26 Nov 2014

Scottish Labour in despair

Further to yesterday’s blog, I’ve spent the afternoon taking the temperature of Labour MPs after their party’s decision to back 100 per cent devolution of income tax to Holyrood. I think it’s fair to say the temperature is at morgue chiller levels.

I have never heard such unremitting gloom from every wing of the Labour Party: front bench, shadow cabinet, backbench, Scottish and English.

The consensus is that this moment marks the beginning of the end of the UK, a slippery slope onto which the party has tripped courtesy of David Cameron/ Gordon Brown/ Lord Smith of Kelvin/ Ed Miliband/ Alex Salmond/ fate depending on who you talk to.

What all the parliamentarians I spoke to agreed on was that 100 per cent income tax devolution was too close to independence itself for their liking, was inherently destabilising to the UK and bound to feed demand for full-blown independence.

Here are a few tasters of the chats to give you a flavour of it:

Shadow cabinet member: “If the Tories win next year that’s it now, it’s [Scotland’s] gone … It is very frightening.”

Labour MP, former minister: “We walked straight into the trap … I don’t see how we win a second referendum.”

Me: “I keep looking for a Scottish Labour MP who doesn’t think this is a complete disaster.”

Scottish Labour MP: “Well you’d better keep looking … I can’t see any point in carrying on with this (job) now.”

Shadow cabinet member: “We had no choice, we were boxed in … But yeah, it could be the end.”

Labour MP: “I don’t see how this doesn’t lead to independence …. I just can’t see it going anywhere else.”

Former Labour whip: “We have been completely and utterly out-manoeuvred.”

The Smith Commission announces its findings tomorrow morning.


Tweets by @garygibbonblog

63 reader comments

  1. TillyT says:
    1. Thomas says:

      Richly deserved and completely self inflicted. To think I used to be a member of this pitiful rabble

      1. Robert McClair says:

        Me too…..on all counts…………………and to think that, in those days we were standing for the people and for socialism………..Where DID that party go??

    2. General Gordon says:

      Yep, you reap what you sow.

  2. Jim Mitchell says:

    Boxed in? by whom?

  3. Schrodingers cat says:

    Make sure your dogma doesn’t get run over by yer karma…….lol

  4. Alan Flockhart says:

    its about time we held the upper hand , I want to see every Red Tory kicked out of SCOTLAND ,we don’t have to worry about the lib Dems they are finished not just in SCOTLAND but the whole country u kip is a threat in England not here, the Tories will probably win in May because the SNP, will wipe the floor with the rest of the political parties except the Greens and the Welsh who will unite to make sure the cheats and liars who run this country will never again govern this country .Finally independence for SCOTLAND is certainly on the horizon

    1. Natalie Graham says:

      I think we would have any remaining Lib-dems on our side too , After all, federalism has been a Liberal Party policy for more than a hundred years. Why would they not support full devo-max and the chance to rebuild their traditional base in Scotland away from the toxic link with the Westminster tories?

  5. Richard McCrimmon says:

    poor poor labour my heart bleeds for them they helped cause this situation by joining with the tory lib govt and by not representing the people the way they should have,and the lies and scaremongering just finished them off looking forwards to the next Westminster elections so I can watch the liberals and labour and the tory being wiped out

    1. Richard McCrimmon says:

      Just commenting because we have the same name……..nice one.

  6. Archie says:

    @ TillyT – Or karma chameleon – every day brings a change to save being out of a political job. It’s so obvious and so apparent.

  7. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    It is interesting to see parts of the metropolitan media beginning to waken up to what is happening in Scotland.
    Laying aside the worry about who actually did win the referendum -and there is growing scepticism in some well informed circles – the Labour Party is dead in Scotland. As the SNP hurtles to a membership of 100,000 the same well informed observers now believe that Scottish Labour Party political membership is below 5000 and the SNP Trade Union Group now certainly has more members than the Labour Party in Scotland. Labour in Scotland is now a phantom party maintained in public profile by a generous media.

  8. Vero says:

    Have I missed something? There was a referendum and the majority of those who chose to vote rejected independence.

    1. Helena Brown says:

      There was a Referendum, the three Political Muppets made a vow, they lied they cheated and they were found out by too many people, and believe me Smith will deliver nothing, certainly nothing that will be passed by Westminster.
      No a skirmish was fought in a war, the war is still to be fought, or you could say there were lots of unintended consequences, most for the No campaign.

