09 Mar 2015
March 9, 2015

A real Scottish Labour Party?


Yesterday’s Sunday Herald reported that the Camelon Labour Club in my constituency of Falkirk has applied to trademark: “The Scottish Labour Party”. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is still considering the application, which was submitted in December. It’s an imaginative move. Dennis Goldie and May McIntyre (my office manager and long-time colleague), highly-respected Labour figures of huge loyalty over many years, have perfectly decent intent. They can see there may come a time quite soon when Labour in Scotland will need to be a separate party altogether rather than simply a brand of The (UK) Labour party. If that does happen and if their application were successful, they’d gift the name to Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.

I’ve had no role in Dennis and May’s move, of course. But as I see it there are two possible eventualities now for Labour in Scotland. First, if Jim Murphy hangs onto a couple of dozen MPs then he might decide that although he’s secured a fair rump in the circumstances, any future progress for Labour in future would require a proper party in Scotland. This would still argue the unionist case, but it wouldn’t be run from London.

Second, though, if the SNP secures over 40 seats and labour well under 20, then the unionist game is probably a bogey. The only way to get traction for a coherent Labour vision for Scotland, whatever that might be, may be to accept the inevitability of independence and actively campaign for it. In that circumstance, it’s conceivable that the ‘Labour’ brand could, in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Elections, win back a chunk of the vote lost to an SNP which includes people from the centre-right. With support from Scottish Labour, it’s likely there’d be an early referendum – the dam would have burst altogether. The trouble for Jim Murphy with such a radical option, of course, is that the present gravity of Scottish Labour lies way to the left of him. He may be killed off, followed quite possibly by the Labour brand as I doubt Labour can outflank the SNP on the left.

In this way, the general election could well represent a breaking point, where people of all political persuasions in Scotland accept the independence narrative. The SNP would continue to dominate, of course, but the others might preserve some semblance of multi-party state – to live to fight another independent day.

One thing is for sure – as Dennis and May, and plenty others, make clear – none of this is in the hands of London any longer. Indeed, as councillors and activists start to fight for their political lives, it might not even be in the hands of leaders of the unionist parties in Scotland.

6 Responses to A real Scottish Labour Party?
  1. I’m a member of SNP, but what a sensible article, Eric. I’m convinced that if the Labour party in Scotland had had a more balanced view regarding the independence issue, your support from the public would not have been lost in the way that seems to have happened.

    If you were truly the SCOTTISH Labour party you could have proper labour policies and represent the electorate whether as MPs or MSPs. Indeed it is perhaps very healthy to have a mix of political parties rather than just one massive ruling party. Start to represent Scots folk again, with traditional labour policies, rather than Westminster Tories and the support might come back (but maybe it’s already too late – I hope not).

    I will still be SNP, but would not wish to see the death of a traditionally respected labour party.

    • Thanks, Nick. It’s a funny old thing – to say you support a particular party yet want a plurality of parties to exist and compete. Yet it’s the purest expression of a democratic spirit. I do worry about the situation in Scotland today, where it’s very hard not to be a nationalist, but I think there is a very good chance that things will move quickly beyond that if everyone’s grown up about it all. Attacking journalists for just being journalists in a free state is v uncool, though. As long as that’s happening, it’ll be a downward spiral. I really don’t think that’s the SNP leadership’s intention, of course, but they do have to reign it in a bit, I think. Then you can vote SNP and others can make a fair and free choice.

  2. i don’t think Jim Murphy will stick with the cause when the chips fall. He will look after himself

  3. They would need to change their candidates, essentially most of them.

    I don’t see that because the timeservers would be pulling every stroke possible to recreate the existing under a different name. Same shit, different mask.

    It needs honesty and a change of purpose, not something I see in abundance in the existing set up.

    The French jog along and eventually rise to sweep away most of the people and their policies to form a new Republic.

    That is the sort of revolution that is required.

  4. I have little doubt that if Labour had supported a Yes vote in September, the pro independence side would have won a resounding victory and Labour would have been in a commanding position in a post independence parliament. Not so sure that would be the position now. They had their chance and threw it away.

    • SNP would dominate any post-indy parliament. The question is whether there’s room for anyone else: quite a lot of Scots seem to find the notion of multi-party democracy awful at the moment.


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