The extremely disappointing UK general election result for Labour has led to some in their Scottish branch office to look at the option of creating a separate Labour Party in Scotland. Leading this charge has been Labour list MSPs Neil Findlay and Monica Lennon, with the latter highlighting her thoughts on the issue in the Daily Record recently.
Their theory is that the British Labour party in Scotland was tarnished by the policies of the London based Labour party, which resulted in them losing all but one seat in Scotland. Their concern was that the Scottish leader was isolated and his policy statements were often contradicted by Labour spokespeople from London, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Their solution is to split the Scottish section from the London party and form an autonomous Scottish Labour Party, one that can form its own policy ideas. This would mean raising their own funds, persuading trade unions to affiliate and voting with their sister party (London Labour) – if persuaded. It would be seen as a bold move but will the current Labour leadership go for it? Ms Lennon has submitted these proposals to the Labour party’s review of last month’s elections but already she’s stated that this isn’t about supporting independence (which she opposes) but about having decisions about Scotland’s future taking place in Scotland rather than Westminster.
Some Labour sources have already dismissed this argument, fearing that advocating separate structures within the party lessens any credibility in supporting devolution rather than independence. The British Labour Party in Scotland has had some form of devolved structures within the London Labour party, with its own executive committee and its own policy making body, however any policies made are routinely ignored in UK terms. It seems Labour is struggling to adapt to devolution and, after 20 years of the Scottish Parliament, appear to have hit the buffers when it comes to offering distinctive policies for the Scottish electorate. For instance, during the UK general election the London led Labour party was pursuing a policy agenda which simply lifted SNP policies which Labour MSPs had repeatedly campaigned and voted against!
It’s unlikely a review led by the same people who were in charge of Labour’s disastrous general election campaign will amount to much. The idea that the Labour party in Scotland could attempt some greater form of separation is fanciful, the Scottish branch office relies too heavily on its income from London – and during Scottish elections it also relies heavily on Labour members from other parts of the UK to come up to campaign for them. It is however, ironic that at least some Labour politicians (and I suspect more of their members) are now effectively arguing not for further devolution of the Scottish branch from London Labour but are effectively suggesting independence for their branch! At least now the argument that decisions made about Scotland’s future should be taken in Scotland is taking hold within the Labour party.
Whether this move is a genuine attempt to reflect modern Scotland and the desire for more powers or whether its simply a feeble attempt to raise profiles and perhaps simply save the jobs of current politicians we will just have to wait and see.