The Labour No campaign tactic appears to me, to be a “Vote no (against the SNP) on September 18th and vote Labour and next year’s general election and things will be better.” Let’s look at why this is a problem.
In the next of our independence special, we look at how we can’t rely on Labour to offer us a better settlement within the UK.
First of all, I don’t see a yes vote as an indictment or an endorsement of how good or bad a job Alex Salmond has been doing for the last seven years. To reduce the independence referendum to that is incredibly simplistic and petty. This is the first time in history that Scotland and it’s people have taken a vote, a decision on the constitutional state of our country. Let’s not forget that the negotiations between Scotland and England in the Act of the Union in 1707 were undertaken by rich aristocrats and noblemen. The people of Scotland and England did not actually have a democratic say in the matter.
For many people , next week’s referendum is about democracy. It is a chance for us to have a say in what decisions should be made in Scotland and who should be making those decisions. Should it be the people in Scotland who live and work here and contribute to the economy or should it be politicians four hundred miles away in London who have vested interests in keeping power as close to them as possible?
Labour have vested interests in keeping power as close to them as possible, especially in Scotland where they see it as ‘their’ territory. Of course they promise more powers for Scotland, but already, we’ve seen senior Conservatives like William Hague calling into question “extra powers” for Scotland. In addition, we have Gordon Brown, parading around church halls telling voters that we would definitely get extra powers, but Gordon is nothing more than a back bencher at the moment and Labour are not currently in power-it still isn’t looking terribly likely that they’ll win an outright majority at next year’s general election. So when would we get these extra powers and when will that be?
At the BBC debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, Salmond pressed Darling on what new, job creation powers Westminster could give the Scottish Parliament. Alistair Darling could not answer him. What is interesting, is that Labour, the so called architects of devolution, are offering the least in the way of more powers for Scotland in the event of a yes vote. Labour want Holyrood to control 15p in every pound on income tax as well as housing benefit and attendance allowance. The Tories and the Lib Dems want to devolve complete power over income tax. Given that Labour is very much at the forefront of the No campaign, I find it interesting that they are willing to offer the least in the way of additional powers for Scotland.
Labour have capably demonstrated that the people of Scotland find them unreliable and untrustworthy. Traditional Labour voters feel that Labour have abandoned “the working man” in favour of tailoring policies to appeal to middle-England, the kinds of people who only care about how much money is left in THEIR pockets, rather than anyone elses. What was once a serious centre-left party has now been transformed into a vehicle for middle class university students to have a career as a mediocre politicians.
When we have people who have never really wanted for much in life determining our policy it means that policy will be to the specific benefit of people who have never really wanted for much in life. Because we have a parliament in Westminster full of old, rich, white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated, men it means that policies made by Westminster are more likely to benefit old, rich, white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated men. That’s what we are increasingly seeing in the run up to the 2015 General Election from the Labour Party. In June this year, Ed Miliband announced that 18-21 year olds would only get Job Seekers Allowance if they already had the skills to work. This taps into the idea that young people ‘lack skills for the job market’ despite the fact that the number of sixteen year olds getting A*-C grades in their GCSEs is rising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 68.1% to 68.8% and in Scotland the pass rate for the new National 4 and 5 exams was well in excess of 90% and 80% respectively. The problem is that employers do not invest in young people because at this crucial stage of 18-21 our minds are still developing, our analytic and critical skills are still being well honed.
Many traditional Labour voters are uncomfortable with Labour co-operating with the Tories. Throughout the campaign, Labour have been especially cosy with the Tories and the Lib Dems, coming together to support Gordon Brown’s plans for devolution. A particularly interesting tweet I saw from a Glasgow Labour councillor, who shall remain unnamed, tried to make it look like a good thing that the Tories, the Lib Dems and Labour had a “similar” vision for Scotland whereas the parties involved in Yes Scotland had very different visions. It isn’t a good thing for Scotland for all three main parties to have “similar visions” for Scotland, that’s the problem. The problem is, that people feel they cannot distinguish Labour from the other two parties at Westminster, and that’s why many of Labour’s core voters are voting Yes.