What connects criminal justice policy and the National Health Service? The first answer is that they are two of the three prongs of the governments messaging, the third being its commitment to delivering Brexit on or before 31 October, whatever it takes. But the second, which might turn out to be pretty important, is that they are both devolved. The vast majority of criminal justice policy – including sentencing guidelines and police powers – are devolved in Scotland while a bit is also devolved in Wales. The National Health Service is devolved in both kingdoms.
Does that matter? My entirely anecdotal impression from covering by-elections, local elections, devolved elections, general elections and referendums in both countries is that it doesnt matter in Wales. The average persons knowledge of what is and isnt devolved is fairly patchy. People are aware that the NHS is run by the Welsh government but seeing as the major strategic purpose of the governments healthcare announcements is to blunt Jeremy Corbyns messaging in an area where Labour tends to enjoy large leads, that is mission accomplished. In any case, the third of those three prongs – a hard Brexit by any means possible – is fairly popular in Wales.
But in Scotland I think it does matter. The man in the street has a pretty good grasp on what is and isnt devolved, partly because an integral part of the ruling government in Edinburghs political project is reminding people what they run and what Westminster runs, and to use that as a showcase for how much better life would be in an independent Scotland. Added to the fact that a majority of Scottish voters opted to remain in the European Union and dont want a no-deal Brexit and the governments three big messages are, respectively: devolved, devolved, and toxic to the Scottish electorate.
Thats a bit of a risk – remember that the Conservatives have 13 seats in Scotland, and if they fall back in that country they are further increasing the size of the strides they have to make into Labour territory in England and Wales even before we factor in any losses to the Liberal Democrats – but its also an opportunity. It creates the space for the party in Scotland to fight a distinct campaign – a word which here means “a noun, a verb, and a series of reminders that Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold another independence referendum”.
But it underlines that while the government has a healthy lead in the polls, we are still unclear as to how that will play out under first past the post – and that the downside risk for the government is large.
The Scottish Labour Party is in crisis, and the Westminster mothership isn’t helping
What the hell is happening to the Scottish Labour Party? Its crisis – this abject and sustained coll..
What the hell is happening to the Scottish Labour Party? Its crisis – this abject and sustained collapse into near-obsolescence – is real and deep and profound and not obviously fixable. The party at Holyrood is in the hands of third-raters, a sort of soupy Corbynite claque lacking even the nous and brains of a John McDonnell or a Seumas Milne. It is treated with contempt by the mothership at Westminster, and is undergoing a talent drain of significant proportions. The future looks bleak indeed.
The ongoing scrap over the partys position on a second independence referendum has only further exposed the lack of authority of its Scottish leaders. First, shadow chancellor McDonnell used an appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe to cause some shock and not a little outrage when he said the “English parliament” would not stand in the way of another indyref if Holyrood demanded one: “We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That's democracy. There are other views within the party but that's our view.”
The angry response from within the Scottish party, which has lost a sizeable chunk of its traditional vote to the SNP over the past decade, was not faked. Caught in a squeeze between the pro-separation Nationalists and the stridently pro-Union Conservatives, confusion over Labours position on the most controversial and hotly-debated issue in Scottish politics is seismically unhelpful. Having its position dictated by London is not a good look, either.
Richard Leonard, the Scottish leader, may have sought to correct McDonnell by restating his opposition to a second vote, but he quickly had the rug pulled from under him by Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn publicly backed McDonnells position and said that while he was “not in favour” of Scottish independence, “it's not up to parliament to block it”.
The calculation among Corbyn et al is as transparent as it is cynical. Whatever Labours route to power, it is likely to need the votes of the SNP to get there. Nicola Sturgeon has made positive noises about backing a Corbyn premiership, but her price is likely to be another independence referendum. The Labour leadership are clearly happy to sell their Scottish colleagues down the river if it gets them into No 10. The further suspicion is that they anyway hold no great attachment to the integrity of the UK, regarding its make-up as an imperial hangover. A united Ireland and an independent Scotland would mean an end to all that.
For some of us this merely confirms their gross unfitness for office, and while one can understand the SNPs position it would be hard to forgive Sturgeon, who has led a relatively moderate, centrist regime in Edinburgh, if she put the hard left into power at Westminster.
But ultimately this is Labours mess, and Labours doing. A former Blair-era cabinet minister had his head in his hands recently when discussing the state of the Scottish party. “I just dont know how we come back from this,” he said. Leonard has been a catastrophically poor choice of leader, nervy, pink-faced, lacking charisma, with no pitch to mainstream Scotland, unable to land a punch on either of the formidable women leading his main rivals. Even then, its not clear who could replace him and make much of a difference. Talent has scarpered from both the candidates list and even the parliamentary party – Kezia Dugdale, Leonards well-liked predecessor, who is still only 37, has quit Holyrood to run the John Smith Centre for Public Service at Glasgow University. If youre a bright, young thing looking to carve out a career for yourself in Scottish politics youd be advised to give Labour a miss.
As the next Holyrood election draws near, Labours only hope for a decent result in 2021 seems to rest on the possibility of the two main parties blowing themselves up. Early next year, Sturgeon must endure the trial of her mentor Alex Salmond, who faces charges of sexual misconduct, including attempted rape. Holyrood is reverberating to rumours that the First Minister will end up collateral damage in the case. “She may well be gone by March”, one senior SNP MSP told me. Meanwhile, Ruth Davidsons Conservatives have lost much of their momentum due to Brexit and the arrival of Boris Johnson in Downing Street, neRead More – Source
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