It is being reported today, Sunday, that following Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that he might be prepared to ‘allow’ Scotland to hold a future independence referendum should he become Prime Minister, that the Scottish Branch Office is to press for the inclusion of a clause in the Labour manifesto explicitly opposing another independence referendum. The Branch Office is thought to believe that this would mean that a future Labour government would have a mandate to forbid any future independence referendum and to refuse to give the Scottish Government a Section 30 order, irrespective of any mandate that the Scottish Government has been given by the people of Scotland in a Scottish election and irrespective of the vote share received by independence parties or the number of MPs they achieve. According to Nick Eardley of the BBC, an announcement to this effect will be made at the Labour party conference in Liverpool.
So there you go. Labour in Scotland has now told the people of Scotland that the fate of Scotland will not be decided by the people of Scotland. The Claim of Right which Labour MPs, including Gordon Brown, signed up to in 1989 has been ripped up and is as valueless as the Vow. That Claim of Right asserted the sovereignty of Scotland within the UK. It stated that the signatories acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount. The Claim of Right was signed by every Labour and Lib Dem MP who was currently serving, with the exception of the arch British supremacist, the late Tam Dalyell.
If Labour goes ahead with this announcement at its party conference in Liverpool, it will signify Labour’s rejection of the Claim of Right. The official position of the Labour party in Scotland now is that the decision on whether Scotland can or cannot hold a future independence referendum will be decided by the electorate of the rest of the UK. The Labour Party in Scotland can no longer legitimately claim that it represents the interests and political will of the people of Scotland. It is a party of British supremacism. For the Labour party in Scotland, Scotland’s vote, Scotland’s voice, is subordinate to the electoral will of the rest of the UK.
If this measure is adopted, it means that the official position of the Labour party is that it doesn’t matter what Scotland votes for. It doesn’t matter if Scotland returns a huge majority for a party that seeks a referendum on independence whether in a Westminster General Election or a Holyrood election. It doesn’t matter if a party achieves a mandate within Scotland to seek self-determination. That mandate will be overturned by whatever it is that the 91.7% of voters in the UK outwith Scotland have voted for.
Labour’s position is now that the future of Scotland is not for the people of Scotland to decide. It’s for the rest of the UK. Labour no longer acknowledges the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to decide the form of government best suited to their needs. It’s for the rest of the UK. Labour no longer recognises that the interests of the people of Scotland shall be paramount. Scotland, Labour tells us, will get what the rest of the UK votes for, and that will include deciding the form of government best suited to Scotland’s needs. It will do so, even though the interests and concerns of Scotland scarcely register amongst the electorate outwith Scotland, and voters in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will not be making their voting decisions based upon support or rejection of whatever it is that Scotland wants. The message from Labour is, “Scotland, get back in your shortbread tin. You’re just not that important.”
Labour can no longer argue that it supports the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to decide the form of government best suited to their needs. You cannot place limits on that sovereignty in order to suit your party interests. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Claim of Right and an assertion from the Labour party that it can use a mandate derived from voters outwith Scotland to reject a second independence referendum, even if there is a majority for that referendum in the Scottish Parliament, and even if a majority of Scottish MPs were elected with an explicit mandate to bring one about. Labour has shredded the Claim of Right and replaced it with an assertion of Westminster supremacism. Tam Dalyell would approve. But Tam Dalyell is long gone, and so is the claim of Labour in Scotland to be a Scottish party.
It is not coincidental that this anti-democratic move from Labour’s Scottish Branch Office comes as support for independence has never been higher. It is not coincidental that this move happens as the UK destroys itself over Brexit. The reality is that if Labour and the other British nationalist parties sincerely believed that there was no credible and realistic prospect of Scotland voting yes in a future referendum, they would be those crying most loudly for a second independence vote to settle the issue for good. The reason they’re doing their utmost to prevent a vote coming about is because they’re terrified. It’s because they know that they have no positive arguments to make. It’s because they know that after the betrayal of the Vow they have no carrot to offer, only the stick of threats and intimidation. They’re trying to prevent a referendum because they’re going to lose it.
A couple of days ago in this blog, I argued that the biggest lie of British nationalism in Scotland is that Scotland is a part of a Union. The reality is that there is no Union and there never was. Scotland is a subordinate part of a unitary state. I never expected that the Branch Office would confirm that so quickly and so blatantly. I never expected that so quickly and so obviously Labour would confirm that it is a British nationalist party, an upholder of the supreme right of Westminster, and would rip up the Claim of Right and explicitly deny that the people of Scotland have a sovereign right to determine their own future.
But here’s the thing. Scotland doesn’t need the permission of the Labour party to hold a referendum. Scotland doesn’t need the permission of Westminster to hold a consultative referendum. Any election held in this country can be transformed into a plebiscite election on independence, because this is not Spain. Whatever cant the Labour party comes out with, Westminster will consent to a Scottish independence referendum because a vote will be held with or without their permission.
What would really destroy any last hopes that the British nationalists might have of clinging on to Scotland would be if they have to fight a campaign on independence when they have refused to allow the people of Scotland to have a say. That’s not a good look for their so-called Union. It destroys any pretence that Scotland is in a Union and exposes the big lie of a Union that is no union at all. All Labour has done now is to rip up the Claim of Right and to prove to the voters of this country that the party doesn’t care what Scotland votes for. This only makes independence more likely.
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