Oh Scottish Labour, what have you done?


Despite 37% of their own supporters backing independence, Scottish Labour played a central role in a market driven, Tory funded campaign that instilled fear of economic decay into the hearts of the vulnerable to preserve an elitist Union. This week, as the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party’s membership surges and the SNP’s skyrockets beyond imagination, Scottish Labour called on their party to reach out to Yes voters. It is my firm belief that after two years of labelling Yes activists anti-English separatist Nationalist deluded fronts of the SNP, their plea will fall on deaf ears.

I was born into a family with Labour at its very heart. At six years old, I can just recall the 1997 general election. My Mum gave me ice cream for breakfast and hung her red dresses out the windows. I remember a triumphant hopeful energy, which in time faded and diminished, replaced instead with heartbreak, anger and loss. The very last Labour member of my family cancelled their membership recently. They no longer want to be associated with the people and politics of this party, and they are not alone. Scottish Labour has, without apologies, turned their back on their own history, and the most deplorable part is; they simply refuse to see it.

We must ask ourselves why this party is so intent on stagnating meaningful change when the Labour movement that their politics was founded upon – which they still speak of – was mobilized on vision and the reimagining of a society that works for all. Scottish Labour’s role in the independence debate left no space for imagination or inspiration.

It’s my belief that we do not currently have a Scottish Labour Party, but rather a Labour Party in Scotland. As somebody who has never been affiliated to a political party, I desperately wanted to see a Yes vote inspire Scottish Labour to disaffiliate from a Westminster rhetoric and advocate radical change. Instead, they will continue to pander to a London centric, austerity enthusiastic agenda. Ironically, a No vote was the worst possible outcome for the Scottish Labour Party.

The first decision they made on the referendum was to bypass a vote, instinctively supporting the union. The Scottish Green Party voted on it, and despite supporting Yes they maintained that members who supported No could speak freely on the matter. This unhealthy blatant denial of autonomy witnessed the start of the transparent, unashamed ostracizing of Scottish Labour supporters backing the Yes movement. As the Labour for Independence (LFI) movement grew, Scottish Labour denied their existence entirely, casting them aside as an SNP front. At their conference, fake LFI leaflets were handed out to smear their cause, and they were seen openly mocking LFI members.

Scottish Labour actively sought to demonize the Yes movement by labeling everyone involved inward-looking ‘Nationalists’. It was as though they couldn’t possibly conceive that movement was about people, let alone working class people. During panel debates, they would frequently struggle to come to terms with my lack of SNP affiliation. Bill Butler, who described me as “well intentioned but misguided”, told a school audience that if they voted Yes, they would then have to define themselves as ‘Nationalists’. On one memorable occasion, Midlothian MSP David Hamilton repeatedly spoke about sinister Nationalism, whilst waving his hand in my direction. When I pointed out that this would make 37% of his own party ‘Nationalists’ and that Labour’s asylum policy is an example of actual inward looking nationalism, he bellowed, “I bet you’re lined up to join the SNP on September 18th, you’re just another Nat!” They were manic. It was like sitting on panels with irrational children who would have tantrum-like outbursts every time their more popular playground rival was mentioned.

There is no denying it; their behaviour throughout the campaign demonstrated nothing short of tribal-driven bullying. Scottish Labour views the 2011 SNP victory as a temporary bump in the road, and the power of the Yes movement as a result of people being lured in by Salmond’s Nationalist agenda. There remains a blanket denial that the diminishing support for Scottish Labour is in part a result of its passive acceptance of New Labour’s ideology, and its lack of desire to provide an alternative to the dominant orthodoxy that dictates politics in London.

Never was this more glaringly obvious than in the run up to the referendum. Scottish Labour’s role was almost entirely focused around a market liberal agenda for the preservation of a normative framework, unfettered Neoliberalism. The voices that dominated this were not ordinary people but were banks, supermarkets and other massively unethical and morally questionable corporate giants. I even saw a picture of Johann Lamont proudly standing next to an Asda who said that prices would increase post Yes vote. A corporate decision that would hit the vulnerable the hardest was regarded as a cause for celebration. Scottish Labour has forgotten that the economy works for the people, not vice versa.

Yet the more sinister presence in this campaign was that of fear. Backed by a largely compliant media, fear played a central role in the bid to preserve the union. This is far from my bias take on the matter; they referred to themselves as ‘Project Fear’. What I found most unbearable about this was that it did not focus on the affluent sectors of society. No, from pensions to the NHS, this was a campaign strategy that actually targeted the poor and the vulnerable, instead of standing up for them.

