The SNP has taken command of the moral high ground. If Scottish Labour’s leadership can’t learn fast in the coming few days, they’ll let down many decent folk who still have faith in them and Scottish Labour will be done for.
The UK prime minister has said she’ll ignore any decision by the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum. Her staff have said he’ll keep her eyes on the polls, though, and if they change then she might have a change of heart. Will she be doing the same with Brexit and the UK parliament’s vote last week? No, of course not. There, the voters have spoken and whatever the polls say now is inconsequential. This is so dishonest it’s quite astonishing. But there it is. The Scottish Tories will do well politically in seeking to sustain that dishonesty in Scotland – there’s a market for that sort of stuff all right. But what of Scottish Labour?
The SNP’s rationale for a new referendum is bomb-proof. In 2014, many people more than the margin of victory voted No simply because they were told by Labour and the Tories that this was the only way of remaining within the EU. The SNP saw then that should this turn out to have been a misstatement (let’s be charitable, many politicians and activists believed it) then it would morally invalidate the poll. They were smart enough to put this specific detail into their election manifesto. They won the election handsomely and will secure a parliamentary majority on the subject next week.
By arguing against giving Scots the right to a good-faith vote, Scottish Labour is trumpeting that it’s acceptable for political parties to make one promise to voters when seeking their vote in a referendum, then when voters see exactly the opposite thing happen tell them that that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Is that immoral or amoral? Well, who cares. It’s certainly base and contemptible.
It’s stupid, too. Because when the Scottish Parliament votes for a second referendum next week, Scottish Labour will be ‘losers’ once again. Hopeless, as usual. Then they’ll say they support the will of the Scottish parliament, but they’ll only be doing that because they’re losers, not because they truly support the right of duped Scots to another referendum. So where does that put them when they make demands of the UK government? It puts them in the Ridiculous quarter of Nowheresville.
Labour’s cunning plan was to fight Scottish independence because some dominant voices thought that if they argued for the same as the SNP then Labour voters would simply move across to the ‘real thing’. Well, who knows, maybe they would have. But they have anyway, right? The ones who haven’t moved to the Tories that is. So now the same dominant voices (i.e. not the figurehead ‘leader’, who simply bends whichever way the winds blows) are sure that they will only hold on to their ‘core’ 15% if they continue to oppose independence and even a referendum.
But guess what? They were wrong last time and they’re wrong this time. Obviously. And unless it changes its ultra unionist ways, Scottish Labour is about to be joined-at-the-hip with the Scottish Tories once again on the overwhelmingly dominant issue in Scottish politics. And for years.
Holding on to 15% of the vote seems a depressingly modest ambition. The simple fact, though, is that Scottish Labour has no irreducible core and few people are prepared to vote for irrelevant no-hopers. So while the Greens have power through holding the balance in the Scottish parliament on the issue of independence, the Tories have power through their influence with the UK government and Lib Dem voters are motivated by the possibility of their leaders doing deals with anyone at anytime, Scottish Labour will disappear into a void labelled political pointlessness unless they can re-discover their moral purpose.
The moral high ground has staked upon it people’s right to agency, self respect and self-determination in the face of a right Tory drive for a Greater England. The SNP are upon it yet there’s room for plenty of Labour folk there too. If Scottish Labour’s leaders stay down in the bogs with the Tories, then they won’t be leading much for long.