Tommy Sheppard and Anne McLaughlin make case for a leftwing UK alliance alongside a Scotland preparing to leave the union
IN a new report two leading SNP MPs have called for a ‘progressive alliance’ to democratise the UK as Scotland pushes for a second independence referendum.
Tommy Sheppard, the leftwing SNP MP for Edinburgh East and Anne McLaughlin, MP for East Glasgow, wrote in an accompanying article for CommonSpace that an “electoral coalition” could be constructed for a non-Tory majority at Westminster, to democratise the UK in a way mutually beneficial for progressives remaining in the UK and a Scotland seeking the exit door.
Pushed by the influential left think tank Compass, the idea of a progressive alliance has steadily gained support among politicians, with the strongest support coming from the Green Party of England and Wales and some figures in the SNP, including former Scottish Government minister Kenny MacAskill.
“Making the UK more democratic enhances rather than diminishes the case for an independent Scotland.” Tommy Sheppard and Anne McLaughlin
The move is a response to the perceived difficulty in forming a leftwing government at Westminster, after changes to constituency boundaries and voter registration carried out under the Tory Government, which are expected to knock well over a million left voters off the voting rolls.
The 26 page report, titled ‘The Progressive Alliance: Why the SNP needs it’, is a wide-ranging survey of the SNP’s nature as a “classic west European social democracy” following the independence referendum, the crisis of UK democracy, and the duty of the left to exercise solidarity across the UK.
In their article, Sheppard and McLaughlin said: “The refusal of the Theresa May government to countenance any differential deal for Scotland post-Brexit now means we’re counting down to the next referendum on Scottish independence.
“Winning that will be our top priority. But there are four reasons why the SNP should join the debate about a progressive alliance in the UK: Making the UK more democratic enhances rather than diminishes the case for an independent Scotland; the lives of the people of Scotland will be affected by decisions at Westminster until we achieve our independence; being part of a progressive alliance in the UK can allow us to explain and promote the progressive case for Scottish independence; the way we campaign for independence will have an effect on its success and sustainability.”
Read full opinion article – MPs Tommy Sheppard and Anne McLaughlin: Why the SNP should be open to a UK alliance
“The progressive alliance seeks to create an electoral coalition capable of mobilising a non-Tory majority and removing Conservative MPs. That’s already been achieved in Scotland but if the non-Tory majority get its act together throughout England then a big block of SNP MPs could be a key ally in getting reforms through.”
The Scottish Parliament voted in March to request the powers to hold an independence referendum. The UK Government has said that “now is not the time” for a referendum on Scottish independence, creating concerns over the state of UK democracy. Repeated attempts at democratic reform in the UK, which is one of the most politically centralised and least pluralist states in Europe, have broken down.
Sheppard, who is a former chair of Scottish Labour and McLaughlin, who broke the record for electoral swings when she defeated Labour candidate Willie Bain in East Glasgow in 2015 with a swing of 39 per cent, also criticised Labour over their perceptions of political developments in Scotland.
The UK and Scottish Labour parties have been dismissive of the idea of a progressive alliance, with both Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale and UK leader Jeremy Corbyn both ruling out electoral pacts to consolidate the left vote against Conservatives in constituencies.
The leftists SNP MPs said they are “sick and tired” of the SNP being portrayed as representing a nationalistic agenda and argued that the Scottish Government is restrained from a more radical policy agenda by the Conservatism of the UK union.
“Many people in the SNP would not use the word nationalist to describe their political philosophy preferring instead socialist, republican, internationalist of some other term. But as a party we do espouse a contemporary progressive nationalism and we are sick and tired of this being used against us as a term of abuse.”
They said: “Many people in the SNP would not use the word nationalist to describe their political philosophy, preferring instead socialist, republican, internationalist or some other term. But as a party, we do espouse a contemporary progressive nationalism and we are sick and tired of this being used against us as a term of abuse.
“The SNP’s detractors point to the party’s record in government as evidence that it is anything but socialist. We are not afraid of criticism but more often than not it does not stand up to analysis. And all too frequently people pretend that somehow the SNP government is a free agent able to choose from a range of policy options when, in fact, precisely because we are not an independent country, the room for manoeuvre is severely curtailed by Westminster.
“By 2020, Westminster will have cut the Scottish Government’s available funds by more than 10 per cent, and yet we’ve managed to avoid imposing cuts to public services on the scale that’s being experienced in England. We have also defended key principles. Chief amongst these is resistance to privatisation: the debate about the public sector in Scotland is about how to reform and reorganise within a public interest, non-profit framework.”
The intervention comes at a chaotic time for UK politics, as Labour struggles for support as the main opposition party and the UK heads for hard Brexit.
Picture courtesy of Wasi Daniju
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