Posted on September 13th, 2016
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
I heard a couple of interesting things this morning. The first was a podcast on the history of the Labour Party in Scotland which was very balanced if a bit rambling at times. It reminded me that the reason Labour did so well in Scotland for so long was that, in the immediate post-war decades, the Labour Party did a lot of good for Scotland in terms of inward investment, promotion of industry, social housing, etc. This was achieved through their system of using the levers of the British State to benefit the working classes, which is exactly what Labour were originally founded to achieve.
Of course, it all began to go horribly wrong for Labour and for Scotland with the industrial conflicts and turmoil of the 1970s and the advent of Thatcherism. Since then, the economies of UK regions outside of the South East of England have been sacrificed for the benefit of that wealthy corner of these Sceptred Isles and Scotland has suffered as a result.
The reaction has been slow in coming but Devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament were a step on the road towards increased voter recognition that the system which had provided such enormous social advantages, including the formation of the NHS among other things, was no longer working in their interests. As this recognition spread, the fortunes of Labour waned until we reach the current situation where they can only muster third place in the Scottish elections.
The simple message here is that people can recognise when a system is not working to their advantage. When they see that the system is working against them rather than for them, they tend to react. The Labour Party in Scotland has, however, clung to its attachment to the UK because the system worked forty years ago and they seem unable to throw off the shackles of that attachment.
However, the second thing I heard was that there has been another poll on Scottish independence and that a majority of Scots would still prefer to remain part of the UK even after the Brexit fiasco which threatens to strip away many of their rights. The poll shows only a slight increase in support for Indie which is statistically insignificant although, according to some comments I’ve seen, there are some issues with the Polling data, not least of which is that 16 and 17 year-olds were not polled.
However, what this all suggests is that far too many Scots are still so attached to the UK that they would prefer to stay within a system which demonstrably takes advantage of them and penalises them. Pensioners, in particular, seem content to receive the second lowest Pension in the EU because they have grown up being British and cannot bear to vote against the UK no matter how much harm it intends to do to them. Talk about turkeys and Christmas!
These contrasting experiences present a conundrum. Like most people in Scotland, I grew up under a system of government which, for all its many faults, generally worked for the benefit of the majority of working people but which increasingly turned away from that model. It is one thing to be content to be governed under a model which broadly works but there comes a time when you need to realise that the system is not operating properly. Sadly, it seems a great many people have not yet reached that stage. That means we have a huge task on our hands if we are to persuade people that if something is broken, we should try to fix it instead of accepting that nothing can be done.
We know nothing can be done if we remain in the UK because the Tories are rigging election boundaries to ensure they remain in power for the foreseeable future. Scotland’s MPs are already struggling to exert any influence at Westminster but Scotland, together with Wales, stands to lose proportionally more MPs than England under the proposed boundary changes, a situation which will reduce our already minimal influence even further.
Living in a post-Brexit UK under Tory rule isn’t going to make things better for the majority of people but that message still isn’t getting through to a great many of them. Which means that the calls for a second IndieRef as soon as possible are perhaps a bit premature because we cannot afford to lose again. The Brexit vote has perhaps forced our hand on this but, unless we can alter a lot of minds, we will be condemned to sticking with the UK for years to come. We need to keep telling people the UK system isn’t working and that the only possible solution is to escape it and become a normal country.