On Monday, Labour published their report, “A New Britain: Renewing Our Democracy And Rebuilding Our Economy – The Report On The Commission On The UK’s Future”.
Proving my general rule that the length of the titles of papers is inversely proportional to their significance, at 155 pages it takes a fair bit of reading, but I would encourage you to do so.
Crucially, it accepts that the UK is over-centralised and that there is a big disconnect between politics and the people, and a lack of trust in the Government actually working for the people it is there to serve.
That it was co-authored by Gordon Brown, the most centralising UK politician in recent history, somewhat indicates why the paper then prescribes weak and partial solutions.
I would not dismiss them entirely as window-dressing, but to my mind, they miss the big point and why Labour will continue to be out of step with the people of Scotland.
The paper is clearly an exercise in preserving and lending some legitimacy to the Union, and all else flows from that, not the principle of good governance.
It accepts what Professor Ciaran Martin calls the “anglo-centric British nationalism” of the UK and seeks to preserve those structures, power and budgetary control in London.
🏴 Scotland's future is Scotland's choice, not Boris Johnson's.
— Yes (@YesScot) May 8, 2021
The structures of the UK, perversely, ignore Scotland’s wants and needs, and instead, the Labour paper seeks to make some cosmetic changes around the edges to the already fatally lopsided UK structures.
And keep us all out of the EU, the single market and the customs union because Brexit means Brexit.
Labour has bought into the big lie in UK politics that somehow Brexit can be made to work.
It can be made to be less chaotic to be sure, but it will always be a poorer outcome than EU membership – no ifs, no ands, no buts.
But, and I really did my best to read the paper with an open mind, it is on the much-trailed promise that “Labour will stand on a promise of new powers for towns, cities, regions and nations to re-ignite our economy” that the details really are hazy and seem to have forgotten many of the learnings of the Smith Commission process.
Again, the phrase that kept coming back to me was that power devolved is power retained, over the laws themselves and the budgets that make the powers mean something.
But on reform of the House of Lords, the paper misses the point entirely and insults Scotland while it’s at it.
🥀 Keir Starmer backs Brexit and denies an independence referendum.
📉 Brexit has pushed up prices, imposed barriers on businesses and worsened the cost-of-living crisis.
👎 Tories or Labour, we're all paying the price for Westminster control. pic.twitter.com/tMZALsQGdY
— The SNP (@theSNP) September 27, 2022
Keir Starmer had an interesting turn of phrase when he was introducing the proposals – he lumped in the four home nations with “regions, cities and towns”.
Seen from London, perhaps this makes sense.
Seen from Scotland, where the vast majority trust our national parliament and government way more than Westminster and 73% want to see us back in the EU, it looks flatly wrongheaded.
So Labour is setting the ground for their campaign, and as I say the proposals merit a proper read – because the more attention and scrutiny they get, the better.
But, and I’m biased, I’m confident they’ll be found wanting, and out of step with the needs and wants of the people of Scotland.
Labour has at least put an offer on the table and credit to them for that.
It accepts the status quo needs to change and that is a healthy discussion for us to have.
But independence in Europe is our best future.
🔥 "Let me be clear – no establishment, Westminster or otherwise, will ever silence the voice of the Scottish people."
🏴 Watch @NicolaSturgeon's speech at the Holyrood rally for democracy.
— Yes (@YesScot) November 25, 2022