Scottish voters are not thick. They recognise that the SNP want independence more than anything else. Labour must be careful not to allow itself to be portrayed as a party which puts “The Union” before all else. Within this context, Kezia Dugdale is correct to say that Labour should focus on its values if it is to recover in Scotland.
The first aim of the SNP, as outlined in its constitution, is “Independence for Scotland”. Secondary to this is “the furtherance of all Scottish interests”. There is nothing about ensuring “wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few” or delivering “people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power”. These are Labour’s values. These are Scotland’s values.
This is non-trivial. Labour exists to deliver social justice. To tackle poverty. To redistribute opportunity. It does not exist to oppose the Tories and the SNP, or to ensure Scotland remains in the UK. These activities should only be important when they enable Labour to help deliver social justice.
One of the SNP’s great successes over the past year has been its ability to label Scottish Labour as a “unionist party”. It uses this term in a divisive and negative way. In their eyes, Scots must be nationalists or unionists. We must be for Scotland or against it.
Labour must shake this off by sticking to its values. It must promote itself as the party of social justice. The party which fights inequality and defends public services. Sure it wants Scotland to stay in the UK, but this is because remaining in the UK, even when we have a Tory government, is the best way to deliver social justice in the long-term. Staying in the UK is not the objective. It is, quite frankly, a means to an end.
With some hard work, Scots will see that voting is not about unionism versus nationalism. They will see that they have a choice between the ideology of nationalism, the Tory small-state philosophy and Labour’s promise of a fairer Scotland. I know what I’d vote for.