Kevin Meagher has come closer than most in British Labour to acknowledging the harsh reality of the party’s problems in Scotland. His recognition that the SNP has earned its electoral success and its status as the default party of government in Scotland, is very welcome. Would that this spirit of honesty and candour could infect unthinking loyalists the likes of Duncan Hothersall.
But Kevin Meagher’s analysis is still flawed by the fallacies of what we might, for purposes of discussion, label the London perspective. A perception of Scottish politics distorted by the lens of the British media and a set of prejudices so deeply ingrained as to be casually insulting rather than wilfully malicious.
Meagher’s characterisation of the independence campaign as being about ‘patriotism’ and ‘identity politics’ is just plain wrong. It’s as if, seeking a better understanding of the Yes movement, Meagher consulted Alan Cochrane and Alex Massie.
But unquestionably the most serious error in Kevin Meagher’s analysis is his reference to a “Scottish Labour party”. As more and more people in Scotland have become aware, there is no such entity. There is no such thing as a “Scottish Labour Party”.
And this is no petty semantic nit-picking. It’s not merely a matter of terminology. It is a crucial and fundamental point of political reality. Because, however accurate Kevin Meagher may be in his assessment of where British Labour in Scotland is now, it got there as British Labour in Scotland. Can there possibly be any doubt that a real Scottish Labour Party would have developed differently? Is it not entirely safe to assume that a real Scottish Labour Party would have been responsive to Scotland’s changing politics, over a period of decades, in ways that British Labour in Scotland most assuredly has not?
Is it not plainly evident that “Scottish Labour” has come to its current parlous state BECAUSE it is no more than a branch operation of a London-headquartered British Labour that suffers from the same flawed understanding of Scottish politics as afflicts Mr Meagher?
Is it not, therefore, rather misguided – not to say disingenuous – of Kevin Meagher to be so determined to lay the blame for British Labour’s woes in England on a Scottish section of the party which itself has been destroyed by being part of British Labour?