Ex-Labour Fabians leader changes mind to back Scottish independence


Labour campaigner backs independence in face of Tory dominance and Brexit 

HE HELD THE TOP POSITION at a Scottish Labour campaign group over six years and worked on material to keep Scotland in the UK – but now Martin Brown has made the switch to supporting Scottish independence. 

Brown, Scottish Convenor of the Fabian Society from 2006-2012, co-wrote an explanation of his new constitutional position alongside ex-Labour MP Eric Joyce. 

The piece responded to the new paper from the Fabian Society advocating a future political alliance between Labour and the SNP at Westminster. Martin and Joyce highlighted the challenge this poses to Labour supporters in Scotland. 

“The Scottish left should now accept independence and work for a better social democracy in Europe.” Martin Brown

Given the electoral obliteration the party has suffered since 2014, they contend that there is no future for Labour as a unionist party – and instead bold leadership is required to join with the independence movement. 

“To survive, Scottish Labour must help save Scottish social democracy through joining the fight for independence. And If the failing leadership will not do that, then members should overrule its failure of vision and do it anyway,” the duo wrote

Since 2014 Scottish Labour lost 40 of its 41 MPs in Scotland, and slipped to third place behind the Tories in the 2016 Scottish elections. 

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The political shifts since the independence referendum – which has seen the first Tory majority since 1992 elected and a vote in England and Wales to exit the EU – meant Martin is one of many figures in Labour to have re-evaluated their position on independence.

“Clearly I do think it is important for Scottish Labour voters to reassess what has happened, politically, since 2010 and wake up to the consequences of ‘neo-liberal’ and London based party politics,” Martin told CommonSpace.

“The Scottish left should now accept independence and work for a better social democracy in Europe.”

Other voices in the party such as Simon Pia, John Home Robertson, Henry McLeish, Malcolm Chisholm, and David Martin have said they now support or are open to supporting Scottish independence following the Brexit vote. 

Former Labour figures like Dennis Canavan and John McAllion campaigned for independence in 2014. Mary Lockhart, recently chair of the Co-operative Party, which is affiliated to Labour, declared for Yes. Campaign group ‘Labour for independence’ also toured the country in 2014 arguing that an independent Scotland would deliver a more socially just society that the Westminster system.

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Martin, like other who have change their minds on independence since 2014, raised his concerns about perpetual Tory governments at Westminster as a key reason. 

“Actually I am most concerned about privatisation and crony capitalism. The creeping effects of private contracts on public services like the NHS and our local authority schooling system is awful,” he told CommonSpace on his experience of political change in England.  

Martin’s view stands in contrast to some of his past experiences – which included helping senior Labour figures Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander on their pro-UK publication ’Stronger Together’.

Martin, who moved south when his partner got a new job, campaigns for Labour in Hove. He added that he believes a fresh referendum will be “narrowly won” for independence – but only if more is done to bring “the full support of the left” on board to persuade voters.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale reaffirmed her opposition to independence this week – claiming that she wants Scotland in the UK and EU. Dugdale said in the past that Labour parliamentarians could campaign in favour of independence if they chose to do so.

Labour deputy Alex Rowley MSP supports far greater devolution of power to Scotland, and has said he would not oppose a fresh independence referendum. 

Picture courtesy of Martainn MacDhomhnaill

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