Scottish independence and the left: what’s a coherent position?

7:02 pm - March 31st 2012

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contribution by Nick Bibby

Just as they had south of the Border, it was the Tories that kicked off the anti-independence campaign in Scotland.

In both cases Labour’s struggle to decide whether it disliked the Tories or the Nationalists more was short-lived.

As the only truly British party – with serious representation and the prospect of government in Westminster and the devolved parliaments – Labour is in an unenviable position.

The Scottish Tories are a contradiction in terms and, for all of his protestations, David Cameron could live quite comfortably with Scotland leaving the union and taking its voters with it. Power at Westminster destroyed the Lib Dems north of the Border. The nationalists see Westminster as a sinecure but a sideline. The Greens are already separate parties on either side of the Border.

Only, Labour has everything to lose and nothing to say.

Large chunks of the Scottish Labour Party support breaking the Union, which would almost certainly result in a northern nation where Labour was the natural party of government and left of centre values were the mainstay of political debate. Contrary to popular belief, separation would not doom the remainder of the UK to a servile future governed by the home counties; England is not as Tory a country as a London based media tends to assume.

Whatever the reason, two parties that should be natural allies treat each other with a disdain that is unmatched in British politics. Both claim to be ‘left of centre’ parties and do so with roughly the same amount of credibility. Their antagonism represents a schism in Scottish politics but also raises an interesting question of whether there is a coherent leftwing position on Scottish independence, regardless of partisan affiliation.

There is certainly an impressive body of evidence that Scotland – as with Canada, New Zealand and others – is naturally to the left of her more populous and affluent neighbor and should join that community of former colonies.

Alex Salmond is also keen to associate Scotland with a Nordic or Scandinavian political tradition of social democracy. Certainly the historical links between Scotland, Canada, New Zealand and the liberal traditions of northern Europe are both strong and quite distinct from the ‘top table’ imperialism further south.

Certainly Keir Hardie and other Scottish giants of British left wing history stood fully behind Scottish home rule. Nineteen Labour leaders later and the image of Ed Milliband tripping over himself to agree with David Cameron on the issue may be a little unseemly but is hardly conclusive in either direction.

The economics of separation have been almost entirely argued out from a post-Thatcherite perspective and have owed more to political convenience than economic reality. Scotland will neither be plunged impoverished hell nor vaulted into a stratosphere of wealth by independence. The pie will be smaller than that of the UK as a whole but is likely to be cut rather more fairly.

The general principle of locating sovereign power as close to those it effects directly is certainly a left wing one. This view, taken by the Greens but nobody else, seems a more coherent leftwing position than the nationalism of the SNP or the classical Toryism of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The reasons for this seem to owe more to tribal enmity that political sanity.

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Reader comments

1. Leon Wolfeson

“England is not as Tory a country as a London based media tends to assume.”

The gerrymandering says otherwise. And Wales won’t remain in the Union if Scotland leaves, and Northern Ireland immediately becomes a powder-keg, where SOMEONE will light the fuse.

I don’t believe that’s a left-wing position. At all.

A reasonable left wing position? A federal UK. With an English Parliament. Based on PR.

2. Alisdair Cameron

Cue Bob b, and an,er,idiosyncratic take on the issue…

“And Wales won’t remain in the Union if Scotland leaves”

I call bullshit. There’s very little genuine desire for independence on Wales. It doesn’t make economic sense, and while there is a cultural divide it’s not nearly as significant as the one between England and Scotland. For example, Scotland has its own legal system; Wales doesn’t.

“and Northern Ireland immediately becomes a powder-keg, where SOMEONE will light the fuse”

Maybe, but maybe not. The issues are entirely different; there isn’t the division between Scots as there is in Northern Ireland.

I think if you’re going to oppose Scottish independence, you need to look at it on its own merits rather than speculating that it will be the end of Wales, Northern Ireland and, indeed, England. Maybe England will end up Tory for a generation, but maybe that’s what it needs to realise that they aren’t actually that great…

Class is everything, nationality is nothing.

“England is not as Tory a country as a London based media tends to assume.”

Lazy – votes say otherwise.

I can’t see the boyos and girlos going for independence from England – coal is not oil – however a Uk shorn of Scotland is an ugly prospect.

In the event of Scottish departure what SHOULD happen is that the remaining home countries have a say whether they want to continue the union. I suspect Wales and Ni would say yes, England a resounding no.

The voice of the English is routinely ignored and subsumed by “Britain”. But if Britain is no more, it will need to be heard. The voice of the English will also need to be heard in break-up negotiations. It is entirely unacceptable the Scots should refuse to pay their share of the debt for their bailed out banks, for example.

I also suspect that, despite the oil, Scotland may feel a lot “smaller” out of the Uk than in – look how the UK already sucks so much Irish talent.

A right-wing, American-style England, shorn of the Celts, could become an even more dynamic nation (not that I approve, strictly speaking, as a Leftist) for business and innovation and even more young Scots could find themselves drawn South to the “English tiger” – and face a modicum of prejudice never experienced when we were “all in this together” (one only has to read Dr Johnson).

Scots Nats should be careful what they wish for…

“Certainly Keir Hardie and other Scottish giants of British left wing history stood fully behind Scottish home rule.”

Isn’t home rule more akin to devolution? Perhaps they had devo max in mind, but home rule isn’t necessarily independence. Northern Ireland had home rule 1921-1972.

Some of you may live in Scotland, but as an English person resident in England, I’d ask: Is it necessary for me to have a position on Scottish independence at all, other than that I fully support Scotland’s right to be independent if its people decide they want it to be?

“The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!”


“England is not as Tory a country as a London based media tends to assume.”

My own belief is that, were Scottish independence to occur, the English Tory party would split into two very different parties – a socially liberal but free market urban based party, and a more socially conservative rural based party.

Like Pejar, I too call bullshit on the idea that Scotland leaving the union would lead to Wales leaving. My own experiences in Wales – considerable – lead me to believe that they would be happy in the union as long as language and culture are respected – that is as long as England doesn’t produce anymore Bessie Braddocks.

How Tory is England? Well, in 2010 the Tories won just under 40% of the popular vote in England. A lot of people assume this figure is much higher. It’s a long way from a majority. In 2005 they won 36% and were only 1% or so ahead of Labour.

George Eaton says that without Scotland (but including Wales), Labour would have won in 1997, 2001, and 2005 ( ) – obviously, with reduced majorities.

10. Leon Wolfeson

@3 – And I say dumping on the stoop doesn’t help when you’re dealing with harsh realities. Wales would quickly find itself in a near-untenable financial position, and with faced with an entirely hostile Westminster.

@8 – No. FPTP means that splitting is literally suicide for a party. They’re not that stupid.

@9 – That was before the latest round of Gerrymandering. Recalculate with the new boundaries. No wins for Labour. This isn’t about a numerical majority, it’s about playing FPTP for all it’s worth.

