Kezia Dugdale was open to the idea of independence a few weeks before the Brexit vote, saying that a Scotland that was being dragged out of the EU might cause her to reconsider her opposition. Thankfully everything that’s happened since has reassured her that staying a part of a UK that’s dragging Scotland out of the EU and into a dystopian far-right xenophobic hate-fest is just fine and dandy. That’s why she told the Murnaghan Show on Sky that “Scottish Labour is committed to tackling poverty and inequality. You can’t do that with independence.”
The hapless representatives of Labour in Scotland have said a few asinine and fatuous things in their time, but Kezia’s statement is way up there in the pantheon of great political stupidity along Arnold Schwarzenegger’s statement that “gay marriage should be between a man and a woman”, Jim Murphy’s prediction a few weeks before his party’s utter rout in the May 2015 General Election that Labour was going to increase the number of seats it held in Scotland, and everyone in the Scottish media who hails Ruth Davidson as the saviour of the Union.
Of course, if Scottish Labour has indeed been so committed to tackling poverty and inequality then it does kind of make you wonder just why it is that we have so much of it. Four of the most deprived constituencies in the UK are in Glasgow. Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, has a ballooning number of people who depend on foodbanks in order to eat, we have an obscene inequality in income which is only getting wider. And much of this occurred under Labour’s watch. Kezia’s statement ignores the fact that most of us who support independence ended up doing so because we looked upon the poverty and inequality which blights Scotland, and we looked upon a Labour party which promises the world in opposition but which morphs into Tories with a sad face as soon as it gets a snifter of power. Benefit sanctions were introduced under the last Labour government.
Right now, Kezia and the Scottish Labour leadership’s strategy for tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, seems to consist of doing all it can to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and so ensure that we’re faced with Tory governments for decades to come. At a time when the Tories were rudderless and directionless in the aftermath of a Brexit vote that they had brought upon the country but which they shamefully had no plans to deal with, Labour didn’t choose to press its advantage. It chose to attack its own leader instead.
Labour isn’t tackling poverty and inequality. Labour is flailing around trying to find some excuse for remaining a part of a state that creates and fosters poverty and inequality. They hate Scottish nationalism so much that in the name of a supposed and imaginary internationalism they rush headlong into the embrace of the most vicious right wing British nationalism that we’ve ever seen.
We have a British government which is refusing to make any concessions to Scotland. England’s wishes must be respected, but Scotland’s can be ignored. Labour’s fine with that. In order to score what they mistakenly believe is some anti-nationalist point they consign millions of Scots and hundreds of thousands of EU citizens to the mercies of an unforgiving and xenophobic British nationalism. Scotland is the last outpost of the British Empire and our role is to act as a figleaf so that the Labour party can pretend that British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. Subsuming Scotland’s needs to those of the British state allows them to pretend that they’re internationalist. Their self-delusion is bought at the price of unemployment in Glasgow, of poverty in Dundee, of inequality in the Highlands. Labour won’t tackle those things because the power of their self-delusion is stronger than their ability to see a path out of the misery that they’ve helped to create.
Of course independence by itself doesn’t tackle poverty and inequality. No one has ever claimed that it does. But what independence does do is to give Scotland the tools it needs in order to tackle them effectively, because after more than three hundred years of Westminster rule we’ve learned that Westminster has no intention of doing so. Here we are in one of the richest countries in the world and the poor are getting poorer while the rich grow ever richer. Our public services, our NHS, our pensions, our social security, are all at greater threat than they have ever been.
And after one hundred years we’ve learned that Labour’s Parliamentary road to socialism ends in ermine robes for Labour’s high-heid-yins and the bitter tears of disappointment for the rest of us as we struggle to get to a Job Centre appointment on time fearing that if we don’t we’ll be sanctioned. We owe Job Centre sanctions to Labour as well.
What Kezia is saying when she says that independence won’t tackle poverty and inequality is that buying a toolkit won’t make improvements to your house, so don’t buy the tools you need to do home improvements. What she’s articulating is the naive and stupid idea that independence is a goal in and of itself, that once Scotland achieves independence that’s it. She portrays independence as an end, not as a means. She wants people to believe that there is no reason for independence other than the goal of independence itself.
But that’s idiotic, and it’s not why myself and hundreds of thousands of other Scots are on this journey. We want independence because of what we can do with independence. We want independence because it’s only with independence that the rich possibilities and potentials of Scotland become unleashed. It’s only with independence that the power of Scotland is unlocked from the shortbread tin and we will be able to use that power to redistribute wealth, to rebuild our shattered communities. Our journey to self-determination, our path to a better country, our road to equality and tackling poverty, it doesn’t end with independence. It’s only with independence that it can start. Independence is not the end of the road for Scotland. It’s just the beginning. Let’s get the tools we need, then we can get the job done.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-24th-oct-2016
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