Better Together are in a crisis of their own making

In its quest for middle England voters, Labour has for too long taken Scotland for granted.

In its quest for middle England voters, Labour has for too long taken Scotland for granted

‘Ten days to save the Union,’ declares this morning’s Daily Telegraph. ‘No campaign makes last stand to keep the Union,’ argues the Guardian. ‘Queen holds talks with David Cameron over fears her PM may be about to lose Scotland in referendum,’ screams the headline in today’s Daily Record.

Polls may come and go, but yesterday’s YouGov data for the Sunday Times, pointing to a two point lead for the yes to Scottish independence campaign, has electrified the chattering classes both north and south of the border in a way that no other poll has in recent times.

Make no mistake about it, if anyone felt at all complacent about next week’s referendum result they should shake themselves out of that mindset now. An independent Scotland is as real a possibility today as it has ever been.

In response to the crisis confronting the Better Together, and I don’t use the word crisis lightly, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband will later this week unite to set out a timetable for further devolution to the Scottish Parliament and Government in the event of a no vote next week.

But therein lays the problem: it is but a timetable and not a united package of measures.

When David Cameron and Alex Salmond famously signed the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012, David Cameron vetoed any attempt to include so called ‘Devo Max’ on the ballot paper, arguing that it would muddy the waters – this despite the polling showing clearly that this is Scotland’s favoured option.

Yet, having kept it offer the ballot paper, Better Together are now arguing, somewhat convolutedly, that a no vote is actually a yes vote for further powers for Scotland. The problem is that with the Lib Dems, Conservatives and Labour having already set out their own, differing, plans for Scotland, what plans would voters in Scotland be supporting if they reject the SNP’s invitation to leave the Union?

Faced with such confusion, it’s little wonder that for many the clear message of independence seems more appealing than vague promises of unknown extra powers for Holyrood.

But with Labour Party supporters now increasingly attracted to independence, there remains a more fundamental question concerning Labour’s attitude to Scotland.

Under the days of John Smith, Robin Cook, Gordon Brown and Donald Dewer, to name but a few, the Labour Party had at its helm heavyweight Scottish politicians, providing assurances, as no other politicians have, to Scottish voters that their anxieties, their concerns, their hopes and their dreams were being articulated loud and clear at the very top of the UK political tree.

Yet for all the qualities they might have, today’s crop of Scottish Labour politicians – both at Holyrood and in the shadow cabinet – cannot be compared to the stature and respect that John Smith et al managed to command.

In its quest for middle England voters, Labour has for too long neglected Scotland and taken it for granted, with Scottish voters responding in kind by making clear that it is the SNP, rather than Labour, that is now their preferred party.

If Scotland votes to leave the Union next week Labour will have to shoulder as much of the responsibility as a Coalition Government so hated by Scottish voters.

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18 Responses to “Better Together are in a crisis of their own making”

  1. Kay

    Even if Scotland votes to stay in the Union by a narrow majority, the London parties will have suffered an almighty drubbing.

  2. SimonB

    I don’t think the Better Together campaign really wanted to win. I mean, Alistair Darling vs Alec Salmond? Darling is the epitome of dull. They need to dig up someone with charisma and energy to change the momentum, and I don’t think there is anyone.

  3. Lamia

    I think putting more things on the table to tempt Scots now is pointless generosity. They are being asked whether they want to remain part of the Union or whether they want to leave it. They shouldn’t need, and don’t deserve, to be bribed.

    If they do narrowly vote ‘No’ and get even more powers then they will have been wrongly rewarded out of the rUK’s pocket for stringing it out to the last moment and we will be stuck joined to a nation who clearly don’t like us or really want to be with us. I’m not sure I want to be in a ‘union’ with such a nation. Let them vote Yes and let’s get the break up over as quickly and painlessly as possible so we can put the Scots out of mind as far as possible. It will certainly hurt the rUK, but not as much as their endless well of self-pity and never-ending demands will hurt over any coming/remaining years ‘together’.

  4. Lamia

    And we will be left with milions of very resentful and boorish Scots and tens of millions of increasingly pissed off English. We get that the Scots want to go. We’ve asked them to stay but I don’t see why the rUK should plead with or try to bribe a nation that clearly does not enthusiastically want to be with us.

  5. Up north

    Let us northerners vote “yes” and break up from rUK as “quickly and painlessly as possible” as well. That’d hurt rUK even more.

    Most commentators are missing the point that it is our country’s imbalance and focus on London that has led to this situation. Combine that with political parties who all now follow Thatcherite free market dogma and there’s no point to our democracy – we might as well break into lots of small countries who at least can endeavour to rule in a style that suits their local population.

