Labour in Scotland, a fantasy manifesto from a fantasy party

If I were to tell you that a major political party had published a manifesto for this Westminster general election which was largely about a different election for a different parliament – an election which isn’t due for two years, and that in its promises which do relate to Westminster it does not actually exist as a distinct political party, you might think that it would be laughed off the stage of its launch event and a furious media would tear into it for misleading the public and wasting everyone’s time.

But of course that would only happen in a sensible grown up universe, not this infantilised corner of the multiverse in which the media in Scotland colludes in and enables the deceptions and misrepresentations of Keir Starmer’s Scottish branch office.

Let’s start with the basics. Not only is “Scottish Labour” legally nothing more than an identifying mark for UK Labour in Scotland, as far as a Westminster general election is concerned, there is no such thing as a “Scottish Labour” manifesto. Any Labour MPs returned to represent Scottish constituencies will sit in the Commons as part of the UK Labour party, they will not form a distinct bloc of “Scottish Labour” MPs, they will not vote in an organised manner as a separate Scottish political party, they will take the UK Labour whip and will do Keir Starmer’s bidding, not Anas Sarwar’s. The document which Anas Sarwar presented to a receptive Scottish press today is a fantasy, not a political reality, and it is insulting the intelligence of the voters to pretend that this really represents the platform upon which Labour candidates in Scotland are standing in this election.

Many of the policies in the document which Sarwar presented at Murrayfield on Tuesday relate to devolved powers which are the responsibility of the Scottish Government. No Westminster MP of any party political hue has any power or influence over them. Sarwar would have been as well telling us what the position of “Scottish Labour” is on the French general election due to be held in a couple of weeks. That has got bugger all to do with MPs who sit in the House of Commons, and neither do powers exercised by the Scottish Parliament.

For example the “Scottish Labour” Westminster manifesto devotes 11 of its 113 pages to talking about the NHS and a further 10 to talking about education. NHS Scotland is devolved, education in Scotland is devolved but this supposedly Westminster manifesto gives over more than 20% of its length to discussing two areas which MPs in the Commons have no say over. Other devolved matters which feature in this manifesto include transport, social care, housing, and sport. Over a quarter, if not more, of this Westminster manifesto is not in fact about Westminster at all. Who you vote for on 4 July will make not whit of difference to these issues.

At every Westminster general election since the establishment of the devolution settlement, the Labour party and the other anti independence parties have campaigned on devolved issues which are the proper remit of the Scottish Parliament and yet far from calling them out for misleading the electorate, the media in Scotland has for the most part encouraged them to do so.

However the most gob smackingly hypocritical section of this fantasy manifesto comes on page 29, entitled “Our approach to democratic renewal”. That is nauseating coming from a party which conspired with the Conservatives to deny the democratic will of the people of Scotland following the Holyrood elections of 2021, when Labour, together with the other anti independence parties which lost that election traduced Scottish democracy in order to ensure that they got what they wanted even though the people had rejected it at the ballot box. Labour’s approach to democratic renewal consists of respecting only those democratic events which deliver a result to the liking of the Labour party and ignoring or Londonsplaining away those which don’t. How about starting with that democratic right of the people of Scotland to decide on Scotland’s future? Tell us exactly how the people of Scotland can exercise that right without being vetoed by a British Prime Minister Anas, then, just then, we might give you as hearing when you start to pontificate about democratic renewal.

But it gets worse. Labour, a party which supports the hard Brexit imposed on Scotland by the Tories despite the fact Scotland voted heavily against it writes in this surreal document. “The UK’s departure from the EU will result in many more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the coming years.”

That is gaslighting of the very worst kind. Far from more powers being delivered to the Scottish Parliament as a result of Brexit so far the Brexit that Scotland roundly rejected has been used by Westminster as an excuse to undermine, sideline, and circumvent the devolution settlement. If Anas Sarwar is telling us now that the UK’s departure from the EU will result in many more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the coming years, then the onus is on him and his party to tell us what these powers are precisely, and to give us a firm timetable for their transfer to Holyrood. Failing that this promise is just so much more of the jam tomorrow bollocks that we have seen from the Labour party in the past.

Every time that a concrete proposal has been put to the Labour party for additional powers that ought to be transferred to Holyrood in order to tackle a Scotland specific problem, the Labour party has said no. That has been the case with the transfer to Holyrood of employment law – Labour said no. Despite this this “Scottish Labour manifesto claims “We support further devolution of powers to Holyrood including borrowing and employment rights” even though Angela Raynor, the UK shadow minister responsible for employment rights specifically ruled out their devolution asserting that her new deal for workers – which has since been gutted – rendered it unnecessary.

It was the same when it was suggested that Scotland needs control over aspects of immigration policy – Labour said no. So if it’s not employment law or immigration, just what are the additional powers that the Labour party tells us will be coming to the Scottish Parliament in the coming years? This is a fantasy manifesto from a fantasy party.


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