It’s the 1st of October 2017 and the Catalonian people are holding a referendum on whether or not to leave Spain and form an independent republic. When the votes were tallied the verdict was 92% to leave. The Catalonians had appeared to have voted overwhelmingly to reject an increasingly right-leaning and Franco-obsessed Spain. Before the polling stations had even shut the Spanish government, deeming the poll illegal as there is nothing in the Spanish constitution which would permit a region to secede from the country, decides to intervene after the local police force fails to prevent the ballot. Police are sent to Catalonia from all over Spain to stop the referendum and begin beating and firing rubber bullets at protesters as massive demonstrations form around government buildings to protect pro-independence politicians and stop police from seizing ballot boxes. This government sanctioned assault led 1066 people in the region to seek medical attention on 1 October alone.
Now imagine this in Edinburgh, in Glasgow, in Clydebank, in Kinross. This is exactly what Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy suggested the UK government do to the Scottish people. Was this an appeal for votes in the middle and north of England? An attempt to bring marginalised and disenfranchised (former) Labour voters back into the fold? Nandy either doesn’t understand the political divide in Scotland and why Labour has managed to only hold one seat in the country… or she doesn’t care. She won’t get away with playing the fool and ignoring the constitutional question facing Scotland. Her wilful misunderstanding of Scottish nationalism – calling it “divisive” and claiming it is opposed to social justice – caused even the BBC’s Andrew Neil (no friend of Scottish nationalism nor the left as a whole) to register his surprise.
In a later statement following harsh criticism from the First Minister and senior SNP MSPs, Nandy hurriedly claimed that she was speaking about social justice-focused parties doing a wee bit better in the polls in Catalonia – not good enough Lisa. Your goal – however outlandish it may or may not be – is to be the next Prime Minister, that (and the current fella should listen to this advice too) means listening to and dealing fairly with issues across the UK. The Scottish constitutional question is not going away anytime soon and condemning and endorsing police brutality on an unprecedented level in Europe is a foolish and cruel mistake – if you want to represent us you must engage with us honestly and that means you cannot fall back on the tired old tropes of British Nationalism. You must not deny democracy. You cannot keep pretending the issues facing Scotland and the reasons for Labour’s continuous decline are because of “narrow, divisive nationalism”.
Scotland leads the UK in this ‘social justice’ you keep banging on about. Under the SNP Scottish Government: the rape clause and the bedroom tax have been abolished, free university tuition continues to be provided to Scottish and EU citizens and social housing has been increased by over 52,000 homes. Labour on the other hand hasn’t won a UK election in 15 years. If Nandy truly wants to become Prime Minister, she needs to grow up. To stop the name calling and realise that many of these “narrow, divisive” nationalists were once labour voters but who have been let down time and time again by a party more interested in fighting itself that standing up for anyone.
Get your house in order, Lisa. We are not your enemy.
Image: Kevin Walsh via Wikimedia Commons