No change

Tommy Sheppard tells us that British Labour’s still highly dubious acceptance of Scotland’s right of self-determination is a “long-standing position”. Which is odd given the following from British Labour’s 2017 UK general election manifesto.

Labour opposes a second Scottish independence referendum. It is unwanted and unnecessary, and we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK.

British Labour Manifesto 2017

That statement is still on British Labour’s website.

In September 2018, Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC,

We don’t want another referendum, we don’t think another referendum is a good idea, and we’ll be very clear on why we don’t think it’s a good idea.

Labour to block new Scottish independence vote

And, of course, British Labour in Scotland has always been fanatically committed to denying the fundamental democratic rights of Scotland’s people.

How’s that “long-standing position” looking now, Tommy?

It never ceases to amaze me how easily those who profess themselves on the independence-supporting left of Scotland’s politics succumb to the inexplicable allure of British Labour. It often seems that they spend their lives on tenterhooks just waiting for some soundbite that they can seize upon as an excuse to discount the gross betrayal of British Labour making common cause with the Tories in the appalling campaign to deny the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. The party’s participation in Better Together / Project Fear is, with ample justification, regarded as totally unforgivable by many (most?) in the Yes movement. But there are some for whom British Labour has the same irresistibly magnetic appeal as the mother ship has for alien visitors.

There is a more general feature of British politics at play here. The notion, powerfully encouraged by the media, that only the latest thing matters. History is treated as a series of discrete events linked only in those ways which happen to fit the current narrative. Everything is a one-off, unless it’s convenient that a pattern should be identified. Every wrong-doer is a ‘lone wolf’ or a ‘bad apple’ unless it’s useful for them to be associated with some out-group. The public are evidently reckoned to be incapable of dealing with anything more complex than a single soap-opera plot-line, and assumed to have an attention span no greater than the length of this sentence.

I’m not suggesting Tommy Sheppard has fallen foul of this ‘syndrome’. And there is much merit in his argument that “while we remain part of the UK, it is better for Scotland that it is governed from the left”. But the idea that British Labour offers any hope for Scotland just seems utterly naive. The idea that “there’s a deal to be done” with Jeremy Corbyn is politically misguided. The idea that any British party can be trusted relies on a ‘blanking’ of recent history that borders on the pathological.

British Labour is a party of the British establishment. It is a British Nationalist party. It will renege on any deal without hesitation or guilt because anything is justified in the name of preserving the Union. To imagine that Jeremy Corbyn’s British Labour is any different from the British Labour of Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband, Alistair Darling or Richard Leonard is to embrace a dangerous delusion.



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All the policies anybody could want!

It’s not often any thinking person finds cause to agree with the odious Jackie Baillie, but she is perfectly correct in reminding her bosses that ““Scottish party policy is very clear”. It is very clearly as arrogantly anti-democratic as Tory policy on the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. As dogmatically anti-democratic as the policies of all the British parties. They all state emphatically that their policy is to deny Scotland’s democratic right of self determination. Each is as anti-democratic as they others.

Where Baillie bids farewell to reality and departs for the land of dumb delusion is when she says,

… Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a decision for Scottish Labour, which the UK party must accept.

This is just wrong. There is no ‘Scottish Labour Party’. There is only the British Labour Party. The entity calling itself the ‘Scottish Labour’ is, in fact, ‘British Labour in Scotland’ (BLiS). Not being a party, BLiS has absolutely no policy-making powers. And no party may present different policies to different constituencies. That’s the law! One party! One policy! The reality that Jackie Ballie has lost her tenuous grip on is precisely the opposite of what she asserts. British Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a matter for British Labour. And the pretendy wee party in Scotland must accept that policy.

It gets weirder. Because, notwithstanding Ballie’s tantrums, British Labour’s policy on the matter of a new independence referendum actually accords with that of BLiS, even though there is no need for it to do so. British Labour’s 2017 election manifesto spells it out in no uncertain terms. In a section titled – with unwittingly hilarious irony and characteristic hypocrisy – ‘Extending Democracy’, we find the following.

Labour opposes a second Scottish independence referendum. It is unwanted and unnecessary, and we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK. Independence would lead to turbo-charged austerity for Scottish families.

British Labour Manifetso 2017

Evidently, democracy isn’t to be extended as far as Scotland. That passage could have been written by Jackie Baillie herself. Or any British Nationalist ideologue from any of the British parties. So what is she making such a fuss about?

