From Ian Davidson’s now infamous “Newsnat” spat to Willie Rennie’s bizarre claims that the SCVO and their Chief Executive, Martin Sime, are SNP stooges just because they happen to be in favour of a second question in the Independence Referendum it is clear that, with the end of the Olympics, the Unionist parties are trying to ramp up their attacks on those of us who support Independence for Scotland.
Joan McAlpine’s column in the Daily Record this week attracted the attention of Alex Massie in the Spectator who expressed discomfort at the language that Joan chose and her suggestion that Davidson and his fellow Labour MPs are delivering for the Tories with their opposition to Independence. When you examine the evidence though then it is hard not to reach the same conclusions as Joan.
Whilst I am 100% convinced that Independence would be the best option for Scotland I would never suggest that it is not possible to be a proud and patriotic Scot whilst at the same time arguing that Scotland is best off within the Union. Such a suggestion would be ridiculous and more than a little reminiscent of McCarthy. Scotland is a rich and diverse nation and it has a wide range of political views that are all valid. Indeed it is that very point that the Scottish Government acknowledged in their willingness to look at a 2nd question for the Referendum ballot paper, a recognition that there are those that would like to see constitutional reform for Scotland but who are not certain that Independence is the best way forward. Accepting the idea of a 2nd question doesn’t mean a lessening in the desire for Independence. It is a recognition that healthy debate is good and a sign of confidence that the case for Independence can be won.
When Scotland’s former First Minister, Henry McLeish, argued earlier this week that there was a danger that the Unionist parties could be seen as anti-Scottish he wasn’t doing so because they are arguing against Independence. What McLeish was warning about was a lack of vision from the Labour leadership and a lack of a willingness to engage on the constitutional question. Indeed there is an inability from any of the Unionist parties to provide a clear outline of what they think would be best for Scotland and why. This “vote no to Independence and then we may look at what other powers the Scottish Parliament could get” is simply not good enough.
If the Labour party wants to avoid the tag of being “Tory” or “in bed with the Tories” then they need to articulate a clear message of their own. They need to say why they believe in the Union and what their alternative to Independence would be. Gordon Brown’s vague statement this week in Edinburgh on being happy for “more powers” for the Scottish Parliament without articulating what these powers should be and why they should be transferred will just not cut it. The perception is that it means whatever powers they need to transfer in order to defeat the SNP, and nothing more. Therein lies the problem and that is why McLeish is arguing that Labour and the other Unionist parties are in danger of appearing anti-Scottish. They need to be putting forward a positive case based on actual political beliefs rather than just a panicked reaction to the SNP.
If they believe that things are best exactly they way they are then they should say so. If they believe that the latest Scotland Bill is the optimum solution for modern day Scotland then they should say that. If they think that Devolution was an error and power should be returned to Westminster then they should not be afraid to say that too.
Political beliefs should always be motivated by a positive vision of how you want the World to look. Each one of us should be interested in politics through a belief that we can make the world we live in a better place, that we can help those who need it and see our society and our culture thrive. That is not unique to Scotland. It is the same the World over. Politics is about making positive changes in society and arguing your own case. Unless the Labour Party regain a vision of their own then they will continue to risk being seen as “anti-Scottish”.