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Scotland deserves better than this circus Rutherglen and Hamilton West was politics at its worst

Michael Shanks (L) and Anas Sarwar. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

Michael Shanks (L) and Anas Sarwar. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)


October 6, 2023   9 mins

You know something serious is about to go down when London lobby journos start saying things like: “We should pay attention to what’s happening in Scotland.” Many of us up here are not only resigned to our junior status in this dysfunctional constitutional family, but we lean into it, like a sunburnt drunk leans in to embrace a cactus. And while we’re always slightly bashful at the prospect of any unusual spike in attention, we understand that the interest will be short-lived. For it is always the case that eyes in London only turn in a northerly direction on those rare occasions when whatever’s happening up here may have some kind of impact down there.

This week, that thing was the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. A two-horse race between the SNP and Labour, the result of which was supposed to offer important clues as to the direction of political travel both north and south of the border. Or at least, that’s what all the commentators and analysts were saying.

They know that the only way Labour can win a significant majority at the next UK general election is if a sizeable chunk of Scotland flips from yellow to red. And Rutherglen and Hamilton West had done exactly that on three occasions since 2010, which is why the SNP and Labour were on a war-footing there long before disgraced MP Margret Ferrier was recalled and then ousted for breaching Covid rules in 2020. Yesterday, there was a 20.4 percentage point swing back to Labour.

The two politicians fighting it out were the SNP’s Katy Loudon and Labour’s Michael Shanks. They are young and energetic. And even though relatively unseasoned, it is clear that each has already acquired the necessary affectations to bullshit their way through a live political debate. So rather than a battle of ideas, during their television debates we saw a battle of the brands fought with all the authenticity of a used-car salesman gesturing towards a smoking electric car, assuring you that “it’s a great little runner”.

We had Loudon, a South Lanarkshire councillor since 2017, pressing Shanks on his change of heart over Brexit and the two-child cap, which places not only him but Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar out of step with Keir Starmer. And she accused Labour of flip-flopping on its commitments, which might have landed more powerfully if only her party, in government now for longer than the Tories, were not also serial flip-floppers.

And then we had Shanks, delivering political platitudes and then failing to press Loudon on her party’s indecision over arts funding, free school meals for all kids, abolition of the council tax, and its position on nuclear weapons. He then turned on her for supporting tax hikes in a cost-of-living crisis, knowing perfectly well that the hikes would be on high earners, living in the most valuable properties — the sort of progressive taxation you’d expect a Labour up-and-comer to support.

What was utterly lacking was anything specific about the actual constituency. The whole campaign has been an exhibition of nervous insincerity. The candidates know what’s at stake; they know they’ve been pulled in off the bench in the 80th minute in the wider war between the SNP and Labour. The sheer volume of heavy-hitters who have made cameo appearances to bolster both campaigns speaks to the height of the stakes here — and to the painful truth at the heart of this by-election: the most deprived locals are merely useful pawns in a tribal game.

Swathes of South Lanarkshire — the local authority in which a decent chunk of this constituency sits — are unglamorous, grey-washed urban purgatories rendered nondescript by post-industrial malaise. Maybe that’s a little harsh. We have some wonderful partially closed Sixties swimming pools.

Poor health and poverty are also embedded across this part of the country. Three years ago, South Lanarkshire Council published public health statistics that didn’t make comfortable reading: two in three people were deemed overweight. One in three was obese. Just 19% of babies were exclusively breastfed — significantly lower than the Scottish average of 27% — and around 20% of children lived in poverty. Out of a population of over 300,000, 41,000 were income-deprived. And the poorest residents of Rutherglen and Cambuslang — two areas which fall within this well-publicised contest – were, at that time, regarded as among the unhealthiest in Scotland.

Some will argue that’s because of their poor choices. But what choices do they have when their community consists of too much traffic on too few rush-hour expressways connecting rundown retail parks to gambling facilities, charity shops and junk food outlets?

