Herald letter: not the usual…

ALISON Rowat refers in her article (“Scottish Labour: Too feart to change and too stubborn to die”, The Herald, January 4) to a Fabian Society report which outlines the parliamentary arithmetic whereby the next General Election could lead to a government formed by an alliance between Labour and other parties – including the SNP.

Such a development would be welcome to many of us on the left and centre of politics – as long as the SNP gives up on independence.

Indeed, it ought to be possible to foresee a formal coalition, with SNP MPs taking places in the Government, in both the Scotland Office and in further all-UK departments. In contrast with their colleagues in the Holyrood government, some of the current crop of Nationalists at Westminster have shown that they might be perfectly adequate ministers: we can imagine Stephen Gethins on the EU at the FCO, and Alison Thewliss at Work and Pensions (following her work on the Rape Clause), and perhaps Tommy Sheppard at Defence, considering his former career in the multilateralist Labour Party. Likewise, a ministerial position for Mhairi Black would expose whether she has the substance to match her juvenile rhetoric.

It is even tempting to see the SNP becoming a sub-national junior partner for Labour: a centre-left equivalent to the arrangement in Germany between the CDU and the Bavarian CSU. However, there are two barriers to this progressive outcome, one of which could be overcome, and the other of which would be less tractable.

The first problem is that we cannot expect people in the other parts of the UK to be happy to be governed by a Scotland-only party: they could not vote for it, and thereby hold it to account at the ballot box. This might be overcome by standing on a common manifesto at the subsequent election, making the two parties effectively a single proposition to voters across the whole UK.

The second problem is that the SNP would necessarily be required to surrender its commitment to Scottish independence – ultimately, it would be perverse in the extreme to allow into the government of a nation state a party which is committed to the destruction of that very same state (in this case the UK).

To take this step, the SNP would also of course finally conform with the wishes of the Scottish electorate as seen in the outcome of the 2014 referendum. Regrettably, however, it also seems impossible given its proven propensity to put a dogmatic pursuit of independence above the wishes and the pragmatic interests of the people of Scotland.

Peter A Russell

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