Woo hoo! Labour and the Lib Dems have been defending Scotland’s interests again. Does it not make you so proud that we live in a country where political parties are mature and grown up and don’t play childish games with the lives and opportunities of the people they represent in Parliament. Yesterday there was a vote in Holyrood in which all the parties of Scotland were called on to stand up for what the people of Scotland voted for in a referendum just a few months ago, and to protect Scotland’s membership of the single market. After all, we know how important it is that the results of referendums are respected, don’t we? That’s what the Unionist parties keep reminding us.
However it appears that it’s only the results of the 2014 independence referendum that needs to be respected. Any subsequent referendums only need to be respected insofar as they too respect the results of the 2014 referendum, because the 2014 referendum was the ground zero of electoral respect. Who knew? What we now know is that according to our Unionist parties every subsequent vote in Scotland for the rest of history, irrespective of that vote’s outcome, must be interpreted according to how it “respects” the result in September 2014.
So Scotland’s decision in June this year that we want to remain a part of the European Union, a decision made by a considerably larger margin than Scotland’s decision to remain a part of the UK, only deserves conditional respect. And that respect is conditional on the absolute respect demanded by the Unionists for the referendum in 2014. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall that the question on the ballot in 2014 was “Should Scotland become an independent country and if not will this decision be thrown back in our faces every time we vote differently from the rest of the UK that we’re being told that we’re an equal partner in? Because you’re not really an equal partner, we’re only telling you that just now in order to get you to vote no.”
Yesterday the Scottish parliament voted on a motion asking the UK government for clarity on Brexit, and demanding that Scotland’s membership of the European single market is protected. In other words pretty much what all the parties with representation in Holyrood, with the exception of the Tories, have been arguing for ever since the day after the EU referendum when Boris Johnson stood before the massed ranks of the press like a guilty schoolboy who had nipped behind the bike sheds for a fag and then accidentally burned down the school.
But of course it was an SNP motion. And because it was an SNP motion none of the Unionist parties could bring themselves to support it. Yes that’s right, the party that proudly describes itself as the most pro-European party in Britain, the party which claims to be passionate about its defence of British membership of the EU, voted with the Tories against ensuring that Scotland’s membership of the EU single market is protected. That’s a betrayal way up there with their spectacular U-turn on student fees, and it completes the Lib Dems’ transformation into the Tory party which is distinguished from the rest of the Tory party by the fact that they don’t like Iain Duncan Smith, only not enough so that they’re going to do anything about it.
The Lib Dems, who spent their recent party conference telling anyone who would listen that they were winning, voted with the Tories. No one who has being paying the slightest attention to Scottish politics over the past few years could possibly imagine that the Lib Dems are winning anything. But then no one who was paying the slightest attention to Scottish politics over the past few years paid the slightest attention to the Scottish Lib Dem’s recent conference. It’s a very strange definition of winning, but what Wullie Rennie actually meant by the word winning was that he managed to get a constituency seat in Fife on the back of Tory tactical voting and didn’t have to go back to driving the number 17 bus to Kelty.
In order to keep on winning, in the Wullie Rennie definition of the term where winning means sooking up to Tories in order to gain their tactical votes and save Wullie’s skin, the Lib Dems voted along with the Tories against defending Scotland’s place in the EU single market. Wullie knows that he’s winning because the Lib Dems are subject to the howls of cybernats on social media. Who knew that being the object of derisive laughter was a recipe for success. The Lib Dems are going to be hearing a whole lot more of it. Wullie will be happy that he’s winning.
Labour didn’t oppose the motion, instead they adopted their usual tactic of standing up for Scotland’s rights, for the defence of the poor and vulnerable, and for social democratic politics, by bravely running away and abstaining. Fearlessly and unflinchingly, in the face of a vote against something that threatens to strip working people of rights and opportunities you can count on the Labour party to heroically sit on its hands and look the other way. It’s very important for the Labour party to protect its hands, because it needs them so that they can wring them uselessly a few months later when they complain about how terrible it is what the Tories are doing. There are open toed wellingtons which have more sense and purpose than the Labour party.
Ian Murray, the honourable member for Red Morningside, illustrated Labour’s uselessness yesterday when he complained about the ill effects of the Tory benefit policies which are throwing thousands of families into penury. Those would be those same policies that Labour didn’t vote against in the House of Commons, they sat on their hands and abstained.
When she became leader of the Scottish branch office, Kezia Dugdale stated that one of the problems that Labour faced is that people in Scotland no longer know what the party stands for, and are no longer listening to it. Nothing much has changed there. We still don’t know what the party stands for because they say one thing and then won’t vote for it when it comes to the crunch. And we’re not listening to them because if when it comes to a vote on protecting the interests of Scotland, or the interests of those dependent on social security, or the interests of the low paid, all Labour does is to abstain, then it’s clear that the party has no opinions worth listening to. They had a chance to change that yesterday, but instead, oops they did it again.
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Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-16th-nov-2016
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