The above statistics were published before Covid. Since then, every metric by which inequality is measured is flashing red. We have bouncers on the doors of Tesco Express. Security tags on baby food. And more food banks than we have McDonald’s, all while a billionaire class enters a new space race and no politician has yet suggested taxing them upon re-entry. On the plus side, energy prices are now so high the Tories can only afford to gaslight us for another four months.

Given the level of media interest in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, the scale of political campaigning, and the partisan chatter on social media, the casual onlooker would be forgiven for thinking the contest is of great material significance to local people. They’d be wrong.

This wasn’t about Rutherglen and Hamilton West. This by-election was both a progress report on First Minister Humza Yousaf’s wobbly early spell in Scotland’s top job, and a litmus test for how a resurgent Labour may fare at the next UK election. Pundits obsessed over possible turnout: would SNP voters stay home, unenthused by the lack of movement on indyref2? Or worse still, would more moderate pro-indy supporters sense a chance to oust the Tories and, perhaps worse than staying home, vote Labour. What would become of the Tory and Lib-Dem vote, which, if combined, is significant enough to swing the result if deployed tactically? And what do Jackie Ballie, Angus Robertson, Keir Starmer and Fiona Hyslop think of it all? Utterly riveting stuff.

This was politics at its worst. There were no big ideas here. No grand visions. Even the insults rang hollow. The reason for this is simple: all that separates these two broadly progressive parties are their respective positions on constitutional issues which grow less salient by day — yet they must engage in the charade that there are profound differences.

According to the SNP, Labour are just the same as the Tories. Labour, meanwhile, wants us to believe the SNP are not the same as the Tories — they’re worse. This level of debate is worryingly disingenuous. Either these people actually believe the pish they talk — or they’re so cynical they willingly talk pish they do not believe. You would find more consistency of logic on the stands of a local football stadium. Yes, it’s politics. Yes, there are forces at play which constrain political discourse in ways that politicians cannot always control. But does it all have to be so tedious and predictable and insincere?

You can really see the draw of becoming a political diehard. Of nailing your colours to the mast and warring till the bitter end. It’s a far simpler existence. You train your eyes and ears for the errors of others, while remaining blind to your own. Behind the impressive professional facades both parties project, what we see are flawed, embittered, manipulative and often quite delusional peopleThere’s no craft, no skill, and no courage. Just both sides constantly trying to pin things on their opponent that they themselves have been guilty of in the past, or worse, are actively participating in as they speak.

Take the tit-for-tat over public services. The very day Scottish Labour talked up rumours of closures to local police stations, including three in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, blaming SNP cuts, the Labour-controlled council in neighbouring North Lanarkshire was forced into an embarrassing U-turn following a backlash to its planned closure of no less than 39 cultural and leisure facilities. Labour insisted the by-election was a mini-referendum on two failed governments at Holyrood and Westminster — but Labour is the party in control of both this constituency’s councils. Whether centrally controlling their parties, marginalising critical voices, or announcing policies they have no intention of actually implementing for fleeting traction in the press, the idea that one of these political shitshows has a moral high ground above the other is utterly laughable.

It suits both the SNP and Labour to portray themselves as diametrically opposed, but they’re two flaps of the same fanny. Most of us see clearly that these apparently rival factions are variants of the same essential strain of managerial centrism — both holding the belief that you can radically change society without doing or saying anything radical.

Anas Sarwar, while steering Scottish Labour assuredly through some choppy political waters, claims Scotland needs fundamental change and says he can provide it. But I’ve looked up “fundamental” in the dictionary and that doesn’t match his actions. As far as I know, he has been out chapping doors for days in the plusher parts of the contested constituency, warning those comfortable homeowners cloistered around the best-performing schools that the SNP plans to punish them by raising their council tax to something approaching fair. This, from the same Labour Party that simultaneously lambasts the SNP for failing to reform local taxation after 16 years in government.

