How Labour lost Scotland (and could lose the Union)

The referendum campaign brought a moment of unprecedented cross-party co-operation. Those days are long gone

7 February 2015

9:00 AM

7 February 2015

9:00 AM

Just four months ago Scotland was the scene of great cross-party co-operation — unprecedented in peace-time politics. Gordon Brown was offering advice on David Cameron’s speeches, Douglas Alexander and the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson turned themselves into a formidable debating duo, and Charles Kennedy was being hailed by Labour strategists as the man who would save the Union.

Even George Galloway got in on the act. One of the oddest sights I have witnessed in politics was the Respect MP gushingly introducing the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, at a pro-UK rally. It all marked a recognition that Great Britain is far bigger, and far more important, than party politics.

Now, however, the Union finds itself a football in a general election campaign. The consensus that defined the referendum battle has been replaced with increasingly ugly bickering between the unionist parties, with Labour and the Tories taking it in turn to accuse each other of endangering the Union.

It now seems as if the British general election result will be decided in Scotland. The Scottish contingent at Westminster looks set to be dominated by the Scottish National Party, which is enjoying a phenomenal post-referendum surge in popularity. Polls indicate it will win 55 out of the 59 Scottish seats; the bookmakers are expecting a result closer to 35 seats.

Either way, the SNP may be in a position to put Labour in power by agreeing to some form of confidence-and-supply arrangement. Should Nicola Sturgeon, the party’s new leader, and Alex Salmond, who plans to return to Westminster, refuse to cut a deal with Ed Miliband, they would be putting David Cameron back in No. 10 — something that they have said repeatedly that they won’t do.

The Tories are trying to use this scenario to rally English voters: back us or Salmond will get his hands on your money. Meanwhile, Scottish Labour is fighting a desperate rearguard action to survive — its new leader, Jim Murphy, has found it necessary to use language which could have been designed to rile the English.

The rise of Ukip, meanwhile, means that the English question cannot be ignored. The Westminster parties used to maintain a consensus that the best answer to the West Lothian question is to stop asking it. But with Ukip polling in double digits, the old position is no longer tenable. Nigel Farage is busy making the case that no one is speaking for the English, in the hope that this will help him eat further into the Tory vote. That’s is why Cameron felt obliged to start talking about England on the morning of the Scottish referendum result.

This week, the Tories have said that English MPs can have a veto on legislation that only affects England. It’s hardly radical: a version of this promise has been party policy ever since New Labour introduced a Scottish assembly. But even this modest proposal has led Gordon Brown to go on the offensive, attacking David Cameron for putting ‘party before country’ and ‘risking the very survival of the UK’.

This criticism is particularly ironic coming from Brown. The survival of the UK has been thrown in question due to the consequences of the devolution package which he helped devise. And it was Brown who pledged ‘nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule’ in the final days of the referendum campaign. Even now, he can’t stop speaking about the constitution. He has become the SNP’s useful idiot — repeatedly bringing the conversation back to the subject where the Nationalists do best.

Indeed, Brown seems to be even every bit as obsessed with the constitutional issues as they are. In the run-up to becoming Prime Minister, he started to outline various plans to reform it and ever since he hasn’t been able to stop tinkering.

Only this week, he has come up with a new idea for Scottish Labour: the ‘vow plus’, which would see housing benefit devolved to Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament given the right to top up benefits. The name is a reference to ‘the vow’, the pledge from the Unionist party leaders on the front of the Daily Record in the final days of the campaign, to send more powers to Holyrood if Scotland voted ‘no’.

Those close to Jim Murphy say he that he’s fully supportive of this approach. But Brown banging on about the constitution is at odds with what Murphy told colleagues he wanted to do when he got the job. Then, he emphasised that he wanted to get the debate back onto normal political issues. He wanted to concentrate on holding the SNP to account for its record in government. This strategy was showing early signs of success. His able deputy, Kezia Dugdale, had been causing problems for Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood.

