I’ve always enjoyed the way Scots tell jokes against themselves. One that sprang to mind recently during an intense Twitter slugfest on the topic of independence referenda was the one about “if you don’t like the weather in Scotland, just wait five minutes”.
I have just had my evening political fix, having watched Anas Sanwar MP pitch for his party against an unperturbed Nicola Sturgeon on two separate channels. Can’t take anything away from Mr Sarwar’s intense, almost crusading pursuit of why a referendum could not be held yesterday. But something didn’t sit right with me. It was only when I visited the Wings Over Scotland blog site that I realised why his delivery rang so false.
They have researched Labour’s position on this and it is little wonder that I (and many other people) stand confused. If I may steal the core of WoS’s blog it is that Labour has taken no fewer than eight positions on this over the last four years:
4th May 2007 to 3rd May 2008:
There should be no referendum.
4th May 2008 to 6th May 2008:
We should have a referendum immediately.
7th May 2008:
There should definitely be no referendum now – we must wait for the Calman Commission to deliver its report on devolution in a year’s time.
8th May 2008 to 14th May 2008:
We must have a referendum immediately, in order to end uncertainty.
13th May 2008 to 30th August 2009:
There should definitely be no referendum.
1st May 2011 to 6th May 2011:
Definitely no referendum, not even if it’s held very early in the new Parliament to end uncertainty and help the economy recover*.
It was John Maynard Keynes who, when confronted with an accusation of inconsistency retorted “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?” But, as the SNP has been consistent in wanting an independence referendum, facts have not changed. They were thwarted in bringing a bill to Parliament in their first term: whether Labour is entitled to this excuse looks in some doubt.
I would (seriously) welcome plausible justification for the above. To most objective eyes it is aimless dithering. To even sympathetic eyes, it smacks of tactical maneuvering with scant reference to any principle. In no case does it flatter Labour’s political integrity.