Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s comments regarding Scottish nationalism are not only unfounded, but deeply detrimental to the efforts of the Scottish Labour Party. Additionally, he is merely furthering the division we see across the Scottish political landscape.
Similar to what we encountered during the Brexit campaign, it is very counterproductive to simply stereotype an entire demographic of people as racist, bigoted or antiquated in their beliefs. Scottish nationalism is none of the above, and, despite my opposition to Scottish independence in 2014, I have come to find the the engagement in Scotland post-IndyRef to be a positive and refreshing outcome.
Mayor Khan’s speech at the Scottish Labour Party Conference this weekend past merely sought to fan the flames of Scottish nationalist fervour. He is correct on one count at least, another independence referendum would be extremely destabilising. Nonetheless, should we abandon the process of democracy merely to maintain stability? I disagree entirely. During the IndyRef campaign of 2014, we regularly heard cries of ‘vote No to remain in the EU‘ – Only to see ourselves heading toward a hard Brexit having voted overwhelmingly to remain. Scotland is entitled to another referendum on this basis alone, and when you consider that we are now governed by a party that holds one seat from 59 in Scotland, and a Prime Minister whom we did not elect, then the choice is crystal clear.
“Now is not the time to fuel that division or to seek separation or isolation. Now is not the time to play on people’s fears or to pit one part of our country – or one section of our society – against another.”
I do not fully believe that Khan’s comments signaled a belief that Scotland was a particularly racist or bigoted nation. He is merely playing on the current mindset of many in the UK and across the western world. Populism is on the rise, and with this, we see an growing isolationist rhetoric from both the British and American governments, along with right-wing candidates in France.
However it appears he does not fully understand the fundamental aspects of the Scottish separatist movement. It is regarded as ‘civic nationalism’ and not one based entirely on ideological differences to our English neighbours, nor does it have any racial or religious undertones to it. It is based firmly around the sovereignty of Scottish citizens and the right for any nation to dictate its policies, both foreign and domestic.
He said: “We celebrate our diversity and take pride in our tolerance. We strive for equality and to increase opportunities. And we fight tooth and nail for fairness and inclusion.”
Sadly, his comments only prove the lack of understanding that Westminster has regarding Scotland’s issues. Throughout the referendum campaign, all of the ideals he speaks of were mentioned and were at the forefront of the debate. Why then would he imply that Scotland’s political movements do not bear these characteristics? Is the Labour Party alone in championing inclusion and diversity in the UK? I would argue that in light of the Brexit result, they have not done so, choosing instead to follow a process that will potentially stifle inclusion and diversity, led by a government that is by no means ‘striving’ for opportunities and equality.
At a moments notice he was pounced upon by commentators and voters from across the political spectrum. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a cross-party, unilateral denial of his statement. It proves once again that despite political differences, Scottish voters are very much still same boat in some sense.
This is another indictment of Labour’s downfall north of the border. To say their influence in Scotland has been diminishing would be an enormous understatement – They’ve been free falling. The 2015 Westminster Elections saw Labour lose all but one seat in Scotland, a victory of monumental proportions for the SNP, and one that reflected the changing tide of Scottish political ideals. Labour have lost touch with their roots, the Blairite years were the final nail in the coffin and now, the game has changed in both a UK-wide and Scottish sense.
Once the working man’s party, Labour were guaranteed victories across the board, and with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm of the party, one would have assumed that a shift to the left, back to basics and a resurgence in Scotland would be on its way, but this has not been the case at all. It has merely resulted in a series of damaging losses, with the Copeland by-election signalling the end of Corbyn and Labour’s leftist experiment.
The great paradox of Scottish politics today is that we predominantly associate ourselves as a ‘left-leaning’ nation. Historically Labour had held great sway in Scotland through their links with trade unions and their working man’s mantra. The SNP are by no means polar opposite to this, but they bear all the characteristics of a modern, centrist Labour Party as opposed to the party of old.
However the SNP has exquisitely capitalised on the growing discord among the young, politically engaged Scottish electorate. One that is growing increasingly tired of casting votes overwhelmingly toward one ideological wing, only to see it overruled by a mere portion of the rUK electorate.
Additionally, post-Brexit, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Sadiq Khan appeared to be on good terms, offering an alternative voice in the opposition to government proposals on the issue. In light of this however it seems that this apparently tentative alliance of sorts still has major differences, and confirms what the SNP have been claiming for years; Labour are no longer the party for Scotland.
Chris Beckett (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode)
Scottish Government (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)