Their campaign has involved walking the classic centrist tightrope of promising action to the poorest on poverty, while keeping the middle-class happy with the sort of perks that only entrench the inequality. Scottish Labour needs to attract the kind of people who are not worrying about multi-morbidity, or two-week waits for GP appointments, or the stigma of food poverty, or the two-child benefit cap. Being on the right side of Scotland’s educational attainment gap, and a world away from the drug death crisis, voters of this ilk, while certainly feeling the cost-of-living pinch, are not exactly hard-up. And if they vote Labour, they’ll expect something in return. They’ll expect the various mechanisms by which opportunity is distributed blindly upward to be maintained and expanded.

Conversely, the SNP is paying the price for a decade spent playing the same game. Their problems run deeper than Yousaf being less popular than predecessor Nicola Sturgeon. The tragedy is that at precisely the moment where Yousaf could legitimately claim to have moved even further to the Left than ever before — going toe-to-toe with landlords over short-term lets, pioneering child poverty payment, nationalising Scotrail and abolishing peak fares — their own base is beginning to lose interest. People are so numb after years of political capital being blown on the pretence that another referendum was imminent that, even though the SNP seems finally to be using devolved power to make a difference — safe consumption rooms, progressive taxation, and at some point in the near future, a Scottish Welfare System — many simply shrug when these achievements are pointed out.

The biggest problem both parties have, even if they end up in power at the same time, is that they are now political hostages to their own bullshit. Namely, the volatile constitutional issues of Brexit and Independence in which they are now, in their own ways, enmeshed, yet forbidden by electoral imperative from speaking honestly about.

The SNP has known for a long time that IndyRef2 will not happen soon — even the movement’s most gung-ho campaigners are placing the next referendum a firm 10 years away — yet it has engaged in the charade that it was just around the corner. Meanwhile, the party insists that because Scotland voted to Remain, we’ve been torn out of a lucrative political and economic union against our will, failing to see the contradiction at the heart of their campaign to take Scotland out of the UK without evidence that a majority of Scots actually want this to happen. The SNP wants us to believe two contradictory ideas at the same time: that Brexit is harmful to Scotland and that Independence won’t be (I’m all for indy, but I’m also realistic about the challenges it will bring).

These intellectual gymnastics are mocked and mirrored by Labour. Starmer, Sarwar and the rest of them must pretend Brexit is settled and that the shambles of leaving the EU in the hardest possible fashion has had little bearing on the UK’s dire economic fortunes — even though they understand only too well that such a tumultuous exit from the Single Market has made the very people who voted for it poorer. But Scottish Labour must also talk tough on independence to fend off the threat of the Scottish Tories, while knowing full well that the Scottish Government will always be severely constrained in the progress it can make when key issues such as immigration, labour laws and most taxes remain the preserve of London politicians.

Some might be relieved that constitutional issues were not as prominent in this by-election, but it is clear that, without the mobilising prospect of a rematch on either Brexit or a second independence referendum, Labour and the SNP will return to their comfort zones, taking their loyal bases for granted, pricing-in working class apathy, and targeting middle-class moderates whose political convictions could be written on the back of a fag packet — leaving space for all 228 lines of “Tam o’ Shanter”.

The only people actually buying what the politicians are selling are devout party activists, students yet to be disabused of their naivety, partisan hacks who study politics the way your Auntie Betty studies Emmerdale, and middle-class moderates who’ll swallow any old, reheated pish for stable house prices and a quiet two-driveway life. Nobody else gives a shit. If we can be bothered, we turn up on polling day, we hold our noses, and we vote for whichever party we believe is the least terrible option that year.

Coincidentally, the scepticism many Scots feel when London journos take a sudden interest in our affairs is precisely the scepticism many in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency probably feel about the preening top-flight Scottish politicians chewing scenery in the run-up to the by-election. Working-class people here are mere beads on an abacus, their votes appropriated for some national narrative that doesn’t serve them. Today, the travelling political circus will pack up and leave without a backward glance.


Darren McGarvey is a Scottish hip hop artist and social commentator. In 2018, his book Poverty Safari won the Orwell Prize and his new book The Social Distance Between Us (Ebury Press) is out on 16th June.

