The reality behind Better Together’s rose-tinted unionism


By John McAllion  

According to the most recent opinion poll on voting intentions, the SNP enjoy a comfortable eight point lead over Scottish Labour.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories and Scottish Lib Dems trail the Nationalist party by 30 and 36 points respectively.

It is no surprise therefore that Labour’s assumption of the leadership of the ‘Better Together’ campaign went unchallenged.

The prospect of either of the Coalition parties heading up the No operation north of the border, while their own UK leaderships pursued scorched earth policies across the Scottish public sector, was always a non-starter.

Labour, on the other hand, has only recently seen half a century of Scottish political ascendancy brought to a crushing halt by Nationalist electoral success.  More importantly, Labour is now in opposition at Westminster and therefore able to distance itself from the deeply unpopular UK austerity programme.

Currently, only Labour can make any kind of case for sticking with austerity Britain.

Labour inaction

Scottish Labour politicians, for example, are able to denounce the hated Bedroom Tax as a “crazy” policy that “won’t work” but is likely to leave thousands of Scots homeless.

Labour’s Margaret Curran even denounced the Scottish Government for its inaction in failing to protect Scotland from this Coalition assault.  Obviously, had Labour still been the Scottish Government, the Shadow Secretary of State would never have dared to utter such a call to arms against Westminster rule.

However, she also omitted to mention that UK Labour is itself intent on introducing a  version of the Bedroom Tax when or if it ever again gets its hands on Britain’s reins of power.

Like the Tories and the Lib Dems, Labour too favours what Westminster terms “sensible welfare reform”. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor has also made clear that he will not reverse the Tory Chancellor’s public spending cuts.

Westminster-style austerity will be with us whatever the result of the next UK election.

Nor can we look for any relief to Scottish Labour. Their leader, in her now infamous“something for nothing” speech, has given notice that her party has renounced the redistributive principle of universal benefits funded from progressive taxation and free at the point of use. The one-time party of the welfare state now threatens to ditch many of the policies it helped to introduce, including free nursing and personal care, free concessionary travel for older people, free prescriptions, free university tuition and much more.

There is, of course, no mention of any of this on the Better Together website or in the speeches of its chairperson Alistair Darling. For North Britons, Scottish jobs, pensions, benefits and futures are threatened only by the spectre of independence.

Scotland, they argue, is too small, too poor and too inconsequential to either afford or to deliver the lifestyles and security that we all derive from being “British”.

Conscious that the “British” Coalition government is already destroying jobs, slashing benefits and pension entitlements, as well as dismantling what is left of the welfare state, Darling likes to lace his speeches with references to the “profound disagreements” his party continues to have with their Tory and Lib Dem partners in Better Together.

Darling tries to paint a picture of a Labour Britain far removed from the real Britain of Labour’s “Better Together” allies. The facts do not fit his argument.

On the economy, Labour is as committed as the Coalition to free markets, public spending cuts and deficit reduction. The interests of the City of London and international finance remain paramount whichever British party is in office.


Britain’s three big parties take turns at reforming and shrinking the public sector. All  three support the most savage anti-trade union laws in Europe. The list could go on.

The Britain that Better Together dreams of reviving remains rooted in its imperial past – a permanent seat on the UN Security Council; membership of the exclusive nuclear weapons club; punching above its military and diplomatic weight; a big power nation feared and respected throughout the world and so on.

These are the real priorities of Britain’s three big political parties. There is no space in such a Britain to prioritise working class interests.

Scottish independence alone will not guarantee those interests. However, it will rid us of a British state that has strangled workers’ aspirations for far too long. That has to be progress.

This article appears courtesy of Scottish Socialist Voice