Labour could be out of government at Holyrood for decades unless the party finds an "intelligible" alternative to independence, a former First Minister has warned
McLeish: Labour Party 'in denial'
Labour, in trouble in Wales, in deeper trouble in Scotland, if these headlines from the BBC and Daily Telegraph are to be believed. They are based on an article written by the former First Minister Henry McLeish for the Holyrood magazine, an article which is much more nuanced than the screamers above would suggest:
Progressive politics in Scotland must confront the SNP with a constitutional alternative which appeals to Scots who are still lukewarm to the idea of independence, but may in the absence of a credible alternative start to warm to the softer, less aggressive and less anti-English tones of the SNP leadership.He notes how far the SNP have apparently moved away from their "Brits Out" origins, e.g. Salmond would retain the monarchy, keep sterling, allow British troops to stay in Scotland, he’d even “permit” Scots to retain their British citizenship.
McLeish is arguing that because of this strategical softening the SNP’s appeal beyond their traditional voter base is growing. The fact that Scottish Labour (which, remember, has only one Holyrood seat less than the SNP) is running around like the worst kind of a headless chicken (an "intellectually exhausted one",) clinging on to "an old political era that has passed and which has been overtaken by a set of new political realities and challenges" has also greatly helped the SNP.
His solution for Scottish Labour and the wider Union?
The tendency has been to muddle through with the Union and other political issues as they are. This no longer makes any sense. We should be talking about the "F" word – federalism, both as a workable option for the future of Scotland and the Union as well as an alternative to independence.Well...it isn’t one I’d agree with, but I also think it’s an alternative which will come more to prominence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the next five years or so- as much for purely partisan reasons as for any desire to genuinely take on the various nationalists.
The original devolution experiment had its roots in the dissatisfaction felt by Labour in Scotland and Wales during the Thatcher and Major governments; it was an attempt, despite the present professed Unionism of Brown & Co, to ensure that a United Kingdom Conservative government would never hold sway again over the Labour heartlands in those two countries. It was automatically and arrogantly assumed that the Nats and the electorate would read the script and allow Labour to reinforce and govern its fiefdoms there in perpetuity- an assumption which has come back and given them a big fat punch on the mouth.
Faced with a Conservative United Kingdom government would there not be the temptation once again for Labour in Scotland and Wales to tamper constitutionally with the Union? I fear there would and I also would not be at all surprised to see the DUP in Northern Ireland push for the similar kind of further autonomy from Westminster. The crunch question any unionist must ask themselves faced with that choice is why would the federalist solution being suggested by McLeish do any better kind of job than the one devolution was supposed to do over a decade ago?
Those famous last words from George Robertson, "Devolution will kill nationalism stone" dead...."