There used to be two big parties in Scotland, Labour and Conservative. There are now two big parties in Scotland, Labour and SNP. It is obvious from where the support for the SNP has come. Lo and behold, they turn out to be the posh, the wannabe posh, the devotees of shortbread tin Scottishness, the socially conservative in that Church of Scotland way (although heaven knows what the Conservative Party has offered them, any more than their English and Welsh equivalents), the pathological enemies of municipal Labour and of the trade unions, and the white Protestant supremacists.

Bevan ridiculed the first parliamentary Welsh Day on the grounds that “Welsh coal is the same as English coal and Welsh sheep are the same as English sheep”. In the 1970s, Labour MPs successfully opposed Scottish and Welsh devolution not least because of its ruinous effects on the North of England. Labour activists in the Scottish Highlands, Islands and Borders, and in North, Mid and West Wales, accurately predicted that their areas would be balefully neglected under devolution.

Eric Heffer in England, Tam Dalyell and the Buchans (Norman and Janey) in Scotland, and Leo Abse and Neil Kinnock in Wales, were prescient as to the Balkanisation of Britain by means of devolution and the separatism that it was designed to appease, and as to devolution’s weakening of trade union negotiating power. Abse, in particular, was prescient as to the rise of a Welsh-speaking oligarchy based in English-speaking areas, which would use devolution to dominate Welsh affairs against the interests of Welsh workers South and North, industrial and agricultural, English-speaking and Welsh-speaking. Heffer’s political base was in Liverpool, at once very much like the West of Scotland and with close ties to Welsh-speaking North Wales.

There is a strong feeling among English, Scottish and Welsh ethnic minorities and Catholics that we no more want to go down the road of who is or is not “really” English, Scottish or Welsh than Ulster Protestants want to go down the road of who is or is not “really” Irish. The Scotland Office Select Committee is chaired by Ian Davidson, a Co-operative Party stalwart and Janey Buchan protégé who is therefore a hammer both of Scottish separatism and of European federalism. There is no West Lothian Question, since the Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to legislate supremely in any policy area for any part of the country, the devolution legislation presupposes that it will do so as a matter of course, and anyone who does not like that ought to have voted No to devolution.

The Welfare State, workers’ rights, full employment, a strong Parliament, trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies, mutual building societies, and nationalised industries (often with the word “British” in their names) were historically successful in creating communities of interest among the several parts of the United Kingdom, thus safeguarding and strengthening the Union. The public stakes in the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland are such permanent, non-negotiable safeguards of the Union.

The Union can only be defended in these terms and within this tradition,while any failure to defend the Union cannot be described as left-wing in any way, shape or form. Ed Miliband, over to you.

I am sorry, Nick, you are an old friend and I take your return from Korea as an indication that hostilities are about to be resumed there, but the simplest examination of General Election results at least since 1945 gives the lie to the lazy fantasy that an independent England would have had, and therefore might have in the future, a permanent or semi-permanent Conservative Government rather than, as was and would be the case, a Labour Government almost exactly as often as happened within the United Kingdom, including with comfortable or landslide majorities on every occasion when that was the case under the current arrangements.

Those who would counter that that was and would be seats, not votes, are almost always strong supporters of First Past The Post, and must face the fact that England would never return a single-party government under any other electoral system. Great swathes of England scarcely elect Conservative MPs at all. The notion that the Conservative Party has a unique right to speak for England is as fallacious and offensive as the notion that the Conservative Party has a unique right to speak for the countryside.

It would be pointless for the North of England (with a population considerably larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined) to remain in the United Kingdom if its economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, Methodism and a High Churchmanship quite different from that in the South, were no longer able to support and to be supported, either by Scotland’s economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism, or by Wales’s economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, several varieties of Nonconformity, and the sane High Churchmanship that provides the mood music to the Church in Wales.

The North would be at least as capable of independence as either Scotland or Wales, and would have every reason to pursue that path if they did. But who would then pay for the City to be bailed out next time, and the time after that, and the time after that? And what would the smug South East drink, or wash in?

13. Leon Wolfeson

“the simplest examination of General Election results at least since 1945”

Using the gerrymandered boundaries?

Right. Back in reality, we’re faced with a Tory party bent on forcing apart Great Britain, cloaking itself in a faux-Unionist stance and bent on rigging things to ensure it’s control of England after the split.

Gerrymandered how, although I know that I am going to regret asking that?

And I might have done Nick a disservice. It seems to be his critics who are convinced that England is Toryland, plain and simple. It simply isn’t, any more than Scotland is the birthplace or spiritual home of the Labour Movement, or Labour has always been an urban phenomenon with little or no rural presence but a ready audience in the cities, or the old industrial working class was solidly or at least overwhelmingly Labour, or General Elections are won and lost in the South East, or New Labour was the defeat of the Far Left rather than the triumph of its campus-based form, or … well, it’s a pretty long list, and Leon Wolfeson probably believes everything on it.

Assuming that George Eaton’s figures didn’t include the boundary changes that were implemented in 2010, then if you combine those changes with the boundary changes and seat reductions expected to take place in 2015, Labour in England+Wales would have had a majority in 1997 and 2001, while 2005 would probably have been a hung parliament.

Regardless, it is difficult to dispute that England would have more conservative governments once Scotland left. (The great unknown, of course, is whether English voting patterns would change as an indirect result of the various changes following Scottish independence.) But it is difficult to see how it could be right for anyone to judge the merits of Scottish independence according to its effects on England alone. What about its effects on Scotland, or (potentially) on the balance of power in the world (if Scotland proves susceptible to a neutralist position, though I’m not too optimistic on that score as SNP opposition to NATO appears to be wavering, and the SNP often speaks highly of NATO members such as Norway and Denmark)?

16. douglas clark

There used to be two big parties in Scotland, Labour and Conservative. There are now two big parties in Scotland, Labour and SNP. It is obvious from where the support for the SNP has come. Lo and behold, they turn out to be the posh, the wannabe posh, the devotees of shortbread tin Scottishness, the socially conservative in that Church of Scotland way (although heaven knows what the Conservative Party has offered them, any more than their English and Welsh equivalents), the pathological enemies of municipal Labour and of the trade unions, and the white Protestant supremacists.


Where did you buy that time machine? You should take it back as faulty as it appears stuck in the 1950’s.

If it is socially conservative to be against Trident, for an Scottish NHS that isn’t the plaything of a lunatic in Westminster, for free University Education, for Green Energy policies then you are right.

I do not recognise the country I live in from the description you give of it. This disconnect from any reasonable description of reality appears to me to be quite prevelant South of the Border.

