Kezia Dugdale isn’t at all like Theresa May. Theresa offers nothing but tautologies, Kezia on the other hand has an actual plan. We need a new Act of Union, said Kezia the other week, a new relationship between Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to secure the future of the UK because otherwise it risks breaking apart. It wasn’t much of a plan really, more a statement of fond aspirations. Well let’s be honest, it’s a rubbish plan, but a plan’s a plan even if it’s not a particularly well thought out one. After all, this is Labour in Scotland, and they’ve never knowingly done anything that was well thought out before, so it’s not like anyone was expecting them to start now. Why change a winning formula eh? Oh.
Labour in Scotland said that it wanted a new federal settlement, or rather a confederal one. No one was really sure what the difference was and since different Labour people were saying different things no one was any much the wiser, or particularly cared. There is a difference between federal and confederal, they’ve added the “con” this time because that’s what all Labour’s previous claims that they were going to introduce federalism were. But whatever the new federalism or confederalism means it’s going to be superdooperfantabulous-devo, and not the boring everyday devo that we’ve currently got which is consigning Labour in Scotland to the dustbin of history, otherwise known as the Unionist press. Ill thought out or not, Kezia’s new plan was trumpeted on the front pages as the new great saviour of all things red white and blueish.
Any plans from Labour in Scotland for major constitutional change are only going to make progress if they get the support of the UK party. When the plan was announced, Kezia was asked on Good Morning Scotland Eat Your Cereal whether she had spoken to the UK party leader about it and if he supported the idea. “Yes,” she replied. “Of course he does. Unequivocally. There has never been any suggestion of that otherwise,” said Kezia, confident and assured that Jezza was as desperate as she is to save the arse of her dying branch office.
Unfortunately, no one has asked Jezza. Or if they did he thought they were really talking about a new proposal to act for a union of Bolivian llama herders. He’s all in favour of that sort of thing. It’s just a pity that he cares a lot more about radical politics in Latin America than he does about Scotland.
“A new Act of Union?” said Jeremy looking surprised when the idea was put to him by a BBC reporter. Don’t we already have one of those? What do we need a new one for? I wouldn’t use those words. I wouldn’t call it a new Act of Union. Because when there’s a crisis that threatens to undo the Union, Labour wants to have a convention to discuss the powers of what Jeremy deigned to describe as the devolved assemblies. You can’t have devolution of migration, he added. That would mean borders between regions. No one has told him that Scotland has a parliament. No one has told him that Scotland is a country. No one has told him that Australian states, Canadian provinces, and the autonomous Portuguese provinces of Madeira and the Azores all manage to run their own migration policies.
Jezza wants to have a consultation before he’s consulted himself on the basics. His opposition to Kezia’s plan doesn’t have any logical basis apart from his own misconceptions. Jezza came to public prominence claiming he’d be different, swearing that he’d listen to the people, but as far as Scotland is concerned it’s the same old story. He doesn’t want to know. Whenever the notion of more power for Scotland is raised, Westminster Labour’s kneejerk response is NO!
That’s the big problem for Labour in Scotland. They can propose whatever they like. They can air any number of ideas that will be plastered all over the pages of the Scottish press as a sign that the Union is about to undergo radical change, and so there’s no need for any of this independence nonsense after all. They can do all that, but unless they can get the permission of the Westminster party, they’re as well wishing for a tap dancing unicorn. They’re not going to get it, and they have no means of making it happen because they’re a subordinate branch office. When Westminster Labour tells Labour in Scotland no ye cannae, there’s nothing they can do but eat their cereal.
Labour in Scotland’s plans have gone the same way as all their previous proposals for devomax, devo double plus good, for the nearest thing possible to federalism, for a modern form of home rule.
You might have thought that this major reversal to plans which were plastered all over BBC’s flagship jockocracy news show Reporting North Britain might have merited a a similar amount of publicity by the branch office of our subnational broadcaster. You might have thought that, but only if you were labouring under the misapprehension that BBC Scotland operates in the interests of the Scottish viewing public. They were more interested in attacking the Scottish government on the NHS, telling us how Chris Hoy’s travel plans were disrupted by the weather and he had to get a lift in a gritting lorry, how high winds and lorries are a bad combination, there was a murrdurr, train punctuality has improved but it’s still rubbish and that’s Humza Yousaf’s fault. Only after they got through all those stories, then and only then did they get round to informing us that Labour in Scotland’s grand plan to save the Union had just been screwed over by the party’s UK leader. You’d almost think that they didn’t want to dwell on it.
Yet again Labour in Scotland is mired in confusion and paralysis. No one knows what they stand for. No one knows where they’re going. And increasingly no one cares. As Labour sinks into confusion and irrelevance, it takes the Union with it. We see through the con in confederal.
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