By G.A.Ponsonby
Jim Murphy authored an article which appeared in the Scottish Sunday Express at the weekend.  The piece was the Labour MP’s latest contribution to the independence debate.
Murphy’s article was the appetiser for UK Labour’s cavalry ride into Scotland this week in order to save the beleaguered Better Together campaign.  Gordon Brown will follow on Tuesday and Ed Miliband will bring the circus to a close on Friday.

Jim Murphy’s intervention, Like Brown’s pension scare, is a rehash of the tired old clichés that have brought the No campaign to where it is … contemplating the very real prospect of defeat.

The headline of the article though was intriguing – If I thought independence would be good for Scotland then I would support it. But it isn’t & I don’t.

In stating he would back Yes if it meant a better Scotland, Murphy at least was admitting that Unionist claims a Yes vote is based on ethnicity and/or identity are untrue.  Lest the MP for East Renfrewshire himself be accused of harbouring such xenophobic feelings.

But what of Jim Murphy’s claim that he’d vote Yes of he thought that Scotland would be better off? 

Prior to revealing his support for independence, at least in principle, Murphy writes: “I am a patriot not a nationalist.” He then adds: “Nationalists believe in a ‘for richer or for poorer’ type of separation.  They want independence regardless of the costs or consequences.  Most of the rest of us will do what we feel and think is the best thing for Scotland.”

I’m not so sure pro-independence backers, if that is what Murphy means when he uses the term ‘Nationalists’, do indeed support independence for better or worse.  There are it is true a minority who would back Yes come what may, as there are Unionist fundamentalists who would vote No even if Yes meant things got better in Scotland.

But Murphy’s claim was merely a segway into another of the anti-independence canards – the myth of the subsidy junkie Scot.

He continues: “But being part of the UK isn’t just a cold analysis of a nation’s financial balance sheet.  If it was then the referendum would be a non-contest.  That’s because Scotland pays £53 billion in taxes into UK coffers but we get even more back – £65 billion – a £12 billion UK dividend.”

It’s a reworking of the ‘too-poor’ argument.  It’s also flawed as it fails to explain the borrowing by the UK that makes up the so-called ‘dividend’.  Borrowing that Scotland has to pay back through taxes and because Scots contribute more per head in taxes, we end up servicing more debt than we would if independent.

What if you had a mature and reasoned debate with Jim Murphy and explained to him the error of his calculation and, that far from being the recipient of a generous UK benefit, Scotland was actually losing out.  Would Murphy back Yes?

The answer is almost certainly no, he wouldn’t.

From observing Murphy over the last few years, he seems too loyal to himself to publicly contemplate the pros and cons of independence in a mature and honest fashion.  For all we know he may well privately believe a Yes vote is indeed the best option for Scots.  But to publicly acknowledge this, is to end the Westminster gravy train that is the career of a Scottish Labour MP.

Murphy displays all the traits of someone who is looking after number one and that means holding onto the lucrative salary, expenses and other benefits he has strived so hard for.  His article in the Sunday Express, reproduced on the Better Together website, is simply Murphy going through the motions.

There are plenty of Jim Murphy types in the Labour party these days.  Anas Sarwar often strikes me as someone who is out of the same Murphy mould, Douglas Alexander is another.

But are all Scottish Labour MPs like Murphy, Alexander and Sarwar?

No is the simple answer.  There are Scottish Labour MPs who I believe are fiercely Unionist.  Ian Davidson is one such, and they are fuelled more by their constitutional leanings than thoughts of self-aggrandisement.

That’s not to say that politicians like Davidson aren’t seduced by Westminster’s power and influence, but the Glasgow MP who chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee is probably one of the more honest campaigners on behalf of the Union.  I actually have a grudging respect for people like Davidson.  He’s fighting for something he truly believes in.

Johann Lamont is another who falls into the Ian Davidson category of fundamental Unionist.  Her well-documented opposition to devolution in the seventies is indicative of someone who sees Scotland as a mere regional appendage to the lower half of Britain.

But careerists and Unionist fundamentalists cannot alone explain the almost rabid opposition the Scottish Labour party has, not just to independence, but to the now redundant Devo-Max.  Devo-Max, or full fiscal autonomy as it was previously known, would have allowed both of these Scottish Labour wings – careerists and fundamentalists – to continue.

The fundamentalists could have rested, assured that the Union was still intact.  The careerists could have continued to enjoy the trappings of Westminster which would have included the dream of a lifelong seat in the expense rich and tax-free club known as the House of Lords.

