THE BLOG

Why the YES Campaign Needs Labour Voters

13/01/2014 12:02 GMT | Updated 14/03/2014 09:59 GMT

It is simple mathematics: For Scotland to vote Yes in the Independence Referendum, Pro-Independence campaigners need to persuade traditional Labour voters to turn against the Labour party and vote Yes in September. Without these votes, the sums don't add up and a No vote is inevitable.

Politics In Scotland

The political landscape in Scotland has distinct differences to the rest of the UK. This is mainly due to Scotland having a left-of-centre political party which is an alternative to Labour. The SNP have shrewdly positioned themselves as the champions of social justice in Scottish politics.

This is not just political posturing. The SNP Government has put forward progressive and fair policies in the face of Westminster's austerity. As well as implementing policies that are oriented around social justice, they have taken positive and practical measures to mitigate the worst effects of the Tories welfare reforms.

This leaves Labour in Scotland in a quandary. They appear to be unable to take the initiative against a sleek, professional SNP on what should be Labour's traditional battlefield while being hamstrung by the neo-liberal murmurings from the Westminster parliamentary party.

The Labour Party and the labour movement


But a movement is growing within the mainstream Labour party. A movement that rejects the neo-liberal mind-set but instead pushes ideals that takes us back to the roots of the Labour party. Traditional ideals that have been moulded to suit modern politics.

This movement harks back to the traditional roots of the Labour party. The 'Working Class' are disenfranchised by a party political system that grossly under-represents their views. So the 'working class' are attempting to find new avenues to influence politics.

There appears to be an increased belief within the traditional labour movement in Scotland that independence will be beneficial to ordinary folk in Scotland. They look in disgust at the direction that Westminster is travelling and are wondering if there is a better way.

An alternative to the mainstream Labour party is being created

We have seen a steady stream of Labour stalwarts and prominent activists who have come out in support of independence. Sir Charles Gray, Dennis Canavan,Alex Mossan, Jeane Freeman and Mary Lockhart have all publicly lend their name to the Independence campaign.

Labour For Independence

We have also seen a fringe group from within the Scottish Labour Party campaigning for independence. Labour for Independence is a growing grassroots movement that attempts to offer an alternative for Labour party members and voters who wish for a more 'Common Weal' approach to politics and economics.

The 'Common Weal' is an old Scottish saying meaning "the welfare of the public" and it is also the name of a far-reaching and ambitious project by the Jimmy Reid Foundation that puts forward an alternative to the status quo. The belief that independence gives us an opportunity to mould our society so that is a fairer society.

The labour movement in Scotland, by in large, votes for left-of-centre. The means, that in a political sense, that the movement is split between Labour and the SNP.

The danger in reducing the independence debate to a party-political slugfest between the between these two parties only adds to move division on the Left in Scotland. It is a mistake to treat Labour voters as servile, Unionist sycophants as this only turns away potential Yes voters.

Alternative to a Yes Vote

The alternative to independence for the labour movement in Scotland is a depressing thought; an endorsement of neo-liberal politics and the status quo. A country where the largest privately owned company went on 'strike' to forces workers into accepting worsening conditions and reduced pay while blackmailing the Government into giving them a £150million subsidy. A country that gives billions to the financial sector while we have rampant poverty in our communities.

To be blunt, the ideals and principles of the labour movement in Scotland cannot be implemented by a UK Government without radical and fundamental reforms to the political and economic structures and institutions. But it can have a significant impact on the politics in an independent Scotland and it's this movement that the YES campaign and pro-independence campaigners must reach out for.

Regardless of the referendum result the labour movement needs to unite. Be that to combat the Tories and change the direction of Westminster politics or to take ownership of the post-independence debate to ensure that we are truly represented in an independent Scotland.