Tag Archives: Labour

Being “Better Together” with the Conservatives

Something very significant happened last Saturday, and it happened in most cities and towns across Scotland. Though it probably passed by most of its intended audience, there they were, Labour and Conservatives, actively campaigning together on the streets of Scotland for possibly the first time.

Now, politicians come together on a cross-party basis for any number of issues. In both Parliaments there are cross-party groups, and motions are regularly signed by politicians from across the political spectrum. In councils, proportional representation necessitates coalitions and cross-party arrangements. Occasionally, Governments may need the support of other parties to get important legislation through. I mean, I’m in a cross-party rock group for goodness sake!

All of this is part of the day to day reality of our political process, and all of it a necessary part of our realpolitik.

What was different about last Saturday was that Labour were on the streets of Scotland with the Conservatives actively asking the people of Scotland to sign up to a political proposition about who is best placed to govern Scotland.

What this new and very important cross-party coalition was asking us to endorse is that in Scotland, Conservative rule is preferable to Scottish home rule. That the Westminster Tories are in a better position to make the crucial decisions about Scotland’s future rather than the people who live and work in Scotland themselves.

“But it’s not about Tory rule” our Labour friends will defiantly contend. “Better together means better together with the UK not with the Conservatives” Labour activists will wail. But “better together” must have a context and currently we are being asked to be “better together” within a UK which has a Conservative Government that precious few people in Scotland voted for. Yes, the Conservatives might be replaced by the almost unelectable Ed Miliband, but then again, they might not.

Labour might not like it, but right now it is a Conservative Government that currently administers our social security system and macro economic policies. I bet on Saturday Labour politicians weren’t trying to sell Westminster’s austerity package or its crippling and cruel welfare reforms as examples of being “better together”

I actually think that some in Labour realised what was going down and just how bad this all looked. Whilst the normally toxic Conservatives were absolutely cock-a-hoop about being endorsed and included, Labour politicians were just a bit more embarrassed and reticent. Indeed, Jim Murphy first had to explain why he “hated” the Tories before proceeding to join them on the streets. They are right to be nervous. Just look what happened to the Liberals.

Scotland’s democratic deficit is at the heart of the debate about independence and, unfortunately for the Unionists, it is not going to go away. One of the most powerful reasons for independence is that we will always get the Government we vote for. With independence we will never again get a Tory led Government with a solitary Tory MP tearing the heart out of our welfare system.

“Better Together” might be a campaign about being together in the UK, but they also have to fully explain who, and what, we’re being asked to be better together with.

Blairgowrie Advertiser – 21st June 2012

The debate about Scottish independence took a rather bizarre turn last week when Labour leader, Ed Miliband, tried to suggest what my identity would be after independence.  This is when Ed Miliband revealed that the referendum for independence would be a choice between Scottishness and Britishness.

Not only is this ridiculous, it is geographically impossible.  That is, unless Ed Miliband intends to take his party’s obsession with “separation” to a new level by building a channel across the border after independence.

I am British because I live in the northern part of the island of Great or Greater Britain. I am British in the same way that someone from Stockholm is Scandinavian and in the same way that Ed Miliband is also British because he lives in the southern part of this island.  It’s basic geography and it is astounding he is unaware of that.  He also has absolutely no right to tell me what I can call myself after independence, when I will, of course, still be both Scottish and British.

To be charitable, what Ed, in his confusion, was perhaps trying to suggest, is that I would no longer be “culturally” British because I would be changing my nationality from UK to Scottish.  After independence, we will continue with a social union with England and we will also celebrate all the amazing achievements and relationships we have shared.

This is a basic failure to understand what independence is striving to achieve. What independence will mean is that Scotland will leave the UK state with the return of currently reserved powers to the Scottish Parliament.  The referendum on independence will be – or at least ought to be – about where power should reside.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Britishness or Britain, just as the UK state also has nothing to do with Britishness.

Ed Miliband, like so many other unionists, is becoming increasingly obsessed with identity, flags and nationality, and in being so, is seeking to deny us our geography and our shared culture and heritage. What we will do is to continue to invest in our cultural ties with the rest of the United Kingdom and we will build on our social union in a spirit of co-operation, equality and self respect.