Editorial: Why Labour Supporters Should Think Twice On Independence

Today’s Scotland on Sunday carries the exclusive that John Mulvey, the former leader of Lothian Regional Council, has become the latest Labour figure to publicly back a Yes vote.

This has followed previous conversions from Sir Charles Gray, former leader of Strathclyde Regional Council, and Alex Mosson, former lord provost of Glasgow – while the Yes campaign itself is chaired by Dennis Canavan, the dedicated and hugely popular former Labour MP and MSP.

None of these men entered politics because of questions of nationhood. They have all dedicated their careers to improving the lives of ordinary men and women and saw the Labour Party as the vehicle through which to do so.

In many ways Scotland is and has been a Labour country. The NHS and welfare state which Scots cherish were established by Labour. And despite the SNPs success at Holyrood and in local elections, Labour remain our largest Party at Westminster.

But the values and aspirations which have driven men and women of principle to support Labour for generations are now moving them towards support for an independent Scotland.

We at National Collective come from a wide variety of political backgrounds, and like the independence movement as a whole, many of our members are involving themselves in politics for the first time. But we are unified by the rejection of a Westminster political system that ignores the many and serves the few.

There is a reason why opinion polls indicate that support for independence is highest amongst those on low incomes. For many who traditionally look to UK Labour governments to improve their lives and their communities, they now see British politics as broken beyond repair.

This year we have a question that will define our generation. We can be the Scotland who chose to grasp the opportunity to create a better society, or the Scotland who put fear before hope.

The No campaign have attempted to portray the referendum as a battle between Scotland and the SNP. The obvious reality is that the SNP will not have eternal power in Scotland, and some of those who oppose independence just now will be well placed to contest the first election to an independent parliament. While new political forces and alliances may be forged over time, a Scottish Labour Party renewed by an influx of their top Westminster talent would be a viable contender for government.

One important repercussion of independence is that a Conservative government would be close to unthinkable.

While there are legitimate differences between the SNP and Labour, there is also much in principle and in practice that unites both the parties and their supporters. It is hard to imagine the assault on the welfare state or the demonisation of the poor and of immigrants currently seen in the UK would be replicated in an independent Scotland.

And much of the ideas in the Scottish Governments White Paper or in the Common Weal, endorsed by both the SNP and the Greens, are on traditional Labour territory. Higher wages, a secure welfare state, and a greater role for workers in the management of their companies are all ideas which could find broad consensus – and which would improve the lives of ordinary people across Scotland.

Such a vision is not the exclusive territory of nationalists – a term plenty of independence supporters are uncomfortable with. It was a young Gordon Brown who argued that Labour owed no loyalty to a British state that failed its workers. The question for Labour supporters should be which settlement would better serve their aspirations – the intermittent Tory rule of the UK, or a newly independent Scotland awake with possibility.

We predict that, over the next 9 months, plenty more Labour supporters will decide that the best future for Scotland is an independent one. As John Mulvey said:

“There are those who don’t support the SNP or, perhaps, don’t like Alex Salmond. But it’s more important than that. People of all political persuasions should come out and vote – preferably for Yes – and then decide what kind of Scotland they want to see in the election of 2016 when the political parties make their cases to be the first elected government of the newly independent nation.”

Welcome aboard, John.