By Raymie Kiernan
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2556

Labour’s opposition to an independence vote limits its revival in Scotland

This article is over 6 years, 11 months old
Issue 2556
part of the crowd in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket to hear Jeremy Corbyn
part of the crowd in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket to hear Jeremy Corbyn

Around 1,000 people joined a Labour Party rally in the centre of Glasgow last Sunday. Such a thing would have seemed preposterous before he was leader.

Then Labour was reeling from a heavy general election defeat to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and left with just one MP in Scotland.

As election day draws closer, shrinking poll gap reveals a radical path to Labour victory
As election day draws closer, shrinking poll gap reveals a radical path to Labour victory
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But times have changed and it feels a little like Labour is beginning to recover from rock bottom.

Hearing leader Jeremy Corbyn unashamedly talk about working class interests—tackling health inequalities, child poverty and the crisis in social care, for example—is a breath of fresh air.

“No more tax breaks for the richest and big business,” he pledged.

Corbyn argued, “Scots have a choice in this election—a Labour government which will govern for the many not the few or the continuation of Tory and SNP austerity.”

He said, “the SNP simply pass on Tory austerity without putting up a fight” and “obsess over how to get another divisive referendum”.

Corbyn railed against the “politics of division and austerity”.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale was not present to hear this message.


Labour’s problem is that the voters who deserted it still have a deep mistrust of the party.

Painting independence supporters as rabid nationalists isolates Labour from a huge chunk of the voters it is trying to win back.

Siding with British nationalism while howling at people on the left for putting “nation before class” also confuses the interests of the working class with those of the state.

The break up of the British state would be a good thing.

It would weaken the ability of the junior partner to US imperialism to support the violence it spreads across the globe—and the terrorism it fuels.

The surge in support for Labour outside Scotland is driven by a similar mood to the one that fuelled the Yes vote in the 2014 independence referendum.

So it’s unfortunate that Corbyn has shifted and no longer talks of respecting the majority for a second referendum in the Scottish parliament and not blocking it at Westminster.

Now he’s “on the side of the majority of Scots who don’t want a second referendum”.

Corbyn said on Sunday, “With a Labour government in Westminster, Scotland will be part of a country run for the many not the few.

“Labour will end the cuts to budgets and ensure that Scotland has the resources it requires to provide the public services people need.”

Sadly the actions of some of his councillors undermine this argument to vote Labour. And Corbyn’s overall message allows the SNP to look more radical than it is.

Don’t ally with the Tories

The fallout from the local council elections continues. Labour and the SNP made much of their pledge not to do deals with the Tories.

But having already suspended councillors in Aberdeen for doing just that, Labour faces criticism in other areas for “informal agreements” with the Tories.

The indignation from SNP activists over this would be more credible if their own party hadn’t relied on Tory support in the Scottish parliament when it was a minority administration.

Keeping a focus on stopping councillors implementing cuts is essential. Use your vote to boost the forces of the left overall that can help build a movement capable of holding all parties to account.

Whatever the outcome of the general election, on 9 June socialists will have to build those struggles.

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