It is almost impossible to exaggerate how dire the polls north of the border are for Labour at the moment. Lord Ashcroft’s extensive research of individual constituencies shows that things are every bit as bad as they seem. In the 14 Labour seats he polled, the SNP were ahead in 13 — and enjoying an average swing of 25 per cent. This would mean curtains for the shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander and the shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran.

All this helps explain why Murphy is picking fights with London — for example, his idea about how the mansion tax would be good for Scotland because it would force rich Londoners to pay for more Scottish nurses. This argument may have force, but it’s precisely the force that threatens to rip Britain apart. Five months after the independence referendum that force has never been stronger — and it will roil British politics regardless of who is in power at Westminster.

Whoever ends up in Downing Street, the pressures on the Union will increase after the election. Westminster’s new contingent of nationalists will see to that.

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  • Tamas Marcuis

    Why do these articles always talk as if the Scots population are childlike and naive. People know fine well that Labour’s new “Vow” is a pile of manure. Murphy contradicts himself daily. He is the kind of person who needs everyone to have a short memory and the media not to ask any questions. Really that’s how the BBC behaves in Scotland. Murphy sits and says what ever he wants without interruption or any question, so called interviewer nodding away. “That’s right children, listen to creepy Uncle Jim”. No examination at all its as boring to watch as to say. Brown is treated with open contempt as well as seeming tired confused and angry. Again is NEVER questioned or contradicted by the BBC or print media. Its as if the they dont know the internet exists.
    Mean while YES supporters and SNP are walking their seats Ipads in hand able to show video of Murphy making statements about tax and the NHS that make his supposed safely in the bag voters spit with rage. With only a few thousand active members against the SNP’s 95,000+, Labours is response more lies and spin in a media nobody beyond a few thousand buys anymore. Or more boring non programmes on the BBC. That a creepy weasle like Murphy, a bumbling sad shadow like Brown or chav like Dugdale are now the hope of the “Union” is almost funny. Dugdale is almost like the comedian Philomena Cunk, so she is funny.

    • Ed  

      Don’t panic. Quebec has been electing separatist governments, and then rejecting referenda, for 50 years, and I have no doubt the Scots are just as canny.

      • Benjamin Rae

        That’s really rather hopeful. Canada doesn’t have another union to maintain in order to keep itself together. Canada doesn’t have the same level of polarisation in their politics. Leaving the economic argument aside for a second, there isn’t the same right left argument between Quebec and Canada.
        Finally, your average Canadian has a significantly higher standard of living than Scotland. Which is why there are so many Scots living in Canada

        • Ed  

          First, if you think Canadian politics aren’t polarized, you haven’t been paying attention. Secondly, if you want to talk about bits of Canada with poor economies and an independent streak, let’s talk about Newfoundland. They actually did achieve independence. They were a full-scale Dominion. They failed, and handed themselves back to the Colonial Office, which didn’t want them. They ended up choosing to become a Canadian province (the choices were Dominion again, American state, or Canadian province). This does sound a lot like Scotland when you look at it.

          • Benjamin Rae

            Canada is still largely social democratic. The unions aren’t as weak there as they are here. You are paraphrasing my words. I said there isn’t the same level of polarisation. I think that’s valid. I mention the left , without any value judgement and it’s enough to make you criticise it. Canada hasn’t had a Margaret Thatcher type leader.
            Now , attempting to set aside any value judgment on economic policies , I think it’s fair to say the Conservative party is seriously unpopular in Scotland since Margaret Thatchers period in office.
            Obviously the Conservatives haven’t recovered in Scotland since. I don’t really want to get into the rights and wrongs of why because it’s an old argument , but it’s just a reality of Scottish politics that it’s a factor.
            Now your comparison of Scotland to Newfoundland and the description of both as a ‘poor economy’ and dependant is quite interesting.
            I won’t pretend that I know anything about Newfoundlands economy but I disagree with you assessment of Scotland’s . Living standards may not be as high in most of Canada but that’s a different point.
            If you are a unionist it is quite a disparaging way to speak about one part of it.
            I think we’ve probably reached a point where further discussion might not be very constructive if you describe Scotland in such a way.
            Good luck to you anyway.