You are being fed myths and lies which are near impossible to keep up with. If anyone is even a little interested in the opposite point of view, this is quite a good guide:

douglas clark, it is matter of basic arithmetic. There used to be lots of Labour voters and lots of Conservative voters in Scotland. There are now lots of Labour voters and lots of SNP voters. Working out where the SNP voters (not the Hard Left activists, the voters) must have come from is hardly rocket science. And once you look at who they are, as well as who they are not, then the obvious is only confirmed in depth.

18. douglas clark


There is also churn in voters. The elderly in the 1950’s, the last time we elected a majority of Conservatives, are now well and truly defunct. The tartan tory jibe that you have played with here doesn’t take account of that. Neither does it make the slightest sense to assume that all SNP voters are or were at one time or another Conservatives. Indeed it could be argued that a lot of SNP policies are more likely to appeal to the left rather than the right. I have listed a few in my previous post.

It is not simple arithmetic David, it is a process of change. There are ex Labour, ex Lib and ex Tory members in the SNP and, to address your point directly, the SNP has taken votes from Labour. This is no longer quite the fiefdom for the Labour Party that it used to be.

19. Leon Wolfeson

@14 – If you haven’t been followed the redistricting – which is based on VERY narrow, Tory-friendly parameters (and on which they refused to compromise), then frankly it’s not worth discussing any current issues with you. As I’m quite sure you have – stop playing dumb, thanks. This bunch of Tories know EXACTLY what they want to happen.

Your faith in the Tory’s morality is entirely misplaced with the current batch. Thatcher had morals, but this lot? Their outright distaste for democracy not rigged their way is shown both in how they’re using FPTP as a weapon, their cynical take against the Union (“oppose, purely to get concessions from Scotland WHEN it leaves”) and the blatant anti-democratic lies around the referendum…

Naive delivers this country to the Tories. Fortunately I have another country to run if that happens, but tens of millions get screwed. I have to question your personal politics if you think that’s fine.

@15 – Again, I can’t see how Wales could *possibly* remain in the Union if Scotland leaves.

@16 – While it might not be true in general, there are clear exceptions to that line about hatred. That “document” you linked is, bluntly, full of lies.

The entire concept that, for instance, Scotland would automatically be admitted to the CTA. In fact, it would likely lead to a sharp end to it – with only England maintaining a state outside the Schengen Area. The Irish have admitted as much.

The Scottish banks debt would have to become the Scot’s problem – and they were the primary point of failure in the UK in the crisis – and you’d certainly not retain the AAA rating which the UK itself does not current in any way, shape or form deserve.

And yes, you’d need to come to separate arrangements for diplomatic representation. I’d sure the price from England would be reasonable, but this is one area of international law which is quite unequivocally something NOT shared by the successor states, without specific arrangements to do so. Neither would you have right to the UN Security Council seat, which would clearly remain with Westminster.

The article’s key paragraph is this – “As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger when the Lone Ranger said together we can defeat the Commanches coming over the hill: “What do you mean ‘we’, whiteman?””

…which is blatantly racist crap. I personally have absolutely no loyalty to “England”, but to Britain, as a third-gen white immigrant. I’m QUITE sure you share the article’s sentiments.

Don’t like it? It’s the article YOU chose to link, “Kemo Sabe”.

20. douglas clark

Leon Woolfson,

Nope. I am not in the slightest embarrassed about the link I provided you with. And almost everything you have had to say is either wrong or subject to negotiation. You have made statements without a shred of evidence to back them up.

Racist? Are you being serious?

It is you that should be embarrassed.

21. douglas clark


No, I am not in the slightest embarrassed by the article I linked to. Your hypersensitivity feature seems to be on at 11. Jesus, you think a lone ranger joke is racist.

By the way almost everything you have said is either wrong or negotiable. Do you think you get to keep all the family silver when a divorce happens? Both assets and liabilities will be split equitably.

It is you that ought to be embarrassed.

22. nick Bibby

There’s been one general election since the war that needed Sottish votes to elect a UK Labout govt. Anyone?

Thanks for the comments,



23. Leon Wolfeson

@21 – No, I don’t expect you would be. “Humorous” racism is…still racism.

I also have a clue about international law on the issue, which apparently you don’t. I’ll fight for the Union, not because I’m the great evil you’re trying to paint me as, but because I believe in the United Kingdom.

@22 – Exactly! The Tories completely agree. Shame about that statistics thing, on the new boundaries. With only England left.

I struggle to see what is left-of-centre about drawing a line in the ground, where one did not exist previously, and stating that everyone to the north of it should benefit from oil money and everyone to the south should not.

If Scotland is a net contributor to the UK Exchequer, then what the SNP in effect is saying is that we believe it is more important to look after the likes of Fred the Shred than it is to look after the poorest people in, say, the East End of London, the valleys of South Wales and the backstreets of Belfast. That is nationalism pure and simple, not progressive politics.

I always thought that solidarity was a principle element of the centre left. I see very little solidarity in the SNP’s position.

@ 19) 23) Leon Wolfson Your arguments on the Bank Debt, Embassy representation and Schengen are well out of date. There is a wealth of information that completely refutes and wastes your position. However, its unimportant, Independence is a natural state for any nation. You may be proud to be British, there are many Scottish who are not ‘proud to be British’ and are actually true to their distinct culture, nationality, laws, customs and traditions (flaws and all)

The point is any country has a right to self-determination, have you stopped to think for one minute that your position may be bias living in a specific geography in the UK.

When I read your rants, I added another nail in the Union Coffin. It is attitude like yours that will finish driving in the wedge between the countries and for that I am very thankful.

Have a read of this. You just might get some of it despite your clearly biased position.

Let me know what you think

best regards

@24) JW

It is very simple.
1. Scotland didn’t want the Union. It was a forced marriage.
2. Power has always been centralised in London to the detriment of other regions, especially Scotland,
3. Oil revenues are part of a countries natural resources. The UK has squandered them via the London Exchequer. People in the South has got richer.
4. Westmister lied about the resources (McCrone Report) and buried it. They continue to lie about the Scottish economic position.
5. Scotland are the only Oil producer where they pay considerably more for their petrol than their Southern neighbours.
6. It is the only oil producer where the elderly struggle to heat their homes.
7. Independence is not going to make Scotland rich, but neither will it be impoverished. Its overall share of the pie will be fairer. Its that simple.

28. Leon Wolfeson

@25 – I’m not Anglo-Saxon. An article arguing that Anglo-Saxon influence on Scotland is evil doesn’t directly concern me. However, it does show up my point that you’re labelling myself and anyone who argues for the Union as evil simple because we believe in Britain, not it’s sub-states.

Yes, I dare think. I dare think that that sort of article shows how narrow minded the people who would shatter this great nation are, that they have to see *threats* everywhere.

In fact, that perception of threat is identical to the TORY rhetoric on immigration.

(And keep ignoring well-established international law!)

@24 – Exactly. The SNP are only very nominally left-wing. There’s no deep ideological commitment there.

