On Labour, a federal UK and Article 50
One of the most common themes on this blog has been despair at the state of Scottish Labour.
However, as they have continued to decline both in Scotland and the UK we have recently laid off them a bit. It was fun when they were a major power, but now attacking Labour seems a bit cruel.
Yesterday on my twitter feed Labour were getting pelters from independence supporters due to a couple of high profile actions.
First, Dugdale was in London promoting the idea of a federal UK. A lot of independence supporters were up in arms about this for the obvious reason that they want independence, not a half way house that might scupper their dreams.
I don’t subscribe to this view and have long liked the idea of a federal UK system.
I like it mainly for pragmatic purposes. While I would prefer independence, I do worry about a situation where we only narrowly win an independence referendum. It might work out OK but going into independence with a divided country isn’t ideal. The federal solution fixes this problem as I believe a good majority of Scotland would vote for it. The gradualist in me would argue that it may even be a stepping stone to independence.
The problem with the federal solution is not that it is a bad idea for Scotland, it is that it is not really an issue in England.
Here in Scotland, those of us who are trying to change the system are focused on the UK establishment, either breaking free from it or radically reforming it. English anger is currently focused abroad and blaming others for problems mainly concocted by ourselves.
Maybe the fallout of whatever happens to end the current Brexit situation will be an introspective England, looking to reform the UK system?
If that happens maybe federalism has a chance, if not then independence has to be the main focus for Scots who want much-needed reform.
Another issue with the federal proposal of Dugdale is her plans don’t go far enough.
They read more like a calculated plan to do the minimum to stave off the dangers of independence than an actual heartfelt proposal. It is this perceived lack of principle and a feeling they are making it up as they go along that has hastened the demise of Labour.
This view of them as halfhearted is backed up by the fact that the Labour submission to the Smith Commission into further devolution for the Scottish Parliament left a lot to be desired. So why the sudden epiphany from Dugdale?
She probably realises what a precarious situation they are in.
Politically, they are in the doldrums in Scotland, as they don’t appeal to nationalists nor unionists. This is clearly a pitch to those who don’t feel that strongly either way. An idea aimed at reasonable people looking for a unifying compromise.
Problem is, recent history has meant that people are rightly very sceptical of high profile Labour announcements of more powers for Scotland.
Furthermore, Dugdale’s proposals are the old top-down power retained model. Any successful proposal needs to be bottom-up.
The plan should start off with the idea of having everything controlled by the regions/countries and then to decide what powers we would be better off having at the national level. While a federal UK could be a good thing, the Dugdale plan smacks of a poorly thought out, attention grabbing political manoeuvre that won’t garner much support.
I have more sympathy for Labour on the second issue they were getting stick for yesterday.
They voted for a motion requiring the Prime Minister to commit to publishing the government’s plan for leaving the EU before article 50 is invoked. A lot of people, including the SNP have criticised them for supporting a hard Brexit.
— The SNP (@theSNP) December 7, 2016
This patently isn’t true, not least because the vote itself was non-binding.
I would say, UK Labour have acted maturely on this matter. We did vote to leave the EU and they are honouring this vote. While at the same time they are trying to put conditions on leaving to make sure it is a soft Brexit.
For the SNP to attack them for supporting a hard Brexit is counterproductive.
It is an attack that will only play well to the diehard independence supporter and won’t win any new converts to the cause. The Labour approach is sensible. We can judge them in the future when push comes to shove. If they don’t get the Brexit plan they want, will they be brave enough to veto it?