Scottish Labour Party Leader Johann Lamo

Something quite dramatic and very significant happened in the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future last week. The leader of Scottish Labour followed quickly by the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said that their members would now be free to support a ‘Yes’ cause in any future referendum. This is huge, not just for the fact that it is now ‘alright’ to support independence in once firm unionist parties. It is huge because new rules of engagement are shaping up and the parameters of the debate are being redefined.

I suppose we always knew it would happen. Labour being so totally set against their former voters and on the same side as the Tories on something so important as independence was always totally unsustainable and has practically killed them. It is so blindingly obvious that their firm and unequivocal unionist position would have to be addressed.

We surely aren’t too far away from the first serious Labour politicians coming forward to express support for independence. Measured at first, this will grow into a meaningful movement and voice within their party. Most of the voices associated with unconditional unionism are now gone, having been rejected, defeated and voted out. I have a sneaking suspicion that those who have recently joined Labour are a bit more adept, informed and accommodating than the SLab dinosaurs of yore.

We will then move towards a place where we can look forward to a ‘Yes’ position being a broad movement of SNP, Green, ‘Labour for independence’ and some Liberals. It will look very much like the Yes campaign in the referendum for the Scottish Parliament but even more like the campaign for a Scottish Assembly in 1979. There will always be a strong unionist voice within Labour and that is fine and should be respected. In the Scottish Assembly campaign in 79 there were Labour campaigns for and against devolution. Similarly there will be opposing Labour campaigns for and against Scottish independence.

The No side in the future will primarily be the Tories with assorted ideological unionists from the other parties. Nearly all Tory voters voted No and other than the SNP they are the one party that is comfortable with their constitutional position. Again, looking at historical precedents a future No campaign will look very much like the No campaign of 97 when the Tories were almost alone as the voice and face of opposition to the Scottish Parliament.

There is of course the temptation to over emphasise the impact of political parties positions on referendums but it should not be ignored. Where ‘Better Together’ could barely be more dysfunctional in its almost clown like approach to the referendum I believe that the Scottish people found a broad cross party campaign attractive. People will always pay attention to the politicians they recently voted for but more than that it set the parameters for the debate and influenced the media coverage.

The next referendum will be very different and the realignment that is currently being undertaken is fascinating. The Scottish people aren’t through with this yet and there will be another referendum. Scotland’’s politicians better start to think about which side they are going to be on.


  1. ArtyHetty

    Yep the next campaign will be different because many people have woken up to the deceptive nature of the main stream media. Hopefully not be too long, so that the unionists cannot use the same lies as they did last year.
    I had very naively expected intelligent discussion fom both sides in the run up to last years vote, but it came only from the YES side, with the bettertogether lot stifling, as best they could, using almost any means, any decent, intelligent and grown up debate.

    Next time they will look even more vindictive and idiot if they attempt to steer the debate by fear.

  2. Clydebuilt

    Magnus Gardham in the herald was quoting an Unnamed Labour source who was pouring cold water on Kezia’s proposal. I’m Sceptical about whether Kezia’s proposal will last beyond the 2016 Holyrood election.

    1. Nigel Mace

      Fundamentally and in the longer run, Pete, is correct – but I agree that it will be some time before we see whether there will be any significant Labour Holyrood voices that will back independence. At present even a few that really back full Home Rule would be a first, if wholly inadequate, step. However, the dam is beginning if not to burst, at least to seep – and when it does ‘go’ fingers, no matter how well funded and media-backed, will no longer be able to plug it.

  3. andygm1

    Interesting article with which I’m in broad agreement, however it’s worth pointing out that in 1979 the Labour No campaign was working against its own government’s legislation.

  4. George Trist

    Interesting article, very insightful.

    However, I cant believe you have no scepticism about the motives. I for one believe these announcements are nothing but vote grabbers. I said all through Jim Murphys tenure that I fully expected Labour to declare support for Independence or make a future vote a free for all, that was back in November last year.Jim never used the ploy (probably knew we wouldn’t believe) but Kezia has, she is no less sleekit than Jim was. She is the type of politician that believes winning is what matters and will say what needs to be said to make that happen.

    I for one wont believe it until I see it,, I sincerely hope no one falls for this empty rhetoric from 2 unionist Parties.


  6. Staggie

    Corbyn doesn’t seem to agree with Dugdale. He clearly said on the Marr show that Labour (we) would contest the next referendum after attacking the SNP for only having an anti-austerity badge.

  7. Angry Weegie

    Kezia’s proposal may not even last beyond the Labour conference. In any case, she has a history of opening her mouth and saying the first thing that comes to mind, even if it completely contradicts what she said a week earlier, so I wouldn’t place much faith in this as a serious proposal.

  8. Dr Jim

    Nothing wrong with optimism but don’t anybody be holding your breath for long on this
    The new and improved left leaning Labour party reminds me an awful lot of old and entrenched Labour parties of the past with the same dinosaur approach disguised as fresh and exciting modernism: Listen very carefully while they say different things to different people depending on what they want the required response to be

    Jim Murphy politics: Say anything to get a vote and worry about it later after folk have hopefully fallen for it, Kezia’s been doing it for ages and if you don’t believe her Google it or you Misunderstood it or it was Repeated out of Context or………..

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