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People in Scottish Labour have to realise no one owes them a living any longer

Holyrood

People in Scottish Labour have to realise no one owes them a living any longer

Twenty years after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and twelve years since the SNP took power, we’re now looking at the prospect of the SNP picking up 45 per cent of the vote and delivering almost 50 MPs. 

Over the same period, Labour in Scotland has learned absolutely nothing about how to make its way forward. 

People in the party have to realise that no one owes them a living any longer. We have to work for every vote and, as a part of this, we have got to have a radical rethink of where we are and where we’re going. 

It’s as basic as this: this is either a requiem for the Labour party in Scotland or a renaissance. 

Labour can only fight back if it’s got an alternative to put to the Scottish people, but my concern is that it may be too late for that

Last night’s vote was a catastrophic result for Labour, both in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. We’re running out of wakeup calls. 

The spectacular result for Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon now cast an even darker cloud over the Labour party, and the whole issue of Scotland’s constitutional future. 

We are presented with five more years of austerity, a probable exit from the European Union and a constitutional crisis where Northern Ireland and Scotland become part of the battlefield in what is now a very fragile and unstable United Kingdom. 

England supports the Conservatives. Scotland is supporting the SNP. The contrast couldn’t be greater - and the consequences for Labour are dire. 

Since 2007 Labour has lost traction in post-devolution Scotland. It’s has ignored the constitutional impact of a strong SNP. 

When you’re in a hole, you have got to stop digging

Labour in Scotland have got to accept that we’re not just another part of the United Kingdom - we are a nation. 

Whether it’s a matter of discussing federalism or independence, much more respect has to be shown by Westminster and the Conservative party and the Labour party about what is happening in Scotland. 

We are diverging now at a very fast rate from the rest of the United Kingdom, and of course, in particular, England. 

Let’s be honest about Labour’s leadership in Westminster. If Labour had had the semblance of a campaign around the EU referendum in 2016 we wouldn’t be in the Brexit mess we are in today and if Scottish Labour had not ignored the constitutional question for so long, we would not be in the mess we are in in Scotland. 

Time after time, Scottish Labour has ignored warnings, failed to understand that the SNP has become the voice of Scotland and that Labour’s traditional base really has to be viewed through a different prism. 

Labour’s mantra to deny the right of Scotland to have a referendum on independence is not a response. It is not a vision. It’s not a policy. If it is anything, then to a lot of Scots it appears that Labour and the Conservatives are trying to frustrate democracy. 

When you’re in a hole, you have got to stop digging.

The harsh question we have got to answer is: is the party’s opposition to Indyref 2 based purely on the prospect that we can lose, and the SNP might win?

That is not the basis at all for denying Scots the choice. 

Looking at the results from last night, I would make this observation. If Boris Johnson feels he has a mandate to take us out of the EU, it’d be worth remembering that the SNP - proportionately - have more MPs in Scotland than he does in the UK, and the vote for the SNP in Scotland is higher than Johnson got elsewhere. 

For me, Labour has got to reject the knee-jerk opposition to an independence referendum. Instead I would ask Labour - why should this be an alternative to independence? 

You can’t blame the SNP for the support that they have got. Labour can only fight back if it’s got an alternative to put to the Scottish people, but my concern is that it may be too late for that. The SNP has cornered the market in constitutional alternatives. 

The question for Labour is whether it wants to continually be associated with the Conservative party in Scotland saying “no”? 

Why can’t the Labour party, with its great history since 1900, come up with an alternative that can counter independence? That could actually reshape the union in a constructive way?

But, of course, an even bigger shake-up of the UK’s constitutional arrangements is not even on the radar screen of the Westminster parties. 

That’s the great frustration. It may now be too late for Labour to develop a credible alternative. 

After this election, Labour has got to face up to the fact that they had good policies to break food-bank culture, to tackle poverty and to tackle inequality. But that won’t get it anywhere until it can unlock the conversation by having a sound, strong, credible solution to the constitutional future of the country. 

I have time after time argued that the key to unlocking Labour making progress in Scotland is to have a constitutional alternative. 

I have no idea what Scotland will be like at the end of a further five years of Tory austerity, which, make no mistake, will continue under Johnson. 

If it is to survive, the Labour party in Scotland has got to embrace the idea that if we want to stay in the union then it’s right out of time for coming up with an option that Scots could support, that could lead to a restructuring of the UK. 

But the sad thing is I can’t see that happening unless there is a dramatic turn in the thinking of the both the Scottish and UK Labour party.

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Referendum

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