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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Hamish Morrison

Bullish SNP ‘aren’t worried’ about Labour’s rising fortunes

KEIR Starmer’s star is currently in the ascendancy, sending shivers down the spines of Tory MPs who are already fearing the downfall of their party after just of having Liz Truss at the wheel.

But SNP MPs have told the Sunday National they are not nervous about the possibility facing a Labour government after the party was given a 33-point lead over the Tories – from the other side of the Commons.

They say that even if Starmer unravels what would be nearly 15 years of Tory governments, the “fundamental” arguments for independence would not unravel.

One MP accepted major “push factors” under the Conservatives since 2010 had contributed to the rise of the SNP and support for independence but said the arguments for ending the Union were not simply anti-Tory.

The argument that independence is an “escape hatch” for Scotland out of Conservative rule is a “very powerful” one, he said, adding: “But there’s a far more positive case for Scottish self-government.

“The fact of the matter is, Labour can be every bit as brooding, proprietorial and controlling over Holyrood as the most muscular Conservative and Unionist.

“Any Labour government in Westminster is going to need to recoup the marginal seats it used to hold in the Midlands and the southeast of England.

“Even if it is a Labour government, they’re still going to be governing in the interests of key swing voters in the marginals in the south of England.

“The idea that because it’s Labour, everything is hunky dory just doesn’t wash with people.”

Ayr MP Allan Dorans said thought Starmer would make a “better prime minister” than Liz Truss or her predecessors but added he held out hope that Labour would require the SNP’s support to get into power.

He said: “Although [Starmer] says he will not support independence, I think he will be easier to deal with than the Conservatives, because he won’t have any Scottish MPs – I think Ian Murray will lose his seat.

“Even though he’s shown himself to be one of the more right-wing Labour leaders, he still has socialist values which are aligned with the SNP and I think there will be a greater empathy for the people of Scotland and their socialist leanings, whereas the Tories just totally dismissed Scotland and socialism.”

But finding new lines of attack on Labour, if it forms the next UK Government, could prove tricky for the large cohort of SNP MPs who have diligently travelled down to Westminster since 2015 to attack “cruel”, “inhumane” and chaotic Tory policies.

The role of SNP MPs is to go to Westminster “to secure the best deal for Scotland”, said one, who added it would be difficult to imagine how a Labour administration could rely on the support of the SNP, given that the party does not routinely vote on English issues.

Philippa Whitford told the Sunday National she was not remotely worried by the prospect of the Conservatives joining the SNP on the opposition benches.

The Central Ayrshire MP added the Labour Party still offered no “radical” alternatives to independence – with the leadership appearing steadfast in its opposition to even modest electoral reform backed by the membership.

Labour have a substantial lead on the Tories in UK polls, “not because Starmer has got better but because the Tories are so catastrophic”, she added.

“There is still a preponderance towards Tory governments rather than Labour governments,” Whitford said.

“Particularly if Labour are facing the sort of crises the Tories are likely to leave for them, they will struggle to do anything – we will simply just be attached to this sinking Brexit Britain, that doesn’t change.

“Are you going to bet all your money on five likely less horrendous years under Starmer’s managerial approach – but we still can’t do a wellbeing economy, we won’t have control over our amazing energy resources in Scotland for the benefit of our people, we still won’t have our sovereign wealth fund, we still can’t go back into Europe.

“But [Labour] might be less terrible than Truss or Johnson. I’m just not sure that’s a strong enough argument for the Union.”

Tommy Sheppard noted that while Labour were tipped to dominate in England come the next election, some projections had them only picking up two extra seats in Scotland with the SNP expected by some to continue its dominance of Scottish politics.

THE SNP’s constitutional affairs spokesperson said: “People are looking at the Labour Party and its fortunes rising in England particularly and they’re thinking that’s a good thing.

“But given that they’ve completely sold the jerseys on social democracy and seem to be rejecting most of what they traditionally believed in, then clearly the better way to go forward in this journey towards fairness is by taking the power to make these changes ourselves by becoming an independent country.”

If Labour took more left-wing stances on nationalisation of industries or hiking taxes on the super-wealthy, as they did under the doomed leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, they risked “scaring the horses in the Tory shires”, added Sheppard.

“The UK public becoming more inclined towards Labour is not disadvantaging the case for independence at all,” he said. “People are looking at that and thinking that Labour doesn’t really believe in what it used to believe in anymore.”

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