Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence

The number of people supporting independence for Scotland now leads those who disagree with it on both sides of the border, according to new polling.

The number of people supporting independence for Scotland now leads those who disagree with it on both sides of the border, according to new polling (pdf).

The poll, compiled by ComRes for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror shows that whilst across the UK as a whole, 39% of respondents support independence for Scotland (compared with 38% who disagree), across Scotland which will, in the end, decide the future makeup of the union through a referendum in the second half of the current Scottish Parliament, 49% agreed with the idea of independence, compared with 37% who disagreed.

The data comes just over a month after polling by TNS-BMRB for The Herald revealed the proportion of people supporting independence in Scotland was narrowly ahead of those against. 

As the SNP prepares for its annual conference to begin in Inverness on Thursday, the polling will prove a major boost for Alex Salmond as he considers the very real possibility the Scottish people could well give him the independent Scotland that he and his party have long dreamt off.

SNP campaigns director Angus Robertson said:

“This is an excellent poll that shows support, in both Scotland and England, for our nations having a new relationship of equality as two independent countries, sharing a head of state and working together as partners in Europe.”

And speaking exclusively to Left Foot Forward, Andrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, suggested the prospect of an independent Scotland might not all be bad news for the Conservatives either.

He argued:

“Referendums are all about momentum so it is significant that the Scottish sub-sample is on the move in favour of independence while in the rest of Britain the fear of seeing Scotland leave the UK is receding.

“The key long term issue this raises, and which people are not yet grasping, is the impact on Westminster of an inbuilt Tory majority if independence succeeds.”

With the ComRes poll pdf also highlighting support for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Scotland stands at 15% and 5% respectively – compared with support for Labour of 25% and 37% for the SNP – despite the prime minister’s rhetoric, no credible campaign in favour of keeping Scotland within the union can be led by either the Conservatives of Lib Dems.

It is Labour duty, therefore, to establish and lead a credible campaign against Alex Salmond, led by someone with the ability and skills needed to take on the master of Scottish Politics.

Responding to the survey data, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray told Left Foot Forward:

“Those of us who believe in devolution have nothing to fear from the Scottish people. The only person who does is Alex Salmond who won’t bring forward his referendum because he thinks he’ll lose. The reality is that the vast majority of Scots want to make our country better, not separate.

“A survey of a hundred-odd folk is not a serious opinion poll – to get a statistically significant poll you really need a sample size ten times that, and such polls routinely show the vast majority of scots want a strong Scotland as part of the UK.”

Ed Miliband’s readiness to promote more Scottish MPs to Labour’s frontbench is undoubtedly welcome – but they will need to avoid being seen as mouthpieces for the party in Westminster. As Douglas Alexander has himself alluded to, Scottish Labour needs to form a distinctly Scottish view of society, established in Scotland itself.

That may mean some variance in policy from London, but it is a variance that is needed to ensure the party north of the border is able to respond to the SNP machine effectively and reclaim the mantra of being the party of Scotland.

The campaign needs to be one based on grassroots support, working not just with other parties but also with campaigning and civic organisations and groups that wish to see Scotland remain in the UK. A strong, positive message has to be agreed between them all to avoid the impression the case against independence is all about picking holes in the SNP and practicing the politics of negativity.

Senior Scottish Labour figures need also to drop altogether their continued insistence they cannot campaign alongside David Cameron and Nick Clegg. A campaign to save the union has got to be based on recognition it is the SNP rather than the coalition in Westminster that are the threat. If May’s elections should teach Labour anything, it is that trying to fight the Tories in Scotland is a waste of time and energy.

And finally, as members of the Scottish Labour party consider who would be best to lead them, they will need to do so with the prospect of a hotly, and in all likelihood, bitter campaign ahead. The next leader of the party in Scotland will need the energy, ability and communications skills to get a clear message to the people of Scotland and more importantly to take Alex Salmond on and win.

As Scottish Labour continue their internal navel gazing it’s time to look out, to take the SNP on and once again become winners north of the border, not just for its own sake, but for the future of Scotland.

So far, it is nowhere near achieving it.

