If you think back to the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, the SNP wheeled out their supposed big guns, singers, actors and various personalities. The idea of their presence was quite simple, it was endorsement. Given the SNP attempt its due, the 'official' rubber stamp of celebs that indy was a good idea in theory, some of choices however weren't. What we know now from their disastrous campaign is, the 'white paper' for indy was a lie, 650 pages of deception of a golden age nirvana which couldn't and wouldn't exist, and the SNP politicians lied straight down TV cameras. The SNP not only endanger everyone of us, they did so at multiple levels. Scotland's health service would have been drastically cut, ushering the way for private health care to move in altogether. Pensions, mortgages and savings would have been placed in real danger, our council services would have been destroyed, in fact the whole country would have been a financial basket case for something like 40 plus years minimum. It is worth noting, the SNP leadership would not be living in squalor, they would be craving their generous 'entitlement' as they sat at the top table. The SNP don't believe in independence, they believe in a Scotland under the control of the European Union. In fact, their first order of business would be to apply for membership, probably without a referendum, you see the people of an independent Scotland would be 'shut out' of politics.
In the recent Holyrood polling, the results weren't unexpected, in fact, some parties were expected to do badly, and they helped this expectation by running dreadful campaigns. The biggest loser in my mind was Scottish Labour, with the right wing back in control of the party in Scotland, they hope that people will forget they were the reason for not voting for the party. Since the election, Anas Sarwar hasn't set out a vision for changing Scottish Labour, and I personally doubt he will do so, you see a re-vitalised party, especially in Glasgow places his leadership in danger. I don't expect internal change in the Scottish Labour Party, this year, they would have to start now, get it done in six months, then attempt the council elections. After that, depending on results, maybe, and it is a slim chance, they might do a review between 2022 and 2024, the Westminster election is important in the political life of Anas Sarwar as leader, if he loses 3 straight elections in a row, his position is untenable. Scottish Labour has had dreadful leaders for nearly 20 years, since the deaths of the 'old guard'. You cannot compare previous Labour leaders with today's Holyrood replacements, does Anas Sarwar stack up against Donald Dewar, obviously not, Robin Cook, not really, what about John Reid, or Helen Liddell, it is a whole different class. Some people might think that Anas Sarwar could be the 'face' of opposing indyref 2, well no is the short answer. During the 2014, just as Yes Scotland was run by the SNP, Better Togther was chiefly run by Scottish Labour people, but the collapse of the party's vote, now makes them not in consideration for a lead role.
The person who is trying to carve out a role for himself in Scottish politics is Gordon Brown, as a former Prime Minister, he has the kind of weight that Anas Sarwar doesn't have. However the problem with Gordon Brown isn't his previous baggage, it is the fact he is pushing an agenda. That agenda is federalism. Federalism doesn't solve the problem of defeating the SNP, it is a route that weakens the UK, and plays into the hands of the SNP. The SNP take any devolved powers, even if they don't use them properly. It isn't the constitution that doesn't make people vote for Scottish Labour, it is the people they have adopted as candidates that doesn't make people vote Scottish Labour. Ever constitutional disaster can be laid at the door of the Labour Party. They made a massive mistake with devolution, then and now they think they can fix their mistakes with federalism. They are like the guy who hammers in a nail into the floor, bursts a pipe, and then think wrapping rubber hose round it and tightening it off solves the problem. The real change to our current problems is changing Holyrood, curtailing the SNP activities, and holding them accountable for their spending, just in the same way that the SNP do with councils.
Recently, Prince William met with Gordon Brown to discuss independence, the meeting was held in secret it was alleged, and contents of the meeting weren't made public. The information available is that they discussed independence. At the same time, Gordon Brown has re-launched his Our Scottish Future think tank as a pro-Union campaign movement. I suppose the obvious question is this a proposed vehicle of a new Better Together MK2. One thing which we should all never forget, the opposition parties in Scotland have been utterly dreadful, both inside and outside of parliament. The people who have been doing the real fighting against the SNP Government have been groups and bloggers, groups like Scotland Matters and The Majority, Scotland in Union, and a host of other groups on Facebook. In fact, if you pop along to the Our Scottish Future website, you can see them borrow a phrase used extensively by George Galloway during the Holyrood election, “Open the Books”. Although this phrase is trendy, it is also the route to take down and curtail the activities of the SNP Government. It seems £2.7 BN of UK funding has gone missing, well technically the money isn't missing, it appears it has been held back. Any extra money from Westminster must be 'ring fenced' for the purposes it was allocated for, this measure has to be a 'triple lock' so the SNP can't siphon it off for their pet projects.