          • Ed  

            “Canada hasn’t had a Margaret Thatcher type leader.” Um, we have one now. The anti-Harper hatred is quite astonishing.

            I’m also not disparaging the Scottish voter at all. I believe the Scottish voter is smarter than Salmond and Sturgeon put together, and is playing them for fools, just as the Quebec voter has done for so long with the PQ; using them to gain traction, but never actually interested in the end game. The PQ has reached for the brass ring many times, but never quite gotten there; just as the voters wanted.

            Scots are not stupid; they know exactly what they’re doing, and 50 years from now the SNP will understand…..

        • Ed  

          There certainly is a left-right argument between Quebec and the rest of Canada. The PQ is quite socialist. The collapse of the PQ and the Bloc Quebecois led to an NDP (Canadian “Labour”) wave. However, Quebecers have begun to understand the damage that 50 years of PQ socialist policies have done. They see the comparative successes next door in Ontario and Vermont.

          Like Scottish voters, Quebec voters aren’t stupid. They’ve played a pretty deep game.

  • hdb

    I don’t think just Labour is to blame. Obviously they are the major party there and what they do matters. But the Conservatives have just given up on Scotland and hence don’t seem to care anymore what happens there. Cameron came very close to being the Prime Minister under whom the Union broke up. In four years he seems never to have thought what effects he government might be having on Scottish opinion simply because he knows he has little chance of their votes. But as a Unionist he should care whether they are being driven away from it by governments that consistently act in ways highly alien to them.

  • Barba Rossa

    im one of Browns constituents, i have voted for him in the past, odd then that now I simply detest the man as much as I loath Murphy.

    its fair to say that many in Scotland feel the same..come the election I will be very surprised if there is a Labour MP left in Scotland. Bizarre really, I have voted Labour for 40 odd years.

    The days when Labour represented the ordinary working man, are long past, Im moving with the times, and this time is for the SNP, they represent Scottish interests best, Vote SNP in May.

  • Man on the Clapham Omnibus

    The greatest interest in these issues always seems to come from Scottish Torys: a critically endangered species in the event of the UK splitting; soon to be joined by the threatened Scottish Labour people. What they overlook is the view of the Southern English and the immigrants in the South East (as a Welshman): we are bored shift with whingeing, wining Scots! If they don’t want to be part of the UK then they are quite welcome to do the other thing, and we at least will be a lot better off.

    • komment

      Well Dai Bach, you seem to either have a bad memory or you didn’t take part in the referendum ‘love-in’ that declared England’s overwhelming and everlasting affection for all things Scottish including the whiling, whanging subsidy junky Scots. Forget all this crap about political correctness that is being blamed for the disillusionment with all things Westminster it is you and the politically perfidious views that are the real causes of that disillusionment.

      It would appear from your misguided rhetoric you are a believer in the myth of Scottish financial dependence. The problem with the ever moaning, ever groaning English, and the Welsh for that matter, is you can’t make up your minds whether or not you can afford to keep Scotland or afford to lose Scotland.

      Here’s a challenge, hold a referendum in England on the question of Scottish Independence, the result will , one way or another, put a stop to your eternal and tiresome bleating.

      Murphy and Brown sounds like a name for a stale old beer.

      • Man on the Clapham Omnibus

        If the jocks foxtrot oscared I, unlike most of the boyos, would be very happy that there would not be a Labour government in the forseeable future.

        • komment

          Don’t blame you Dai bach when you see the mess they are making in the Land of your Fathers.
          What about this referendum in Englad, are you up for it?

          • Man on the Clapham Omnibus

            Its not going to happen so there is no point worrying about an English referendum.

          • komment

            I’m not the person worrying about it, but you have to admit it would be perfect opportunity for the Anglo-philes to do something more constructive than whining about the Scots all the time.

