No mention of Independence


by John McAllion

With more than two weeks campaigning behind us, it is increasingly clear that this Scottish election will be all about which of our political parties can best deliver on Devolution rather than about whether our country should move on from Devolution to Independence.

In the first of their televised debates, the leaders of the big four parties clashed over all kinds of devolved issues, from tuition fees and council tax freezes to local income tax and apprenticeships.  They even found time to disagree over the compassionate release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.  Yet on the respective merits of Independence or the Union not a word.

The early party political broadcasts have followed the same pattern.  Labour and the Tories, for better or worse, chose to focus on the personalities of their respective leaders.  The Lib-Dems used up their entire broadcast on keeping Scotland’s police forces local.  The SNP broadcast boasted of 84 different achievements delivered in 4 years of government.  No mention was made of trying to achieve Independence – the purpose for which the SNP exists.

So far only Labour has made a passing reference to Independence.  They have promised that any administration led by them would not be “distracted” by the problems associated with holding an Independence referendum.  In a manifesto that runs to 90 pages, and explains why they are fighting “for what really matters”, they make only one passing reference to “constitutional wrangling”.   Not even a sentence is devoted to defending their allegedly beloved Union.

It is scarcely surprising therefore that the latest BBC poll, ranking the policies that voters think are important, should place a referendum on Independence twenty-second out of twenty-five.  Only a single Scottish police force, a new Forth road bridge, and youngsters leaving school at 14 fared worse.

Unionists will argue that this poll accurately reflects what Scottish voters think and that the vast majority of Scots simply are not interested in Independence.  Others will note that the poll reflects what the political parties themselves argue are the important issues.  It is no surprise that policing, free university tuition fees, and a council tax freeze top the BBC poll.  These are the same issues that the political parties have been concentrating on in the campaign so far.

Iain Gray may claim that his party will not be distracted by the issue of Independence from the things that really matter.  The truth is that it is Alex Salmond and the SNP who have allowed themselves to be distracted from the issue of Independence by the burden of governing a devolved Scotland for the past four years, and by the challenge of winning a mandate to run devolution for another four years.

They could well win another four years.  Whether that will further the cause of Independence is another matter altogether.


John McAllion was a former Labour MP and MSP and is now a member of the Scottish Socialist Party{jcomments on}