    2. Ben says:

      Apparently you have. The yes campaign was going into the lead, upon which the no campaign main party leaders broke agreed purdah rules and changed their offer two days before the vote.
      The Smith commission was the result of that offer. After speaking of home rule and devo max, what has been offered is still substantially less.
      If you believe that what is offered by politicians should be delivered then the only problem you should have is that the powers being offered aren’t near enough.
      Democracy is rather more than a binary question.
      Democratically there were many goods points to the referendum. However, media coverage and the breaking of purdah rules were serious low points

    3. Raymond reid says:

      Yep you are right there was a referendum and you won,if you are wondering what is happening try logging into any Facebook page and you will see who has truly won.

    4. Robert McClair says:

      ….I think you mean that, at half time ( ‘cos this ain’t even NEARLY over) “YESSERS” were a goal down….but the other side have scored at lest one OG since then

    5. Carntyne says:

      Yes, you’ve missed something…

  9. Willie Fleming says:

    Suck it up, troughers. Not one of you has anything on your CVs that any respectable employers wants. We will have your pensions off you, too. The future is going to be very scary for you.
    We laugh.

  10. Ben Zyl says:

    I can’t quite tell if Cameron has been smart or opportunistic venal and lucky, either was he has done well, for his own party’s interests at least. Perhaps it’s time for Labour in Scotland to prepare the escape capsule of a genuine Scottish Labour party while there’s still something of that endangered species to survive in.

  11. ronnie anderson says:

    They may think they won the Battle, but they have certainly lost th war Independence is OURS.

  12. Calgacus says:

    Alex Salmond, politician of the century, genius.

  13. Neil says:

    A more accurate title would be ‘Scottish Labour at Westminster in Despair’. You cite ‘every wing of the Labour Party’ as ‘front bench, shadow cabinet, backbench, Scottish and English’. Did you speak to MSPs, Labour HQ in Scotland or anyone (apart from MPs) in Scottish Labour Party beyond MSPs? I think they may offer a different analysis of where Scottish Labour has been, where it is at, and where it is going.

  14. rharpw says:
  15. Martin Robbins says:

    Milliband really does not understand Scotland aside from the MP’s he has and needs if he is to be a credible challenge to the Tory/UKIP nightmare that awaits us. No voice in the Commons, no voice in Scotland either. He told us that the best way to get rid of the tories was to vote Labour, well Ed we did that in 2010 and got the tories, again. Well done Ed you have finished Labour and the UK. Hows that for a legacy?

    1. Auldain says:

      UK Labour and SLAB must be reflecting on how it all went so wrong. Had they sided with the Indy movement rather than the Bitter Together’s they would undoubtably have formed majority governments fir many years in the independant Scottish Parliament. And yes, Westminster based Labour may have been consigned to obscurity for many years, but its time would have come again when the rUK population looked North and felt envious of a prospering, socially fairer Scotland. I will never understand the reasoning behind Labours backing of the no campaign. Surely its advisors must have considered the dangers if this stance. But of course the corrosive effect of power and control and the understandable desire of career politicians to keet their jobs, appears to have made the gamble Labour took, worthwhile.

      1. Joan Edington says:

        I agree that if the SLABs had sided with the Yes campaign they would be in a very much better situation than they now are. They may not have formed a majority government straight away in the case of independence, but, with the SNP’s raison d’etre no longer being so important, if they returned to the party’s roots voters would have returned to them.

        Much as I love to see the Labour Party’s nose rubbed in it at the moment, especially Jim Murphy, the huge rise in the SNP support (of which I am One) can not be good for Scotland in the long term if it totally destroys all other parties. Every government needs a strong opposition to keep it on its toes and accountable to the voters.

  16. Suzanne says:

    I think that’s the whirlwind they’re reaping. One thing is for sure – the public are awake and on their feet right across these British Isles.

  17. Moira Currie says:

    Serves them right. The Labour Party lost its soul when it decided to woo Middle Englandshire with its neo-liberal economics, pandering to the Home Counties and to the international capitalists. A socialist party determined to stamp on the throats of the working class all to gain power at Westminster. They forgot a simple lesson , as have the Tories and the Lib/Dems- politicians are the SERVANTS of the people. People are NOT the servants of economic policies. To castigate Scotland as too wee; too poor; too stupid!! How short sighted of them. Let them reap what they have sown and a bitter harvest it will be. And still, even supposedly smart operators like Murphy, haven’t fully appreciated the depth of contempt in which they are held.

  18. John Robertson says:

    Freedom then full blown Independance YES!lets be rid of Waste-minster for good

  19. James McLaren says:


    All we need now is the e-mails regarding the VOW, which the Cabinet Office, under a FOI, have no copy, yet it’s existence is recorded in Westminster records.

