It is an outcome of the referendum campaign that leads Iain Macwhirter to pose the question “when is a Unionist not a Unionist?” when discussing Jim Murphy.
In fact, a social democrat does not define politics in binary terms of nationalist/Unionist, but in terms of what are the best solutions to address the divisions in society caused by inequality of income and class. The constitutional arrangements are the means to the end of social justice.
As Johann Lamont put it, if she had been convinced that independence would make Scotland a better and fairer place, she would have supported a Yes vote. The same goes for many more of us. What counts is what works, and the Yes case invited the risk of economic disaster which would have harmed the least well-off most. So independence failed that test by a long chalk.
This has become part of a larger and very unwelcome development in Scottish politics: we need to avoid the situation where the question “which school did you go to?” is replaced by “which way did you vote in the referendum?” The danger is of a lesser version of the divide to be seen in Irish politics between “Free-Staters” and “republicans” which is even now reflected by allegiances to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
Clearly the SNP can only accommodate those who voted Yes, those who were blind or indifferent to the economic weakness of the case for independence and those who do not respect the self-determination of the Scottish people as expressed through the ballot box on September 18.
Scottish Labour, on the other hand, offers a choice in the forthcoming elections to all of those who want to see a fairer and more equal Scotland and UK. By being inclusive to No and Yes voters alike, it also offers a route away from the risk of a new sectarianism which the binary nature of Iain MacWhirter’s question reflects.
Peter A. Russell