Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Alternative Unionist!

Not all Scottish Unionist politicians want to join Johann Lamont in supporting the Miliband/Cameron/Clegg position of picking a fight with the Scottish people over independence.

Scottish elder statesman and ex leader of the Scottish Labour party Henry McLeish distances himself from his own party's position and brands the union as not fit for purpose. The report in today's Herald Scotland goes on to say:
Mr McLeish told The Herald that pro-Union parties would ignore at their peril the question of Scottish identity.

He said that rather than talking about "devo max", a more effective concept would be an autonomous Scotland, with full fiscal and devolved powers but within the UK, because the status quo was unfit for purpose.

Mr McLeish warned his party against linking its campaign to the Tories, whom he branded toxic and the LibDems as dysfunctional.

Mr McLeish, who helped draft the Scotland Act, said his proposal reflected the country's identity and its aspirations, adding: "We care about the Union but we want to change it."

He said the Union's main backers refused to acknowledge change and were fighting bitterly against "any legitimate request or aspiration of parts of the UK to self-determination".

Turning to the prospect of an independent Scotland being banned from using the pound following comments by Chancellor George Osborne, Mr McLeish warned it was "part and parcel of a Conservative-inspired Westminster debate not just against independence but against Scotland".

He said: "The Conservatives, who are genuinely uninterested in the whole idea of devolution as their history has shown, will use fear and try to exploit ignorance."

He said they were "obsessed with central control and for some of them "Britishness" was increasingly about England, not the UK, and the struggle for power".

Mr McLeish said change was happening in countries all over the world so "why should anyone be surprised or shocked that it should happen in the UK? What the Tories don't get is the idea that this change is inevitable," he said.

He said that since the SNP first won power in 2007 there had been a significant shift from traditional class allegiances to "identity politics".

Mr McLeish claimed a negative pro-Union campaign "kicking Alex Salmond or the Nationalists or independence" would be counter-productive.

Whilst McLeish does not advocate full independence he most certainly supports 'devo-max' which is a refreshing position for a senior Labour statesman.


Britnot said...

A honest Unionist! What a refreshing change!!

Draig said...

McLeish is probably one of the few sensible remaining heads in the "Scottish" Labour Party. He represents the middle ground that is currently being frozen out in all the Unionist hysteria over the proposed (consultative!) Referendum.

He probably represents Labour's last remaining chance in Scotland and the minute he throws in the towel and decides to join the SNP's campaign it'll be game over for the Union.

MH said...

Henry McLeish has held this position for some time. In August last year he said something very similar in the Daily Express (of all places) which I commented on here.

At that time he said he was "very optimistic" that Labour would come out in favour of devo-max, and I thought it was a promising sign, but that optimism seems to have been unfounded. The Labour leadership in both the UK and Scotland have ruled out including it as a referendum option, and it will therefore be that much harder for them to change their minds now. A golden opportunity missed.