  20. N. McFarlane says:

    Scotland has reached this point in reaction to nearly twenty years of Thatcherism, followed by another dozen or so of Islington- centric New Labour. There was nowhere to turn for a left of centre electorate-except separation from Westminster and rUK I have always voted Labour. Never again while Murphy etc are in control-even though I don’t want Separation

    1. Carntyne Riddrie (@Riddrie) says:
  21. Paul Garbett says:

    Your basic premise is so wrong it makes me want to cry. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that proper tax powers will be devolved to Scotland. I have to assume you have some credentials as a journalist but that leaves me with the inevitable conclusion that you are either incompetent or you are being malicious. If there is an alternate answer I would really be interested to hear it.

  22. R.Loughran says:

    As a now former Labour supporter and unlikely ever to vote for them again,despite Jim Murphy’s attempts to persuade Scots to return to the party,it was the sight of Labour politicians sharing a platform with the Tories during the referendum campaign which i found to be a gross betrayal.

    It proved once and for all that it is Westminster Labour which is the real power,who hold the purse strings and above all,determine policy.

    Sorry to say but Labour will pay a heavy price in Scotland for siding with a party the vast majority of Scots despise.

  23. neil bruce says:

    First comment, TillyT,
    sums it up, perfectly.

  24. Brian P says:

    They could have paid attention and shown some respect to people in Scotland. And not gone into partnership with the Conservatives
    They’ve been left a very long way behind.

  25. Philip says:

    If they weren’t so set in their old ways of thinking, they’d realise this is the only way to galvanise political engagement throughout the UK. We need similar devolution to Wales & to counties & metropolitan districts in England, along with any form of proportional representation that gives a reasonably fair representation of voters’ preferences. Ours is one of the most centralised so-called democracies in the world and people are fed up with professional politicians in London taking decisions which affect their lives, when it’s plain that said politicians haven’t a clue what the world outside their little bubble is like. We should embrace a massive devolution of power – both to tax and spend – accepting it as the 21st century way of managing ourselves rather than the outmoded 19th century model we’re still using.

  26. Gary says:

    When will they realise that they have already lost 50% of the electorate, with even more to follow once the full restrictions of the Smith Commission are realised. If they had any sense they would never have allowed themselves to become the cats paw for the Tories during the referendum. At least then they could’ve still hid behind the lie of being the peoples party.

  27. SquirrellTowers says:

    To be honest Labour have moved away (to the right) from the vast majority of people in Scotland (who are left of centre). They are now pro-trident and anti-the universalism of the welfare state which is not what the vast majority of people up here want. Oh the delicious irony of listening to Labour/Tory commentators railing against parties such as the SNP (who people in England didn’t vote for, don’t you know!!) maybe holding the balance of power in 2015 in Westminster. Try telling that to people up here who haven’t voted Tory since 1955 and have to endure policies such as the bedroom tax and welfare ‘reform’.

  28. Eric says:

    Deservedly so, red Tories stigmatized forever for screwing Scotland by jumping into bed with Tories and selling all the principles that the party was built on, right down the river. Never forgotten never and good riddance to Miliband and his band of henchmen

  29. Christian Wright says:

    September 19 – “They think it’s all over!” . . . 27 November – “It is now!”

    Worth adding that from recent opinion polling, from the point of view of a majority of the Scottish electorate, simply devolving income tax is a sop and will be nowhere near enough – wholly unacceptable as a settlement.

    It will be seen as a slap in the face and dispositive evidence of treachery on the part of the Westminster vow-givers.

    The UK? . . . It’s over chaps.

  30. Matt says:

    Correction: There is no *English* wing of the Labour Party.

    Labour continues to ignore English nationhood and refers to England as “the Regions”.

    There is no English Labour Party and no English Manifesto.

    Labour wishes England did not exist.

    It does.

    1. Taz says:

      There’s no Scottish Labour party either. It exists only as an Accounting Unit of the UK Labour Party.

  31. Drewlove says:

    Fascinating, Gary. Strangely, my fear is precisely the opposite of those Labour MPs.

    I’m not an SNP member but campaigned hard for a independence. Income tax alone is responsibility without power. I could see it quickly turn into a very sticky poisoned chalice if Scotland is without a significant range of other revenue raising mechanisms – VAT, corporation tax, inheritance, etc. – or authority to borrow.

    In other words, the relationship between taxation and the Barnett Formula is complex and difficult to calibrate. Easiest thing for a Tory or Labour government to do would be to cut the block grant by whatever Scotland raises in tax, or even a bit more. That pressurises the Scottish Government to hike its tax yield while it doesn’t actually get any more money to work with and more likely a lot less. I can imagine how that would play with the electorate: “You raise the taxes, you have to take responsibility!”