      • Peter_Wood

        With the bottom having fallen out of the oil market the SNP fantasy economics are laid bare. An independent Scotland would be faced with Greek style austerity – but maybe that is the cold shower we need up here, Vote SNP for a meeting with reality

        • komment

          Hey, the referendum’s over! What is all this nonsense about the Scottish economy’s dependency on oil. Independence was was never predicated on oil. The Scottish economy is in a better shape than the rUK, oil is only a bonus. Don’t take my word for it, read the Financial Times.
          Your reference to Greece reminds of when I watched Donald Dewar on BBC declaring an Independent Scotland would have the economy of Bangladesh, what he didn’t say was he was sitting on the McCrone report that his party, in collusion with the Tories, kept hidden from the voters.
          You’ve been listening to Nick Robinson again, you know you shouldn’t believe a word that man says.

        • Sunset66

          Greece cannot in anyway be compared with Scotland. One of the main Greek issues is that for decades people and companies avoided paying tax

          How is the UK deficit doing these days ?

          The Uk has had a structural deficit since ww1

          We really dont need to be lectured on economic competence

  • Blindsideflanker

    “Whoever ends up in Downing Street, the pressures on the Union will increase after the election. Westminster’s new contingent of nationalists will see to that”

    Only because, being people of little vision, they have failed to create a stable constitutional arrangement having unpicked the last one with devolution in 1997.

    I would have preferred the unitary state we had, but that is gone, the asymmetrical mess they have put in its place is a disaster , it is guaranteed to lead to grievances and leap frogging nationalist demands, as such the only way to stop the rot is to federate the country with all the nations having equal parliaments under a federal British parliament, then the nationalists would be deprived of the chance to play mischief, and either have to put up or shut up.

    • Repunitprimes

      I have no deeply held wish to be “federated” but I can see that it might be a stepping stone to greater things, for all of us, not just Scotland. However I think we have progressed beyond federal and will now only settle for self determination. Slainte

    • Derick Tulloch

      The trouble with a federal UK is that this could only work if England was broken up, or English votes were down weighted in the federal parliament. Otherwise we would be no better off than we are now. Suspect that the first would be unacceptable to the English, and the second is undemocratic. Federalism is a non-starter.

      Devomax where Holyrood collects all tax revenue from Scotland and sends a block grant to Westminster for defence and foreign affairs could work. I don’t think that would last either – the political cultures are too far apart. Best we go our separate ways.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    Tories say, “Vote SNP get Ed”

    Labour say, “Vote SNP get Dave”

    The latest swathe of UK polls indicate that the Tories are now edging ahead of Labour. So the Tories message maybe having more resonance in England, than Labour’s message in Scotland.

  • The PrangWizard of England

    There is only one party which speaks clearly and unambiguously for England – The English Democrats party.

    Cameron is a betrayer, he betrays everyone in the end. UKIP is just another Unionist party the leadership of which will slip quietly into the system.

    The British and Unionist political and cultural establishment are the dirt which fouls the present day Augean stables. We need a modern Hercules to flush them all out of our English lives.
    What is the point of attempting to protect the Union. It does nothing for anyone except the privileged elites who infect our lives; they protect their own and insult all the people of England who do not support their view. They refuse us the same democratic rights which they give willingly to other nations and congratulate themselves for doing so.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Indeed, I am surprised at UKIP’s silence on English devolution, apart from the odd comment from Nuttal, they haven’t made any effort in this area.

    • Informed Person

      The english democrats? I take it you mean the party which had most of its real members quit when they started accepting all the BNP types UKIP refused to?

  • English_Independence_Movement

    Good riddance to expensive hangers on and to permanent malcontents.

    • Robin Stevenson

      Sadly, there are many English and Welsh that agree with you, the truth of the matter is, Scots are not and have “Never” been subsidised by the rUK, now, instead of me explaining why that is, just take 2 mins and ask yourself “Why”?,,,Why would Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, come ALL the way up to Scotland to Beg us to stay? Why would Gordon Brown offer us a “VoW” signed by the 3 Amigos?… after all in your own words we`re “Expensive hangers on”?…I have no issue with the English or the Welsh, I truly feel sad for the media spoon-fed public. The South East of England I have little or no time for and once Scotland is Independent our poor neighbours in Northern England will be “Fracked” to death to feed the Westminster greed….Perhaps, Only at that point you`ll realize that Scotland had a right to be “Malcontent”.

