The SNP’s world view is narrow—and wrongby Douglas Alexander / March 20, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
Edinburgh Castle: “Social justice is not just for Scotland but is a universal ideal”
In her speech in December, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister and deputy leader of the Scottish National Party said this: “My conviction that Scotland should be independent stems from the principles not of identity or nationality but of democracy and social justice.” And contained within that short statement is a chasm of error and a misunderstanding of both the past and the present.
It misunderstands the past because the great advances such as the welfare state, trade union rights, the NHS—even the Scottish parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies—were secured by the votes of people all across Britain.
Social justice is not just for Scotland, but is a universal ideal: a statement of solidarity and connectedness with neighbours. So when Labour opposed Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s, we didn’t do so because her policies injured Scottish sentiment, but because we believed they offended basic values about how people should live together.
The Scottish Trade Union movement saw its role over the past two centuries as not simply building better conditions in Scotland, but building better conditions in Britain. As Gordon Brown pointed out in his Campbell Christie Lecture last year, the organiser of the first trade union in the 1790s, the London Corresponding Society, was a Scot. And, of course, the first leader in parliament of the British Labour party after it was formed in the early 1900s was a Scot, James Keir Hardie.
The SNP’s claim to social justice also misunderstands the present. And it does so deliberately and out of necessity, in the absence of an alternative argument.
Today we have a Conservativ…