There are very few people who support Irish re-unification but oppose Scottish Independence. I do not know of any. I have always, from my knowledge of Jeremy Corbyn and his general political philosophy and way of thinking, and that of many of his close associates, believed him to be sympathetic to Scottish Independence.
I do not claim to know Jeremy well. I have shared a Stop the War platform with him a few times and exchanged a few emails. He assisted this blog by asking some parliamentary questions I suggested on Fox/Werritty, and he successfully intervened with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith at my request to stop the imminent deportation of an Uzbek asylum seeker.
His behaviour in all of those contacts was absolutely admirable. I like and admire Jeremy, something which is not popular with my fellow Scottish nationalists. One thing Jeremy Corbyn could never be described as is a unionist – he comes from a totally different political place. I also sympathise with his extremely difficult position in wrenching the Labour Party away from the Blairites and the fact that he cannot fight every battle simultaneously.
I therefore have no doubt Mhairi Black is telling the truth today, that Corbyn revealed to her that he privately supports Scottish Independence. I am sure that, like me, Corbyn sees it as part of the decolonisation process of burying the British Empire.
I also have enormous admiration for Mhairi, with whom I too have shared a platform several times. Like many, I am impatient for Mhairi’s leadership of the SNP to begin. But I am not quite certain it was wise to reveal Jeremy’s confidential comment. It is unlikely the current state of the Labour Party will leave him able at this moment to take a more forward stance on Scottish Independence.
I do understand and sympathise with Mhairi’s impatience. But as with Independence so with Trident. I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is 100% and fundamentally opposed to nuclear weapons, and is an unilateralist. I also have no doubt that in power he would act on that. But at this stage on his road to power he cannot take that stance in the struggle for control of the Labour Party. I do not regard this as “selling out”, I regard it as realpolitik and I am prepared to withhold judgement for a few more years as his plan is worked through.
There is an important element that should not be missed. The Blairite leadership of Scottish Labour is increasingly unrepresentative of Labour Party grassroots in Scotland. There has not – despite the constant media propaganda – been a great surge in Tory support in Scotland, which has an iron ceiling around 25%.
What has happened is that many Labour Party supporters who switched to the SNP around the 2014 referendum, have gone back to Labour. But they still retain their belief in Independence; opinion polls regularly show that a quarter or more of Scottish Labour Party voters support Independence, and that support is steadily growing.
I know personally several 2015 SNP voters who have reverted to Labour, including members of my own family. In every case the reason is the same. They like Jeremy Corbyn and, while they would prioritise Scottish Independence, the SNP leadership has been downplaying Independence. Sturgeon very openly campaigned at the Westminster election on the basis that she wanted unionists to feel comfortable voting SNP, and that a vote for the SNP was specifically not a vote for Independence. Some people took her at her word and decided they might as well vote Labour, if a vote for the SNP was not a vote for Independence anyway.
The upshot of all this is that I believe we are seeing a historical trend against hardline unionism among Scottish Labour members and voters. I strongly believe Jeremy Corbyn is not an enemy of the Scottish people in the way that the Tories and the Blairites are. It is healthy that Mhairi has provided us with an opportunity to get this discussion a bit more open; breaking down the tribalism of Scottish politics is a long haul.
I should add that my personal view is that we should stick with the SNP. We are stuck in what I would call the Sturgeon Paradox; falling support for the SNP has hit the confidence of the leadership to go for Independence, but the lack of campaigning for Independence leads to falling support for the SNP. My view remains that getting behind the SNP, and strongly urging the MSP’s to call Indyref2, is a much better route to Independence at this moment than working through the Labour Party or through fringe parties.
I was astounded at the size of the march in Glasgow on Saturday – the biggest pro-Independence demonstration I have ever addressed. This horrendous Tory government and its relentless media propaganda has only strengthened the resolve of masses of ordinary Scots. I was also very happy to see SNP MP’s and MSP’s actively participate, something missing from pro-Indy gatherings the last few years. This needs to be the start of a huge summer of full on campaigning.