I am not a unionist.

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.

A note to Mr McCluskey

Len McCluskey has threatened that his union, Unite, could take their funding from Labour to another political party. Picture: Getty Images

Unite’s Len McCluskey deserves great credit for his support of the working class in these islands. However, his threat to move support from Scottish Labour to the SNP can’t be classed as part of that.

To understand his folly, Mr McCluskey need look no further than UNISON’s “The Cuts Don’t Work” report. It outlines how the SNP have cut £2.5b from public sector funding via the Council Tax freeze. This attack on the services councils provide has disproportionately benefitted the wealthy – Scots in Band H homes save on average £441 per year while those in the cheapest homes save only £147 a year. Those on welfare don’t benefit at all, but see the services they use cut.

In addition to this, the SNP worked hand in glove with the Tories to block a pay rise for low paid staff in public contracts – they voted against the living wage five times.

The SNP is also not helping the working class get the education they need to demand a good wage in the workplace. Under the SNP Scotland is playing catch-up in early years education, literacy is falling, we have 4000 fewer teachers, college places have been cut and the grant for the poorest students slashed.

Under the SNP, Scotland has seen real terms cuts to both health and education, whilst at the same time the Tories, despite all of their flaws, have increased spending on these key public services in England. Furthermore, the SNP has dramatically increased private sector involvement in the NHS.

The private sector is growing elsewhere – on the 1st of June the Scottish Government will move the Forth Road Bridge out of democratic control and into the hands of an Oxford based company. Jobs are threatened.

Furthermore, Mr McCluskey should remember that it was Labour and Unite that together demanded that the SNP undertake an inquiry into worker blacklisting in Scotland. Not only did the SNP block the request, they awarded contracts to some of the companies involved.

These attacks on the working class and the public services they rely on have been opposed by the Labour movement in Scotland.  One could argue about the effectiveness of that resistance, but it will not be improved if Mr McCluskey gives up the fight and joins the opposition.

What could the SNP bring to a coalition arrangement with Labour?


There can be little surprise that Ed Miliband has refused to formally rule out a coalition agreement with the SNP. The real question is what could the SNP bring to such an arrangement?

If they had left open the possibility of working with the Conservatives, then they could perhaps have had a stronger bargaining position. Their current position means they’d have to back Labour or be criticised by the Scottish left for letting the Conservatives back into Downing Street. Ed Milliband would have them over a barrel.

Nonetheless, if the SNP say they hope to influence Labour’s policy agenda, they need to outline what they oppose, what their alternative is and how Scotland would benefit. Simply pretending that the SNP’s mere presence in government would “end austerity economics” is fanciful.