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Michael K
Michael K
9 months ago

Jings, that was a hard read!
Clever work though, blaming the candidates for not focussing on local issues while suggesting that Scotland tax American billionaires activities in space.
The rest was pretty much Scottish nationalism 101. It’s all someone else’s fault, England hates us and it’s ok to heavily tax the rich. In Scotland, of course the rich includes mid career nurses and teachers, self employed, anyone with the temerity to run a successful small business and, of course they b@st@rds that bought their own home.
I’m sure that McGarvey feels better for getting it out of his system so that’s nice.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

and like another famous blood-sucker, he avoids looking in the mirror.

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
9 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Not sure that’s fair. Minus a few Scottish specifics, the arguments in this piece could be said of voters throughout the UK.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
9 months ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

You don’t vote yourself prosperity by allowing government to spend more of everybody’s labour then they already do.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
9 months ago

It’s not just Scotland that get treated like this by the London media-political class, it’s anywhere outside of the home counties.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Exactly. McGarvey sometimes makes some good points, but they’re always couched in terms of Scottish exceptionalism with regard to industrial decline and deprivation. This is twaddle. Recently visited the town in England where I grew up and the shopping precinct, once bustling and lively, was like Dawn of the Dead.

While the SNP like to portray little difference between Labour and Tories, in Scotland there’s not much to separate SNP and Labour bar independence. Rutherglen has elected an MP who is in favour of self ID. How many working class voters in the post-industrial towns of Lanarkshire are in favour of that?

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
9 months ago

He is committed to Scottish independence. Wouldn’t it be strange if he didn’t use Scottish contexts? Not everything’s about England, you know and a great many of us ‘up here’ focus first on the good, bad and ugly of politics in our own country as I’m sure the majority of English people rightly do.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

That’s not really what I was trying to get at. I live ‘up here’ and have done for most of my adult life. I also have Scottish family. My point is that he comes across as if all social problems are uniquely appalling in Scotland, which they’re not. There’s also the familiar rhetoric of blaming London politicians, when devolved UK regions get to participate far more in democratic processes than England. Scotland has The Western Isles constituency which is close to a rotten borough.

Another criticism I have is that his only solutions are big state interventions, which assume that the taxes to pay for them can be collected. How does this solve unemployment in a former mining town in Lanarkshire, for example? But he often raises relevant points and for that deserves some credit. Of course, he will report on the situation in Scotland and from a nationalist perspective due to his political views, but I can’t help feeling that he misses the deeper and more universal causes of the malaise.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
9 months ago

Most shopping malls, even some of the posh ones, are like dawn of the Dead. That’s because most shopping is done on-line. It will only get worse, and the average local planning department will do nothing to help the unfortunate owners repurpose them.
(I use “unfortunate” in the sense that those of us on here with pensions and insurance will tend to be the ultimate owners, like it or not.)

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

It was really just a huge shock as I had not visited since before COVID. This was the whole town centre now vape shops, phone unlocking or boarded up. Former large stores now giant charity shops and I was into double figures counting junkies within 200 yards. Utterly grim.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

As I see it those who do well from any form of political activity are those who are either part of the activity, or who fund it. The rest of come nowhere near, reagrdless of where we live. We exist only to pay tax for benefits, not welfare benefits, but good outcomes of any kind that never come our way,as apart from paying our taxes we are not important enough.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
9 months ago

Over many decades the policies of the Left (including those of the “ middle of the road” Tories) has utterly failed Scotland and yet the author’s prescription for recovery seems to be yet more of the same ( tax the “ rich” nationalise industry etc etc). Truly bonkers – but also very sad – as I have to agree that the solution to Scotland’s ( and UK’s) political illness is nowhere in sight.

