Monday, December 14, 2009

Salmond’s Worst Nightmare – Independence Without Him

Consider the following scenarios:

1. The New Labour project is dead in the water after losing the next UK General Election in 2010. They suffer devastating losses in England and Alex Salmond’s nationalists take around 20 seats at Westminster, give or take, but do not hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

2. Many of the Scots in New Labour’s cabinet lose their parliamentary seats, including London’s Nullipotentiary for England’s last remaining colony of Scotland, Jim Murphy (above). Ex-PM Gordon Brown resigns from politics.

3. With the massive Tory victory, the demand for independence surges by 25 points in the polls. Independence looks certain to succeed. All that stands in the way is an unholy alliance of Unionist parties at Holyrood blocking the referendum. It seems only a matter of time before one of them breaks ranks and allows it to proceed.

Which party will it be?

4. With the New Labour jackboot now removed from their necks, the Scottish Labour party at Holyrood is soon in open revolt, unafraid of criticizing the former policies of London Labour.

5. A Labour ex-First Minister raises the flag of a New Scottish Party, independent of London Labour, and proclaims his support for old-fashioned socialist values in Scotland. Attacking the record of New Labour, he distances himself from the lies told to invade Iraq, politicians fiddling expenses while soldiers face enemy fire with inadequate equipment, support from the Orange Order, nuclear power stations in Scotland, Gordon Brown’s culpability for the UK economic crash, subsequent banking bonuses, and the idea of Trident on the Clyde.

All of which resonates strongly around Scotland.

6. Scottish trade unions announce that they will fund the New Scottish Party directly, rather than sending their donations through London Labour.

7. Seeing this as their only chance of avoiding the political oblivion of their UK counterparts, Scottish Labour MSPs declare their support for the New Scottish Party en masse.

8. What is left of New Labour cries foul, only to be ignored by the New Scottish Party.

9. The nationalist lead in the polls is wiped out overnight. The New Scottish Party is immediately neck and neck with the SNP, and independence is no longer inevitable.

10. The New Scottish Party leader calls Salmond’s bluff and declares his desire for a referendum to settle the matter once and for all. “Independence is a matter for the Scottish people to decide,” he says. “We must respect their democratic will.” Both the Unions and the Scottish media, seeing the chance to kill off independence, immediately back the challenge.

11. London Labour protests, and, now seen as a separate party, is again ignored.

12. Salmond accepts the challenge and the referendum is on.

13. The whole country gets behind it, seeing it as an exercise in democracy that will settle the independence question for a generation. The other Holyrood parties are beside themselves with panic.

14. The referendum is held and one of two things happens:

Scenario A: Scotland votes NO to independence. The debate is passionate but the poll is seen as fair, and Salmond’s central policy is shown to be a fizzer. In 2011 the Scottish electorate, recognizing the old fashioned socialist values the New Scottish Party now represents, and the leader's toughness in taking the fight to Salmond, elect the New Scottish Party as the next devolved Scottish government in 2011, with the SNP in opposition.
Result: the members of the New Scottish Party are back in power and Scottish independence is averted.

Scenario B: Scotland votes YES to independence. Salmond and his nationalist government negotiate an end to the Union, and Scotland becomes an independent country. The first election in an independent Scotland for over 300 years is called in 2011. Similar to what happened to Churchill after WW2, the Scottish electorate sees Salmond as having done his job and vote him out of power, and the New Scottish Party becomes the first government of Scotland, with the SNP in opposition.
Result: the New Scottish Party is the party of power in a newly independent Scotland. Salmond gains his place in history as the deliverer of independence, but not as the architect of the independent Scottish state. The Tory and LibDem parties are suspected by the electorate of still being part of their UK parent parties and their support is obliterated for opposing the referendum.

RESULT EITHER WAY: after the Tories are elected in 2010, the best chance Scottish Labour have got of keeping their jobs in Holyrood is to distance themselves from London Labour and to agree to the referendum.


Scenario C: In May 2011, with the Tories having been in power in London for a year, the SNP appears as the only party that has stood up to the them and fought Scotland's corner. Labour's attacks on the Tories have sounded impotent, and have only served to underline what a mess they left for the Tories to sort out. After years of the Unionist parties point-blank refusing to hold the referendum, the May 2011 Holyrood election becomes a de facto referendum on independence, and Labour, the Tories and the LibDems ALL lose A LOT of seats to the SNP.

