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The Challenge for the SNP is to put Scotland first

August 20, 2007

The SNP will be successful if they are able to put Scotland’s needs first – even if this means putting independence on the backburner.

One of the things that has turned people off New Labour is the fact that they are very clearly not putting Scotland first: they are putting the needs of the UK Labour Party first. Without Scottish votes, Labour would stand no chance of election to Westminster. Labour opposes independence because it would hurt their chances of election in middle England – they don’t care what’s best for Scots, and they come across as anti-democratic: Salmond says “let’s have a conversation about Scotland’s future”, and Labour says “let’s not, there’s nothing to talk about”.

Independence is the elephant in the room.

Wendy Alexander, Scottish Labour’s new leader, appears to realise this – which puts her on a collision course with the UK party.

Scotland’s relation to the UK is the crucial political question it faces – and it’s a crucial question for the rest of the UK too. The war in Iraq, and Britain’s submission to US foreign policy has focused minds north of the border:

We want you to get up the arse of the White House and stay there,”

is hardy inspiring as a policy.

Britain is an imperial power with the world’s second biggest military budget, and is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Is this the kind of country we want to be part of?

If you’re on the hard core fringe of Rangers support, the answer might well be yes. But growing numbers of Scots are beginning to imagine a different future for themselves – not necessarily independence, but one where their country is more than an inconvenient appendage to an imperial power, and a source of cannon fodder and whiskey to imperialism’s military caste.

The English, of course, have their own questions to ask about this, and some research shows they are rather more keen on Scottish independence than the Scots themselves are. Some of them, I am sure, just want to be rid of the ‘whinging sweaties’ (it’s cockney rhyming slang, don’t ask), but others are beginning to imagine a new England.

Greater devolution within England would seem to make sense as well: the whole of the UK is dominated by what happens in the South Eastern corner of England. It’s not just the Celtic fringe that has cause to resent this – people in the North and West of England are dominated by the metropolitan South East.

Whatever Scots decide, they will choose a settlement that works for them, not for career politicians in London.

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