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people would see through it and simply demand more and more powers from Westminster until Scotland becomes independent by degree rather than a conscious democratic decision. Perhaps that’s what worries the Labour MPs – but more likely it’s their capacity to fill their boots and feather their nests. It certainly isn’t the well being of the Scottish people.

    1. Graeme Thomson says:

      My thoughts exactly

    2. Sid says:

      Coulnt agree more… its a stitch up…. heres the rope… go hang!……. we need to keep the pressure up… roll on MAY!

  32. Graeme Thomson says:

    I don’t think the Labour MPs understand the tax trap Westminster has set the SNP.
    The much-touted headline figure of “100% income tax” sounds impressive but 70% of tax raised in Scotland will still be retained by Westminster.

    If the SNP raise income tax then Westminster will tweak the Barnett formula to ensure Scots will pay higher taxes while the overall sum available for public services will, at best, remain unchanged.

    Sure, the SNP will argue that Westminster is pulling the financial rug from under their feet but accounting wizardry, the economic intricacies of the Barnett formula and the usual pro-British media spin will make it hard for many voters to tell who is to blame.

    The SNP will find themselves being handed 30% of the power while getting the bulk of the blame for higher taxes and declining services.

    Classic Yes Minister tactics. Deliver a poisoned chalice and disguise it as a major concession.

    The reality of the impending tax trap is already being well hidden by the media and the SNP – while aware of the implications – can’t avoid it. They have to accept the 30% on offer while “whinging” and “whining” about Devo Max and oil revenues.

    The losers of the forthcoming tax and spend blame game that will be played out may well be the SNP.

    1. Clachangowk says:

      The losers would be the people of Scotland

  33. DB says:

    Scotland would already be independent if it wasn’t for last minute promises of home rule.

    And Income tax isn’t enough.
    Scots are expecting far more job creating powers.

  34. Paul says:

    Apart from the breaking of purdah rules, the treachery and deceit of the ruling class and the jingoistic purring of monarchy, its just another day in Great Britain..
    When will the great unwashed just wake up and see the monopoly of their lives and energys? to profit those who would keep pressing the majority into a maleable self imposed serfdom..
    Voting is the only way to turn the tide, Scots did that and we got backhanded by the establishment , this time though it was witnessed by a great many people.
    The backlash is going to be enormous and will resonate through the ages as it always has done in Scotland (and the major reason why Scots are monstered by the establishment and held in contemptous regard)
    And what will they do? Bombard us with propaganda about our collective greatness while our children have little to no futures and those bright enough are courted by other nations who desire them (currently 30 odd thousand leave Scotland every year to find a well paying job abroad and the rest are just getting used for slave labour)
    This is the time when we need the truth to out, and it is.

  35. themadmurph says:

    No more than the self serving toerags deserve. I hope all their fears come to fruition. The sold out the left in search of middle England. They then sold out Scotland to retain their gravy train in Westminster.

  36. Taz says:

    The chickens are coming home to roost.

    Labour still seems baffled by the upswing in popular support for independence since the referendum, but in reality, the public are no longer being bombarded with negativity by the media, the UK government and their local MPs, so the vacuum has been filled by those with clear, coherent reasons why independence is a good idea, and what little steps need to be taken in that direction before independence is a foregone conclusion.

    Couple that with the lack of follow-through on the Devo Max vows, the new oil discoveries, the prospect of fracking under people’s properties without consultation, the implosion of Scottish Labour, the coming job cuts from companies who touted potential losses as a reason to stay, etc, and you have a country that is ripe for independence. The SNP is nearly 100,000 strong, and 66% of people want another referendum – that’s too significant to ignore.

    Once we’ve got control over taxation, welfare and employment policy, there will only be more calls for more powers until the UK is no more. And good riddance – this is the fault of the Westminster political establishment for taking Scotland for granted and never seeking to address the valid concerns about being governed from a satellite parliament 405 miles from our own capital city. Stavanger in Norway is closer.

    I’ve no antipathy for the English people (or Welsh or Northern Irish – and they don’t seem to take offence to the prospect of independence for Scotland in the same way) – but I have plenty for the broken political system in Westminster.

