LABOUR have sold out Scotland. We know it. They know it. The dogs in the streets of Morningside know it.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis may be the first to openly admit it, but it is clear to anyone seeing Sir Keir Starmer’s rather startling sidestep into the ranks of the hard Brexiteers that the party’s only interest now is winning back Brexit-voting former Labour heartlands in Northern England.
It is refreshing to see Lewis acknowledge that Scotland now faces a choice between independence in the EU and being shackled to a “declining imperial power ruled by hard-right English nationalists”. Voters in Scotland are increasingly coming to the same conclusion. That is why we have seen sustained majority support for independence over the last year.
Contrast Lewis’ honesty with the anti-democratic intransigence of Scotland’s only Labour MP, Ian Murray. He is still stubbornly resolute that Scotland being dragged out of the EU against our will – and against the wishes of three quarters of us here in Edinburgh Southern – is a price worth paying to prevent us going our own way as an independent nation.
I see that Lewis’ comments have caused predictable anger among his Scottish Labour colleagues. I suspect he has touched a nerve. Scotland has changed since 2014. Scottish Labour support plummeted after they joined the Tories to oppose independence. A significant number of the voters they have left – a third or more, according to polling – now back independence. Support for independence is consistently strongest in areas which were once Labour strongholds, including in Glasgow and Dundee. The Scottish Trade Union Congress supports the principle of a future referendum, as does my own union Unison.
Yet Scottish Labour are stuck in the past. They still stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories to block a democratic vote on Scotland’s future. There are a few welcome new voices calling for their party to take a more open approach to the constitutional question. But not in Edinburgh Southern, and not in the party leadership. Instead, hard-Unionist establishment figures seem intent on uncoupling the Labour party from a labour movement that is carrying on forward without it.
Here in Edinburgh Southern, Labour voters who once believed in a future for Scotland as part of the UK are increasingly doubtful that is still possible. Sir Keir’s firm commitment this weekend that, if re-elected, Labour will not seek to re-join the EU and will not support freedom of movement was a slap in the face to Remain-voting Scottish democrats. That is not the future we want for Scotland.
Brexit will have a devastating impact on our communities, our economy and our public services in Scotland. We already know that our health and social care sector will be hit hard by the end of free movement. What a betrayal of our NHS and care heroes who have spent the last year on the front lines of a global pandemic.
But it does not have to be this way. Another future is possible.
Independence is our opportunity to build a better future for Scotland. We can create a sustainable, resilient economy with wellbeing at its heart to tackle poverty and inequality. We can protect our NHS and public services, and reform our vital care sector through a National Care Service. We can re-join the EU and take our place there as an internationalist, outward-looking nation that values peace and human rights.
The current constitutional settlement was negotiated when I was in primary school. Once, even that transfer of power seemed unimaginable. But Scotland has moved on. And now we’re ready to take control of our own future.
It’s time to put the past behind us and come together to build the progressive independent nation we all deserve to live in. And when we do that – to borrow a phrase – things can only get better.