The trouble with the Brit Left’s offshoots in Wales and Scotland is that they have traditionally voiced a very odd form of ‘internationalism’, in that they have been four-square behind the right to self-determination of every nation on the planet – except their own. The Labour Party in Wales – since devolution – do seem to have woken up to this disjuncture to some extent. Their Scottish counterparts still don’t seem to ‘get it’, which may be why they were beaten hollow by the SNP last time out.

If one can be bothered countering David Lindsay’s bizarre claims, then one could start by saying that the idea that the rise in SNP support is due solely or primarily due to Tories switching is bollocks on a plinth. I suspect most of the increase in SNP support in recent years has come from those utterly disillusioned with the Labour Party’s capacity for arrogance, incompetence, infighting and the deliberate inflating of sectarianism in the West of Scotland. It is far more likely that a fair chunk of the remaining Labour support is from ex-Tories who recognise that their traditional allegiance has become a busted flush and vote Labour just to try to dish ‘The Nats’ and stave off the inevitable.

As for this:

“Leo Abse and Neil Kinnock in Wales, were prescient as to the Balkanisation of Britain by means of devolution and the separatism that it was designed to appease, and as to devolution’s weakening of trade union negotiating power. Abse, in particular, was prescient as to the rise of a Welsh-speaking oligarchy based in English-speaking areas, which would use devolution to dominate Welsh affairs against the interests of Welsh workers South and North, industrial and agricultural, English-speaking and Welsh-speaking.”

Well, where to begin? Abse and Kinnock were emblematic of the type of Labour I described above, in that their commitment to ‘the international solidarity of the working class’ started and ended in Walworth Road. Kinnock, it should be noted, loved the working class of Bedwellty/Islwyn so much that, once elected to the Commons, he piddled off to live in a lovely big family house in Ealing, the better to plot his rise to greatness and to appear in Tracey Ullman videos.

The only thing Kinnock is remembered for via-à-vis devolution now was his going around spreading lies and smears of exactly the same sort that David Lindsay repeats above; about how the good, working-class Valleys folk were going to be taken over by a bunch of racist, fascist, extremist terrorists from Penrhyndeudraeth who were going to pollute their precious bodily fluids and – yes, a phrase that can still be heard from the few remaining old Valleys Stalinists today – “push the langwich down our children’s froats!!!”.

I have never been able to comprehend the antipathy of the Brit Left to any meaningful form of self-determination for Scotland and Wales in any other way than as a form of overweening internal colonialism by which – at one and the same time – the good-old-working-class of those nations is alternately celebrated (at least in rhetoric) and patronised like there was no tomorrow by being told that their nation was too ‘poor’, too ‘weak’, too ‘backward’, too ‘small’ to be able to govern itself in the slightest meaningful degree.

That can be the only way in which to view it because, looked at in any rational sense, anyone meaningfully on the Left would support any measure which actually brings power closer to the people subject to it, and enables a better engagement with it. In Wales, for example, for all the obvious imperfections of the current settlement, people – even up here in the heavily-Anglicised North East – recognise that it is better to be governed by a National Assembly which has an inbuilt centre-left majority which more properly reflects the political outlook of the people than to suffer the uncertainty of direct rule from a Westminster which, during their lifetimes, has moved markedly to the right.

All the things that David Lindsay lists as being the products of his strange brand of ‘Britishness’ – the Welfare State, the NHS, co-operatives, etc. – are far more likely to survive (and even thrive) in devolved Scotland and Wales than in unitary England with a presumption towards full-on market-orientated economic and social policies. And that’s because that is what the people of those nations want, it’s what they vote for, and they end up, by and large within the restraints of the current settlement, getting what they vote for.

A few sidenotes on other comments:

Chris @4:

“Class is everything, nationality is nothing.”

Tell Keir Hardie. His attempts to ask the workers of South Wales not to fight their German ‘comrades’ in WW1 were drowned out by those self-same workers singing ‘Land Of Hope’ and ‘God Save The King’ back at him con amore. He died a broken man from that. Ultimately, people will tend to side with their own community, however constituted, rather than with people of the same ‘class’ whom they don’t know and have never met. It’s intrsinic to human nature.

Pejar @3:

I agree that, should Scotland become independent, Wales won’t seek to follow it for some time. However, I think that being locked in to an even more unequal relationship with London than is now the case will, over a period of a decade or so, increase the demand for at the very least a form of ‘devo-max’.

Boyo @5:

Ah, the voice of the poor, downtrodden English! How you suffer with your completely unrepresentative House of Commons where a mere 80% of MPs represent English constituencies! I don’t know why you haven’t risen in open rebellion by now, or has your pitchfork industry been sold off to Slovakia? I can understand how you might struggle to get the fuel for the flaming torches at the moment, though.

@26 – None of which makes the SNP a progressive, left-of-centre political party.

I beg your pardon.

The Liberal Democrats (or rather their predecessors, the Liberals) brought forth legislation for a Scottish Parliament in 1914 (where it was sadly disrupted by the outbreak of WW1) and have always had a policy of supporting a federal UK and the devolution of power to local communities.

Redistributing power from the few to the many has always been a liberal, and not a left wing, principle.

Scotland has consistently voted for labour and other left leaning parties because that’s the kind of government we want. Obviously the labour party has to move more and more to the right in order to get majority votes in England. The labour party that actually manage to get elected in the UK is not the same labour party that Scotland wants. The mass defections to the SNP by voters is simply people finally giving up on the labour party. They had their chances in government, they had their chances in the Scottish parliament, time and time again, they blew it. As far as I can see, a real left of centre party cannot be elected into government in the UK. Therefore, Scotland cannot ever get a government it wants within the UK.

As for the idea that we are abandoning the poor of England. Where is the rest of England in this thinking? They weren’t caring about the poor when they voted in a tory government and they weren’t caring about the poor while labour moved more and more to the right to be palatable to the English electorate. Us leaving and taking what’s left of the North Sea oil money and stopping propping up a right leaning labour party won’t make any difference to the poor of England, because neither are helping them right now.

The figures that seem to be most agreed upon by everyone, show that Scotland has close to the average income in the UK, so theoretically, a split won’t make that much difference in the actual core finances of either side. What will make a difference is policies and how that money is spent. England won’t have any less money, it will just have to demand it’s politicians spend it differently if that’s what it wants.

What will hopefully change for both of us after independence is politics and political parties. I think a new left must emerge in England and I expect a new centre right will probably emerge in Scotland. In both cases I hope that our parliaments will more accurately represent the views of the people they are supposed to, because what we currently have serves none of us well.

33. douglas clark


You say:

None of which makes the SNP a progressive, left-of-centre political party.

Well, for a given value of left wing, we are certainly further to the left than Milliband.

I find it verging on ridiculous to use the words ‘Labour Party’ and ‘socialist’ as synonyms any more. Your MPs couldn’t even be bothered to vote against the reduction in the top rate of income tax.