But they blocked the compromise the SNP proffered prior to the eventual signing of the Edinburgh Agreement.  The three Unionist parties refused to allow Devo-Max on the ballot paper and instead forced Scots into a binary choice of all-or-nothing.

There are echoes here of Tavish Scott’s suicidal refusal to enter into a coalition with the SNP after the nationalists won their first election in 2007.  It was meant to weaken and eventually bring the fledgling SNP Government down.  I wonder how that plan went?

The Labour party in Scotland could have insisted on more powers being included on the ballot paper, so why didn’t they?

The reason, I suspect, is that the party’s hatred of the SNP and Alex Salmond prevented it from giving what they may have considered was an insurance policy to the nationalists.  The Labour party in Scotland now despises the SNP more than it does the Conservatives.

This pathological loathing has rendered it incapable of looking at anything the Scottish Government proposes in an objective way.

From minimum price for alcohol through to childcare, we see a Labour party in Scotland unable to back policies that its MSPs know benefit Scotland.  Instead the hatred for the SNP has festered to a point that even on areas where there is outright agreement such as the Bedroom tax, Scottish Labour has contorted its own view in order to divert its attack from the Tories onto the SNP.

It’s this mindset that forces Scottish Labour to oppose the devolution of welfare from Westminster.  Instead of fighting for some of the massive oil revenue to be diverted into a fund, Scottish Labour forms a pro-Union alliance with the Conservatives to argue against such a plan.

Areas that require mature cooperation between parties because of their controversial and delicate nature are also routinely hi-jacked by Labour in an attempt at scoring political points.  The Megrahi release was perhaps the most blatant example of this small-minded opportunism.  Scottish Labour’s behaviour over the problems of sectarianism at football was another, when it ended up attacking proposals it had initially called for.

This re-shaping of argument to fit with the Willie Bain principle that says Labour must oppose anything proposed by the SNP, is what has led to the Labour/Tory alliance that calls itself Better Together.  It’s joining up with David Cameron’s Tory party has actually little to do with a belief that Scots and Scotland will be harmed by independence and more a result of a psychological block that prevents Scottish Labour countenancing anything it believes might benefit the SNP.

If the SNP benefits, even if Scots do, then Labour will oppose.

But let’s go back to Jim Murphy’s claim that he would back Yes if he thought it would create a better Scotland.  It actually undermines one of the key arguments often put forward by Labour MSPs and MPs when seeking to justify their opposition to Devo-Max and independence.  They claim that they want to see social equality throughout the UK and not just in Scotland.

Murphy, in his article, said nothing about a better rUK and in doing so exposed the lie that Scottish Labour are, by opposing independence, somehow fighting for the poor, the old and the vulnerable across this island.

Labour, at UK level and in Scotland, are a sham.  It’s a vehicle for unprincipled careerists driven by fundamental Unionists and it can never be turned around – at least not as long as the Union persists.

As Nicola Sturgeon said in her speech at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, a Yes vote will wrench the Labour party in Scotland away from these imposters and hand it back to the people who really care for the party’s soul.

The current crop of Scottish Labour politicians would do well to monitor the growth in support for Yes and reflect on how a Yes vote might affect their careers if they are seen to be trying to block the re-birth of their own nation. 

What happens if Scotland votes Yes, this article asks?  The party survives and returns to its roots.  Whether the current crop of MSPs (or indeed MPs) are returned by constituents is anyone’s guess.

[Newsnet Scotland has operated on a reduced news content over the Easter break.  We will be returning to normal service from Tuesday evening onwards.]


2014-04-21 22:27

Ask a Scottish Labour MP whether they would prefer to see:

a) A Scotland within the UK and under a Conservative (Westminster) Government.


b) An independent Scotland under a Labour (Holyrood) Government.

What will follow will be the perfect example of the behavior exhibited by a worm when impaled upon a hook.
2014-04-22 02:11

Labour are not interested in the poor at a UK level or a Scotland level.

Perhaps Mr Murphy should be directed to Business For Scotland who have excellent articles on the economics of the YES argument. But, he knows already anyway doesn’t he?

Just feathering his own nest.

‘Scottish’ Labour are a disgrace.
2014-04-22 06:12

Murphy is the only former President of the National Union of Students to require a police escort out of a students’ union. He had to be sneaked out the back door of Leeds SU once.

He betrayed students by supporting tuition fees once he became an MP, after years of leading the NUS fight against the fees. He’s ardently pro-Trident replacement, and voted for the Iraq invasion.

