Gina Davidson: Labour must get back to work

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Not only has Salmond become firmly ensconced as leader of the devolved parliament and Scottish nation, he has the undying loyalty of his party members and supporters for making the Nationalists an electable proposition twice over. He is so in control of Holyrood’s agenda that he doesn’t need to force the question of an independence referendum until he decides he wants it to happen.

So enthralled are a growing number of this city’s population, that it’s entirely possible that Scotland’s capital will be controlled by the SNP at council level after next year’s elections. After all, five out of Edinburgh’s six MSPs are now Nationalists.

He’s even calling the shots on whether the ill-fated tram line will be built . . . he could be Edinburgh’s saviour or sinker, depending on which side of the bed he gets out. Does he want to be seen as a hero in the Capital, or to the rest of the Scottish population who’ve watched aghast as taxpayers’ money has been squandered on the project?

Now he’s even pulling the strings of the Labour and Conservative parties. We should all doff our caps to the ultimate political puppet master.

I have a vision of him dancing a jig Rumpelstiltskin-style at the ongoing spectacle of his political enemies pulling themselves apart because they want to be more Scottish than the SNP. As if that’s the only reason people have voted for the Nationalists.

Let’s face the facts. So far there still doesn’t appear to be a majority in favour of independence, which is why there’s been no referendum and why even the SNP now seems to be watering down the idea of a full break from the rest of UK. People didn’t vote SNP for independence, they voted because Salmond is the best politician in Holyrood to represent Scotland – especially in dealings with Westminster.

The electorate has little faith in those who can’t punch above their weight. He made mincemeat of the opposition leaders – apart from Annabel Goldie, but then the Tories weren’t going anywhere.

The Tories and Labour now seem intent on again electing leaders in Scotland who cannot match Salmond’s aplomb. That’s what they must address – not whether they should be devolved from their national parties.

I’m not suggesting that they need someone from Westminster to return to Holyrood to show them how it’s done – they need leaders who have guile, cunning and a quick way with words. More than that, they need leaders who wear their conviction on their sleeves.

Iain Gray, Wendy Alexander, Jack McConnell, even Henry McLeish – all good people, determined to do the right thing, but not national leaders. Donald Dewar, for all his eccentricities, was the last great leader Scottish Labour had – and that’s where its problem lies.

Yet both it and the Tories are in such a desperate rush to try to counter the SNP threat that they seem willing to throw out the bath, the baby and the water all at the same time.

To hell with principle, to hell with standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their party brethren across the UK, if Alex Salmond says they’re not Scottish enough, then they’ll damn-well don tartan trews, stick heather in their lapels and dance an eightsome reel if it means people will vote for them again.

What a farce. While it’s always a pleasure to see Tories infighting as ultimately in Scotland it affects no-one besides themselves, it is frankly tragic to see Labour in the same fankle trying to prove its Scottish credentials.

A party with the history it has in Keir Hardie, the Red Clydesiders, the union movement, the representation of Scottish working people . . . a party which knows it’s better to be part of the UK and as a result gave Britain the National Health Service and the welfare state – is a party which needs to prove nothing to the SNP.

What it needs to do is remember its roots. It has to remember that it’s there to represent the labouring people of the country even if that no longer means those working at the coal seam or the steel forge. People still labour to pay their bills, their mortgages, to put food on the table, to ensure their kids have a better chance in life – and those are the people Labour needs to be working for, in Edinburgh or Edgbaston.

Forget the idea that “we’re all middle-class now”. The majority of those who work, are working class and they want politicians who understand them. Salmond is adept at that and also at trotting out Scottish history to back his political philosophies. That is what Labour needs to copy – not to become devolved from the party down south.

As for the Tories, they may well have once been strong in Scotland, but their history won’t help them. Unlike one leadership candidate, Ruth Davidson, the majority of Scotland remember Margaret Thatcher only too well.

Where the Labour Party is getting it right, though, is in kicking the backsides of lazy councillors and candidates who expect to be elected just because Labour always has been. Recent events have proved that otherwise. Labour got lazy, now it needs to wake up and get working.