I suppose in some ways the meet of Prince William and Gordon Brown may look odd, after all, in the seven years since 2014, Gordon Brown didn't hang around Scotland, he didn't even fix the Labour Party in Scotland. But, here he is as a possible leader, and we are all expected to follow him? The nub is, if he gets appointed, either self or by others, does that mean he will bring his federalism baggage with him? Also, federalism is a Labour Party 'baby', along with the Lib Dems, and looking at the 'board' of Our Scottish Future, this bares that out, one of the people on the board is Ming Campbell. Also sitting there on it is former MSP Jenny Marra, which kinda flags up that Our Scottish Future is just another vehicle used by the right wing of the Labour Party, much in the same way as the Fabians and Progress. All these wee groups however have one thing in common, nothing to do with the Scottish people. Ultimately, they are part of the same discredited philosophy which sees people as to be 'managed' but not represented. The right wing of the Labour Party wiped out the party in Scotland because they wouldn't represent people. I am sure everyone knows of someone who sought help from their elected Labour representative and didn't get it. The return of the right wing controlling Scottish Labour isn't a return to the golden days of Blairism, it is a clock which will run backwards, the same as support will for the party. Scottish Labour needs to become a centrist party, the two extremes pulling at it, helped its decline.
One person who thinks that there is a benefit protesting the meeting of Prince William and Gordon Brown is Alex Salmond. Oh, just to be clear, Salmond and Brown are both privy councillors so pop along and see who's who, some of the names may surprise you. The role of the privy councillor is to provide advice and views, so in effect, William's meeting with Brown, even on independence concerns isn't a big deal. It was fluffed up due to the lack of formal publicity beforehand which led to the secrecy tag being flung about. Salmond has accused Prince William of "poor judgment", but equally the same charge could be said of Salmond, the difference is the "poor judgment" of Salmond could actually be made to stick. Although the public position of Royal Family is said to be neutral, personally I think in private that they have already picked their side. On the constitutional debate, the Royal Family stand with the people of Scotland, the majority, the people who wish to stay part of the United Kingdom. I suspect if anyone is doing anything dodgy then it is Salmond using Prince William for publicity for him and his party for the upcoming 2022 council elections. The Alba Party is keen to be seen as the alternative to the SNP, and it is only a matter of time before they start to cut into the SNP vote. A lot of people thought Sturgeon will bring forward indyref 2, but she won't. Nicola Sturgeon wouldn't be bring forward any illegal referendums either, not after the Spanish experience, and just an update, the appeal court in Spain didn't show mercy to the plotters. Jail time in Spain could equally apply to Scotland if an illegal indyref 2 was held, and it would be jail for Sturgeon, by the book, and special prosecutors. In defence of the meeting, Kensington Palace confirmed Prince William had been listening to views on independence from different communities.
In a new video to Alba members, Salmond said:
“What on earth Prince William thought he was doing having a confab with Gordon Brown, just as Gordon set up his last campaign for the Union... We’d be foolish indeed not to read the tea leaves in this sort of thing. In the run up to 2014, largely because I saw the argument for continuity of social institutions in these islands, we were extremely keen to keep the monarchy, the head of state, out of politics. I think the Queen has done a marvellous job and a lifetime of service. We should have no hesitation about seeing in that meeting with Gordon Brown what seems to be the preparations for doing what is absolutely extraordinary, which is to have a constitutional monarchy looking at and directly discussing aspects of the constitutional debate which should of course be left to the people. It would be enormously wise of the Royal Family to follow what has been the Queen’s example over her long reign, as to keep the monarchy over and above politics.It does seem extraordinarily foolish to have a situation where it can even be said that the monarchy, the future head of state, is involved in the Scottish constitutional debate.”