      • English_Independence_Movement

        You really should leave. Wales is the major expense [receiving a £14.3 B subsidy each and every year from the English taxpayer]. NI are a major expense and permanent malcontents. Scotland is just malcontent.

        Not everything is about Scotland you cretin. You really should leave.

        • Robin Stevenson

          Well, I guess IF it`s not the Scots, it`ll be the Irish and then the Welsh… and then you`ll run out of people to blame for the incompetence of Westminster?
          “Not everything is about Scotland”?..LOL of course it`s not, but I guarantee once we`re gone you`ll soon know it, we`ll leave you to the numerically illiterate Osborne your £1.5 Trillion debt, your 5 years more “Austerity” politics, your illegal wars, your pulling out of [ one of your biggest customers] The EU, we`ll even throw in Trident, as a parting gift.
          If that means that I`m a “Cretin”?…Yes please.

        • Nathan

          Who subsidises the English because at the moment they’re spending more than they are raising? Deficit anyone?

        • Paul Wilson

          Is the position of the Westminster parties in Scotland not the point of this article and it is because of attitudes like yours that has helped to put the union in danger. It isn’t all about England you know maybe the canny silent majority in England know that in reality England without Scotland’s resources is knackered. I further suggest that you vent your spleen at your own electorate who do not buy into your English separatist views or you would be a electoral force like the SNP. If you did your way,. What currency would you use and would you be kicked out of the EU also How will the world financial markets react to all that English debt? Lastly How would your movement get round the BBC and every other media outlet being against you to the point of lying for their Westminster masters?

      • mikewaller

        If they have any sense, if and when the Scots go, the English will insist that either they take NI with them or the massive bill for NI gets split pro rata. The plantations were, after all, a toxic mess created by an unhappy alliance between James VI of Scotland and his Scottish Presbyterians and the City of London. James actually dished out major honours to those who helped fund the operation. A new “Scotland the Brave” cannot in good conscience set off, leaving the English to cope with a jointly created mess. Wales is exclusively our bag, NI isn’t.

        • Robin Stevenson

          Unfortunately, for NI, Scotland, simply, cannot “Take them with us” NI is a separate entity from Scotland and we do not have the power [or indeed] the wish, to take them anywhere?
          On that point, Scotland isn`t “going anywhere”, it`s not as if we`re floating off into the North sea? we share the same land mass and always will, Scotland, merely wants to be in control of it`s own resources, and finances rather than give them to our neighbour then plead for a percentage of them back.
          We can spout off all day about the historical ties between our countries, but what we`re talking about is the present day,
          This “Joint mess” has been created over the years by UK governments, either Labour or Conservative [it makes little difference which]
          Money has been borrowed [in Scotlands name] and distributed among the rest of the UK, Scotland “Cannot” borrow money, we don`t have that power, that`s kept by Westminster. We were, however, prepared to pay our 10% of the National debt in the event of Independence [despite that fact that we never needed to borrow it in the first place] However, the illiterate Osborne refused a shared currency, he`d rather inflict Billions more on the English taxpayers than be seen to “agree” to what every financial expert agreed was the best for both countries?
          Nevertheless, come 2017 with Camerons In/Out Ref on EU membership, I can safely say they`ll be a Scottish Ref #2.
          This time I don`t see a “Shared currency” even being an option for the UK, unless ofc, Osborne begs us.

    • John

      You are a sad fool.

    • Sunset66

      Jesus God forbid Scotland should be allowed to run its own affairs inside the union
      ” permanent malcontents” charming . You were not complaing when the oil gushed for thirty years

      • Barba Rossa

        Oil revenues went straight to London.

