SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Its core support alienated, its top echelons thirled to the metropolitan media, it’s on the road to nowhere, writes George Kerevan.
Of all the outcomes stemming from the referendum No vote on 18 September, the least noticed (because most counter-intuitive) is the disaster it is for the Labour Party in Scotland.
The extra 15 or 20 points the Yes camp won on top of the traditional bedrock support for independence came largely from Labour’s core electoral base. Labour’s pro-Union message was spurned not just by Glasgow’s white working class but by an Asian community totally alienated by the Cameron government’s position over Gaza. Even in its Pollokshields political bastion, the Sarwar political dynasty was unable to hold the Muslim vote for Labour’s pro-Union position.
True, Labour was able to mobilise support from trade unionists in the defence industries, who felt (rightly or wrongly) that their livelihoods were threatened by separation from the UK. But the Yes camp was always going to lose that particular constituency. On the other hand, the alienated poor in the housing schemes that ring the affluent city centre of Glasgow instinctively responded to the message being preached on the doorsteps by the young activists of the Radical Independence Campaign that a Yes vote would see off the chances of another Tory government “forever”.
The Scottish Labour leadership, abetted by the metropolitan media, wrongly tarred proponents of independence as tartan romantics – or even anti-English bigots. The reality is that, by the end, the Yes campaign had morphed into the beginnings of a genuine populist, anti-austerity movement like the “Indignant Citizens” in Greece or the May 15 Movement in Spain. Put another way, it was class politics – not old-style nationalism – that fired the Yes campaign.
The emergence of broad-based, anti-austerity movements across southern Europe has proved electorally lethal to existing mainstream social democratic parties. The once-powerful Spanish Labour Party is haemorrhaging support to Podemos, a loose coalition of anti-austerity activists groups founded only this year. Yet Scottish Labour wilfully discounts the fact that 45 per cent of voters felt so alienated from the capitalist system that they persisted in voting Yes despite dire warnings of economic catastrophe if they did not toe the Unionist line. Labour may not feel so smug after Chancellor Ed Balls introduces emergency cuts to keep the financial markets happy – and a Scottish equivalent of Podemos takes 15 per cent of the vote at the 2016 Holyrood election.
Perversely, had there been a Yes victory, Scottish Labour would now face a bright future. It would certainly dump its present lacklustre Holyrood leadership, which hardly shone during the referendum. But within a short period, the rejuvenated Scottish Labour Party might form the government of an independent Scotland.
Instead, Labour now faces Tory demands that Scotland’s representation at Westminster be slashed as a quid pro quo for giving Holyrood more powers. That will diminish Labour’s chances of forming a UK government. Never mind the fact that David Cameron is planning to create an English legislature that will be dominated by Ukip and Tory right-wingers. Will England then demand its own independence referendum?