34. Here we go


No way.

Fptp wouldn’t mean anything if this were to happen. The whole dynamic would have changed and the battle lines would have to be redrawn. You really think that urban coke snorting, dope smoking, lap dance loving, social liberals would happily sit there while the squirearchy get to run the conference and dictate policy? If so, you lack a strategic mind and should play more chess! It’d be like the end of WWII. Up to that point the Soviets were our friends, but once Hitler was gone…

GWP @ 31

The Lib Dems, along with the other Unionist Parties scuppered the SNP’s attempts to ACTUALLY take the poorest Scottish workers out of tax, by publicly announcing that they would veto an attempt to scrap the hated regressive Council tax and shifting the burden onto a progressive income tax. Of course, it goes without saying that the Lib Dems did not win the 2007 election, however they felt entitled to prevent the party that actually formed the biggest block from executing a manifesto pledge.

The same Party who hide behind that the excuse ‘we did not win the election’ to vote for the single most depressing piece of legislation in my lifetime. I hope that they are wiped into the same footnote of history that their Tory counterparts where in Scotland.

@ OP

What should the ‘The Left’s’ response be? Who cares? As a Scot I have my views ignored for thirty years as the Unionist Parties lurch further and further to the Right. What do I have in common with Parties who think that providing wheelchairs for the disabled is the reason the credit crunch occurred? Why would I be interested in political movement who cannot stand up for people who strike to defend their Health and Safety?

I watched ‘Question time’ on Thursday and was dismayed to see that no one even addressed the concerns of the tanker drivers. The ‘Labour’ stooge (a Scot, BTW) was left toeing the Party line as A Tory scumbag in the audience as well as two (Lib Dem proxy, Tether) Tories castigated the Unite for ‘causing’ the strike.

I have no affiliation to any of these cunts, not least the British Labour Party who appear more interested in internal squabbles than fighting the real enemy.


No one was talking about tax. However, since we are, I should point out that a) the SNP never brought forward proposals to replace council tax with a local income tax and b) Lib Dems in government in Westminster have taken millions of the poorest people across the UK out of paying income tax altogether.

And, as a bonus point, Lib Dems and Labour backed and signed the Scottish Constitutional Convention. The SNP didn’t.

GWP @ 25

b) Lib Dems in government in Westminster have taken millions of the poorest people across the UK out of paying income tax altogether.

You have been taken in by a straightforward lie. Not one single ‘working poor’ person in the UK has been taken out of tax, all that has happened is their overall tax bill has been switched from one form of tax to another The Liberal Democrats have hoisted the tax burden onto the poorest people in society by easing the tax burden onto regressive taxation.

Most of the money given away in the raising the tax threshold never went anyway near the poor in any case. By definition, income tax cuts goes to people described as ‘middle earners’.

In fact, changes to tax credits has meant that many of the poorest workers have been royally shafted by your Party and those loses have dwarfed the paltry couple of quid they have gained via this ‘tax cut’.

If your despicable Party actually wanted to help these people, you would have spent that considerable amount of money actually taking the ‘poor’ out of tax by cutting VAT on some items, or exempting them from council tax, instead of smuggling in a middle class tax cut under the guise ‘helping the poor’.

Or, of course, you could have simply used that money to restore the cut in tax credit rules. Oh, but that would mean non Tory voters would have gained instead.

38. douglas clark

George W Potter,

We were talking about socialism. It is hardly a socialist principle to ease the tax burden on the rich.

Your lot – i take it you are a Liberal – are also complicit in handing £4.1 billion to a private company:

Defra Minister Lord Taylor defended the plans and said: “We believe that the circumstances that [water consumers in the south west of England] face are exceptional. For years they have faced the highest water bills in the country as they have paid the costs of the £2bn invested in infrastructure post-privatisation.

“The benefits of this investment include improved water quality, reduced leakage, cleaner beaches and better bathing water, but the costs have been borne solely by South West Water customers and their bills have risen as a result. We believe that the Government should help to correct the historical inequity. We do not want another such inequity to arise.

I’m sure there is a simple explanation why the state is subsidising a plc. With my taxes. Is this socialism in action? The transfer of tax receipts from the rest of the country to it’s richest region? And to a company that made £132 million profit last year.

39. Leon Wolfeson

@31 – Which makes your current party’s defection to Corporatism especially jarring, yes.

@32 – It’s not “obvious” at all, given their conclusive failure in the general election. Indeed, that’s the PROBLEM with Labour. Their English supporters are sitting at home.

You’re taking a temporary problem and deciding that destroying this country is worth it for short-term gain. Consider your fellow travellers in the SNP /very/ closely…many of them are nothing remotely left…

@35 – Actively punishing the urban poor and making the situation re rent a LOT worse isn’t a good idea.

JW @ 24

This line you are talking about? I assume you are talking about the Scottish/English border? Are you seriously suggesting the border has never existed and by extension, Country of Scotland has never existed, either? You surely are aware of the Act of Union 1707?

Some people in Scotland (myself included) want to see our Country independent from an increasingly remote and alienating British State.

I am sick and tired of watching the things we used to hold dear being shat on. From the Health service being privatised, education, even our roads being sold off to the highest bidder. I am sick of having my Country being used as a nuclear dumping ground and I am tired of seeing the vulnerable in my Country scapegoated by a vicious press remorseless press who hold the main three Parties in thrall. I am sick of the spineless opposition to political injustices being heaped onto those least able to fight back.

What is more, when I vote for a Party that wishes to rectify these things that I am a parasite! I voted for a political Party that scrapped tuition fees and prescriptions, yet the English moan about ‘English taxpayers money being spent’, rather than voting for a similar Party!

Time for a separation I think.

41. Leon Wolfeson

@40 – You have those things anyway. That’s the point.

You’re basically throwing your toys out the pram because there’s no English parliament, and because of FPTP at Westminster. You’re refusing to consider fix problems, and choosing instead to draw a barrier across the map which will cause WORSE problems.

You really think a Tory-controlled, in many ways FAR more hostile state to the South will be better for you?

42. douglas clark

Leon Woolfson,

You keep claiming that the SNP is not remotely left wing. You should have a look at their manifesto. Personalising it doesn’t really work.

43. Leon Wolfeson

@42 – What I’ve said is many of the SNP’s supporters and factions are not left wing. There are a people in Scotland who want independence more than they care about a few left-wing policies.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. But it always is to some people.

Manifesto? LMAO. Oh right, that thing which gets used as tissue paper by ANY party once it’s in power. Pull the other one.

Again, I’m for fixing problems and having a stable, federal UK. This is an entirely viable alternative to splintering a Union which has served well over the centuries for short-term goals. This isn’t some evil plot as some of the more rabidly xenophobic Scotts nationalists make out, it’s an entirely valid, left-wing view.

