I am a Labour Party member who voted Yes in the independence referendum, but I won’t be joining the SNP or any other party.
I voted Yes for a complex array of reasons and it was a close call. Partly out of despair over Westminster politics, not just current Tory policies, I expect them to be wicked, but the whole style of political behaviour. The professionalisation of politics in particular. I work for a third sector organisation and I can see how liberating devolution has been. Admittedly, often stronger on process than substance, but effective dialogue matters if we are to find solutions to the complex problems that face Scotland. I was therefore disappointed with the Labour Devolution Commission report. I also believe independence would be good for the Scottish Labour Party. Freed from the inevitable compromises it makes as part of a UK party it could develop a realistic yet radical policy programme.
I recognise that I didn’t manage to persuade many of my friends of the case for independence. They liked the vision, but felt the practicalities just hadn’t been thought through. I accept that and will move on – I won’t be joining the nonsense of ‘the45’. I am also deeply unhappy at the ‘traitor’, ‘tricked’ narrative and the attack on older people, who care deeply about a future for their children and grandchildren. This is nationalism at its divisive worse and shocking from the First Minister.
However, in moving on I did consider changing my political party. Whatever the failings of political parties, they are the route to achieving real change. Just shouting from the sidelines isn’t enough for me.
A couple of friends have joined the apparent surge in SNP membership. They say, we aren’t nationalists, but this is the best way to take Scotland forward. Sorry, but the hint is in the name, the Scottish National Party. I have been to the SNP conference and the only thing that binds together their disparate membership is nationalism. I am persuaded that independence could work, but it’s not the reason I get out of bed in the morning. I don’t often agree with Brian Wilson, I remember his opposition to devolution even if he has moved on, but I do agree with this part of his Scotsman column today.
“But if the Nationalists did not have a grievance to nurture, what would be their purpose? They are, at best, a reasonably competent administration with dangerous centralising tendencies which has been given lots of money to scatter around. But they show little evidence of original, far less radical, thought once the grievance rationale has been stripped away……. the more they can talk about the constitution, the less onus is on them to actually do anything interesting or progressive about anything else.”
I did give the Greens serious consideration. I am sympathetic to much of the environmental agenda and I think Patrick Harvie has done a good job in getting many of their traditional members to understand that they have address a wider policy agenda. However, I just don’t think the No Growth and uber localism is realistic or practical and like the nationalists it is the green agenda that drives their approach.
I fleetingly considered the SSP and the fellow travellers on the far left. I went to a radical independence event and was struck by how little listening these groups do. They have a micro dogma that can be subsumed into a mantra for a short campaign, but then falls apart in bickering over obscure points of dogma. They are not interested in serious politics because it requires compromises that they are unwilling to make. But my biggest problem with them is their obsession with attacking Labour rather than the Tories. I can and will be critical of Labour, but those who really care about social justice should concentrate on persuading others to that cause – not doing the Tories dirty work for them. That’s Rupert Murdoch’s job!
So that’s my journey in recent months. I will stick with Labour, but I will want to hear more about the positive reasons for doing so. Starting with a more radical approach to devolution, not just to Holyrood, but to local government as well. Then how we will use those powers to deliver a radical agenda on social justice. Scottish Labour needs to rediscover its core purpose and I for one have decided that it remains the best route to delivering social justice.