Unfortunately for Scottish Labour, the uncomfortable truth of the matter remains, the areas that voted Yes were also those with high levels of depravation and low life expectancy. I was at the Stirling referendum count. Watching areas like the Raploch voting Yes, only to see the likes of Dunblane and Bridge of Allan overwhelmingly say No was like watching the wealthy ignoring the poor’s cries for change. Not only have Scottish Labour played a central role in a campaign against the will of 37% of their own support based, they have also voted against the will of some of the poorest members of our society.

I watched the Labour Party conference. I watched Red Ed advocate a continuation of austerity measures targeting the safety net protecting the very poorest in our society. I was reminded of Scottish Labour’s ‘vote No to protect our NHS’, and was filled with a fresh wave of resentment.

Scottish Labour appears to think that the vote marked the end of discussion, but we are living in a changed Scotland. The traditional, tribal way in which we once perceived politics has been entirely deconstructed and it could not be more refreshing. The Yes movement was just the beginning of something beautiful. The grassroots groups in the Yes movement, from National Collective and Generation Yes to Radical Independence, the Common Weal and Women for Indy, will continue to thrive and act as vehicles for change. There is a very real appetite for an alternative to status quo, one that challenges the dominant economic and political framework of Westminster.

At a time when their popularity was already dwindling, this party played a central role in a market-based campaign that ostracized and encouraged fear without vision against the will of 37% of their own supporters and much of the working class. Realistically, Scottish Labour is in serious danger of a further fall from grace.

Miriam Brett


There are 38 comments

  1. Steve Ward

    Already we’ve found out the oil has a longer life span, inflation is still rising, pensions are no more secure and it looks like we may be heading into another illegal war. Yay love being part of the UK.

  2. MediaWeasel

    I cannot understand this visceral hatred of the SNP, who for me represent the people of Scotland far better than any other parties do. It can’t only be sour grapes for the SNP parliamentary wins, surely? It really is quite extreme and (for want of a better word but I can’t think of one right now) paranoid.

    But yes, they have dug their own hole with thousands of Labour shovels, and now they’ll find out how comfortable it is to lie in that hole. I think Keir Hardie would be thankful, having seen what the Labour Party had become.

    1. Judy Olsen

      There are historic reasons for the hatred. But the Labour Party seems unable to shake off the attitudes of the 1980s. It’s pretty sad.

    2. Jackie Dawson

      Its just a ploy for you to feel embarrassed and to walk away from them. Remember divide and conquer is the Tory motto. Remember that

  3. Inkall

    The only thing that continually shocked me about Scotland is the continued support for Labour despite throwing ever one of their original visions under the bus in the late 90s.

    Even now there will be people who will still vote Labour because of their memories of the Labour party of old and the habit of “always voting Labour”.

    It is good to hear that recent events seem to have brought the truth home to some of those people.

    I would very much like to see break downs of all the votes per constituency (or however they were broken up) just to confirm the trend of those in the worst areas most wanting change, especially when they were probably the biggest targets of “Project Fear”.

      1. Inkall

        Thanks for that and certainly has me wondering even more as to the whys and hows, I’ll have to dig about into the other councils stuff.

  4. Tom nobomb

    Robert Peston on bbc news in the North East of England informing the locals about the amount of money us lucky Scots receive compared to them,Barnet formula scrapped as well then by the looks of things added to the oil,pensions,health,nhs,,,,we still have nukes though and should be grateful.If the people Peston was talking to think they will be receiving more then sorry folks,both you and us will have less,stinking poor Brits together

  5. Neil Anderson

    Not only are pensions under threat, but mortgages too. For those who have the luxury of having them. Re. Fracking of the Central Belt.

  6. Laura Fox

    While Scottish Labour backs Tory policies but continues to label itself as the people’s party, people are still aligning themselves away from the SNP because they “think Salmond is smug”.

    Don’t know about you, but I’d take “smug” over “morally bankrupt” any day.

    1. Sydney Bangham

      Having led his party to the first ever outright majority in a parliamentary system that was designed to prevent outright majorities, I think Alec Salmond has a right to feel “smug”. Let’s hope Nicola can lead us to another couple of outright majorities, with the second one, perhaps being for an Independent Scotland.

      1. Laura Fox

        Yeah, and considering the way the mass media constantly berated him, I actually think the “smugness” that people see is just self-assurance acquired through years of brushing off incredibly harsh personal comments.

    2. Alan Magnus-Bennett

      Salmond may appear to look smug in Holyrood but isn’t that because he keeps winning his debateds hands down. The opposition seem to be only able to try and knock SNP policies or activity without actually providing another alternative viewpoint to a better SCotland.