Either we stand together against the right, or it WILL conquer. Again, why do you think that having a very politically hostile, much larger, direct Southern neighbour is a good idea again? Repeating over and over that it won’t matter since Wales will stay and the gerrymandering doesn’t matter is trying to paper over very real issues.

(And no, neither can you overlook the likely effect on Northern Ireland. It’s called responsibility, welcome to the adult table!)

@36 I’m surprised you still parrot that line about taking the poorest out of tax despite having several times before had the mathematics demonstrating that it is false shown to you.

@43 Leon Wolfson

” What I’ve said is many of the SNP’s supporters and factions are not left wing. There are a people in Scotland who want independence more than they care about a few left-wing policies. [..] This shouldn’t be a surprise. But it always is to some people.”

It won’t be a surprise to anyone remotely interested in Scottish politics, or who hasn’t been asleep for the past decade. The SNP is, and always has been, a fairly broad church. It is widely expected, even among many of its own supporters to splinter, or at least lose a fair amount of its current support post-independence as Scottish politics will doubtless re-align with the formation of new political groupings.

The sea change in recent times has been that more and more Scots have come to believe that the Union is past its sell by date. This feeling isn’t restricted to those of the right, the centre or the left, nor is it sectional, confessional or particularly class based.

The Unionist parties, and their elites in Westminster and more importantly within Scotland have comprehensively lost the argument that Scotland is “too wee, too poor and too stupid”. Devolution, far from “killing independence stone dead” as the hapless Lord Robertson opined in 1997, has simply acted to encourage an appetite for more, and has highlighted the different aspirations of Scottish voters, and their attachemtn to a more communitarian, egalitarian and broadly social democratic model which is increasingly at variance with what “English” voters seem to want.

The chances of the federal UK of your dreams are decreasing by the hour; our crypto-medieval political system militates against it for a start, but in truth there is no real appetite in England for it, and the disparity in sizes between the constituent elements makes it a non-starter.

More importantly however, a growing number of Scottish voters no longer particularly care about the UK as a project, so they are unlikely to find your appeal that we somehow have an obligation to save the poor of the rump UK from the clutches of a perpetual (sub) Thatcherite political settlement. Bluntly put, that’d be your problem, not ours.

Whether our southern neighbour is politically hostile or not doesn’t somehow trump the case against independence. As others have pointed out, the chances are that Scotland will be significantly better off financially as an independent country, it will also take a path which is likely to promote a more equal society than will occur in the rump UK, or indeed than is taking shape currently.

The mistake of the Unionist parties and elites is to present no realistic “devo-max” option to ensure that Scotland stays within the Union. By sowing the wind of the either/or choice in the 2014 Referendum, they risk reaping the whirlwind by giving the SNP 2 years to make more converts, and the hopeless Unionists to carry on doing what they have been… alienating more and more undecided Scottish voters that independence might be better than the alternative.

@ OP

“….The reasons for this seem to owe more to tribal enmity that political sanity.”

The coherent left wing response to Scottish independence that you seek needs to be somewhat better defined. I assume from the argument in your piece (perhaps wrongly..?) that you mean “what should the response of the left in the UK generally be to Scottish independence” ?

The natural response to this is that there are probably as many views as there are flavours of “left”. Given the collapse of both the Tory and LD parties in Scotland, one ought to have expected a “sane” Scottish Labour and UK Labour position to be in the forefront of promoting the policy which all the polls show has overwhelming support amongst the Scottish electorate: some version of full fiscal autonomy/devo-max.

It is hardly outwith the ken of man to devlop such a strategy, drawing on the support of civic Scotland which helped secure the Scottish parliamant in 1997. It puts clear pink water between “the left” and the Tories (who are in total disarray on the issue both North and South of the border) and the SNP who can be portrayed in this scenario as a one trick pony calling for full independence. Labour could then spend 2 years before 2014 making their positive case for the benefits of remaining in the Union, and explaining what “devo max” would look like.

None of this will happen of course, for a number of different reasons. Scottish Labour is busy imploding, and though I hesitate to intrude into private grief, is in no position to lead any coherent response to the SNP machine in Scotland. It’s new leader Lamont is deeply unimpressive, and the party is on schedule to lose control of Glagsow in the May local elections. The visceral hatred they have for the SNP has helped blind them to the fact that they are in danger of going the same way as the toxic Tories and hapless LD’s in Scotland.

The reason more and more former Scottish Labour voters are abandoning them for the SNP is not that they are desperate for independence, but that they rather like what they have seen of the SNP in power in Holyrood. They are happy to “lend” their support to the SNP because it is seen as a more realistic progressive/left of centre/ social democratic force than Scottish Labour, never mind UK Labour.

Since UK Labour are not likely to promote devo-max (they are never likely to get it thru Westminster even if they had the balls to promote it), they have effectively left the field open for the SNP. Scottish voters are unlikely to be impressed with Unionist politicians promising “jam tomorrow” in the form of some undefined increase in devolution AFTER we have voted no to independence.

The honest and coherent course, and the one which would do most to promote the kind of society the left SHOULD be promoting, would be to campaign hard for a devo-max alternative in the 2014 referendum, and spend the next few years showing how this would work, and fit in to a more general progressive reform of our political system.

I won’t be holding my breath… and I suspect nor will Scottish voters as they watch the Unionist establishment in Scotland and the UK more widely contribute to the destruction of the Union they say they want to protect.

47. Leon Wolfeson

@45 – And there you go again, saying that things are already decided. That’s anti-democratic; far worse than anything even the Tories have done so far.

A federal UK – and no, that isn’t “devo-max”, is a perfectly viable alternative. Solving the West Lothian question once and for all and making a union of equals is far preferable to shattering the country into hostile states, as far as I’m concerned.

That’s perfectly left-wing, and not the far-right evil position you’re spinning it as. Your language is straight out of radical nationalism, which is completely contrary to the view of the majority of the left.

Moreover, saying “it’s your problem, it’s your problem” is a childish attitude which will bite you in the ass. It shows you haven’t fully considered the issues and problems which you face.

@46 – It doesn’t actually solve anything, though. It makes the West Lothian question worse, and financially has some major drawbacks compared to independence (which, alone, it’s also a clear step towards rather than a replacement). Which is why I argue for proper federalisation!

I want to solve the problem, not create new ones! (It would also cut the legs out from under the far right English nationalists, who in either independence or devo-max get a huge boost!)

48. douglas clark
49. Leon Wolfeson

@48 – You know Labour’s blundered when the far left start sounding more reasonable, yes.

I still maintain a federal UK, which solves the vexing problems rather than pushing them onto others, should be the default position of the moderate left.

50. douglas clark

Leon @ 49,

I still maintain a federal UK, which solves the vexing problems rather than pushing them onto others, should be the default position of the moderate left.

I’m just pointing out that some on the left appear to agree that we’d be better off out of it. Westminster, I mean.