See also:

Supporters of the Union must wake up to the real prospect of independenceEd Jacobs, September 5th 2011

Cameron raises prospect of early vote on Scottish independenceEd Jacobs, July 11th 2011

The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand?Ed Jacobs, July 5th 2011

Calls for Holyrood reform, as ‘no to independence’ campaign gets seriousEd Jacobs, June 13th 2011

The five steps to Scottish independenceProfessor Robert Hazell, May 7th 2011

32 Responses to “Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence”

  1. Political Planet

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence: The number of people supporting independence for… //t.co/8NzeyQY8

  2. Emma Davies

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence, says @EdJacobs1985: //t.co/2RullJYI

  3. Stewart Lochhead

    "Alex Salmond.. the master of Scottish Politics." //t.co/64ShTkbO Scots Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence Ed Jacobs

  4. UK to Pakistan

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence – Left Foot Forward //t.co/ge4nj80O #UK

  5. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence //t.co/quY5sG6F

  6. Geoffrey Pearson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence //t.co/J1R67M2c

  7. Geoffrey Pearson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence //t.co/J1R67M2c

  8. Stuart

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence – Left Foot Forward //t.co/56O9M0iF

  9. Rob the crip

    A massive Oil strike in Scotland worth Billions all the money going to the English government when it’s Scotland who should benefit from the Tax revenue, and you want labour to respond, how, asking Tony Blair to take over, asking Tom Watson because he cracked News International, none of them are interested in anything but how much money they can earn how high up they can go. Labours going to be shocked I suspect at the next election with Miliband a total wet, and Scotland are sick like a lot of others of a Labour party who’s main hope is they are seen as the second Tory party.

    I’d vote for independence.

  10. Angus MacNeil

    Why should labour be against Scottish independence. They, I hope, are not against Irish or Norwegian independence, or Spanish or Portugese so why against Scottsih? Aping Thatcher and Major and blocking progress for Scots will see Labour go the same way as Tories in Scotland.

  11. Jock MacSporran

    The panic is now palpable amongst the Unionist ranks. You can smell the fear. Special “teams” being set up. Visits to Scotland by “big beasts”. The hilarious thing is that Alex Salmond has already won!
    People in Scotland see the referendum as having two possible options: DEVO MAX (effectively, independence in all but name) or SELF-DETERMINATION. It’s a win-win for Alex Salmond and a win-win for the people of Scotland. The Unionists were so busy lining their own pockets and the pockets of their pals they didn’t even notice.

  12. John Bottcher

    2 points:

    1 – Ian Gray is not “Scottish Labour Leader” – the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland is Ed Milliband. This is the core problem: Labour have not devolved their party. They need to do so, urgently. Margaret Curran in Westminster should be lead by whoever will be leading Labour in Scotland.

    2 – An unholy alliance of Labour with the toxic Tories and the detested Lib Dems to “Save the Union” is the one guaranteed way for Scots to vote overwhelmingly for independence.

    Labour should support Full Fiscal Autonomy if it has any sense.

  13. Jock MacSporran

    “It is Labour duty, therefore, to establish and lead a credible campaign against Alex Salmond, led by someone with the ability and skills needed to take on the master of Scottish Politics.”

    How about Joseph Goebbels?
    He has the exact skills they need to win and, best of all, being dead 66 years puts him at no great disadvantage to other Labour candidates for the job.

  14. Dubbieside

    I cannot wait to see Ed Miliband sharing a platform with Cameron and Clegg telling us how great it is to be ruled by Westminster when we can have politicians like them telling us what to do.

    Throw in Boris and that will secure Scotlands vote.

    Why would Labour support and campaign for, torys at Westminster controlling Scotlands finances, rather than Scots at Holyrood?

  15. alanski

    Why should Labour automatically reject Independence? What is your problem? Scottish Labour, miserable shower that they are, should support Independence and break away from their bosses in Westminster. Otherwise, i’ll never vote for them again.

  16. DougtheDug

    These two statements make interesting reading.

    “It is Labour duty, therefore, to establish and lead a credible campaign against Alex Salmond…”

    “A campaign to save the union has got to be based on recognition it is the SNP rather than the coalition in Westminster that are the threat.”

