Tam Dalyell’s dogged fight to abolish Holyrood (your report, 5 July) is closer to Labour’s instincts than is commonly understood; the “40 per cent rule” inserted into the 1979 referendum by Labour’s determined anti-devolutionists is indicative.
Dalyell considers that Better Together is conducting a “fraudulent” campaign because it gives the false impression that voting No will lead to greater powers for Scotland; this prospect is “ridiculous”.
Ironically, Dalyell’s argument fits the 2014 referendum narrative that Labour has adopted. First, at every opportunity Labour has emphasised that the referendum is a “once-and-for-all” decision; for Labour, once a majority of votes are cast No, this decision is final and the matter is closed.
Second, Labour is deliberately unclear about “greater powers” for Holyrood following a No vote; preparing the ground for Labour adroitly to choose finality over change, and characterise the prospect of further devolution as either needless or “ridiculous”. Britain then returns to business as usual.
The problem with both the Dalyell and Labour narratives is that they fail to understand that the problem of the Union is not intrinsically “Scotland” at all, but “business as usual”.
Labour could have won the referendum No campaign at the outset with a simple policy decision: back the clear majority of Scots electors who wanted a two-question referendum (reinforced by Labour’s 1999 referendum precedent).
Labour rejected this opportunity because it did not fit with the “finality”, “once-and-for-all” narrative it was determined would win, even if it meant sharing a common policy and platform with the Conservative Party in Better Together.
Labour’s real priorities are clear: back to business as usual. What is remarkable about Dalyell’s intervention is that while it is large on “fraud” and “ridicule”, not least in his characterisation of Westminster, he fails to offer a single positive word for the Union.
The “finality”, “once-and-for-all”, “business as usual” Labour (Better Together) narrative will fail badly because the underlying economic, financial and social problems facing the Union, as a product of Britain’s recent history of systemic economic irresponsibility, merge seamlessly with the shattering consequences of the credit crunch. Yet unresolved, these are real, life-changing problems impervious to narratives, and mortgaging all our futures.
A No vote solves nothing and finishes nothing.
John S Warren
Joan Mitchell (Letters, 5 August) refers to the United Kingdom as “a 300-year-old voluntary political partnership”. Though the Scottish Parliament agreed to it in 1706-7, it did so in the knowledge that the alternative was military invasion with intent to impose a union on worse terms.
The Scottish people at the time did not agree to it and had a referendum been held it seems certain that union would have been overwhelmingly rejected.