However, to be fair, I did not understand his final paragraph:

The odious global and domestic role of the British state, and the terminal cancer of British Labourism, are thus merely epiphenomenal, hardly worth consideration. No internationalist or real partisan of the working class could accept these terms. We did not choose to put the abolition of Britain on the table. But the referendum is coming, and we ignore it at our peril.

Who is this ‘we’ to whom he refers? Might it be Unionists? Like your good self?

It is a bit of a conundrum when you try to read the British Left, and that’s the truth.

51. Leon Wolfeson

@50 – Not at all. There’s a simple answer – you appear to be making the mistake of confusing Labour with the left wing in England, which is very much not the case.

There is very little support among the English or Welsh left for partition, although my Welsh friends admit if Scotland leaves they have no choice but to follow.

Again, a federal UK solves the problems which currently vex the union without smashing this country into smaller blocks, drawing dividing lines over the landscape in a way which would – in theory – delight the nationalist right, not some on the “left” as it apparently does.

(It just goes to show how far the moral star of Labour has fallen in fifty years, from it’s very successful moral crusade after WWII to the present day, when I argue a new replacement party on the left should be formed)

I’m up for a debate on the union, and to defend it. I’m not amused by those who label me as evil and corrupt for seeking a true solution other than partition, or would twist the truth to pre-judge the events to come.

52. Martin Miller

David Lindsay got sacked after 2 weeks as an unpaid blogger at the Telegraph after he was exposed for faking his CV. He pretends to be an academic at Durham but it’s laughably asy to expose this as a fraud. He is a fantasist who is laughed at by Durham students and can only publish through a vanity press.

See comments here:

@47 Leon

“And there you go again, saying that things are already decided. That’s anti-democratic; far worse than anything even the Tories have done so far.”

I didn’t say it was inevitable… although I do think that independence is now much more likely.

It is a fairly unexceptional view (both amongst supporters and opponents of independence) however to see a strong correlation, if not inevitability, about the process from past failed attempts to bring about 2home rule”, the 1979 referendum, the re-establishment of the Scottish parliament in 1997, an outright SNP majority in that parliament (which was never meant to happen under the system Labour devised after all), calls for full fiscal independence/ devo-max however it is defined, and then full independence.

I’m not sure how you can throw the accusation that it is anti-democratic about; independence will only happen if the majority of Scottish people vote for it. the Tories will of course bear a heavy responsibility if the Union is dissolved, as their crass policies towards Scotland and devolution over decades have been a major factor in the current situation, and their collapse of support.

You keep harping on about a federal solution, without explaining how it would really work. There is no appetite in England for regional devolution, and unless you are going to radically alter the whole “British” political system, there is no way a fully federal structure would work.

There is no reason why relations between Scotland and the rump UK should be hostile post independence…. it will depend on the situation at the time, the attitudes the respective leaderships have, and how negotiations around areas of disagreement go.

It may comfort you to paint my views as radical nationalism, but it’s far from the truth. I’m not an SNP member or some raving cyber-nat; I simply have a considered view that independence would now be in the best interests of both parties.

The “it’s your problem” line is specifically in response to the claim that, from a left wing perspective, the Scots should somehow feel beholden to the Union on the basis that we have some obligation to the UK project as a whole, such that they should support your federalist dream. Sorry…that’s just not going to happen. Your federalist dream is unlikely ever to be realised for a start, and the Scottish people are wary of promises of “jam tomorrow” having seen such promises evaporate after 1979.

The same response is being given loud and clear now to the Coalition and Labour line that they might think about possibly giving us more devolution sometime in the future…. but only if we vote no in 2014…. yeah, right!

Once independence is achieved, it will be up to Holyrood to address Scottish problems, and Westminster to address UK problems…. nothing particularly contentious about that as far as I can see. The reason the SNP are doing so well, and wiping the floor with Scottish Labour, is that they are seen as more competent, more “social democratic” and more in tune with what the majority of Scottish voters want; people know that if they want an administration that protects the NHS, and enacts policies which have a real impact like no tuition fees, free care for the elderly, free prescritions etc., they aren’t about to get them from Westminster.

54. Leon Wolfeson

@53 – “There is no reason why relations between Scotland and the rump UK should be hostile post independence”

Yes, there most certainly is. On both the right and left. That you can’t see this speaks volumes for the low amount of thought into the consequences you’ve put in. (Again, myself, I’d have to literally flee the country, along with about half my community)

And no, it will be very rapidly up to Westminster to address ENGLISH problems, and the ongoing violence in NI. (Because, yes, there is a lot of investment there in the *United* Kingdom)

Moreover, you’re weakening your point with the laundry list of points which Scotland already has control over!

@54 Leon

Total fantasy. Why would you and your community literally have to flee the country? For that matter what is your community, and which country? Kinda hard to respond when you don’t enlighten us.

Of course there will be disagreements between the parties post independence, but trying to scare people with a host of bogeymen, all imaginary, does you no credit. This isn’t Ireland in the 1920’s we’re talking about; the sky won’t fall down, there won’t be civil war and violence in the streets.

If the Scottish people vote yes in 2014, there will be a process to be followed, and negotiations between the parties; it’s hardly rocket science. For most ordinary folks, there will still be jobs to be done, taxes to be paid.

What happens in NI or Wales is down to the people there to decide; we hear a lot of doom sayers banging on about how NI will sink into some sectarian nightmare…. and there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it…. another Unionist scare story to add to the long list.

In what way am I weakening my argument…? Your point is as opaque as your reasoning I’m afraid!

56. MarkAustin

@46. Galen10 raised Devo Max.

The best position for the non-SNP left is to get behind this, at least to the extent of having on the ballot paper. There are a number of ways this could be done, the simplest being a 3-question paper, preferably with a transferable vote: Status Quo, Dev Max, Independence. Reallocate the votes after eliminating the least popular option and you have a policy supported, if as a second choice of some, by a majority.

The SNP does not want Devo Max, despite what they say, since they are convinced it would win, and put independence off the agenda. At the moment, they are hiding behind the Tories, who for some unaccountable reason don’t want it either. I ssuspect they hope that Devo max supporters will slide back into the Status Quo camp. However, look at the poll figures. It would not take many to switch from Devo Max to Independence for that option to win, in particular if many of the others simply don’t vote.

Currently there are vague promises of “we’ll look at further powers if Scotland rejects independcence”. However, the Tories have form on this. The same sort of promises were made in the first devolution vote: it was lost, and the promises forgotten. In an election campaign, with Alex Salmond and the SNP reminding people of this at every turn, they might pull it off.

Another factor worth considering. All the substantial non-SNP political figures are Westminster politician and virtually all the SNP ones Edinburgh. Alex Salmond would be barking mad—the which he is not—if this was not made a feature of the election.

