Labour’s Scottish dilemma

The Herald is reporting that Jeremy Corbyn will rule out an electoral pact with the SNP during an upcoming visit to Scotland. Compass Chair Neal Lawson has criticised any such move in an article for Labourlist.

My thoughts from the Labourlist comments here:

A serious strategy for taking on the SNP might actually involve moving closer to them. Any strategy for winning in Scotland will have to involve a policy offer to the pro-independence voters who have left Labour for the SNP, and a willingness to work with the SNP at Westminster level if necessary is one way of signalling seriousness in that regard. Another might be accepting that the Scottish Parliament has the right to call an independence referendum.1

At the moment, Labour has created a cordon sanitaire around the SNP that it doesn't have, for example, around the Liberal Democrats. That sends a signal that unionism trumps all other considerations, which is precisely the approach that has given a huge boost to the SNP and the Tories.

It is very difficult to see the basis of an electoral pact with the SNP, but the cordon sanitaire approach won't stop the Tories scaremongering given the objective possibility of a hung parliament. The only thing that might blunt that attack is a mature dialogue in the years before the election, which should probably be focused in the first instance on the fallout from Brexit, and effective opposition in the current Parliament.

1One constructive thing Jeremy Corbyn could do is endorse the comment by Conservative Scottish Secretary David Mundell that "if the people of Scotland ultimately determine that they want to have another referendum there will be one". If all sides accept that position in practice, then a hung parliament, electoral pact or coalition at Westminster can make no difference to the timing of another referendum.



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