    I think it is a tragedy unfurling before us; if Scotland goes, I as a northern English person will start to campaign for home rule as we don’t want to become a smaller minority dominated by the south east. I’d rather see Scotland stay, not to be accused of self pity and treated as naughty children but to act in solidarity with the rest of the UK that would prefer a balanced country run as a modern social democracy.

  6. John Milne

    Lamia, what do you say to us No voters who have campaigned tirelessly? Are we to be written off so readily? Our job would have been so much easier if the English had shown any real interest in the issue.

  7. up north

    How can you say they don’t enthusiastically want to be with us? It is so close that it is about half and half. Also, until quite recently, more than half wanted to stay. To describe the Scots as potentially resentful and boorish is not helpful to moving on constructively whatever the outcome. I was in Scotland recently and was impressed by the level and passion of debate. I don’t want to lose these people from our country.

  8. Lamia

    John, plenty of English people showed an interest in the issue and begged Scotland to stay. Hundreds of public figures did so. They were shouted down as arrogant, interfering, colonialists.

  9. Lamia

    Let us northerners vote “yes” and break up from rUK as “quickly and painlessly as possible” as well. That’d hurt rUK even more.


    I as a northern English person will start to campaign for home rule

    What will your main industry be? Child grooming rings?

  10. Lamia

    I would rather not have lost them but it seems they enjoy playing at ‘Shall we leave or shan’t we? What’s it worth?’ The rest of the UK bailed out the Scottish banks that caused 40% of the liabilities in the UK crash. Those failures by banks which until 2008 were touted by Salmond as solely ‘Scottish banks’ would have destroyed an independent Scotland’s economy. Salmond of course suddenly remembered that they were ‘UK banks’ and deserved UK taxpayers money to bail them out. The man is a hypocrite.

    There is evidently no gratitude in Scotland for the fact that the rUK saved their arses by taking on much more than our share of the burden and thus lightening theirs. If they can’t be bothered to think six years back, then the situation is hopeless. Believe it or not, not everything wrong in this country or in Scotland is the fault of Westminster, and not everything about the UK is crap.

    It will probably get worse for all parties should Scotland split off but there you go. They are adults and can make their own stupid, damaging and thoughtless decisions themselves. It seems that nothing can be done to persuade them, so why waste more breath on deaf ingrates?

  11. Lamia

    It needs ordinary Scots who still want to remain in the union to try and persuade those around them, who seem to have lost themselves to the dreaming of small minds, to wake up and see that really they are better off as a people as part of the UK. It’s a great shame but politicians (of whatever party) and the rest of the UK population can do no more.

  12. robertcp

    The Labour Party is the problem for people in Scotland. If Scotland votes for independence, it will be an extreme disproving of the New Labour view that Labour voters had nowhere else to go.

  13. Richard Honey

    Ignoring the rude and unhelpful anti-Scottish comments, I thought Will Hutton’s plea for a federal Britain in last Sunday’s Observer shows a much better way forward than either the dismal and rather unpolitical Better Together campaign or the worrying scenario of the UK splitting apart. We could see the energy of the independence debate as an opportunity to offer a far more radical and powerful and engaging rebuttal of rule by the few that could eclipse the false promises of little Englander UKIP. But it would require a political courage and imagination that shows little sign of riding to our rescue in the short time left.

  14. Guest

    So ignoring everything outside your magically nice and wonderful anti-British comments…

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    Er? Labour’s bled millions to “not voting” over the last two decades, as it’s moved right.

    This is not a secret.

  16. Leon Wolfeson

    The hype over one poll is amazing, especially since for instance standard polling does not generally engage with 16-17 year olds, but the evidence from polling aimed at them so far says they overwhelmingly support the Union.

    Labour is once more talking to a narrowing base of centralist supporters, of course, but that’s it’s problem. Change is still better when delivered across the Isle (and the reality is that a UK collapse would take a Scottish economy down for the count anyway, a scenario made far more likely if the right wingers get their way).

  17. Chrisso

    You need to read up on this before claiming: “The rest of the UK bailed out the Scottish banks that caused 40% of the liabilities in the UK crash. …There is evidently no gratitude in Scotland for the fact that the rUK saved their arses by taking on much more than our share of the burden and thus lightening theirs.”

    They were London-based and resourced banks, Scottish in name alone. You’ll next be suggesting it was Scottish profligacy rather than Westminster’s lack of proper regulation that caused them to crash. There’s also an argument that Darling should have limited the amount of public liability he took on for any banks but that’s another thread.

  18. robertcp

    I agree.

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