It’s blindingly clear to me what Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives must do if they are really serious about creating a Scotland in their own image. Opt for independence, of course!
Take the Tories. It’s 60 years since they had a majority of Scotland’s Westminster seats. We can confidently predict there’s no chance of them matching that in the next 60.
In fact, 600 years might be more realistic. The Scots have remembered Edward Longshanks with a shudder for 700 years so it’s unlikely they’ll forget the toxicity of Thatcherism during the next 600.
The best idea to come out of the Scottish Tories for a generation was Murdo Fraser’s proposal to create a new Scottish right-wing party independent of the English Conservatives. Instead of hailing Fraser as a genius, the Tory establishment, north and south of the border, derided him as a numpty and quickly consigned him and his idea to the political dustbin.
The Tories look set to win most if not all of the British general elections over the next few decades. But they’ll never be able to impose their will fully on a Scotland with increasing devolved powers and permanently controlled by either Labour or the SNP. As things currently stand, Scottish Tories will never see their political values rule the roost in Scotland. Their only future is battling it out with other minor parties for third and fourth places.
A new, centre-right party, in a independent Scotland, no longer weighed down by Thatcherites or Cameron’s toffs, could tap into some supposed Scottish values: “the lad (and lass) o’ pairts”, “doughty individualism”, “the enterprise of a Carnegie”, “the ingenuity of a Watt”, “a ca’canny approach to money”. They could build a ‘caring capitalism’ around the philosophy of Adam Smith and rescue him from his outrageous capture by the extreme right.
Even a name change would breathe fresh air into the Scottish right. Until the 1960s, the Scottish Tories were known as Unionists and in local elections used to stand as “Progressives”. Now there’s a wonderful Orwellian tag for the political right but in Scotland anything is better than ‘Tory’ or ‘Conservative’.
If Mr Fraser is the only Scottish Tory to understand that then they are indeed The Stupid Party. Heavens, it doesn’t take much political creativity to imagine a re-launched, re-named Scottish right appropriating Mel’s battle cry of “Freedom!”
What about Labour? The truth is it has very little chance of ever achieving any kind of socialism or social democracy in the UK. The great bulk of the population and economic and political power resides in London, the South East and the Midlands.
These areas are profoundly opposed to social democracy. Even in the worst of the depression of the 1930s, they all experienced rapidly rising prosperity. In the current economic crisis, they are doing comparatively very well. Generally, their goal appears to be to become the 51st state of the USA: individual prosperity and to hell with everything else.
New Labour recognised this. It reckoned the only way to achieve even a minimal amount of social democracy in England was through stealth, sleights of hand, spin and cuddling up to Murdoch and other established interests.
Blairism is the best the UK Left can hope for but look where all that ended up. And a London government will always have the power to subvert or severely restrict any social democratic measures introduced by the devolved administration in Edinburgh.
No, if the Scottish Labour Party wants to achieve any degree of social democracy, its only chance is in an independent Scotland. Its members must admit that even the SNP is well to the left of the British Labour Party.
Once independence is achieved, the SNP itself will no doubt eventually divide into its right and left components. A future Scottish Left led by Nicola Sturgeon and a Scottish Right led by Mike Russell?
So, for those Scots who want to achieve either a model social democracy or a beacon of private enterprise , the way forward is surely obvious – independence as soon as possible.