The Labour party, that would be the same party that promised Scotland home rule and the nearest thing to federalism possible this side of the black hole at the centre of the galaxy, has decided that it doesn’t want Scotland to have much in the way of home rule at all. Their commitment to devolution has vanished into a black hole, and all that is left is the pale shadow of Gordie Broon perched forever on the event horizon, waving a tattered copy of that front page of the Daily Record, their shame preserved for an eternity.
Since the Tories have now, reluctantly, conceded to devolve control of abortion law to the Scottish Parliament, Labour has decided to use its representation in the unelected House of Lords to block it. It’s an abortion of their previous promises and their claim to be the real party of devolution, but as far as devolution is concerned Labour has always been more interested in wielding a bent coat hanger up a dark back alley out of sight of the voters they lied to than allowing home rule to gestate. Labour wants to abort the process of devolution, and if they can’t do that they’ll strangle it at birth.
Labour views devolution as a means to empower the Labour party and not as an empowerment of the Scottish people. They screwed Scotland over in the 1970s with the 40% rule, and were only grudgingly persuaded of the need for devolution after the traumas of the Thatcher years. Even then Labour saw a Scottish parliament as a way in which it could maintain a power base during the fallow periods when it was out of power in Westminster, not as a means of political self-expression for Scotland. The Scottish parliament was designed as a means of political self-expression for Labour. Now they’re out of power in both Westminster and Holyrood, but they’re still playing their old games with the people of Scotland. Too bad for them that we see through them.
No real reason has been given by Labour as to why they oppose giving a parliament in which the leaders of the three largest parties are women control of women’s reproduction rights. Vague waffle is noised to the effect that it would be wrong to allow different abortion laws in different parts of the UK, but that’s already what happens. There is no such thing as a UK wide abortion law. The Northern Irish Assembly has control of abortion law, and has done since it was established, which is why abortion is illegal in the province.
The real reason that Labour doesn’t want Holyrood to have control over abortion law is because not so deep down in the psyche of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Scotland is a land of howling Presbyterians who hang up budgies’ swings so they can’t break the Sabbath, and devotees of Opus Dei who believe that pregnancy can be avoided by saying more novenas and whipping yourself with rosary beads. The metropolitan types who inhabit Islington’s wine bars are unclear on the difference between Ballymena and Balmaha.
The leading lights of Labour have an image of Scotland that remains stuck in the 1950s where the role of the wee wummin is to get the tea. London is full of metropolitan Scots who ran away decades ago and whose image of Scotland remains trapped in the past that they fled to escape. It’s understandable that Labour’s movers and shakers think that Scotland is a backwater which has managed to avoid the campaigns for civil liberties and social equality that shaped the 20th century. You only have to look at Labour’s Scottish dinosaurs that until so recently had their arses firmly ensconsed in what they thought were sinecures for life. Their image of Scotland was formed by Jimmy Wray, Michael Martin and Tommy McAvoy.
Labour’s grandees think that Scotland is too primitive and provincial. They believe that our Parliament with its female First Minister and leader of the opposition and its lesbian leader of the Conservatives require the tender administrations of a Tory dominated Parliament with its 19th century voting system and its sclerotic lordy appendage in order to drag us into the light of civilisation. We’re not capable of recognising women’s rights ourselves you see, we need Westminster to teach us how the grown ups behave in the 21st century, otherwise the only role for Scotland’s women would be barefoot and pregnant and deep frying Mars bars. Labour’s current refusal to devolve abortion law is patronisingly racist, plain and simple.
Scotland has changed. It’s Labour which hasn’t. Scotland has moved on and built a sense of itself as a modern outward looking northern European nation. Labour is stuck in the past, inward looking and insular. Labour represents the provincialism that says Scots don’t need independence because working class Scots have more in common with working class people in Manchester or Bristol than we do with the lairds and business owners of Scotland. But Labour doesn’t want working class Scots to recognise that what we share with working class Manchester we also share with working class Dublin, with working class Barcelona, with working class Warsaw.
Scotland looks out to the world as a modern European nation that respects the rights of women, of lesbian and gay people and the non-binary gendered, of ethnic minorities, of people with disabilities. Labour wants to trap us in a past of patronage where we beg for the crumbs of progress that fall from the restaurant tables of Islington. We don’t need Westminster to tell us that a woman has the right to choose. We don’t need Westminster to tell us that lesbian and gay people have a right to equality. We don’t need a parliament that scrapes the barrel of democratic legitimacy to tell us what is right and what is good.
A movement that seeks the sovereignty of Scotland also recognises that a woman has sovereignty over her own body. The sovereignty of Scotland is based in the sovereignty of the self. The referendum campaign taught Scotland that the personal is political and liberation starts with the self. And we’re liberating ourselves from the dead hand of the Labour party in Scotland, the aborters of progress.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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