Robin Westerman
Robin Westerman
9 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Is that because we look lazily to “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” lacklustre loyalty ?
Maybe start a party that focuses on best economic outcomes for all – worldwide ? Drop the narrow vested interests, lies and corruption.

glyn harries
glyn harries
9 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

The ‘policies of the left’ have not been instituted in Scotland. You say the SNP ‘tax the rich’ but the tax rates in Scotland are not dissimilar to those in England and the top rate is well below Thatchers first 9 years of 60%! Which went down to 40%. Scotland is 41%. Left Wing??? And sure Scotland has ‘nationalised’ ScotRail, but the Tory govt in England has ‘nationalised’ several ‘franchises’ or lines; TransPennineExpress, LNER and Southerneastern so this is not particularly radical.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
9 months ago

Grim. His argument that Labour and SNP share the same corrupted Progressive ideology – the same cultish failed luxury credos embraced by half the Fake Tories and the whole of the Civil Service, Law, Media and public sector makes clear our united fate. Either the Tories under Rishi reject Rule by Diktat & the bossy tyranny of the Eco, DEI and Progressives now – fast – or all the UK will suffer the immiseration of those poor Scots in grey sick towns. But they do not yet get it. Smoking ban??? Pure NHS First nannyism. A Levels, Rosebank and a White Elephant are not enough. Any failure in the war against illegal border entry will seal their fate. Watch next week to see how vapid and hollow, how cynical and dangerous the braindead progressive Labour is.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
9 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Not sure what your utopia would be like – Singapore on Thames? (Made me laugh when I read to own a car in Singapore costs an absolute fortune- ULEZ on steroids.) But sure as hell I wouldn’t want to live there, and I don’t think many would. Give me the blob and brain dead progressives any day!

Last edited 9 months ago by Martin Butler
Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

How very odd. So its just Singapore or this? Its not utopian to wish to escape the horrors of your Blob – its lockdown lies and tyranny, its eco fanaticism and bullying, its magic money and high tax misery, its toxic race baiting and gender confusion, its contempt for democracy (2 Ref) and calamitous uncontrolled unplanned population growth. Sounds like you should head north and enjoy a proper battering.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

to own a car in Singapore costs an absolute fortune

There’s no point to owning a car in Singapore – there’s nowhere to drive to.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Singapore has the Circle Line, and it goes around the whole country.

Who needs a car there?

Peter Lucey
Peter Lucey
9 months ago

[Edit]An interesting piece.

Many of us up here are not only resigned to our junior status in this dysfunctional constitutional family, but we lean into it, like a sunburnt drunk leans in to embrace a cactus.”

Some of us in England would like the same public spending formula that Scotland enjoys.

Last edited 9 months ago by Peter Lucey
Bret Larson
Bret Larson
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lucey

Cut them loose while the body politic has change on their minds (as in Brexit).
Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with them for another 1000 years.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
9 months ago

Everywhere deserves better than this! Your description of life on the ground in this constituency could be written about far too many parts of not just Scotland but the whole UK.
Sad, depressing.
All political parties have failed, and will continue to. Labour seem to have given up on the idea of using taxation as a way to redistribute money to deprived areas. Tories appear happy to ignore these places where no one will vote for them. SNP? I don’t know enough to comment.
Years and years and years of a widening gap between the haves and have nots have ended up with too many areas where the standard of living is close to third world standards. Is it simply that the “haves” really want an underclass to use/abuse and feed off?

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Buckley

But now Labour seem to have given up on taxing investment income in the same way that we tax PAYE the outlook is not great – I agree. What is depressing is that far to many – although less so in Scotland – have fallen for the myth that if you are in poverty then, one way or another, it must be your fault. Personal responsibility is important but if you have a job but still need benefits something is wrong.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Yep, this. So much of what is going wrong now boils down to an unfair sharing out of the profits generated by actual work. There’s plenty of money about. It’s just that the wrong people have got it. Why would any young person, not born rich, feel like they have a stake in such a society?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

It isn’t surprising that Labour are no longer a labour party. Have you forgotten how the Guardian reacted to Theresa May’s timid suggestion that perhaps some of the billions in unearned property wealth that its readers have accumulated over the past twenty years might be used to pay for their social care? Nowadays leftist ideology among the middle class voters who decide elections is a fashion statement, not a guide to voting intentions.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

London’s leftists love Labour (so long as they’re talking about socialism and not threatening to do it). They’re very much in favour of the race hatred and gender weirdness, but asking them to cough up for socialism is a step too far, comrade.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I think ‘the race hatred and gender weirdness’ is basically a way to avoid talking about money.

