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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Ruth Davidson should focus her fire on Cameron if she really wants to save the UK

If Ruth Davidson was really concerned about maintaining the UK, she would be better advised having a conversation with David Cameron, rather than moan at Kez Dugdale. He has done more to undermine the union in the last year than the SNP has managed in a lifetime.

So what has Kez done to earn a 'withering response' from Ruth?

Kez said: “I would like to think that people who supported Yes in the referendum and who might have that view again in the future have a home in the Scottish Labour Party. I want people who voted both Yes and No to see that the Labour Party is the vehicle for progressive change in this country, which is why I am completely comfortable and, in fact, would encourage people who have voted Yes in the past to take a look at our party and see that it is changing.”

She also expressed some sympathy with Johann Lamont's view that there should be a free vote on the issue. Kez said: "I’m not going to shut down my party’s renewal and debate because people hold a different position around independence. We should have a democratic debate within our party over the big issues of the day".

That a party should have a debate on such a big issue is hardly a radical development - although I suppose the idea that party members should actually decide policy may feel a bit strange to the Tories!

It is also a sensible political strategy for the Scottish Labour Leader. Not only did many Labour supporters vote Yes, but even many of those who voted No, are not Unionists. They made their mind up on the balance of the arguments and have no deep seated ideological commitment either way. A majority voted No because the case for Yes, primarily on economic grounds, just wasn't good enough.

Given that as many as a third of SNP voters now put independence way down their list of priorities, there is a real opportunity for a new approach.

That approach goes something like this. Scottish Labour understands the reasons many supporters voted Yes. If another referendum was to happen we would have a debate and members will decide our approach. The leadership will not be committing Labour to any campaign, certainly not a joint one with the Tories. In the meantime, we will argue for stronger devolution and use the powers we have to deliver a fairer Scotland. It's not a total solution to the mess Labour got itself into last year, but it is a decent recovery strategy.

As for Ruth Davidson, she would be better employed using her 'withering' on her boss David Cameron. It was he who decided to play the English nationalist card in the General Election, the EVEL none sense and much more. Policies like austerity and the Trade Union Bill simply drive more and more people living in Scotland into the independence camp. If the UK isn't working for you, why stick with it?

And by the way Ruth, similar arguments apply to the European Union. If Cameron undermines what's left of social Europe, there will be nothing for many of us to be 'positive' about.

Political unions only work if most people feel they have a real stake in them. Ruth Davidson should spend her time explaining to Cameron that he has to govern for more than big business and his hedge fund pals, if he really wants to save the UK.

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