It appears that Richard Leonard has managed to achieve a feat that no other leader of Scottish Labour has managed.
He has successfully distanced Scottish Labour from the UK party on at least one policy. Just a few days ago the UK leader, Jeremy Corbyn, advised that he had not ruled out the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum. But yesterday Leonard told the party conference that the Scottish branch would like the next UK Labour manifesto to rule out indyref2 completely.
While this does go some way to dispel the popular conception that Scottish Labour is merely a branch office of the UK party. It does nothing to counter the widely held belief that its Scottish leader is a political basket case.
It doesn’t take a political genius to realise the reason why.
Around half of the Scottish electorate support independence. So Leonard’s stance ensures that around half of the population won’t consider voting for Labour. Furthermore, the proclamation ensures that Labour will continue to fight over the same 50% of the Scottish public that the Tories and the Lib Dems are also chasing. Thereby ensuring that the SNP are guaranteed to remain the biggest party.
Not only that but Richard Leonard’s stance is grossly undemocratic.
He is a Scottish parliamentarian campaigning for the democratic will of the Scottish people to be sidelined. He is advocating that no matter how bad Brexit is, Scottish Labour is not going to prevent the Scottish people from being able to do anything about it. Despite the fact that the Scottish people voted strongly to remain in the EU. Incidentally, the UK Labour top brass seems hellbent on closing the door to Europe by ignoring its own party membership by preventing a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.
Scottish Labour’s stance is deeply unappealing and is not just going to turn off independence supporters but will also infuriate many pro-Europeans and anyone who happens to believe in democracy.
Worryingly for Leonard the Daily Record, who have historically acted as a Labour fanzine, have torn into him over this policy. In a recent editorial they said:
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His position is basically that Scotland should meekly accept whatever Brexit disaster the Tories impose upon us.
And if the majority of Scots decide that under those circumstances another independence referendum would be appropriate, that’s tough luck.
This is not good enough. At the very least, Leonard should be heaping pressure on the UK Labour leadership to back membership of the EU single market and consider the possibility of a People’s Vote in the event of ,Brexit disaster.
It seems strange a party who are today backing radical federalism would be so staunchly opposed to the prospect of a second independence referendum.
When the paper of the famous indyref vow is chastising its own preferred political party’s independence stance, then you know something is deeply wrong with the leadership.
Still, Leonard has indeed done his bit to ensure that Scottish Labour can be independent. He has shown they no longer need to accept policies from UK Labour that will be unpopular in Scotland. He has demonstrated he is perfectly capable of coming up with those types of policies himself.