Yvette Cooper is correct to question the merits of Scottish Labour breaking away from the UK Labour party. I spoke to hundreds of voters on the doorstep in the course of the General Election campaign and concluded that the handful that mentioned Scottish Labour’s “branch office” status were never going to back the party. Never.
Setting up Scottish Labour as a wholly independent party would mean adopting the argument the SNP used in the General Election – Scottish Labour would be left claiming it would hold undue influence over UK Labour. Just as they did with the SNP, the Tories would use situation to win votes and seats and ultimately defeat Labour.
For this and other reasons, Scottish Labour must retain its position within the UK Labour party. Labour must speak with a single voice on reserved issues across the UK. It must convince everyone, not just the working class, of the value of an economy focussed on social justice. In Scotland, Scottish Labour must stand in solidarity with UK Labour on reserved issues, but follow its own path on all devolved policy areas.
To a large extent, this was what Jim Murphy did in the General Election. His policy platform was so well tuned to Scotland’s needs that the SNP adopted it wholesale and by doing so made trust the defining election issue in Scotland.
Regaining trust is the challenge Scottish Labour faces. This can only be done by focusing relentlessly on its core values, not rewriting its constitution in the hope that it will silence its most intransigent critics.
PS – It is good to see Kezia Dugdale making similar points.