Labour urged to stop 'phoney war' around indyref2

A former senior aide to Jeremy Corbyn has urged the Labour party to “stop the phoney war” around a second referendum on Scottish independence and instead pursue a strategy which “speaks to yes voters” if it wants to revive its fortunes.

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 12:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th September 2020, 12:28 pm
Sir Keir Starmer is making his first visit to Scotland since becoming Labour leader. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Sir Keir Starmer is making his first visit to Scotland since becoming Labour leader. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Tommy Kane, who worked as the Scotland advisor to the former Labour leader, stressed that the party’s electoral prospects in Scotland depended on shifting its arguments around independence, and said it has to “get out the undemocratic bind of the talk of blocking another referendum.”

He warned Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Corbyn’s successor, that he “won’t win Scotland if he does not set out a positive Labour vision for Scotland,” and called on the party to engage with the “substantive arguments on independence.”

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He also accused Sir Keir – in Scotland today for his first visit north of the border as party leader - of “going AWOL” on the issues of radical federalism and a constitutional convention.

Sir Keir reiterated earlier this week that Labour will campaign against a second independence referendum in the build-up to next year’s Holyrood elections.

Speaking to LBC radio on the issue of whether he would try to prevent an independence vote, he said: “We will go into the elections in Scotland making the argument for the Union and making the argument that we don’t need a referendum.”

However, with Scottish Labour languishing in the polls, Mr Kane’s intervention poses a direct challenge to that strategy.

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Mr Kane said that under Mr Corbyn, there was a recognition that independence could be opposed on the basis of “solid social and economic reasons,” but cautioned that “perpetually opposing” a referendum “ultimately plays into the SNP’s hands.”

Writing in the latest edition of the Scottish Left Review, he said the party should not block a second referendum if people make clear their wish for one.

Mr Kane explained “Now is the time for Labour to stop the phoney war around indyref2, stop focusing on process, and play a long game. If not, the SNP will continue to stoke grievance, citing anti-democratic tendencies in both the Tories and Labour, with little attention being paid to the substance of independence itself.

“Labour should take on the substantive arguments on independence, pointing out how the shortfall between spend and revenue, meeting requirements of a new currency and getting the public finances in order through significant restraint in public spending will see an independent Scotland experience prolonged austerity - a reality the SNP’s own Growth Commission report recognised.”

Mr Kane said that while the part has made promises surrounding “radical federalism” and a constitutional convention, Sir Keir “has gone AWOL on this agenda,” and in instead giving the impression that “he wants to gain the acceptance of the vested interests of the British state, rather than challenge them through the creation of a new federal state.”

He added: “Starmer won’t win Scotland if he does not set out a positive Labour vision for Scotland. He won’t appeal to the yes voters, which is vital, if he adorns himself in the Union Jack, takes a hardline approach to another referendum and puts the Better Together band back together.”

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