As well as Devo Max being in my view the right policy—for all parts of the UK—it’s also the best political strategy to defeat the SNP

57. Leon Wolfeson

@56 – There’s a substantial difference between a Federal UK and “Devo MAX”, which would make federalism impossible.

@57 Leon

you keep banging on about this federal UK utopia… pray enlighten us about how it would work, and how it cannot be reconciled with devo-max or full fiscal autonomy or whatever you want to call > devolution than we have now?

@56 Mark Austin

I have no particular axe to grind, as I’m not an SNP member or supporter, but I do think too many people jump to the wrong conclusion about the SNP’s motives, and with little real evidence. Although I accept that many who support independence, and many SNP supporters/members (the two are not one and the same), would accept devo-max as a stepping stone rather than live with the staus quo, it is wrong to doubt the sincere belief of most of these people that independence is the aim, and that there should be one question on the ballot in 2014.

Salmond has been quite careful to say that he is open to the inclusion of another question about devo-max, but since that isn’t an SNP policy (or indeed what his party called for when they won control of Holyrood), he is quite within his rights to put the onus on the Unionist establishment to clarify what this option entails, and what the question ought to be. They have some time to do it before 2014.

This is however, never going to happen; the Unionist parties have too little in common to come up with a joint platform, and more importantly, it will never fly at Westminster. The Scottish people will therefore have 2 years of intensive campaigning about whether they accept the status quo and/or believe the promises of jam tomorrow you already dismissed in your post, or they say “the hell with it” and vote for full independence.

For many, it will increasingly look like a small step from devo-max to our own seat at the UN….. and given the totally hopeless response of all the other parties since Cameron’s original ill-judged intervention a few months ago, the Unionist failure to accommodate the desire of the majority for devo-max may well blow up in their faces.

I’d agree with your point about the Unionists being between a rock and a hard place with respect to the leadership issue and where they are; the Scottish Labour party is in crisis, and is led by a well meaning but essentially clueless cadre with all the charisma of a sea slug. The Tories remian toxic in Scotland, and have a leader with even less hope of making an impact, who is treated with contempt by the UK party. The LD’s are going the same way as the Tories, so can be safely discounted.

If the Tories or Labour really think they can convince the people of Scotland with Michael Forsyth and Alastair Darling, they might as well give up now and start preparing their negotiating strategy for the talks on independence post 2014, as I beleive Mr Cruddas has already hinted the Tories are doing.

The fracturing of the Union is by no means inevitable, but if it happens the Unionists of all parties will have only themselves to blame.

60. Planeshift

“And Wales won’t remain in the Union if Scotland leaves”

I call bullshit. There’s very little genuine desire for independence on Wales”

Support for it has hovered between 7 and 15 % over the last decade depending on which opinion polls you use. But the point you are not considering here is that public opinion in Wales is very much in favor of further devolution including substantial fiscal powers. It’s also very likely that a separate legal jurisdiction will happen now that the assembly has legislative powers. Furthermore, with the tories intent on introducing regional pay, regional benefits and slashing welfare, the desire for greater autonomy will only grow. In welsh politics its the labour party who are the most against further powers at the mo – the tories are looking for ways to slash the estimated 6 billion subsidy (unlike Scotland, nobody denies there is a subsidy to Wales) that Wales has – which means far more fiscal powers in Wales.

So the question is why this support does not translate into outright independence. There are roughly 5 reasons; (1) the population living in the border areas is far greater than in Scotland, and hence there is far greater use of cross border services, (2) Unlike Scotland, the nationalist party has not promoted the idea of independence – most of the older members of plaid cymru largely see their overall objectives as having been achieved (preservation of the welsh language, development of an autonomous institution) and its strategy has been to play a pragmatic role in developing the assembly slowly. This will change under the new leadership, (3) The labour party here quickly realised – unlike scotland -that blairism was a liability. Hence its popularity under Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones has been far higher than under Alun Michael, and it has retained control of the heartlands, (4) As a nation, the confidence of people here is rock bottom, decades of decline have not been reversed and the only ideas that come out of cardiff bay and westminister are further policies of managed decline. We have no self-esteem. (5) This lack of confidence means that people who may – in principle – like the idea of independence accept that the economic arguments are against independence and will be for some time (unless you want to slash public spending by half).

But my guess is that public opinion is not fixed for the majority of people. Many might in principle like the idea of independence but wouldn’t support it because of economic reasons, questions over what happens to the borders, or even what happens to Cardiff and Swansea FC. So further powers gets support, but independence scares people.

There are 3 factors that will change the level of support over the coming decade; (1) Scottish independence, (2) Increasing policy divergence between Cardiff and Westminster with the tories removing the welfare state (which is the main reason why Wales has a subsidy), and (3) Whether Plaid Cymru’s new leadership makes a convincing economic case for independence, and outlines what the future relationship with England will be. The belief in plaid is that we are poor precisely because the key decisions are made in westminster and are made in the interests of the financial services industry, and that small nations can adapt to globalization far more easily and will be far more prosperous than as periphery parts of larger nations (See Adam Price – the flotilla effect for the evidence of this).

61. Leon Wolfeson

@60 – There’s a massive difference between desire and being caught between the ocean and the blue sea.

If Scotland leaves, then you can be sure that the Tories will eliminate the subsidy and start on the bone very rapidly indeed.

62. Planeshift

“If Scotland leaves, then you can be sure that the Tories will eliminate the subsidy and start on the bone very rapidly indeed.”

Regardless of whether Scotland leaves, the tories – deep down – do not want to continue a situation of English taxpayers subsidizing welfare in wales (which it what it boils down to). Their commitment to the union isn’t as strong as their commitment to neo-liberalism, and labour can hardly fight marginal constituencies in England by arguing to retain this subsidy.

In other words we are going to be taking the economic hit at some point. Remaining in the UK means not having the powers to at least re-build the economy. Far better to take the hit at a time of our choosing and at least take the powers to give us a future.

The end of the UK will be traced back to 1979, not 2011.

Devo max may be a sop to the ‘Semi Nationalists’, perhaps even a base camp from which to lead a final assault for independence, but it is not a sustainable position long term. Once Scotland has gained granted full devolution then the Scottish MPs position becomes untenable. Given the fact the Scottish MPs (with the exception of the SNP) spend a great deal of their time voting for things that only affect English and Welsh constituencies, more power to MSPs will mean that the MPs will effectively irrelevant.

Devolution has become the doomsday machine that, ironically enough the Tories in general and Michael Forsyth in particular predicted it would be. Once switched on, it can never be switched off and will lead to the de-facto break up of the United Kingdom. Perhaps not in the next couple of Parliaments or even within my generation, but Scotland days in the United Kingdom are numbered.

I say go now on our own terms or risk a settlement on somebody else’s.

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    Scottish independence and the left: what’s a coherent position? | Liberal Conspiracy via @libcon

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