Last year, over coffee in Glasgow, I was discussing the strategy of the Better Together camp with a prominent Labour politician. I suggested to him that Labour’s problem in Scotland is that they had to develop a narrative that says good things about the union rather than simply parrot the predictable and scientifically questionable surveys of purple-faced and gin-soaked CBI types that claim we’ll be a developing country if we become independent.
One year later and, despite Douglas Alexander’s best efforts, Labour has still failed to sell the union on its own merits. Events since then may even have rendered the task impossible. Unionists, me included, have talked loftily about dangers of break-up and separation in a world that is thirsting for continuity and stability.
Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world’s most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.
Labour in the UK long ago gave up any pretence at being the party of the marginalised and the vulnerable. Instead, it throws rotten fruit at the SNP when it says what Labour should be saying. Alex Salmond last week painted a handsome picture of what a new Scottish constitution following independence would look like. Every Scot, he said, would have a right to a home and free education. There will be no nuclear weapons. And we’ll decide who we’re fighting and who we’re not. Until Blair, Mandelson, Balls and Miliband hijacked the party, that was what I thought Labour stood for. Now they simply boo and hiss with the Tories and say it can’t be done.
Earlier this month, the UK Treasury declared that, following a period of intense and prolonged analysis of the economic numbers, each of us would be £1 a year worse off in an independent Scotland. Put another way, for £1 a year you will never have to endure the economic privations of a Conservative government ever again. You will not be penalised for being poor or old and nor will you suffer the pain of watching your young boys being killed in illegal wars or occupations.
With each passing week, it becomes more difficult to support a union that doesn’t really exist anyway. Morally, it may soon become indefensible to remain in a state that rewards corruption and promotes inequality when you have an opportunity to leave it behind.