It seems she’s upset about some remarks made by one of her many superiors which, on the face of it, appear to state another British Labour policy which is perfectly clear. Former Scottish Labour Party chairman Bob Thomson points out that McDonnell’s position is “a restatement of existing, long-standing Scottish Labour Party [sic] policy”. He reminds all concerned that policy dates from the 1989 Claim of Right,

…which was signed by every Labour MP – including Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling – except Tam Dalyell and endorsed by the annual conference of the Scottish party.

Bob Thomson goes on to explain,

This position has never been rescinded. There is also a lot of hypocrisy from Labour MPs and MSPs who support a second referendum on Brexit but oppose a second referendum on independence, the democratic principles are the same. (emphasis added)

The particular and relevant “democratic principle” to which Bob Thomson refers is stated in the opening words of the 1989 Claim of Right.

We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs…

Claim of Right 1989

This is as explicit an acknowledgement of Scotland’s right of self-determination as we might wish for.

Remember what I said about “One party! One policy!”? Well, it seems I was wrong. Because British Labour clearly has two policies (at least) on the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. John McDonnell says one thing, backed-up by British Labour’s extant endorsement of the Claim of Right. Jackie Baillie says the opposite supported by British Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto. British Labour simultaneously acknowledges and denies Scotland’s right of self-determination.

Confused? You will be! Because, while the position referred to by John MCDonnell must take precedence over that stated by Jackie Baillie – he speaking for the real party while she speaks for a bit of the pretendy one (don’t ask!) – that isn’t British Labour’s true position. Their true position is the one stated by Baillie. The anti-democratic position which denies Scotland’s right of self-determination is the reality behind the soothingly democratic facade presented by McDonnell.

As I wrote at the time,

John McDonnell is undertaking to respect the Scottish Parliament. not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is as certain as he needs to be that there will be no Scottish Parliament by that time.

He is undertaking to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland, not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is confident the Tories have a plan to ensure that the people of Scotland are prevented from ever deciding the constitutional status of our nation or choosing the form of government that best suits our needs.

John McDonnell is attempting to deceive the people of Scotland in the name of preserving the Union. Don’t be fooled!

Read the words!

You could devote time and effort to untangling this web of lies and deceit. Or you could simply accept that it is a web of lies and deceit and that this is all you need to know.



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Read the words!

If I am cynical about British Labour it’s for good reason. This is a party of back-stabbers who have no qualms about turning their blades on voters should self-interest demand it. They betrayed Scotland for their precious Union before. They will do so again. They colluded with the Tories in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign because of their mutual interest in maintaining the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. Those structures have not changed. Nor has the shared imperative of the British establishment parties to keep a political system which serves them well, even as it fails the people in all manner of tragic ways.

In an otherwise rather silly column which imagines British Labour supporting independence, Kevin McKenna notes that their operation in Scotland hasn’t changed since the British parties lost control of Holyrood. Discussing what he persists in calling ‘Scottish Labour’, McKenna observes that British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) “has been in retreat for 12 years”. It is a commonplace of Scottish political commentary that this retreat has been into a bubble of bitter resentment towards both the SNP and the voters who had the effrontery to rob BLiS of what they regard as their entitled status in Scotland. A resentment so corrosive that neither rational nor creative thinking can survive.

It’s difficult to know whether the resentment which has paralysed BLiS for all that time also infected the rest of the party, or whether the resentment is simply more concentrated in BLiS, them being more directly affected. What we can know for certain is that, in terms of policy, there is but one British Labour. If BLiS didn’t adapt to Scotland’s new political and electoral reality in 12 years, neither did British Labour as a whole.

The question that arises is why would British Labour change now. If, indeed, it has genuinely changed in the ways that many seem to suppose are implied by John McDonnell’s ‘promise’ that British Labour would not block a new Scottish independence referendum.

I look at this ‘promise’ with the jaundiced eye of my cynicism and I smell deviousness and duplicity. This is, of course, the hallmark stench of British politics. But the stink seems particularly strong around John McDonnell’s comments. My first thought is that this is a ploy to split the pro-independence vote in Scotland. A ploy which, were it effective, would serve both to undermine the independence movement and weaken the SNP. There is obvious advantage here for both British Labour and the British Nationalist ideology it shares with other British establishment parties.

So what! I hear some in the Yes movement say. If BLiS drops its dogmatic opposition to anew independence referendum this only strengthens the mandate to hold such a referendum. But that mandate requires no strengthening. It is already as strong as it needs to be – and then some. And British Labour are not in power at Westminster. They are not in a position to decide whether the British parliament should grant gracious consent allowing Scots to exercise the fundamental right of self-determination. So John McDonnell is giving us precisely nothing with his ‘promise’ not to block a new referendum even if we are naive enough to suppose that promise would be kept should it be put to the test.

