‘Cracks showing’ in Labour’s anti-independence campaign after just 2 days


   By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP say that the cracks are already showing in Labour’s own campaign against Scottish independence – over the likelihood of a Tory government at Westminster following independence.

On Monday both Gordon Brown and Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar argued Scottish independence would mean increasing the likelihood of a Tory government at Westminster – which has since been refuted by No campaign head Alistair Darling and was previously rebutted by an analysis of General Election results.

Mr Darling, who was conspicuously absent from Monday’s launch, said at a press event in London on Tuesday that Labour can win power in Westminster without Scottish MPs if Scotland votes for independence, and he ‘didn’t buy’ the idea that there would be a Tory stronghold.  The contradiction follows a new divide in the No camp as Gordon Brown launched Labour’s own campaign against independence, despite being part of the cross-party campaign.

Despite the claims of Mr Sarwar and Mr Brown, Scotland’s Labour vote has had very little impact in the make-up of UK Governments.  Since WW2, the outcome of the Scottish vote has been influential in only three general elections. 

In 1964, a narrow Labour majority would have resulted in a hung parliament without Scottish MPs, but Labour would still have been by far the largest party.  In the second election in 1974, without Scottish MPs a tiny Labour majority would have become a hung parliament, again with Labour the largest party.  In 2010, the Conservatives would have achieved a small majority without Scottish MPs. 

The figures show that Scottish votes only have an impact when the result from England is very finely balanced.  However, the outcome of General Elections in England always determines the government Scotland gets as well.  A majority of Scottish Westminster MPs have been Labour since the General Election of 1959, yet Scotland has had Conservative or Conservative led governments at Westminster for 30 of the 54 years since then.

The mixed messages from Labour’s senior politicians on Scotland’s electoral influence within the UK is the latest in a series of gaffes by the No campaign.

Previously the No campaign have given mixed messages over the importance of the UK’s lost AAA credit rating, the future of Trident, currency, the Scottish Government’s timetable for the transition to independence, and Scotland’s place in the UK as its sole guarantee of EU membership.

Labour is understood to have set up its separate anti-independence campaign due to the reluctance of certain major Labour figures to campaign on the same platform as the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Ukip, their allies in the “Better Together” campaign. 

However the new Labour campaign has been criticised by many commentators.  Writing in the Herald newspaper on Wednesday, columnist Ian Bell noted that Labour’s new campaign risked sending a subliminal message to the voters:  “For the purposes of pacifying Scotland we in the Labour Party are in alliance with a contemptible bunch we otherwise despise.  Stick with the Union for more of the same.”

Commenting, a SNP spokesperson said:

“The No campaign clearly don’t have their act together. Not only has Labour decided to launch their own, separate campaign, but cracks are already showing amongst Labour’s key players- they can’t even decide if Labour would still be able to win a General Election without Scotland.

“The No campaign has been incoherent on every issue. They argued Scots would save billions as part of the UK on mortgages due to the AAA credit rating, but then downplayed its significance when the rating was lost. Anas Sarwar tells us Labour will fight to get rid of Trident without independence, but Labour says they would be in favour of a ‘like-for-like’ replacement.

“Alistair Darling criticised the proposal of a Scotland – UK currency union, only to then say that it would be ‘logical’. And Darling and Willie Rennie criticised the Scottish Government timetable to independence as unrealistic, only to be discredited by the UK government’s main author of their legal opinion who described the timetable as ‘realistic’.

“Of course the case that Gordon Brown and Anas Sarwar are putting forward is nonsense. We have had 30 years of Tory governments being imposed on Scotland by Westminster – over half the period since 1959, including the long 18 years of Tory government after 1979, and the current Tory-led coalition. By contrast, for only 26 months – from the 1964 to 1966 elections, and between the two elections in 1974 – have MPs from Scotland made any difference in terms of electing Labour, every other Labour government would have been elected south of the Border anyway. It is impossible for 8.4 per cent of the UK population to dictate to the rest, and the electoral record shows that it is a totally threadbare argument.

“What is certain, is a Yes vote next year will ensure Scotland gets the government it votes for, every time.”