SIR Keir Starmer insists that the UK Labour Party believes in a “democratic principle” which forbids another referendum on Brexit. If he ever gets round to defining this lonely principle it will surely be unique: UK Labour seems to have no others left.

On January 1, the Independent published a Savanta poll which showed that two-thirds of the British electorate want a referendum on rejoining the EU. On January 9 Statista Data Service published a report on a three-year survey of UK opinion on Brexit: “As of January 2023, 54% of people in Great Britain thought that it was wrong to leave the European Union, compared with 35% who thought it was the right decision.”

The evidence is clear: English voters, realising they were conned by Brexit lies in 2016, are demanding the democratic right to change their minds. The Labour Party’s “principled” response is apparently: “You were conned; you fell for the lies; now (as the Tory MP Alister Jack told a Select Committee member last year) – suck it up”.

As the awful consequences of Brexit pile up in terms of economic decline, bankruptcies, poverty, lethal staffing shortages in the NHS and care sectors, Westminster is dominated by a shameless, incompetent Tory Government riding roughshod over this fushionless “opposition”.

The Labour Party is emasculated by the belief that it must stand for nothing that offends the remaining Brexit heartland of Red Wall seats in England; nothing that offends the City of London and nothing that offends the right-wing voters of south-east England. While vital public service workers are being abused as commodities, Sir Keir stands back and refuses to back their leaders or the strikes of last resort.

On the insanity of nuclear weapons, Labour has also abandoned any principle. The awful consequences of 1950s and 60s nuclear tests, Chernobyl, Fukushima and other disasters have repeatedly demonstrated that just one crazed politician unleashing a single nuclear weapon will move our northern hemisphere closer towards ending “not with a bang but a whimper”.

Ownership of nuclear weapons is no protection: it just adds the risk of blowing ourselves up accidentally. Frightened of losing right-wing votes, Labour offers Scotland no principle on this issue. Glasgow, our largest city, is still regarded by such straitjacketed politics as remote and expendable enough to host nuclear silos and wandering nuclear convoys.

Finally on the same theme of “democratic principle”, the Labour Party now supports the Tory decree that London rule must continue: Scotland will never again be allowed to vote for independence because Westminster parties say “No”.

The Labour Party might still get away with standing for “nothing much” in England. I believe, however, that Scottish voters – with passionate understanding of “democratic principle” and profound contempt for the lies and liars of 2014 and 2016 – will not be conned again.
Frances McKie, Evanton

Is it compromise or surrender?

PETER A Russell (Letters, December 13) raises the issue of what a political party that loses an election should do. Fundamentally, there are two responses. One is to double down and to continue to argue your case, while the other is to examine public opinion and change your argument to suit. Brexit is an instance of the latter. Prior to 2016 the Labour Party had supported membership of the EU, but recently has decided to change its argument to suit public opinion, particularly in the Red Wall seats in the North of England, where rejoining the EU would not find favour with electors.

Mr Russell says he does not “regret that I respect the verdict of the electorate” and nor should he. All democrats should respect the verdict of the electorate, at any particular time. That though does not preclude arguing and campaigning to change the electorate’s mind come the next voting opportunity.

After all, the argument about EU membership has never stopped since 1973. Mr Russell endorses “openness to compromise”, but is Labour’s conversion to Brexit compromise or complete surrender? Put simply, is this an ethical change in policy from conviction or unprincipled, simply to win seats by any means?

Mr Russell suggests that the Yes side having lost in 2014 but continuing to argue its case illustrates “a commitment to the ballot box and the rule of law which sadly appears to be beyond many nationalists” when what is happening are two things.

First, the Yes side continues to argue its case to a level of success unimaginable 20 years ago. What is undemocratic about argument? The advantage to unionist parties if we stopped is clear. Perhaps a return to election outcomes like 2010? However, secondly, what is undemocratic is the unionist side’s placing of obstacles in the way of normal UK political decision-making. To win the debate if not by force of argument, then by force of law.

Mr Russell suggests the only “lawful route” to a referendum is “through an agreement as equals with Westminster”. Sorry, but where is the equality when Scotland has 59 of 650 MPs there, and our Scottish Parliament is reminded regularly of its subsidiary status?
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton

Muddled thinking on our position

PETER A Russell protests that compromising with one's fellow voters, by accepting those elements of a vote that you disagree with, is a key part of democracy; fair enough, up to a point. He writes that "you don't always get what you want in a democracy", but can he tell us what we should do if we never get what we want in a democracy, which is how things are in the UK under its present voting system?

He goes on to argue the comparative rights of the two governments in calling an independence referendum; he states that " the subsidiary Holyrood Parliament cannot overrule Scotland's sovereign UK Parliament at Westminster" and then, only a few lines later, he suggests that the only lawful route to independence is "through an agreement as equals with Westminster".

Clearly, Mr Russell's loyalty to the Labour Party and Westminster is set in stone. Mine, and that of many others, it is clear, has been tested to destruction over my lifetime (I write as a former Labour Party member).

The kind of muddled thinking on Scotland's relationship with the UK exemplified above is one of the many reasons that I am now a committed supporter of independence. Personally, I look forward to the day when I can again vote for Labour in an independent Scotland, but that day will come after independence is an established fact.
John Jamieson, Ayr

Fake indy vote won't sidetrack me

MY MP was candid the other day in commenting to me on some of what the SNP press officers give him to say with which he disagreed. He has a broad European outlook and is well-experienced. We were both at an exhibition of the work and outcomes of a project where community groups wove, painted, touched, moved and spoke during two-hour gatherings, remembering the pandemic and its effect on them, their families and friends – lest we forget. We spoke of the NHS and the variety of cross-party Westminster conversations he has. It was pleasant and informative – on both sides, I hope.

I didn't tell him that I care equally about the good folk of Brighton as I do about those in Bathgate, until Twickenham, that is. After all, both my wives are English but support Scotland. I agree with Peter A Russell "that the only way to a better Scotland is in a better UK". I may have five, 10 or 15 years left of life. Selfishly, I would rather we as a nation did not go through the 10 years or more of reduced economic circumstances which I believe independence would inevitably mean – and more of the poor governance of the present Scottish Government?

I have no good single answer to the NHS crisis but I believe in a progressive tax policy and that income tax is the fairest tax. Many, especially those working in social care, deserve better pay and conditions and are telling us that, loudly. I believe that the Labour Party has plans which could achieve improvements for the whole of the UK and that the Scottish Government has the power now to do much better. I am waiting for its action and when a General Election comes along, I will vote for sound policies for diverse communities – for practical, political, moral and emotional reasons, not participating in a fake independence vote.
Dr Philip Gaskell, Drymen


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