The SNP is very close to forming a majority government and independence draws even closer.

Union poll shows majority in favour of independence


Descartes said...

Scottish Labour haven't got the stones for this.

They are kept on a very short leash.

subrosa said...

Scenario 3 sounds fine to me but somehow I think the tories will play as dirty as labour. Here's hoping I'm wrong.

OutLander said...


You may be right, but politicians being politicians, there will come a point when they put their own survival ahead of the party's.

OutLander said...

Hey Rosie,

It might even be easier for the Tories to break away from London control than Labour.

It all comes down to who controls the money.

And all the LibDems need is another criminal to write them a fat cheque and Bob's yer uncle.

Anon said...

It's too late for Labour in Scotland to be saved. History shows that Labour has never helped Scotland, whether under Ramsay Macdonald, Clement Attlee, or Harold Wilson. Attlee was pro-NATO, pro-Korean war & pro-nuclear weapons. Beveridge, the architect of the NHS, was a member of the Liberal party. Between 1947 and 1951 working class people suffered a drop in their real wages.

OutLander said...


"History shows that Labour has never helped Scotland"


MacDonald and the Red Clydesiders ditched Home Rule almost the second they crossed the border to take up their seats at Westminster in 1922.

Labour have always been stake-holders in both the perpetuation of capitalism and the continuation of a working class to serve it. They have never been interested in either Marxist revolution or the improvement of the working class into a middle class.

They are, essentially, a key part of the British establishment.

Anonymous said...

will the london tories give financial help to labour in Scotland, all hidden of course,its what labour MP,s from Scotland can bring to the English plate, thats what is important, think about it !!

Dark Lochnagar said...

A well thought out peice. My option would be for 'C'. But there is always optopn 'C' with Salmond still at the helm and leading Scotland, or perhaps retiring and remaining as some sort of Presidential Figurehead.

Vronsky said...

Scenario D - the status quo ante

The Tories are in power and doing dreadful things, Labour present themselves as the radical opposition and everyone forgets that they behaved just as badly when in power themselves. The SNP and independence continue to be depicted as tangential to the important task of removing the Tories. Then half a generation later labour win a general election, behave worse than the Tories and - oh wait, this is where we came in.

An endlessly recurring political Groundhog Day.

Hythlodaeus said...

Ex-Labour First Minister?

Well, Donald Dewer might have done it (and would probably have gained a lot more independence for Scottish Labour by now).
Henry McLeish isn't the type of politician to do it.
Jack McConnell is a bit of a rebel but not enough to split a party.

Wendy Alexander might have done it, but even when she was leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, I don't think she'd have had enough support to be anything more then a more left-wing SDP.

Current word on the grape vine is about an influx of potentially former MPs taking seats in 2011. Can't see Des Brown or Jim Murphy doing anything other then oppose any form of independence in Scotland.

Interesting thought, but I just don't think there is anyone who could unite the left in Scotland sufficiently to pull off something like this.

DougtheDug said...

The first thing wrong with point 4 is that there is no Scottish Labour Party. The British Labour party is represented in Holyrood by Labour MSP's and it holds Scottish seats in Westminster but there is no distinct Scottish organisation in Labour for the rebels to rally round.

Point 5 assumes that underneath British Labour in Scotland there is a socialist party waiting to get out which is in all probability very wrong.

In a similar fashion to point 4 there very few Scottish trade unions. Apart from Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), the Scottish Society of Playwrights and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) all the trade unions that operate in Scotland are British trade unions and intrinsically hostile to Scottish independence.

What this means is that there is no chance of the Scottish members of the British Labour party breaking away because they have nothing to rally round, not even a regional leader like the Tories or the Lib-Dems and they will not get money from the British trade unions to fund this party nor have any title to any British Labour property in Scotland. The other missing part of the mix is that as loyalists to the Union there will be no underlying nationalistic drive to form a separate Scottish Labour party.

The only driver for a separate Scottish Labour party will be as a mechanism to keep their seats and salaries but that requires an independence of thought and deed that the members of the British Labour party in Scotland haven't demonstrated so far. What they will do his sit tight and hope that by blocking any independence referendum what goes around will come around again and the usual buggins turn of the big two in Westminster will get them back into power eventually Scotland. Any playing with a breakaway party will ruin their career prospects in the British Labour party, Westminster and eventually a chance to be vermin in ermine in the house of Lords.

