Something very important and significant is happening in the referendum debate. What we are beginning to see are two opposing and diverse propositions emerge that will enable the Scottish people to make a clear and decisive choice. On one hand there is the “Yes” proposal of an independent Scotland in charge of its own resources, a normal nation, making its own decisions and way in the world. More intriguingly, is the glimpse of the emerging proposal that is beginning to take shape in the “No” campaign.
There have been two important things that have led to the “No” partners coalescing behind a distinct proposal and they have both emerged from within the Labour party. First, and most obviously, there was what can now only be described as the “Lamont declaration” This was a statement of intent that was as dramatic as it was surprising.
At the heart of the “Lamont declaration” was an attempt to get Labour into a place that suggested responsibility and fiscal discipline. They wanted to paint a picture of a spendthrift SNP (and independent Scotland) that is not facing up to financial responsibilities and denying fiscal reality. Where this falls down is at the first hurdle which is that the SNP Government has a fixed budget, and even in the face of declining budgets, John Swinney, has delivered on election promises by making some very tough choices. It also makes independence a more attractive option if our dependence on the UK state has led to our continuing diminishing returns.
The means of delivering the Lamont agenda was in tacking what she saw as the injustice of universal benefits. She railed at “the something for nothing” culture and turned decades of Scottish Labour thinking on its head.
Denying the reality of the proven success of universality and its preference over means testing as a means of delivering social justice and inclusivity, Labour seemed to go through the list of popular Government policies and set their stall out to challenge and abolish them. I cant wait to see Labour canvassers plough through the aspiring estates of middle Scotland with an agenda that threatens everything hard pressed families have come to rely on.
This comes to the second important development in Labour, and this is the Labour vision of the “one nation”. Now, like you, I imagine that this “one nation” is the unitary UK state and when I think of an image around “one nation” it isn’t Donald Dewar that emerges it is rather Ted Heath.
In Scotland we don’t as much have the “one nation” we have what can only be referred to as the “Common weel”. That specific Scottish sense of community that belongs to all Scots. This is something that we all buy into and ensures that we look after those in need. This is the foundation of our vision of Scottish community and I believe it is immeasurably more socially acceptable and inclusive than unionist (Tory or Labour) “one nation”.
The important thing about both of these developments is that the Tories are comfortable and relaxed about them. Tory politicians have welcomed the Lamont agenda and their historic association of the UK “one nation” is something that they are familiar with. Their scribes in the right wing press have also almost fallen over themselves to heap praise on Labour.
This coming together of minds and agenda will therefore now serve the as the social and political proposition of the“better together” concept.
At last we are beginning to see the two emerging visions of Scotland. An independent Scotland, in charge of its own resources, driven socially by our sense of the “common weel”. Or a dependent Scotland, one UK nation, means tested, and almost relaxed about its decline and lack of ambition.
At last there’s a real choice, and it is Labour we must thank for that.