New Labour caused an exodus of Labour Party members in Scotland.

The SNP were standing by to welcome them in with open arms. The SNP were gradually moving to the left, or so it appeared. A lot of former Labour members and supporters therefore felt more at home and welcomed within the folds of the SNP than they did within New Labour.

This trend also manifested in the lack of electoral successes for Scottish Labour.

At one time, the Labour vote in my constituency needed to be weighed. But people were noticing a shift in Labour. When Jim Murphy became leader of Scottish Labour and Labour MPs, including mine, voted in favour of the Tory welfare bill that penalised the destitute, the writing was on the wall. Labour’s support began to haemorrhage.

Then in 2014 came the referendum on Scottish independence. Another catastrophe for Scottish Labour.

‘Better Together’ brought Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories under the same banner. The Tories provided the money and Labour provided the street campaigners. Labour and the Tories were publicly seen sharing the same platform. And Scottish Labour paid the price.

This was an exceptionally divisive period in Scotland. Bitterness ran strong in both camps. Families were divided and bile and hatred surfaced within Scottish politics.

The ‘No’ campaign won the day with 55% voting to remain part of the UK. It was a shallow victory for Scottish Labour as we paid the price. Support for Labour sunk even further.

Indeed, my CLP hall was firebombed the weekend following the result with our hall being gutted and we lost a part of our history with records of our local party and its involvement in Red Clydeside being destroyed.

The SNP came to dominate Scottish politics with Scottish Labour even losing the senior party of opposition in the Scottish Parliament to the Tories.

Today, Labour has one MP in Scotland and it has lost control of nearly all the Red Clydeside local authorities, including Glasgow City Council.

There is a spreading apathy in the Scottish Labour membership, you can no longer can put teams of campaigners into a ward to spread our message and get the Labour vote out. I stood as a council candidate in the last local authority elections in Clydebank. Campaigning was mostly down to me and my fellow candidates.

The SNP on the other hand were able to put out large community campaign teams which we could only envy. The result was inevitable.

Labour lost control of West Dunbartonshire to the SNP and, for the first time, two Tories were elected. The SNP Administration, despite its glaringly obvious incompetence and attempt to out Tory the Tories, remains popular.

This does not bode well for the next Scottish local authority elections in 2022.

Scottish Labour appears divided, like UK Labour. We have a left Leader in Richard Leonard and a right Deputy Leader in Jackie Baillie.

The left in Scotland lacks organisation. There are a number of left groupings: Campaign for Socialism, Labour Left Alliance, and Momentum to name but three.

The right have been emboldened following the election of Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party to the extent we can now see moves to publicly undermine Richard Leonard’s leadership.

‘A shot at the King’ must be on the cards for the right.

There is an inherent danger in this tactic in Scotland as many may well feel that a Socialist Scotland is more palatable than a neoliberal UK.

Leonard has been forced to come out against a second independence referendum. But many on the left, myself included, feel that it would be wrong for us to deny the Scottish people a referendum if the will to have one is there. If the case for the Union is just, we should not be afraid to test it.

The right view of this, led by Jackie Baillie, is ‘over my dead body’. Unfortunately that may be an apt prophecy for the Scottish Labour Party. If Scottish Labour deny Scotland a second referendum we will be punished.

If Scottish Labour support a second referendum, allowing Labour supporters to come out in support, the probability is that Scotland will be an independent nation.

South of the border, we have seen Labour MPs publicly attacking and ridiculing our former Leader and the Socialist policies tabled in the 2019 manifesto (which they also stood on). In Scotland the right does not have the same luxury as they cannot risk an open civil war. Starmer is taking Labour to the right again. His views emulate many of Blair’s positions. His scant regard for the membership may turn the party into a New Labour reincarnated dictatorship. Starmer could be the final nail in the coffin of Scottish Labour.

Will the Union survive a right-wing Labour Party under Starmer?

Despite the most incompetent Government in recent history, the Tories remain higher in the polls than Labour. Starmer has yet to produce any magical touch that will reverse Labour’s fortunes and is yet to prove that an opposition exists.

Alan Sorrell, Dumbarton CLP

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19 Comments

  1. It has already been fatal in Scotland as the canny Scots saw through Blair’s fake socialism like a haggis with no meat in it and left the Labour for the SNP in droves. This means that it is now extremely unlikely that labour will ever gain power again, or if it does, then with no majority to be able to enact any policies. So not only did Blair give out Tory policy’s and lies, but also damaged the party for good!

  2. ” The SNP Administration, despite its glaringly obvious incompetence and attempt to out Tory the Tories, remains popular.” Excuse me?
    Perhaps people in Scotland are voting SNP because we don’t want to get involved in illegal wars in the middle east. We’re funny that way.

  3. Time labour in Scotland registered as a Scottish political party, not a unionist branch party. They may find that past members may return if they are truly a party for Scotland

  4. “allowing Labour supporters to come out and support”. That kinda sums up why you are failing in Scotland

  5. Good analysis of a difficult situation. The Scottish Labour party will only find power again in an independent Scotland. Imo.

  6. Personally I think Labour in Scotland has lost touch with the people. Leonard is not the man to lead you victory. What you said about letting the MP/MSP’s decide for themselves, if they want indyref2. You may actually find an upturn in the labour vote. But Leonard and co have to go.

