With the unionist parties trying to spin the Smith Commission’s recommendations as ‘a promise fulfilled’, former PM Gordon Brown has called for Scottish politics to be reset with parties and public turning their attention to the economic and social challenges facing this country now that the question of independence has been settled for the time being.
Now, that’s not a bad idea, in the sense that we need to be debating how this nation is governed for the next half decade or so before even the most optimistic nationalist would seek a second referendum (I’ll ignore the folks calling for a unilateral declaration of independence should the SNP win most of Scotland’s seats in May for the fundamentalists that they are) but there is an overtone of condescension in Brown’s message.
‘Enough of this dissent. Go back into your box and return 40 or so Labour MPs in May, just like you have at every general election for the past fifty years and we won’t discuss this rebellion again. Thanks.’
I’m sorry Gordon, but that will not and should not happen. The enervation of Scotland’s political landscape has been a joy to behold. The referendum debate has energised many people, dragged them back into caring about or even desiring to be active in politics again (myself included) and one of the most pleasing things to see in that awakening was that it was people of all political hues who were energized into either camp.
There was an enduring narrative throughout the independence referendum that it was as much a left vs. right contest as well, with the socialists on the side of independence and the capitalists favouring the union but this was a gross over simplification of the matter, with conservative voters seeing commercial advantage in independence and some left-wingers disliking the concept of putting up more borders
Such supposed inconsistencies in the story led to a great many people looking at their established political allegiances and finding them wanting, most notably in the apparent realization amongst many Labour supporters than their party was no longer of the left, no longer truly in touch with it’s own grass roots and was neither led by or especially concerned with Scotland’s best interests when power at Westminster was at stake.
No wonder a lifelong Labour man like Brown would like to see the clock rolled back and the frame of the debate in Scotland reset to a place where a narrative of Labour vs. Tories led to a regular rash of seats – especially when it seems that Scotland could actually be where the 2015 general election is won or more accurately, lost*.
*Most recent polls according to electoralcalculus.co.uk show Labour likely to finish as the largest party in May but 20-30 seats short of a majority, while they look likely to lose a similar number of seats to the SNP in Scotland. Basically, the SNP surge looks likely to deny Labour a majority government…
Of course, the swell of numbers for the SNP is not a wholly good thing – the drive to subsume the whole Yes diaspora under the gold and black ribbon is insidious and worrying, especially when you consider the SNP’s centralist and capitalist tendencies, which stand at odds with the anti authoritarian and left wing interests which drove much of the nationalist debate.
Sure, they are more left-minded than the Westminster parties and likely to become more so under Nicola Sturgeon but they simply do not and can not represent the broad range of opinions which characterised the Yes campaign and for anyone to infer that they do is a display of ignorance and fanaticism that is not helpful.
The joy of the pre and post referendum campaign has been the surge in political awareness, a flourishing of opinions, passion and hope which does not lend itself to being easily reset, quashed or funneled into one cause.
For all of Scotland, the old order has passed away and it remains to be seen what new order shall arise and where it shall sit within the United Kingdom, Europe and the world in general.
It can only be hoped that the sense of dynamism and plurality which was the best part of the referendum campaign can be sustained and a return to old tribal habits or the rise of a dishonestly homogeneous majority would be a great tragedy and yet another missed opportunity.