The following was written by Cameron Gilmore | @ccgilmore22
I read @Alieninattic’s piece regarding his opinions on Corbyn and Scotland, whilst browsing through my Twitter feed. First and foremost, the title: ‘A View From Scotland’ led me to think, here may have been a kindred spirit- someone who sees that the leftist transformation within a beleaguered and bruised Labour Party may finally make them credible in Scotland again. I was mistaken. I suggest that a better title may have been ‘A View From the SNP’. That would have saved me five minutes of reading and prevented me from sending a silly tweeted over-reaction. It starts off credibly enough. We seem to agree that Better Together provides a definitive backdrop to Labours plight in Scotland (which Corbyn himself roundly acknowledged at the Labour conference) – that marriage with the Tories has certainly left a scar on their credibility up here. It’s a shame however, that the SNPs 2007 coalition with them nor the fact that they gave the final mandate to Margaret Thatcher in 1979, seemed to have the same effect – but oh well.
He mentions ‘The Vow’, and even I accept that was a farce. I’m not disputing that Scotland shouldn’t have been given more powers, but it would’ve been safe to assume that the very fact there was a referendum would have been reason enough to prompt negotiations about this. All ‘The Vow’ has achieved (it certainly didn’t convince any sizable number of voters to vote ‘no’ anyway) has been to provide an excuse for Yes voters to drag this constitutional debate out for as long as possible. On that point, I feel I should mention that I am not against a second referendum. Neither necessarily is ‘staunch unionist’ Jeremy Corbyn, who in Dundee declared that the matter of independence was a ‘democratic issue for the Scottish people’. On that, he’s right- and does demonstrate a far better understanding of Scottish politics at this point than my fellow tweeter gave him credit him for.
Then we turn to Jim Murphy – a Blairite, with whom Corbyn’s socialist politics stand a million miles away. Isn’t that helpful in Scotland?
Next we are referred to Miliband refusing to work with the SNP. So, Labours’ best way to win back Scotland in theory, would be not to try in any way to retain their seats up here by handing concessions to the SNP? In retrospect, post-referendum, they were doomed for the General Election from the start in Scotland. The only thing an SNP pact might have achieved would have been a defeat for Ian Murray MP as well. However, in this regard Corbyn has stated that he is willing to work with the SNP on fighting Trident renewal amongst other things in Parliament. Sounds like he just can’t help not understanding Scotland!
So with the background to all Labours’ problems in Scotland out of the way (phew!), we get to his explanation of Corbyns latest problems up here.
His first problem, Scottish Labour. A Scottish Labour full of ‘low calibre’ politicians (because Michelle Simpson MP has demonstrated a great deal of her ‘calibre’ this week!). With this, I absolutely disagree. Scottish Labour is full of positive, socialist MSPS like Neil Findlay, Cara Hilton and our new deputy who I proudly voted for, Alex Rowley. With Corbyn’s victory, the prominence of these individuals is set to increase in the party, hopefully taking us further to the left. Corbyn has already acted to devolve all party decision making in Scotland to Scottish Labour, and the party has initiated new processes to devolve decision making to CLP and member level, making it more democratic. Over time, these improvements could resonate with Scotland’s voting public.
Then he (or she, or Alien..) attacks Corbyn’s ‘Flags don’t build houses’ comments. He’s right. Even if independence happens, the sweeping waves of patriotism won’t be enough to bring about the social change needed to make Scotland a better country. Personally, (and I know I’m not alone in this), I thought one of the Yes campaign’s great failures was a lack of conviction in how they were going to make improvements in an independent Scotland. The SNP have been weak, far too weak, regarding their plans for the redistribution of wealth, and voting with the Tories against the 50p rate of tax last week only reinforces Corbyns uncertainty toward their anti-austerity rhetoric. If Labour communicate their own anti-austerity message in the correct way, it could be a vote winner in Scotland.
That particular quote shouldn’t infuriate Scotland, it should infuriate the SNP.
Then the ‘lies about privatisation’. This was the clincher. There I was, sat in an Abellio train coming back from University in disbelief at what I was reading. Yes, the Tories did privatise our railways – but the SNP allowed this to continue in Scotland. Once the Scotrail contract was finished and went to tender (as per EU law), the SNP had the opportunity as the acting government to delay the tendering process until they had sufficient powers to bid for the contract themselves. Instead, they chose not to and have tried to hide behind the EU law and tendering regulations as a scapegoat. Firstly, you have to ask – why have so many EU countries got public control of their own rail systems? They must’ve found a way to manage it!
(Some articles reinforcing my point..)
The SNP failed to act in this instance, and worse, they won’t even back Labours plans for re-nationalisation now, even though this is an extremely popular policy with voters who are fed up paying through the nose for rail travel! Corbyn is leading the way on this throughout the UK, and this will endear him further, in my view, to Scottish voters.
Then the ‘staunch unionist’ paragraph. The moment where the lexical choice gives away any feigned neutrality in this piece. Well, Corbyn’s a republican that understands his views about the monarchy are in the minority. He refused to sing ‘God Save the Queen’. Obviously as a candidate for Prime Minister, he has to say he loves Britain – it comes with the territory.
Jeremy’s interests are not constitutional or confined to borders, they lie within socialism, a different, more human kind of togetherness and solidarity. He cares about workers and workers’ rights, the homeless, the impoverished, wherever they are, whatever they sound like and whatever their flag is. That’s what true socialism is about – it does not lie in division or separation, it comes from standing together, it comes from fighting against the Tories as one, from fighting against Trident as one, from fighting for a better nation for everyone as one. This sentiment may not be exactly followed by everyone that voted SNP, but at the end of the day our goals are similar. If he conveys this correctly, there are votes to be had in Scotland.
Finally, the dig at John McDonnells’ (who isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, but hey ho) ‘Come home to Labour’ comments, you can interpret in many ways. My interpretation was that it was a plea. Labour needs Scotland back, and the new team knows this. They’re willing to listen. They’re willing to play ball. They’re willing to help. But this is where I can summarise….
Scotland isn’t as a whole ready to go back to Labour. I’m here because I never left, but the politics of nationalism are a different breed to what the party has faced before. But, I know this. I cheered when Corbyn won because it WAS a glimmer of hope, at a time when as a socialist (somewhere between a social democrat and a socialist really, but for purposes of this!) Labour member, there really was no hope. Scotland was being run by a party who said they were social democrats, but gave tax breaks to private schools. Britain was being run by the Tories (I think in this domain, I don’t have to spell out why that’s bad!). There’s a vacuum that’s been created by this- a similar one to the one New Labours various atrocities left for the SNP to capitalise on in the first place.
It’s about regaining trust, understanding Scotland for what it is. Not simply as my fellow tweeter seems to suggest, accepting the will of the opposition. If that was the case, you’re as well just throwing in the towel. This Scottish Government is not perfect – we’re certainly not dead up here yet.
The Scottish election this year, sadly will still come too soon. The SNP will still win, and I imagine the Nationalists and the Blairites will be rushing to the internet to blame that on Jeremy Corbyn for not ‘understanding Scotland’ or not ‘understanding austerity’ (giving you a brief picture of what being a Corbyn backer is like just now..). It won’t be his fault, and regardless what anyone says, he’ll do twice as well as Labour would have under Burnham, Cooper or Kendall.
Labour is heading in the right direction up here, and hopefully by 2020 (unless we’re independent in which case none of this will really matter..), we’ll be fighting together again for a Labour Government that will battle for the betterment of us all.
By Cameron Gilmore | @ccgilmore22
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