Jeremy Corbyn has waded into the ever volatile world of Scottish politics by stating that Scotland could not afford independence and that it would lead to “turbocharged austerity”. As if he does not have enough to deal with back in London, he thought it would be a good idea to further stir the already near-boiling pot by promoting a pro-Union message in Glasgow, the heartland of the independence movement.
Corbyn’s suggestion that Scotland would not survive independently is ironic, considering that many economists do not think that the UK will do better outside the EU. An independent Scotland outside the UK and inside the EU would have a much brighter future than any post-Brexit Britain could ever have. Scotland would have full access to the largest single market in the world, from which the UK could soon find itself excluded.
It is hard not to view Corbyn’s speech as one last attempt at relevance north of the border. Scottish Labour is fast losing their importance as the SNP present themselves as the only major party committed to the EU. Whilst members of his party across the UK make their pro-EU opinions known, Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre support for the Remain campaign and his subsequent rhetoric concerning Brexit reveal a frighteningly Eurosceptic streak.
It is important to realise that independence and EU membership are not two separate debates in Scotland, but are one and the same. The SNP were quick to catch on to this and, since the referendum last year, the Scottish Government has largely been successful in tying the two together. Yet Labour seems to have missed this entirely and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has only exacerbated the fact that they have done nothing to raise their prospects in Holyrood or the Scottish seats in Westminster. Indeed, according to YouGov, only 18 per cent of Scots think Corbyn is doing a good job, significantly less than the 36 per cent who think the same of Theresa May. Meanwhile, the First Minister has proved time and time again that she is as competent as Jeremy Corbyn is incompetent.
When in opposition, Labour had many opportunities to exert their power over the government in Edinburgh. The crown placed on the head of the opposition as chief government auditors wields great influence. This crown, however, no longer belongs to Labour, but to the Tories. The Scottish parliamentary elections in May 2016 were Corbyn’s first major test of his support and it was no surprise that he failed it miserably. Under Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives have taken the title of the major anti-independence parliamentary movement and they do not look set to give it back anytime soon. It is their job to oppose the SNP government and its independence-minded agenda. Scottish Labour was once in that position, but failed to offer a viable alternative.
The Labour Party needs to decide whether it wants to continue to believe that it is the voice of the anti-independence movement in this country. It is no use peddling the anti-independence mantra when they would do well to focus on the myriad of other issues facing the nation.
In order to win seats back from the Tories, Labour must re-evaluate its plan in Scotland and find a clear, grounded position from where it can fight against a hard Brexit and other Tory policies that have little, if any, support across the country. Voters deserve a clear message ahead of the council elections this year and Labour, not only in Scotland but across the UK, is simply not giving one.
Image Credit: Garry Knight