McDonnell is aware that a large proportion of traditional British Labour voters in Scotland support the restoration of Scotland’s independence and that many of them have been ‘lending’ their votes to the SNP knowing that this is the only way to achieve that objective. He will know, also, that many of those people are itching to get back to voting as their fathers did and their fathers before them. They feel a certain loyalty to British Labour – or to the values which British Labour once represented – and they will seize on any excuse to return to the fold. John McDonnell’s ‘promise’ provides that excuse.

This still leaves the question of why McDonnell has decided to make this ‘promise’ at this time. But we’ve already seen that the ‘promise’ isn’t worth much even if taken at face value. And its value gets increasing dubious the more closely we scrutinise it. Let’s remind ourselves of his precise words.

The Scottish Parliament will come to a considered view on that and they will submit that to the Government and the English parliament itself.

If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.

We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy.

There are other views within the party but that’s our view.

Note the final sentence. That’s a get-out clause if ever there was one. Who is he referring to when he says “our view”. How are we to be sure that view prevails against those “other views within the party “. Note what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that this is now official arty policy. His words can easily be interpreted, or portrayed, as implying that the matter is being debated within the party. There is nothing conclusive there. Nothing anybody should be clinging to.

Perhaps even more significantly, note the use of the future and future unreal conditional tense. The Scottish Parliament “WILL COME to a considered view”; “they WILL SUBMIT that to the Government”; “we WOULD NOT block something like that”; “we WOULD LET the Scottish people decide”.

At no time does John McDonnell acknowledge the existing mandate. At not time does he recognise that the Scottish Parliament has already “come to a considered view”. Nowhere does he mention that this “considered view” has already been submitted to “the Government and the English parliament [sic]”. To do so would be to respect the authority of the Scottish Parliament. Which no British Nationalist politician can or will ever do.

Nor will they respect Scotland’s people. John McDonnell also says,

“If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.”

He refuses to allow that the Scottish people have already made known their choice in this matter by voting for parties with a clear manifesto commitment to holding a new referendum.

It may be thought that John McDonnell is taking a bit of a risk with this ‘promise’ to break with British Nationalist dogma and respect democratic principles. What if British Labour does end up in power and all the conditions he stipulates are met? Wouldn’t that make it awkward for British Labour to renege? Which brings us, finally, to an answer to the question of why this ‘promise’ is being made now.

John McDonnell is a professional politician and so is not inclined to take risks where the cost would fall on himself or his party. Therefore, he must have reason to be sure that British Labour will never be put in the position of being expected to honour his ‘promise’. He would only make such a promise if he was confident that the Tories were about to apply a ‘final solution’ to the Scottish problem.

John McDonnell is undertaking to respect the Scottish Parliament. not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is as certain as he needs to be that there will be no Scottish Parliament by that time.

He is undertaking to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland, not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is confident the Tories have a plan to ensure that the people of Scotland are prevented from ever deciding the constitutional status of our nation or choosing the form of government that best suits our needs.

John McDonnell is attempting to deceive the people of Scotland in the name of preserving the Union. Don’t be fooled!



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A noxious broth

British politics is not a pretty thing to behold. Particularly now that the British Conservative Party has succumbed to its own version of the ugly factionalism which has beset the British Labour Party for decades. I have no evidence to support the contention; indeed, no evidence may exist, but I would venture that had a survey similar to that reported in The National, been conducted within British Labour at any time in the last 30 – 50 years, it would have shown remarkably similar results. Similar in that, at any given time, there would be factions within the party prepared to tolerate all manner of negative consequences – up to and including the demise of British Labour itself – in pursuit of their particular faction’s agenda.

Historically, one of the identifying characteristics of the British Conservative Party was its capacity for unity in the face of any challenge to its power. Whatever disagreements and differences may have roiled within Tory ranks, come the threat of being defeated by the detested ‘reds’, the magnificent ‘blues’ would pull together like a termite colony under attack by ants.

Anecdotally at least, one of the identifying characteristics of British Labour has been that it has more factions than members. And a significant proportion of those factions considered their policy agenda more important than winning the power to implement that agenda. A few even considered themselves more important than the party. Or, they considered themselves to be the party.

The political left in the UK has been a diminished force, in part because of its aversion to effective political power, but also due to a curious predilection for ‘defeat with honour’. The glory of the fight is appealing. The responsibility that comes with victory, maybe not so much.