    So it seems that for Labour the preservation of the the British Establishment and the British State takes precedence over all other considerations and that the Social Democratic SNP are considered as a worse menace than the Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition not because of their social policies but because they threaten to break the Union.

    Labour have been a creature of the British Establishment for years but it’s only as that establishment comes under threat from the SNP that Labour’s true blue colours emerge and the truth that the Con/Libs are their natural allies against Scottish self-determination becomes even more apparent.

  17. Charles Addison

    If Labour continue to wrap themselves in the Union flag while deciding to go it alone in taking the initiative against independence, they will merely complete their weird metamorphosous into the Scottish Unionist party, which most of us have watched with mounting disgust.

    Already, unionist issues seem to be more imortant to them than those of class and social reform. Continued talk about radical change with no evidence of any policies, continued ad hominem attacks while stressing the need to move beyond this, continued talk about leadership without any leaders. Same new Labour spin. Flash without content!

    The only escape for them, is to be radical and support Devolution max; both for Scotland and their own party structure. Personally, I won’t hold my breath as I suspect that they will go for a fudge that satisfies no one then rely on smear ‘n fear campaining as that is the New Labour way. Labour, real Labour, radical Labour is already dead a fact that does not bring me any joy.

  18. David Munro

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence //t.co/fPZtxy8d
    Nowhere does it give any reason why it's a threat.
    #sp4

  19. Gordon

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence //t.co/fPZtxy8d
    Nowhere does it give any reason why it's a threat.
    #sp4

  20. David Ogilvie

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence, says @EdJacobs1985: //t.co/2RullJYI

  21. Alba gu brath

    It’s all starting to get quite desperate from the unionists. Labour will never support independence or devo max they have to much to loose ie scottish oil & gas, whisky revenues etc. No unionist has came up with even 1 good reason for Scotland to remain in this union. They refuse Scotland the right to self determination at the same time they support independence for other countries. You couldn’t make this stuff up the hypocracy is astounding.

  22. Brian Hill

    Don’t you mean Wake up to the JOY of Independence?

  23. Laura

    I’m getting sick of these articles telling us someone has to stand up to Salmond. Now the people who are going to do it need to be found. There are plenty of talented Scottish Labour politicians – it’s just that they seem utterly disinterested in opposing Salmond when they can be bashing Tories in Westminster. I would be very interested to hear all the justifications for why they can’t possibly be the right people to do the job and what they think is going to happen while they are busy elsewhere.

  24. Alan Cowan

    Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence | Left Foot Forward //t.co/3QVj0ts1

  25. PMK

    Independence: “Bring it on!”

  26. Graeme

    Another horrendously biased article from LeftFootForward once again.

    “As Scottish Labour continue their internal navel gazing it’s time to look out, to take the SNP on and once again become winners north of the border, not just for its own sake, but for the future of Scotland.”

    You do know that Scottish independence is the best hope we have for the prevalence of Centre-Left politics in Scotland? You haven’t given any argument in the article as to why the Union is better for the future of Scotland. Stop blindly supporting Labour and consider what the best hope is for a more Left wing Scotland! The Union certainly isn’t it!

  27. Will

    @Graeme: This site should really merge with Labour List, as since May 2010 and especially since May 2011, it’s always been Labour, Labour, Labour, who are treated as heroes of the progressive movement (see: the Lib Dems are “Tories in all but name”, and the old “Tartan Tory” nickname is back to describe the SNP). The SNP were elected with a majority in a system that Labour rigged in a way that such an event wouldn’t happen (either to force coalition, or, for the more cyncial, make sure Labour are over-represented), and were the only party (apart from the Greens) to make gains in Scotland. Surely, they have that mandate to seek independence or, at least, greater autonomy.

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  32. uglyfatbloke

    The big question for Labour and Tory alike is surely ‘if the Union is so good, how come Danes (not to mention Finns, Norwegians and even Icelanders) are rich and Scots are poor?’ If there is a reasonable case then it should be made. If not, perhaps we are pursuing the wrong agenda.

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