He’s always been interested in nothing other than his own career.
2014-04-22 06:58

I think the ease with which Scottish Labour could, in the past, deliver a block of 50 or so Labour MPs to Westminster put them in line for the plum Ministerial posts.
Now they have the situation where they no longer control the political agenda and they resent that: they will lose their salaries with Independence, they resent that, even if the vote went to No, their power in Scotland would be seen for a sham, so no more plum jobs, they resent that.
Chateaulait 57
2014-04-22 08:21

“Most of the rest of us will do what we feel and think is the best thing for Scotland.”

Is that why you and the “rest” couldn’t be bothered turning up to vote against the bedroom tax Jim?
2014-04-22 08:32

‘Devo-Max, or full fiscal autonomy as it was previously known, would have allowed both of these Scottish Labour wings – careerists and fundamentalists – to continue.’

I have to disagree. There is already talk of reducing the number of Scottish MPs, and were there to be a form of devo-max the point of having Scottish MPs at all might be seriously questioned – it could be mooted that issues of importance could be discussed and negotiated at Scottish/UK cabinet level. Any reduction in the number of elected posts at any level in Scotland damages the Labour career vehicle: there would be back-biting competition for those remaining, and Labour politicians trying to get an MP candidacy over the Border will be increasingly resented. So any change to the status quo would reduce the chance of getting on that gravy train to the House of Lords.
2014-04-22 08:43

Doesn’t the Electoral Commission limit the number of relaunches and charges to the rescue permitted in an official campaign?
2014-04-22 09:22

It will be interesting to see what kind of audience and audience responses these events will receive. Perhaps of the Philip Hammond type recently? Anyway must be some human WiFi around(see my comment on the Brown article).

2014-04-22 10:12

Generally a good and balanced article. I do however disagree with Mr. Ponsonby’s opinion that Ian Davidson in particular is “honest” in his pro-Union stance.

Davidson accepts an extra £16,000 on top of his MP’s salary, in his position of Chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee. This Committee is composed solely of pro-Union MPs, after Davidson’s disgraceful bullying attitude towards Dr.Whiteford, the sole pro-independence voice in its ranks.

In addition, Davidson regularly edits out any pro-independence opinions of the various “experts” invited to give evidence to the Committee, producing as a result biased, one-sided reports.

Davidson honest? I beg to differ!
2014-04-22 13:15

Totally agree – could add a few more in the same category – but no let’s stay positive.

2014-04-22 10:29

Why do British Labour politicians think that the way to get their message over is to publish in the right wing English press?
People in Scotland may buy these publications but as history shows,pay little attention to the political content.
The SNP would never have been elected to power if they had.
If we had a press in Scotland which represented the views of the people rather than the owners,then they might have a better prospect of getting their message across.
2014-04-22 12:19

Is there such a thing as the ‘Scottish Labour party’? Is it not just the Labour party and they are members of a sub-branch – wee brothers to the big brothers down south? This also applies to the Tories and Lib Dems – UK parties all.

If this is indeed the case then in the event of a YES vote they would be members of political parties of a foreign country which would make their participation in negotiating the independence settlement open to question . In which case they would have to form new parties registered in Scotland with whatever we have to replace the Electoral Commission in order to fight the 2016 Holyrood election?

I am sure there would be plenty left of centre and right of centre people who could take part in the independence negotiations if they cannot.
2014-04-22 12:31

The election timetable subsequent to the YES vote on 18/9 is interesting.

The proposed date for Independence in March 2016 fits in nicely with the run-up to the next Holyrood Election.

Whichever of the Fabulous 49 current Labour MP’s survive the 2015 GE will be rushing north brandishing their P45s and handsome Westminster redundancy cheques ready to entertain us with what could be one of the great spectator events of the 21st century as the knives flash between them and the sitting Labour MSPs in the great battle to retain a place at the trough.

Whoever survives this unedifying battle and wins a candidacy will unfortunately have another hurdle to clear namely getting themselves elected which may be a trifle difficult.

LibDems (if any survive the 2015 GE) and The SNP will have a similar but lesser problem but I am sure 2016 candidate selection for these 2 will be reasonably civilised unlike the Red Lot.
Auld Rock
2014-04-22 16:40

New Labour need to start listening to their members and supporters. Probably most of you like me have spoken to many of them and they are thoroughly sick of the behaviour of their Party and they ask, “Can’t they see that under Westminster and its out-dated systems of privilege and patronage we will never see true social justice anywhere in the UK.” As one said to me just this afternoon, “I’m voting ‘YES’ for the simple reason that it can’t be any worse than it is now and it’s likely to get even far worse if we vote ‘no’.”

Auld Rock
wee e
2014-04-22 23:22

Very interesting!

Pedantic quibble:
Segway = weird electric scooter
segue = transition/link

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