    3. Jackie Dawson

      Best way to deal with that is replace the word smug with the word confident and that’s what the Lab/Con cant abide. So they try to drive people who cant stand up for what they believe away. Guess what its not working, people are signing up with SNP in the thousands.

  7. Laura

    I voted for the first time in 1997, as a student at Stirling University, and stayed up all night to watch the votes come in. What euphoria!!!…. Last Friday morning I watched Labour MSPs high-fiving Tories & I felt ashamed of what they’ve become. Changed times indeed.

  8. Sydney Bangham

    For a long time now I have been of the belief that Scottish Labour has been and remains nothing more than the Edinburgh office of London Labour. We saw it with the Tories and got rid of them. Now we can see it with Labour, and they will go the same way. Their attitude towards the SNP, of continually trying to belittle them and not recognising that they have a right to govern Scotland if the Scottish people vote them into power, is also a smack in the face to the Scottish electorate. They will regret it.

  9. 1958Paul

    Couldn’t agree more. As a Scottish-resident English born socialist, I voted Yes as the only progressive choice. Scottish Labour not only allied themselves with all the most reactionary forces in the land, they also allowed themselves to become the spokespeople for them as these forces knew their own voices would be unacceptable to most Scots. I am one of those who have now joined the SNP as a gesture of solidarity with my fellow Yes voters and a wish to see this enhanced and wholly positive activism to continue. I hope the Labour party gets what it deserves from the voters at the next election.

    1. Alan Magnus-Bennett

      I am 71 year old and have a need for telling the following.
      I have been a labour party supporter for most of my working life. More recent years I became a full member particularly as my trade union activities rose to national level.
      Six years ago I retired and soon after moved to Scotland with my Scottish partner. Once esconced in our new home I realised I needed to review my political adherences. The TV Holyrood debates were enlightening and local and national news even more so. However, I was not impressed with Scottish Labour. Ms Lamont I thought was poor with her pathetic retorts to Alex Salmond’s well put SNP debates and Ruth Davidson not much better although did show a wee bit more intelligence.
      I am a socialist at heart which was why I became a trade union activist rising to national level in the Higher Education sector. Outwith the SNP’s rise on the back of its Independence policy, it appeared to me to be just that – a party concerning itself with Scotland’s people on a pure socialist level. So I resigned my Labour Party membership and am now a SNP member for the last three years.
      I have tried to resist any political involvement since my retirement having spent more than twenty years doing just that in the work place. However, the Independence campaign became too much of a draw. I have Scottish ancestry only a couple of generations old and so there is a gene or two still active within.
      The idea of Independence became a strong attraction especially with the realisation that while voting in Scottish affairs I had rescinded my votes on Westminster affairs. The fact that Westminster still pulls the purse strings on Sctland’s expenditure has become a strong thorn in my siide and is my main reason for eventually becoming active for the YES group in my area. And, what a great feeling that was, being a part of something as important as creating a new country – or should that be restoring the old but more modern country.- the new restoration!
      Well,we might have fallen at the first hurdle, or as my reenacting friends would have it, ‘we lost a battle but not the war’.
      So, it is so refereshing to see that the YES campaign has not withered with the autumn now upon us. It still lives. My car has its sticker reenstated and my jacket carries the YES badge once more. My YES saltire flag attended the recent Edinburgh rally and is ready to fly elsewhere when needed.
      Our new leader elect, Ms.Sturgeon, still has the fire in her blood although will carry the Indepencdence programme forward in a way different to Alex Salmond. Next time, and I hope very soon, it will be a huge success. My health is good and I should live so long to be a part of it.


  10. Sandstone Flats

    I’m maybe a little older than a lot of you Young Turks, but I remember my parents as Labour Party members in the 1980s, pounding the streets, knocking doors, collecting for striking miners and selling Nicaraguan coffee, such was their notions of not just local but international solidarity. Needless to say, neither are party members now, my whole family voted Yes and none of us will ever vote Labour again. True story.

    1. Margaret McGinty

      My mother walked the feet off herself in the late 20s and 30s just to get the labour party off the ground.I too have taken part in marches and protests with the labour party. never again, I keep thinking of what she said to me when I got depressed with labour ” you don’t have to worry about the tories, they are honest ,they tell you they are tories, the people you have to worry about are the labour faces with tory heart’s”
      so true ,I cannot believe how low they have sunk.My mother father ,and all the old labour people I knew ,must be turning in their graves at how they have behaved in recent weeks.