  • Maureen O’Brien

    The British Labour Party is loosing voter confidence? Perhaps this is why — Rotherham council ignored child abuse by Asian gangs because of ‘misplaced political correctness’, report concludes | via @Telegraph http://fw.to/uddsvgd — For over a decade the Council protected child molesters — If you want the people to vote for you, do your damn job!

  • Salmondnet

    “The Tories are trying to use this scenario to rally English voters” Not trying very hard though, if the utterly inadequate EVEL fudge proposed by Hague is anything to go by.

  • John Mitchell

    “All this helps explain why Murphy is picking fights with London — for example, his idea about how the mansion tax would be good for Scotland because it would force rich Londoners to pay for more Scottish nurses. This argument may have force, but it’s precisely the force that threatens to rip Britain apart.”

    Yes, that’s the sort of thing you would expect from the SNP or UKIP and not Labour. I don’t disagree with the premise but the clumsy way he put wasn’t at all helpful. What Jim Murphy said on fracking recently was ridiculous in that Scotland would be used as a ‘guinea pig’ just as it was with the Poll Tax. That sounds more like Alex Salmond than the Labour leader in Scotland. Plus, seeing as Scotland will have control over onshore fracking licensing in Scotland with the Smith Commission recommendations, the chide that Scotland could be forced into something on fracking simply doesn’t hold weight.

    I agree with most of the article, get talking about the real issues that people are facing in Scotland and the UK at large. Stop pandering about the constitution and let the SNP concern themselves about that.

    • Barba Rossa

      Murphy is the typical Unionist opportunist, he is devoid of priciple. his days as a “Politician” are nearly over.. hes a sewer rat who will say anything to stay on the gravy train.. he has already claimed more than a million in expenses… its all he cares about really.

      • John Mitchell

        I’m not that cynical and I don’t agree. If anything, Jim Murphy seems like an active and engaged MP which is a good thing. I’d like him to move in a slightly different direction generally, but I don’t question his zeal for what he does.

        • Barba Rossa

          Good for you John… can’t think theres many like you..Murphy spent 9 years at uni and left without a degree.. maybe he was just there for the beer, but he certainly has Zeal when it comes to expenses..Hes a Blarite who voted in favour of waging war on Iraq.. which was an excellent career move.

          • John Mitchell

            I personally opposed the Iraq War from the outset.

            Your criticism on Jim Murphy voting in favour of the Iraq War is valid and it was not the right thing to do. In Murphy’s case though I’m not surprised with him being a Blairite as you suggest and he is a member of the Henry Jackson Society. That’s his position which he is entitled to even if I vehemently disagree with him on Iraq.

          • Sunset66

            As Jimbo says ” I am not a unionist”

        • Sunset66

          John he is a carreerist politican who is happy to change his position at the drop of a hat

          My favourite youtube video of him is him being asked was he a student for nine years He says no I was NUS leader .
          The interviewer says ” but dont you have to be a student to lead the NUS . His answer Yes

          Nine years at university never graduated

          He rented out a house he owned in London then claimed for rental costs on another property

          He had the highest expenses of any Scottish mp at Westminster including those covering Shetland

          He has never had a job outside of politics

          A career politican of the worst kind

          • John Mitchell

            “He has never had a job outside of politics.”

            That’s a problem within all the political parties. I believe my local MSP worked in the SNP offices in Inverurie and then ended up as the candidate not long after. Mark McDonald is another example of a researcher turned politician. That’s how it usually works although it would be welcome if this changed. I’m not overly optimistic that it will in the politically correct and technocratic age that we now live in.

            If nationalists are so rattled by Jim Murphy (which they seem to be), then he must be doing something right. The SNP are only in the position they are now because, one, people are fed up of the “establishment” or Westminster (across the UK), and two, the nationalists have had meek opposition at times at Holyrood.

