Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Stifled? 'A Happy New Year for Democracy'

A Labour party member recently told me that the Scottish Labour Party has never had an internal debate or discussion on the independence question. The line - anti-independence - had merely been established by the leadership and imposed locally. It is assumed all members will support the ‘Better Together’ campaign and pitch up to leaflet when they are told. Local discussion on the matter in branches is frowned upon if not entirely extinguished.

You could say ‘what do they expect?’ however like many on the left but not in the Labour party some Labour members might actually prefer independence to the union. Like many on the left they may feel that breaking the mould of ‘British’ politics is not just the way to build the progressive society they want in Scotland but also a means to awaken radical democratic change in England too.

Machine politics has stifled this home rule thread of Scottish Labour thought. Much has been made of people like Charles Gray, Alex Mosson and John Mulvey joining the YES campaign. All former local government leadership figures now retired and pointing the way to independence. Where are the current Labour politicians espousing independence and a YES vote? In the main they are cowed and careful. Some no doubt quietly threatened with deselection keep the head down. The exception was former Labour Councillor Alex Lunn in Edinburgh but he found he couldn’t campaign for independence from the Labour benches and jumped ship to the SNP.

You could say this is all conspiracy and Labour is a democratic organisation that lauds free-speech. Maybe it is but it doesn’t look like that from the outside and from testimony isn’t like that internally particularly when it comes to Scottish Independence.

So it was a brave man in Dave Pickering erstwhile reporter with the North Edinburgh News a community newspaper serving Granton Pilton Muirhouse & Drylaw when he posted an article on their website on the 12 January ‘A Happy New Year for Democracy’ where he articulated his reasons for supporting a YES vote. The article is brave and honest and reflected what a lot of Labour and ex-Labour voters have to say about their party, parliamentary politics and the opportunities of independence. The article promptly disappeared later that day and it seems along with it the North Edinburgh News twitter account - searching for @northednews_NEN brings an internal server message. Tweets to the author and the Chair of the board of the North Edinburgh News, Martin Hinds (also Chair of Edinburgh Labour's Campaign Forum) have so far gone unanswered. The article has been found cached here

The sad thing is that I know Dave Pickering from my time as a Councillor and he always seemed like a fair guy a Labour stalwart sure but nothing wrong with that. Maybe he had second thoughts, maybe he was asked to think again. Whatever the story is and I sincerely hope we find out what it is the article is testament to generations of Labour members and indeed Scots who see in the independence referendum a route to a new Scotland. A Scotland that chimes with the ideals they hold close.

Update: since the post above was published Dave Pickering's article has been republished on www.wingsoverscotland.com Really glad the article has appeared again.

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