Labour’s Scottish headache continues

Ed Miliband would do well to start fighting with 'every fibre of his being' in Scotland.

Ed Miliband would do well to start fighting with ‘every fibre of his being’ in Scotland

Labour’s recent worries will be compounded by news that the SNP’s membership surge has been especially felt across Labour’s West of Scotland heartlands.

Total SNP membership now stands at around 80,000 as of last week – a threefold increase since the independence referendum, making it the third largest political party in the United Kingdom.

However, the Herald has reported that over the same period, Glasgow, once dubbed ‘Red Clydeside’, has seen a five-fold increase in membership, building on the city’s rejection of Labour’s pleas for it to vote to stay in the Union.

In Motherwell and Coatbridge, the membership surge has seen a six fold rise in membership of the SNP.

In contrast, it is thought that Labour’s membership north of the border as slumped, with the Herald noting:

“As recently as 1998, Labour had almost 31,000 members in Scotland but 10 years later this had fallen to around 17,000 and the party stopped reporting figures. It is now believed to have dropped to below 13,000 and the SNP surge may well hasten that decline.”

Such figures will sound alarm bells ringing in Labour circles, with the very probable spectre that election night next May will see Labour loosing seats to the nationalists. As YouGov’s polling published today shows, support for the SNP in Scotland now stands at 45 per cent way ahead of the 28 per cent polled for Labour.

Meanwhile, it was reported over the weekend that at a gathering this Saturday at Strathclyde University, a group of Labour figures, including former senior spin doctor for Scottish Labour Andrew Mcfadyen, will propose sweeping changes to the party in Scotland, including changing its name, supporting sweeping new powers for Holyrood and refusing to work with the Conservatives in any future independence referendum.

The Sunday Herald’s investigations editor Paul Hutcheon has written:

“The prospectus, to be aired at Strathclyde University this week, notes that the referendum represented ‘an extraordinary political awakening’ in Scotland.

“It claims the risks of independence advanced by Better Together ‘sounded thin to those who have little to risk’ and urged Labour to set out a ‘radical agenda for home rule in the 21st century’.

“The activists’ statement calls for Labour to ‘assert Scotland’s right to self-determination’ and back the devolution of welfare powers, broadcasting, all income tax and ‘substantial economic and industrial’ levers.

“It also urges a policy of ‘non co-operation’ with the Tories if another independence referendum is called.

“In addition, the statement calls for the Scottish party to be ‘fully autonomous’ from UK Labour and equipped with the power to appoint its full-time officials and write its own constitution.

“More radically, the activists urge ‘consideration’ of changing the party’s name to the Independent Labour Party (ILP). The original ILP was formed in 1893 by Labour icon Keir Hardie.”

With Ed Miliband having told the Parliamentary Labour Party last night that he intended to “fight with every fibre” of his being to win the next general election, he would do well to start with Scotland, and work to reconnect Labour with those traditional heartland voters who have grown disillusioned by the Oxbridge elite that makes it difficult to distinguish Labour from the upper echelons of the Conservative party.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.