          • Sunset66

            God almighty John labour have been largely in power in Scotland for decades

            In Glasgow since just after WW1 . Its not just Jim Murphy. The party has lost its way.
            In England it is moving to the right but is terrified of losing its Scottish mps

            Jim Murphy is right wing who during the referendum denigrated Scotland
            He is an able performer but surely you should judge him on his voting record

            He gets an easy ride from the media

            The labour party only now exists to work in the parties interest

            If you look at Jims spin doctors they are nasty right wingers

            Labour have had their chance demonstrated by the polls with a membership so low they dont publish the numbers.

            Truly i wish they offered an alternative but they dont

          • John Mitchell

            Whether Labour has been in power in Scotland for decades or not is not relevant in this instance, my point stands. The political system as a whole is affected by this and it isn’t tied to one political party only.

            “In England it is moving to the right but is terrified of losing its Scottish mps.”

            I disagree on your first statement in that sentence. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey would not show much of a difference in key areas. I believe a poll in a Scottish national newspaper indicated that up to 7 in 10 people in Scotland want to see tougher controls on immigration.

            It would be bad for Labour to lose some of its Scottish MPs, I agree. It could make the difference between Ed Miliband forming a UK government and David Cameron continuing as Prime Minister. I don’t agree with the SNP counter argument seeing as there is no guarantee that anyone will do business with them. They’re not a UK based party which means any coalition/confidence and supply arrangement would not be serving UK interests as a whole, which could cause resentment but that would arguably be the nationalists plan, other than another five years of Conservative government at UK level because it suits their agenda.

            “Truly I wish they offered an alternative but they dont…”

            You have the right to your opinion. The independence referendum last year has reenergised some in politics and that’s great. I still believe that there are alternatives and choices that everyone can make politically, but I will agree that all of the main parties are largely similar on economic policy which is disappointing. I’d like to see more of a clear difference myself.

          • Neil Munro

            Hardly rattled. Murphy is more or less a standing joke up here these days.

          • Derick Tulloch

            The careerist problem will eventually afflict the SNP. But it is not so long ago that to be in the SNP was to have virtually no chance of being elected – hence the vast majority of SNP politicians have had proper jobs first.

  • smilingvulture

    Vow plus—–biggest PR disaster since Daily Record offered free holiday flights for buying a vaccum cleaner

  • Polly Radial

    A witches cauldron – created by imbeciles – stirred by half-wits – soon to be fed to the gullible and confused.
    Thanks, Tony.

  • jdmank

    Anybody know what date it is today?

  • Ed  


  • Tamas Marcuis: “Why do these articles always talk as if the Scots population are childlike and naive. ”

    It’s the colonial mindset (and ultimately, unconscious racism) of self-regarding establishment pundits like James Forsyth, who have at best a cartoon understanding of the Scottish political dynamic. It is this cognitive deficit that leads them to the sort of Mickey Mouse conclusions you will find herein.

    Consider this idiocy from Mr Forsyth: “Then, [Murphy] emphasised that he wanted to get the debate back onto normal political issues. He wanted to concentrate on holding the SNP to account for its record in government. This strategy was showing early signs of success.”

    Well, we are all aware of the single outlier panelbase poll which the Unionist empty suits in the media clung to like limpets as dispositive evidence of the “Murphy effect” they assured us would be apparent . . . any day now.

    That poll’s results where discredited by other polls in less than 24 hours, yet even now these clueless Unionist propagandists are claiming it showed Murphy’s “strategy was showing early signs of success.”

    Complete bull of course, but within the MSM there’s virtually no one with a clue who’s honest enough to challenge the cosmically dumb assertions of a James Forsyth.

  • Robin Kinross

    “ever since New Labour introduced a Scottish assembly”.

    There speaks the voice of British Conservative disdain.

    It is a parliament, not an assembly. As Winnie Ewing said at the time, it’s a reconvening of the parliament that last met in 1707. And it wasn’t “introduced” by New Labour – it came out of a process of public discussion in Scotland (the Claim of Right to a Scottish parliament).

    • Informed Person

      Actually, it is neither a parliament (despite the SNP rebranding it as a “Government”) or an assembly, it is and ever shall be the Scottish Executive, any attempt to make it otherwise would be a breach of the 1998 scotland act which devolves power to it and would lead to it being dissolved.

