Better Together splits widen as Labour MSP calls for separate referendum campaign


  By G.A.Ponsonby
A Labour MSP has criticised his party’s decision to “hold hands” with the Tories in the ‘Better Together’ alliance against Scottish independence and has claimed that the No campaign is now unable to “outline a coherent vision”.

Lothians MSP Neil Findlay has broken ranks with his Scottish Labour colleagues and called for the Labour and Trade Union movement in Scotland to argue against independence by putting forward their own alternative to ‘Devo-Max’.

Writing in a left wing publication ‘The Labour Movement Alternative For Radical Constitutional Change’ – Mr Findlay, together with co-author Tommy Kane who is the MSP’s researcher and a Labour parliamentary officer, insisted that Scotland needs “something better” than the status quo currently being promoted by the No campaign.

Claiming that Scotland is faced with “social and economic devastation” under the current settlement, Mr Findlay said of Better Together: “Its members cannot outline a coherent vision either, for a Scotland that seeks to break and/or control the power of Capital and work in the interests of ordinary working people.

“…and the Better Together Campaign cannot simply speak of the virtues of the UK and how well we have been served by the current Union, without recognition that things must change within that union.”

In the article, entitled: ‘People Power:Fighting for Real Power for Scotland’s People’, the Labour MSP dismissed Devo-Max as a solution to Scotland’s problems with poverty claiming it would lead to an end of redistribution of wealth across the UK and a race to the bottom in terms of corporate taxation.

Calling for a breakaway Labour led campaign, he added:

“Whatever the question eventually put to the Scottish people, we believe there is time for the Labour and Trade Union movement to generate its own alternative using the Scottish Labour Party’s and the STUC’s review process.

“Our aim is that the ideas generated in this paper are included in those debates and form part of the Labour Movement alternative for constitutional change.”

Mr Findlay continued: “We need stronger powers to ensure that social ownership allows us to own and invest in productive elements of the Scottish economy which also means greater borrowing powers.

The Labour MSP also warned that Westminster will not simply hand Scotland any extra powers and said:

“It is becoming clearer that these additional powers will not be handed to us and that we will have to fight for them.”

Mr Findlay’s attack on ‘Better Together’ follow similar comments the Labour MSP made last month in which he launched an astonishing personal attack against Alistair Darling, and distanced himself completely from the No campaign.

Participating in an Edinburgh People’s Festival debate Mr Findlay derided the alliance between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems and also heaped ridicule on several senior Tory and Labour politicians.

Mr Findlay’s calls for a Devo-Max type alternative to full independence is in stark contrast to Labour’s official position within Better Together, which refuses to countenance any further powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The intervention by the Labour MSP and those on the traditional left has highlighted the difficulty faced by Scottish Labour who have allied themselves to David Cameron’s Tory party in an effort at maintaining the current constitutional settlement.

With over two years to go before the referendum, there will be very real doubts as to whether the Unionist bloc can maintain a united front that insists only the status quo appears as an alternative to independence on the ballot paper or whether splits will emerge as the more powers camp becomes more vocal.