• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Agenda: Why a Yes vote is the best thing for the people ... and the Labour Party

I was born in England, though I have lived in Glasgow for 30 years.

I am a member of the Labour Party, which is against Scottish independence, but I will be voting Yes in September. My decision is not because I have strong nationalistic feelings, but because I believe in democracy and equality. Here is why:

l Democracy

The House of Commons is not representative. In 2010, the Speaker of the House of Commons chaired a group of MPs in a study published as The Speaker's Conference on Parliamentary Representation. It showed a large number of MPs were drawn from the 7% of the population educated at public, that is private, schools. 27% attended Oxbridge. Working class MPs were in decline. The report concluded that many MPs "are divorced from reality" and "it is important to ensure that there is no single route into politics".

The report was ignored and political elitism has increased. Seven-tenths of the Coalition cabinet are from Oxbridge. The latest development in the Labour Party is candidates chosen because of the right contacts. Stephen Kinnock, Will Straw, David Prescott and probably Euan Blair are among prospective MPs with political relatives.

The social composition of the parliament of an independent Scotland would probably reflect that of Holyrood. Few come from private schools. Most have been to college or university but there is no institution with the prestige and power associated with Oxbridge. More were brought up in working-class homes. One-half are women, contrasted with 19% in the Commons. They are more like ordinary people and so more representative. Given also the absence of a House of Lords, independence would bring greater democracy.

l Equality

Much of my life has been in socially deprived areas. In Easterhouse, Glasgow, which I know well, there is increased poverty. The Coalition Government has cut billions of pounds from the welfare budget imposing inadequate benefits, hunger and despair. An SNP government in an independent Scotland would be committed to abolishing the punishment that is right-wing welfare.

I joined the Labour Party 53 years ago as a Christian socialist who believed that all people were equal in the sight of God and that, as far as possible, resources should be fairly shared. The research by Professors Wilkinson and Pickett demonstrates that the most equal countries such as Denmark and Norway, where the top 20% earned only two to three times as much as the bottom 20%, had far fewer social problems and more contentment than unequal ones such as the UK and USA, where they earned between seven and 10 times as much (The Spirit Level. Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, 2010).

The SNP's paper, Scotland's Future, talks much about equality. For instance: "Social justice and equality are objectives that should be pursued for their own sake. They are also important aspects of improved economic performance which in turn provides for a happier, safer and fairer society." I believe a parliament less controlled by privileged elites and more concerned about ordinary people would radically reduce the gap between rich and poor.

l Still Labour

I am still in the Labour Party. Yes, the party whose commitment to equality was revealed by its shadow chancellor, Ed Balls. He announced that Labour would impose a 50p tax rate on the rich. When they objected, he said it would only be temporary.

Yet I think the Scottish Labour Party, freed from the influence of the British Labour Party in an independent Scotland, would move to the left again - the only way to challenge the SNP. I hope it would back public and co-operative services, a living wage, social housing, peace, humane policies towards asylum seekers and migrants ... plus equality, but with a much more precise objective than Alex Salmond's vagueness. It should state just what would be the financial distance between top and bottom.

Yes, independence with its loss of Labour seats in the Commons would reduce the party's chances of electoral victory at Westminster. But what is the point of a Labour government which, in reality, is still Blairite? Perhaps the Labour Party south of the Border would then decide it should offer the country an alternative - like socialism.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

210686