Now, we have a British politics in which British Labour is as riven as ever by cliques and conspiracies, except that the lines separating the factions have become indistinct, if not blurred to invisibility. Even the factions seem to have lost cohesion. And few if any seem coalesced around anything recognisable as a firm principle.

As for the Tories; the best we might do in the way of a generous perspective is to observe that they have had less practice at this factionalism lark than the other main British establishment party. Compared to British Labour, they are rank amateurs. So it may not be so surprising that they aren’t coping at all well with the unfamiliar phenomenon of division in the ranks. It’s as if all those termites had suddenly shrugged off the bonds of colony and developed their own individual personalities and priorities and preferences. They’re all over the place!

I think the word I’m looking for here is ‘dysfunctional’. Although the term hardly does justice to the noxious broth of megalomania, avarice, ego, ineptitude, vacuity and corruption that seethes in the cauldron of the British state.

Scotland surely does not want to be a part of this.



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Run! Don’t walk!

This is pure fantasy from British Labour. They claim they will campaign in a snap UK general election on a promise to renegotiate the Brexit ‘deal’ without May’s ‘red lines’. Just a few wee problems with that.

British Labour has shown itself remarkably reluctant to force that UK general election. Not least because the polls indicate they would lose. In this instance, we have to give the polls some credence. When the official opposition is five points behind the worst government in living memory, there’s definitely something amiss. They should be at least five points ahead. It’s very difficult to see how British Labour might recover even half of that ten point gap. It would take something big. And all they are offering is empty promises.

Like the empty promise to renegotiate the Brexit deal. But first they’d have somehow persuade the EU to extend the Article 50 negotiation period. How are they going to do that from the opposition benches? Then they’d have to win the election – against the odds. Then they’d have to persuade the EU to reopen negotiations after they’ve said repeatedly and with increasing forcefulness that they will do no such thing.

And even if they pull off this series of little miracles, they’ll still face the obstacle of getting their shiny new ‘deal’ approved by the British parliament. If MP’s are not going to approve May’s deal with it’s ‘red lines’ what chance is there that they’d vote through a ‘deal’ which would inevitably be portrayed as a total capitulation to the EU?

A change of tenant at 10 Downing Street is not going to resolve the Brexit issue. In fact, it may well be that the British political elite have finally managed to create a situation which simply cannot be resolved.

Scotland at least has the option to walk away from this toxic situation. We should do so as briskly as we possibly can. #DissolveTheUnion


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The bargain

When someone, such as shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, speaks of getting “value for money” from weapons of mass destruction then it is time to question, not merely the political acceptability and military wisdom of the Trident project, but the mental well-being of those who promote it. How would one begin to measure “value for money” in such a context? What exactly might represent “value for money”?

The idea of “value for money” suggests the possibility of an optimum balance between what one pays and what one gets in return. In the case of Trident, what is paid is a figure so enormous as to baffle the imagination. It is, broadly speaking, an amount sufficient to run a country the size of Scotland for a year. Enough to provide at least a reasonable level of public services such as education, healthcare and public safety.

And what do we get in exchange for this enormous outlay? We get a (supposedly) independent nuclear deterrent. Something which can never be used because to use it would be to destroy, not only the ‘enemy’, but ourselves and probably all of human civilisation and maybe even all of life on this planet. We cannot use ‘our’ deterrent because of the existence of other deterrents. The only people who won’t be deterred are those who would actually welcome the obliteration of human civilisation and who would regard global extinction as a bonus.

So, we get a deterrent which only works against those who don’t need to be deterred and which actually acts as an incentive rather than a deterrent to those who need to be deterred. What would be a reasonable price to pay for something which is, at best, useless and, at worst, counter-productive?

Even if it cost nothing, Trident would be an obscenity. The squandering of resources piles insanity on top of obscenity.

So, what else do we get in exchange for this prodigious expenditure? We get to be a “tier-one nation”. Which means only that the British ruling elite get to indulge their pretensions to global significance. They get to strut the world stage alongside the other ‘major powers’. They get invited to the meetings. They get to cling to something vaguely resembling past imperial status. By maintaining a nuclear deterrent, they get to be the kind of power that needs to be deterred.

And, given the dubiousness of the concept of deterrence, that’s pretty much all we get. In return for depriving ourselves of the resources needed to make our country work better, we get to watch as the British political elite plays in the ‘big game’. In exchange for accepting that real people will suffer and real lives will be less than they might be, we get to be vaguely associated with people who are made more than they ought to be.

It seems that, for British Labour as much as for their Tory counterparts, getting “value for money” means maximising privilege for the few while minimising provision for the many.


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