  7. Good analysis of a difficult situation. The Scottish Labour party will only find power again in an independent Scotland. Imo. If the party doesn’t back Indy ref 2, it will find it more difficult if it’s a yes vote. Which I think it will be.

  8. So what do we do as left Scottish LP members? My local CLP is run by Blair-loving, Starmer and Baillie voting right wingers. They hated Corbyn and it’s pointless me even turning up for meetings and crucial votes as I am so heavily outnumbered. I agree with everything you have said but some idea as to how we move forward and win back the ex-Labour voting socialists would be welcome.

  9. Am I reading this correctly Leonard the GMB official that backed Glasgow city councils fight for 10 years to prevent the women getting equal pay at a cost of £2,5m is a left leaning socialist ? Or does Scotland have a Labour Party I’m clearly missing something.

    Labour is an establishment run institution run from London with scant regard for the working class a former shadow of its past and is clearly not fit for purpose, we need a socialist Scotland that actually looks out for the workers and less caring about big businesses but that where the money is and it’s all about the money and getting as many of your pals into the House of Lords.

  10. As a old Labour Party voter,I now trust a left wing SNP government. Labour are finished in Scotland.The only hope is Independence and getting away from English tories, and Labours red english tories.

  11. Labour was always the party for the working class electorate and Labour stopped being that. The SNP picked up the ball that Labour dropped and run with it. If you don’t listen to your electorate then you don’t get their votes. The nail in their coffin was when they cosied up with the Tories, a party detested in Scotland, backed their polices or abstained from voting pushing them through. What did Labour think was going to happen? Of course the electorate was gong to punish them at the ballot box.

  12. Labour policy has been to support Northern Ireland leaving the UK, but to oppose Scotland leaving the UK.
    This inconsistency is hypocrisy and the Scottish electorate will never return to Labour while they side with the tories in denying democracy.
    There is a large swathe of left leaning people in the SNP who are holding their noses because they realise the left can only succeed in Scotland after independence is won.
    If Scotland remains in the UK, it will continue being dominated by tory England.

  13. Why do you not separate & form a Scottish Labour Movement? Support your country & come back from the Wilderness
    You are seen now as Unionist & the scenes Dancing on a stage with Tories will never ever go away.

  14. In an independent Scotland, there will be a left wing, a right wing and a centre party – just like normal countries. Surely an opportunity for a proper Scottish Labour Party to be relevant again.

  15. Nothing can be gained with the split of a Strong Labour Party, however the ground where Labour was king right across the UK has been taken, in part by Tory party but mostly SNP whose steady campaign on Independence has swept former strong Labour families into SNP

  16. The problem with your assertion is labour turn right and lost labour supporters while the SNP also turned right and still continue to enjoy high support. I agree Starmer turning right is not good and bad for the country, but the SNP is in the exactly the same position as labour at its hight. It believes it will be there forever and SNP supporters who are unhappy have nowhere to go. It is true they will not go to labour under its current leadership, but scots voters did not go to labour under Corbyn, who was clearly more to the left than the SNP ever was. The danger for the latter is if a new party is formed or a new leader for labour who goes back its left-wing roots. That will happen if Starmer does not move to the left. The same goes for the SNP who are taking their voters and supporters for fools. There are lots of grumblings about Sturgeon and her independence stance and also people are fed up about their incompetence. We have the same issue in the UK where the tories are very high in the polls but are incompetent in government, both parties can’t ride this for long as people will get fed up of it even more. Also, both parties nationalism will become toxic the more they use it. There should be no independence referendum every time the UK gets a cold. You cannot keep calling for one and also you can’t keep saying the SNP represents the people of Scotland they do not. As for labour not having any support, it might be true in the UK national elections but it is certainly not true in the Scottish parliament where they have 25 sets etc.

    The SNP are not democrats, in the last ref in 2014 Salmond said there should be no more referendums for a generation. A generation is 25 years, not 6 or 10, then the SNP supporters said he did not say that and besides it was not legally binding. Also, they argue the SNP did not anticipate the UK leaving the EU, if they did not they are stupid and even more incompetent and if they did well they cannot use that as an excuse. The fact is they should have planned for it and clearly they did not care to as it was in their favour to keep quite. The last referendum was a clear win for the yes voters, it is even more stunning that the win was achieved despite the SNP wording the question and choosing the date – date of the English being defeated in a battle. The truth is the SNP and Sturgeon do not want independence they know it ill be a disaster in the short to medium term. Not only for the scots economy but also for the SNP as well, it would mean the end of them as a party and in government forever.

    1. “A generation is 25 years, not 6 or 10”.
      Nonsense. Politically, a generation is defined in the Good Friday Agreement as 7 years. There is absolutely no reason that it should be any different for Scottish independence that it is for Irish reunification.

  17. ” Bitterness ran strong in both camps.”

    Tosh. As a No voter in 2014, even I was aware that the Yes campaign was about hope and a better future, not bitterness. That was the reserve of the ‘Better Together’ campaign, which despite it’s name relied on fear, uncertainty and doubt to carry it’s message, with spurious claims of pensions being lost a particularly egregious example.

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