Dugdale’s approach to ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’ is political suicide
This week Nicola Sturgeon released a report entitled “Scotland’s place in Europe”. The report looks at potential solutions to the constitutional problems caused by Brexit.
The main issue Sturgeon is trying to address is that the nation of Scotland voted by a good majority to remain in the EU but is being forced to leave against the will of the people. This forced eviction could have devastating effects on Scotland’s economy and culture.
The report is pragmatic. It is mostly concerned with keeping Scotland in the single market by keeping the UK in the single market. If this is not possible the report looks for a separate deal for Scotland and if that can’t happen the report threatens a second independence referendum. Therefore, in the report the Scottish Government are putting their main goal of independence on the back-burner. It is a conciliatory approach described by the Law Society of Scotland as:
producing a thorough set of options which deserves proper consideration and analysis.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale responded to the report by issuing the following statement.
This position, is both disingenuous and tactically naive.
It is disingenuous as it repeats the unsubstantiated received opinion that remaining in the UK is more important to Scotland than remaining in the EU. This oft repeated mantra is mainly based on export statistics that are highly dubious as we have discussed previously. In many ways it is comforting that the only argument left for union is a bunch of export figures from a report that carries a disclaimer telling people it isn’t accurate.
The constant repetition of this unsubstantiated claim by all unionist politicians highlights just how many of the old Better Together arguments Brexit has destroyed.
Dugdale’s biggest error though is to rule out independence as an option for retaining Scotland’s place in Europe.
There are two main reasons this is naive. The first is that Labour supporters are split on the issue so she is alienating half of her potential voter base. Her words will only appeal to lapsed unionist Labour supporters and the Tories are doing a better job of attracting them.
The second is that the threat of independence would be a useful tool for her to use in order to bring about the type of reform that she professes to believe in. You see, the UK government does not devolve power willingly. It does so as a last minute concession to prevent larger losses of power.
Dugdale’s solution to the crisis is a Constitutional Convention and a new Act Of Union delivering a more federal UK.
This proposal, although highly unlikely, if done properly might be a reasonable compromise to the constitutional problems facing the UK. The problem is that it’s not going to happen. The Tory party has no incentive to deliver this and, due to boundary changes and the disarray of Labour, the Tories will remain in power for years to come.
The threat of Scottish independence could force the hand of the UK government on this issue but Dugdale doesn’t have the tactical vision to realise this.
Her approach on “Scotland’s Place in Europe” has her stranded in no man’s land offering nothing to either side of the Scottish political divide.
By throwing away the leverage that keeping an open mind to independence delivers, she is unable to offer a viable solution to the majority on the questions surrounding Scotland’s membership of the EU and the UK.
One can only hope that whoever takes over from her after the inevitable rout Labour suffers in next year’s local government elections has a more open mind. Labour don’t need to support independence but it is suicidal not to keep the option on the table.