Well, if tea leaves is the basis of knowledge, the good stuff, the 'Tetley' is that Prime Minister Boris Johnson isn't going to grant a second independence referendum under his watch. It is highly likely that that Boris will be PM for at least a decade. Gordon Brown's Our Scottish Future will probably be working on federalism plans and modelling, because indyref 2 isn't being granted. One thing Boris and his advisors probably know is the pro UK parties in Scotland haven't got the manpower and human resources to mount a campaign. The collapse of Scottish Labour isn't just about seats in Holyrood, it is also about the collapse of the party's activist base. Just as a war is won by experienced and season troops, the Labour Party in Scotland is hollowed out, the Lib Dems are effectively a party in name only, and the Scottish Conservatives need to do a major recruitment drive. Did you notice, that during the Holyrood election in Glasgow, the same faces in different parts of the city, I did. In Glasgow, some people were just literally paper candidates for the Scottish Conservatives. The SNP 'work' areas hard, the pro UK parties don't do enough, that is the bottom line.
Anyway, Salmond added:
“Back in 2014 David Cameron made a last ditch desperate and failed attempt to drag the Queen into politics. The Brown meeting shows poor judgment on both sides but the same degree of unscrupulous unionist desperation. The independence team should take note. It is quite clear that the forces of the union, David Cameron previously, and now Gordon Brown, have no compunction in getting themselves ready and set for what is coming in the next referendum campaign. However, the Scottish Parliament elections have left them in a state of disarray. That is why the case for Scottish independence must be progressed now as a matter of urgency. The Tories at Westminster are surprised that they are not already facing a renewed constitutional challenge and are wondering what on earth is going on. It would be infinitely better for the independence side to seize the moment and strike when the iron is hot to progress the constitutional issue. ”
You see, Salmond pinpoints it, when he says, "the Scottish Parliament elections have left them (pro UK) in a state of disarray", basically what he means is the party organisations are dire, they don't have competent people, and the activism base has gone. I suppose you could add the desire to do the hard graft needed for building an activist base is also not there. Salmond's plan is simple, he wants SNP members to straight transfer over to his Alba Party, to do this, he needs oxygen via the press. As he condemns the Prince William/ Gordn Brown meeting, he also highlights that Alba will reschedule its first annual conference because of a higher than expected attendance to a bigger venue. Although Alba only polled 1.7%, you should note that they entered the Holyrood race too late, something which they realised later. As they start building their brand, they have announced a series of “interim” appointments pending conference. Chris McEleny as Alba general secretary, Lynne Anderson and Caroline McAllister will coordinate the 13-strong Alba councillor group, and former MP Corri Wilson will be membership convener.
Mr McEleny said:
“Alba is Scotland’s newest and fastest growing political party. Our membership numbers are rising week on week since the Scots Parliament elections. Alba can make a valuable contribution to the independence case, particularly in ensuring it is put forward with immediacy, strength and determination. We are all excited about the prospect of building a new party which will abide by our aspiration of living in the early days of a better nation.”
It would be a mistake for pro UK people to dismiss Alba as a protest or pressure group, as time marches on, people will drift away from the SNP into their party. Alba has a game plan, they want the 'women's vote', and they will be working hard to get it. Once the SNP rams home their lgbt agenda on the Gender Reform Act with the help of the Scottish Greens, give it time and there will be a backlash. You see at some point, men will be stripping off in women's personal spaces, stark naked. There will be incidents which make the press, and presumably the courts, and once enough angry women get together, you can expect a long running campaign, Alba will be there to position themselves as women's rights champions. It is pretty obvious that Salmond wants vote caches, just as he targeted the Muslim vote, he will target the women's vote. It was clear when he placed women centre stage of his party.
Finally, in life, things happen, the Prince William meeting with Gordon Brown isn't significant, the reason is simple, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his 80 seat majority. What is happening in England politically is more interesting as the result of the Hartlepool election showed. The Labour Party is in trouble, I suppose that is reflected in their choice of candidate in the 2021 Batley and Spen by-election. The election is a major test for Keir Starmer's right wing leadership, although there is talk about a contest against him, if he loses Batley, his leadership may face a left wing challenge. Labour held the seat until Traci Brabin stepped down as an MP after winning the election to be Mayor. The Labour candidate is Kim Leadbeater, she is the sister of murdered former MP Jo Cox, this is prompted some people to say that Labour is going for the sympathy vote. In the 2016 EU referendum, Batley and Spen voted 60% in favour of Brexit, so unless Leadbeater is an ardent Brexitter, her chances are severely diminished. The Hartlepool by-election was a watershed moment in UK politics, as it flag up more working class people were willing to vote Conservative than vote for the Labour Party. I will be taking a two month break off blogging, back in August, I need a rest, I need to get some personal issues done, and I need to study. Enjoy the summer, the good weather has arrived at last, and we all could use a holiday.
George Laird The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University