  11. Phil Tilley

    I was so disgusted by Scottish Labour and Lamont in particular, that the first thing I did on Monday morning, was to write to my union full time officer and cancel any contribution to the unions political fund. Labour (and there is no difference between UK and Scottish Labour now) will not see one red cent from me contributing to their up-keep. They refused to share their pound with us, then I’m not going to share any of my pounds with them. See if Lamont considers that “not intelligent enough to run out own affairs”.

  12. Iain McRobbie

    Miriam I’m proud to say my part of Dunblane (Kinbuck & Ashfield) voted YES!! There’s still hope even in the most “affluent” areas. With the recent snubs, fracking proposals and the next “war” many NO voters especially of the Labour persuasion are now wondering just what the hell they’ve voted for, there’s a lot more milage in this yet.

  13. Judy Olsen

    I found myself being derided as a Scottish ‘nationalist, no better than Farage’ on Twitter. Several hours later I remembered I am actually English. The guy berating me is Scottish, but has lived in London for some years.

  14. George Wilson

    This self-righteous anger is all very fine but 55% of us voted No, Labour still exists and will have no plans for fading away before May 2015, and the Tory situation in Scotland is so dire that almost any change would have to be, for them, an improvement.We must already be pushing on an open door – promises of a benefits freeze, Fergusson’s Shipyard already back in business, shoppers turning away from Asda and John Lewis, bombing Iraq, Cameron’s weird idea that all the folk who left Labour to ‘support the SNP’ will be so disillusioned they’ll turn in their droves to the Tories in Scotland (he just disnae get it!)

    So ire is no good. Making loud noises about re-nationalising the trains and energy provision won’t secure an SNP majority in Scotland in May (too many folk have too clear memories of how awful those things were when privatised before). What’s needed is imagination, vision, and strong, supportable, rational policies. Visions and policies that can unite Scotland, not bitter divisive rants.
    So cool heads please. Calm, assertive, sustainable policies; but don’t assume that the other lot have somehow left the field of battle and awarded us victory

  15. Jackie Dawson

    I was great to read all your stories and the fact that we didn’t realise what TYPE of people we were up against just makes us that bit wiser. MSM was appalling and used this to drive in the fear for people who did not or could not get their information through more secure mediums. OAPS were told they would lose their pensions and no one was telling them anything else. NHS would privatise if we went independent, businesses would leave, the pound would be useless, it was terrible, they hit hard and they hit late which means SNP didn’t have the man power to combat MSM, BBC,Commentators, News papers etc.
    The vow was the most stupid con ever, but again fear is a great motivator. Red tories knew it. I was appalled at Darling/Brown/Alexander and the rest doing the Tory dirty work on their own people. It was clear to see from TV recordings what they media were doing.
    Alex Samond and Nicola were up against a huge monster, the yes campaigners could see it, the internet came alive, it was used as the medium to SHOW what W/M and the cronies were going. The misinformation which was being put about, all to do with fear.
    Scotland woke up.
    W/M was threatened and it was going to do ANYTHING to stop Scotland from walking away, removing the golden goose. (Read The McCrone Report 1975). Have no misunderstanding, they were going to do and say anything to drive the fear of god into people who knew no better and the weathly who didn’t really care about anyone other than themselves. the ” I’m all right jack” crowd. Darling was a gibbering wreck so W/M dragged Gordon Brown onto the stage. Gordon Brown not realising that he was being set up and that the people of Scotland would listen to him, (well some would anyway). He did his preacher stance, in fact nearly had a hernia in the process, but the yes campaign was still too strong for them.
    Yes campaign, held the MSM and BBC up for their bias, the news papers and reporters/commenters were all pulled up and shown for what they were, but even better what they were doing. People were recording the interviews and showing the tampering being done on interview tapes. This was all being shown on youtube. A professor who recorded all this and wrote up a report on the impact of the media, sent this to the news papers and the BBC. BBC bosses contacted his boss to complain about him, no one showed the report or printed it. The professors boss supported his work 100%. This was then put on you tube and is still there.. Each time they tried to swing a lie, someone was on it and showing it for what it was.
    Then the guests were doing this live on TV, if you caught the live show, you heard it, if you got the recorded repeat it had been doctored. Again, the live recording against the doctored copy was put on youtube so you could see what was happening. So voters were becoming more and more aware. The only weak area was the people who did not have access or was too old to use these medias, twitter or you tube etc.
    With this information and experiences was born a stronger movement for change.
    SNP is over 100,000 members within 3 weeks.
    Labour – will crash and burn this GE. ( so many long term walking away from them)
    Tory – 1 Ruth Davidson, rude appalling women, may stay just one or hopefully will get wiped out.
    There is still a strong drive for change in many forms, EU vote or largest party SNP demanding independence.
    The journey has just started guys,,,,,,,,,,,,,enjoy the ride.

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