      • Robin Kinross

        And that, precisely, is why Scotland is on its way out of the Union.

        • Informed Person

          Why, because they don’t like being told the truth?

          • Robin Kinross

            No, because the structure of the state has stopped working. It worked nicely enough for the first 250 years of the Union, and Scotland did very well out of the Empire (in some parts of the world it was in effect the Scottish Empire). But with the dissolution of the Empire, and with the disappearance of any religious threat to Protestant Britain, the rationale for the Union was lost. After the Empire had gone, in the 1970s and 1980s, the structure began to creak. The British state was sold off (Cameron and Osborne are finishing the job) and the UK lost much of the social and economic glue that had held it together. In the 1980s Scotland, much more than England, ceased to have any effective political representation within the UK state. Without representation, a country (Scotland) will take matters into its own hands.

  • hugh mcsween

    Scot goes pop
    =====Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

    SNP 45.6% (+3.6)

    Labour 26.5% (+0.4)

    Conservatives 16.2% (-2.1)

    Liberal Democrats 4.9% (-0.8)

    UKIP 3.8% (-0.1)

    Greens 3.3% (n/c)

    (The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide
    polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and
    for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish
    polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven
    days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

  • Peter Arnott

    James, you’re still writing as if this were an ethnic conflict that Labour have mismanaged. You’re still writing with the same assumptions that led Cameron to believe what Darling told him about the ability of Labour to “deliver” Scotland as if people here were a predictable sub-species with bad diets and funny clothing. This has been coming for 40 years. It’s about economic culture, not accents. The sooner you get that the sooner we can start having an adult conversation about what we’re going to do lo live together on these islands. Under a new dispensation. It doesn’t matter how much power we are “given” on loan. What we need is to reflect constitionally the cultural changes that have already happened.

    • Derick Tulloch

      Spot on.

  • DaHitman

    Labour started losing Scotland when they gave them their own Parliament, something the English still aren’t allowed

  • edithgrove

    The BBC lost the Union when it took off-air radio 4s UK theme, up till then we’d all been joined together in our half-sleeping minds by Annie Laurie, Rule Britannia, drunken sailors, greensleeves, Scotland the Brave and oh don’t deceive me, oh never leave me. The BBC thought they were being smart making us into an EU region with communities and look where that has landed us, thank you very much.

  • mixodorians

    Since the English have decided to become raging vindictive, resentful (do tories do anything else)mean spirited and spiteful English supremacists they seem to now think that the Welsh and Scottish are just scum.
    They probably always did, such is the nature of Supremacists..
    Problem is the English don’t want to do any of the heavy lifting to break up the Union and seem to rely on the Scottish and welsh nationalists (the people least able to do so) to break up the UK.

    Wales and Scotland can’t “just leave”? You English supremacist morons know that right?
    Nearly 50% of the population of Wales are English. It would be pointless even holding a referendum.
    It is now 14:18 if Wales declared independence, there would be challenger tanks on the streets of Ebbw Vale by 15:00.

    So shouting “just leave” is ludicrous.

    • vieuxceps2

      Just leave.

  • Lawrence Anderson B

    “It all marked a recognition that Great Britain is far bigger, and far more important, than party politics.”

    This sentence betrays the author’s elegiac take on the extraordinary (and to him most unwelcome) outpouring of civic activism triggered by the indyref that has turned the Scottish polity upside down and is by no means over. His unspoken wish: “why can’t these Jocks go back into their box and let the grown-ups run the Union?”, is unlikely to be granted.

    No, Mr. Forsyth, that Better Together campaign culminating in the three amigos’ antics was not a recognition that GB is “far bigger than party politics”. That was an appalled recognition that the cosy, self-serving (and corporate-capital-serving), power-centralising, Security Council obsessed, paedophile-protecting, ermine coated gravy train at Westminster was under serious threat for the first time in 250 years. These are the aftershocks of the end of empire. They have not finished rumbling. Forsyth has very little grasp of the magnitude of what he is observing.