This knocks out scenarios A and B immediately and leaves only scenario C and Vronsky's scenario D.

OutLander said...


"london tories give financial help to labour in Scotland, all hidden of course"

Now there's a conspiracy theory if ever I heard one. I know London Labour and the Tories are both Unionist parties, but do you really think that is likely?

Any help is more likely to come from the British state itself, not another political party.

OutLander said...

Cheers, DL,

"there is always option 'C' with Salmond still at the helm and leading Scotland"

Indeed. Which is what the Unionist parties are facing if they don't confront their London leaders and take the fight to him.

It's a funny thing about the presidential thing. If it comes to it, I expect people to want to keep the Queen. Not because they love her especially, but because they'll have a problem with a Scottish head of state.

OutLander said...


"the status quo ante"

It's possible, although technically, with the very existence of the Scottish parliament, after the Tories win the coming UK election we'll be in uncharted territory.

So we know that whatever happens after that, it cannot be a return to the eighties. Scotland will have it's own voice, not a Feeble Fifty waving their dispatch papers across the floor of Westminster.

If anything, there will be a year of Labour and the SNP vying for recognition as the legitimate voice of Scotland in the face of a Tory onslaught. The difference will be that Labour will lack credibility after just having lost an election, and the SNP will still be in the ascendency.

OutLander said...


Good analysis. Of course, regardless of any will or desire to pull it off, whether anyone actually could is another matter.

"Current word on the grape vine is about an influx of potentially former MPs taking seats in 2011."

That should make things at Holyrood interesting. Granted, it would be good to see Salmond v. Murphy face to face, although I don't think Murphy is that good on his feet, from what I've seen at Westminster anyway. Tugging his forelock to a largely indifferent audience of English MPs is not the same thing as FMQs.

OutLander said...


"there is no Scottish Labour Party...there is no distinct Scottish organisation"

Yes, that was kind of the point I was trying to make. Apologies if I was unclear. I know they represent themselves as a separate organisation at elections but as we all know this is highly deceptive.

"there are very few Scottish trade unions... all the trade unions that operate in Scotland are British trade unions and intrinsically hostile to Scottish independence."

This is where I'm unclear. What about the STUC, and the Unions they represent? From their website:

"The STUC represents over 640,000 trade unionists, the members of 37 affiliated trade unions and 22 Trades Union Council ...The trade union movement played a leading and active role in the campaign to establish the Scottish Parliament... much of our campaigning work has focused on influencing the policies of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government..."

We've seen that unions in Scotland have the ability to strike independently. And if they're used to dealing with the Scottish parliament, it's not impossible that they might at some point act out of self-interest to get a better deal for their members as part of a Scottish state. It depends on how anti-union the English Tory Government become.

DougtheDug said...

The STUC may be the Scottish equivalent of the TUC but the unions they represent are almost all British unions.

I missed two Scottish Unions.

Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHTS)and the Scottish Carpet Workers Union.

There is a list of UK unions on Wikipedia and the TUC has a list.

The TUC list doesn't have the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), the Scottish Society of Playwrights, the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHTS) and the Scottish Carpet Workers Union so they may not be affiliated to the TUC.

The Labour party is a British organisation as are the Unions who fund it so any breakaway Scottish Labour party would be on its own financially and a dead end for the ambitious in the Labour party. Cathy Jamieson has already indicated that she wants out of the Scottish Parliament and wants to be a back-bencher in opposition in Westminster as that gives her a career in a real parliament as she sees it when Labour's buggin's turn comes round again in Westminster.

A break-away socialist Scottish Labour Party is a non-starter.

scunnert said...

It hardly matters which scenario wins as the locus of power is now Brussels not Westminster. "Independence" from the UK is moot when the EU is calling the shots.

Anonymous said...

isn't scottish labour the catholic maffia?

OutLander said...


Did we not do this already?

Is your solution to just leave things as they are and do nothing?

Anonymous said...

I'm for any scenario that leaves us independent.

Alex Salmond is a competent politician but if he's not the first First Minister of an independent country I don't care, as long as we HAVE our own First Minister.

We could offer him the job of president as a thank you for all he has done.