  37. Alaster Currie says:

    Lack of leadership and machine politics are Labour’s main problems.
    It was clear that Scots wanted DevoMax so what did London Labour do? It fronted Project Fear with their pals the Tories using Tory money. Could no one in Labour see where this would lead.
    Labour always takes the safe way so the party is never at risk. This is not leadership. If Labour had supported DevoMax they would be heroes in Scotland and the Union would be changed but safe. They would be winners and on the way to a possible victory in May 2015.
    A gift given generously and one given grudgingly are two different beasts. DevoMax given generously would not lead to independence but DevoMax given in dribs and drabs, with each drib coated in reluctance and each drab delayed as much as possible, leads without doubt to independence. This is where we are now.
    Recently, I came across the following quotation regarding Indian independence. At the time a senior British civil servant said “We should have given into India but now it is too late to do so with honour.”. Sadly history is being repeated.

  38. Pete says:

    I am glad that they see the writing on the wall, And yet they do not see that all people want is proper representation. Perhaps if Labourites stop trying to score cheap points at every opportunity they may be able to redeem themselves, if they had a backbone, stood for the people, did not bend at the back, then maybe they wouldn’t be in the dire straights they are in now. I have yet to see in public a labour politician that is not a careerist twat, who isn’t prepared to stand on their principal. It isnt enough to be able to articulate the party line. You need to have morals, and show some decorum in public office. Instead you look like idiots. Karma indeed

  39. General Gordon says:

    Seems like Labour is finished in Scotland, out manoeuvred by democracy lol.

  40. A Scott says:

    Labour ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Wait till the polls next year!
    When faced with 50 SNP MPs holding the balance of power at Lessminster, the Terrible Trio will wish they had rebuild Hadrian’s wall with razor wire on top!

  41. L THOMSON says:

    Why is it so hard for Labour to understand Ms Lamont’s claim, that Scottish Labour was treated like a “branch office” by London. Scotland is its own country, the referendum wasn’t about the Labour Party, and whether they could win next years general election without the scottish MPs. Labour used the referendum fight, to stay part of the union in order to gain an election victory. Labour should never have got into bed with the torries. Labour would be flying high if it had keep’t its noise out of Scotland and let the people of Scotland answer one simple question, do you want a independent Scotland. I want to see English votes for Emglish MP and see the Labour party wiped from the face of scottish poltics, and the SNP in 2016 get a huge majority in scotland guess, what a other independence vote as the Scottish people have spoken.

  42. Des001 says:

    It is very likely that the media campaign is beginning. Hopefully this time those who voted No in the hope of Proper Powers will remain immune to spin and vote SNP for 2015 and 2016. The only media tools we have till then are Internet Social Media and one National newspaper. The real battle begins when there are enough SNP and ALLIANCE MPs at Westminister. Totally agree with A Scott!

  43. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    The Labour supporting Daily Record is on another planet today. I have never seen such an enormous lie in any UK newspaper as the one which adorns its front page. It says the Scottish budget will almost double as a result of the Smith Commission proposals . Let me repeat that . The record on its front page says “the Scottish budget will almost double “as a result of the Smith Commission.

    There is not one extra penny for Scotland in the machinations and proposals of the Smith Commission but we may be allowed to collect some of the tax (that is already collected) ourselves and we maybe able to tax ourselves more heavily

  44. General Gordon says:

    Personally speaking, I’m elated to see the labour party in Scotland hanging on a political noose of their own making, and twisting in the wind. They have built their houses on the bones of people they should have served.

  45. David Howell says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could reduce the Scottish Labour MP’s to the same “rump level” as the Scottish Tories.

    After all; they’re virtually indistinguishable from each other now.

    Labour will never be forgiven for supporting the hated Tories in Scotland and will pay for their pusillanimity over the referendum campaign at the coming GE.

    Hell mend them!

  46. Russell Morrison says:

    It’not putting cart before horse to say that self-determination is a given, only the launch day is yet to be announced.
    That given I think we needs be putting our mind to challenges beyond the obvious matters like economy, social fairness, et al…but also to the shape of our political system in the new Scotland.
    It has to be recognised that true and natural conservatives, socialists, social democrats etc.are rightly destined to create their own, new political vehicles and voices…..a fact that needs to be warmly welcomed and applauded. Indeed in the first few years at least, the main “sufferers” is likely to be the SNP itself, as that great melange of new SNP members quite appropriately fight within, and for some possibly outside the present “SNP and allies” political tent.
    That’s a situation that we should….every one of us….embrace, recognising at last the TRUE legacy of Referendum1…..that being that Scotland becomes a land of free expression of infinite variety, but owing no allegiance for political existence to any external political machine, sinister or not.
    That’s the REAL prize, just as soon as we enact the reality of the now inevitable drive to self determination and that coveted seat at the UN, (between Senegal and Saudi Arabia.), and proudly there as good as any and better than some……….Isn’t THAT worth all the pain and struggle to honest men and women???

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