigated a wide-ranging constitutional commission to look at the future for Wales, including independence.
Its only Scotland which is under the British nationalist cosh.
Scotophobia or asset stripping?
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Scotland your Lords and Masters have spoken. England and only England’s politicians will determine Scotland’s future so behave. You will just have to wait until we have siphoned off the remainder of your Oil before we can allow any attempts at self determination.
The majority of the people did not vote for Brexit. Many have changed their minds and want to remain in the EU. Young people support EU membership. They will be voting to go back in. Rejoining will avail. Out of step politicians will be sidelined. They will not stop it. If they want votes.
Labour has to implement Devolution or lose membership of the EU. The EU supports self government and self determination. If the majority of the electorate vote for it. Self government and self determination when people want it. EU values and rights are ingrained in the Devolution agreement. People in Scotland fought and campaigned for it. The consultant Assembly.
It was recognised Eastern European States were gaining self government and self determination with rights. More rights and democratic settlement than Scotland in the UK Union. Latvia, Serbia, Lithuania, Poland etc where gaining more freedoms from USSR. Gorbachev. Glasnost and Perestroika.
The Labour Party could announce later this year, the recommendations of their Gordon Brown led Constitutional Commission. If it was to recommend Home Rule will the Labour Party simply implement it, should they win the next General Election, or will they hold a referendum on the proposals?
I wonder how voters will react to independence by the back door?