It was always going to be a daunting, political problem to construct a coalition, capable of defending the Union in the Scottish Referendum. That it has failed so comprehensively, does not surprise many. I grew up in the cockpit of Northern Ireland politics but the vitriol there is shared by Scotland’s politicians in great measure. The chief difference in this country is that the most intense dislike for each other is found in one party, Labour.
When you add that to the problems posed by trying to present a united front with the Tories and the LibDems, it was a bridge too far. Both the Conservatives and Labour have strong links to business and that gave a political voice to the CBI. The economic card was always going to be a strong suit in the Better Together campaign and thus a series of businesses were encouraged to express fear that an independent Scotland would threaten their ability to survive in World markets. It was demonstrable nonsense, of course, and most people realised that the future of Scottish companies, such as Standard Life, would be decided on sound, commercial data and not political expediency post-Independence.
Historically, Labour had grown accustomed to power in Scotland and many of its ruling class are still shell-shocked by events at Holyrood. It is also a bitterly divided group, Blairites and Brownites, mixed with the pro-Westminster and those at the Scottish Parliament. Westminster has always been their tabernacle of power and ambitious Labour politicians, while proclaiming their love of Scotland, have hungered for a seat down south – witness Margaret Curran, Cathy Jamieson and Jack McConnell, former members of the Scottish Parliament. However, since 1999, the Scottish electorate have looked to Edinburgh for leadership and the Westminster MPs have become largely irrelevant to them. SNP, much more astutely, recognised the attitudinal change in voters and has thrived on it.
Personnel issues are the Labour Party’s chief problem among many others. Its two big beasts, Brown and Reid, have long been at loggerheads; Alasdair Darling, product of a prestigious, fee-paying school, is seen as a dull, Patrician figure; George Robertson, former NATO Secretary General made a recent contribution which attracted worldwide ridicule and was largely disowned by an embarrassed Better Together Campaign; Jim Murphy, former Secretary of State, was an ardent Blairite for whom obsequiousness was a lifestyle; George Foulkes and Ian Davidson have been firmly locked in their cages for the duration; Frank Roy, we thought , had been similarly incarcerated but rumours are circulating that he is to be let loose and given a role. Mindful of the obloquy which descended when he warned that Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach, could be in danger on a proposed visit to the shrine at Carfin, prepare for the wildly unpredictable.
I was going to write about the CBI fall guy, Iain McMillan, but enough has already befallen the poor chap and the Better Together Campaign.
No salt in the wounds.
Great stuff, John. I’d be interested in your blogging abut (i) parallels between Scotland and NI; (ii) possible consequences of a Yes victory for the Union, esp. NI…
Keep the faith