0 0
0 0
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

They want socialism, but only the type that benefits the globalist Lords and their professional manageral courtiers. A socialism that allows them to keep their dubiously productive jobs in the government and the corporations, inflates their housing values, distributes taxpayer money to favorite groups and luxury causes that give them moral authority and social legitimacy, as well as keep the Patronage system that maintains the power networks of their favor. As well as regulates potential economic competition to the established powers out of existence. And finally to keep the underclass contented as a vote Bank through the welfare state, as well as prevent the possibility of revolt through the welfare system by buying them off. Not the type of socialism that benefits the common Man, who they hate and fear. And they want You to pay for it, not themselves.

Last edited 9 months ago by 0 0
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

It’s a protest vote against the incumbents – just like we are seeing across Europe. And don’t read too much into a by-election with a turnout of 37%.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

“Swathes of South Lanarkshire…..unglamorous, grey-washed urban purgatories rendered nondescript by post-industrial malaise”

Swathes of Scotland in fact. Almost every Scottish town or city consists of a resaonably attractive period core ringed by such purg-a-tories. In fifty years of visiting/living in Scotland, it never ceases to amaze me that almost no-one, and no local planners/council, have bothered to add a lick of paint to these grey homes – as they so often do in the beloved Ireland & Nordic countries.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

“You can really see the draw of becoming a political diehard. Of nailing your colours to the mast and warring till the bitter end. It’s a far simpler existence. You train your eyes and ears for the errors of others, while remaining blind to your own.”
Excellent article. 
And I’m sure the SNP now considers that posturing on wokery – instead of real issues – was worth it, lol.
Let’s face it, the SNP blew their mission on wokery. 

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago

“It suits both the SNP and Labour to portray themselves as diametrically opposed, but they’re two flaps of the same fanny.”

Well, considering that neither labour, nor the SNP know what a woman is, I wonder what kind of fanny the author is referring to. A memorable sentence in any case!

M Doors
M Doors
9 months ago

“..shambles of leaving the EU in the hardest possible fashion …”
You what now ?

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

…Labour and the SNP will return to their comfort zones, taking their loyal bases for granted, pricing-in working class apathy, and targeting middle-class moderates whose political convictions could be written on the back of a fag packet… 

Two political machines battling it out to determine the survivor. Like ‘Robot Wars’ but less entertaining.

Naren Savani
Naren Savani
9 months ago

This chap could have conveyed his sentiments in four sentences.Verbosity thou name is McGarvey.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
9 months ago

What’s the point of all this exasperation if you continue to vote for these parties that have shown time and again that they are not your friends?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
9 months ago

That’s a good old fashioned rant. And, like all the best rants, any touching of reality is entirely accidental

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
9 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

He’s a bit of a miserabilist I’d like to know what he considers the Golden Age or whatever.

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
9 months ago

In a very long essay he still doesn’t tell us why Labour dumped their previous MP for a candidate who had recently left the party. Omerta rules?.

Chuck de Batz
Chuck de Batz
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Dudgeon

Because the essay wasn’t about the candidates.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
9 months ago

Three quarters of the SNP voters from 2019 stayed at home, so Labour easily gained the seat with 17,845 votes. In 2017, also from the SNP, Labour narrowly gained the same seat with 19,101 votes. On both sides of the Border, an abysmal ruling party is collapsing, to the benefit by default of a politically identical Opposition (the SNP has not seriously pursued independence in nine years), with more and more people simply finding better things to do. Their votes are up for grabs.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
9 months ago

Never mind “Scotland deserves better than this”, England deserves better than Scotland!

Labour claimed this was a “mini-referendum on two failed governments at Holyrood and Westminster” while neglecting to point out that thanks to them we English only have one Parliament, and that Parliament has large numbers of Scots/Irish/Welsh nationalists who out of general antipathy towards England and the English deliberately vote against our interests.

The sooner this so-called “Union” breaks up, the better off we English will be.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
9 months ago

If nothing else, I like his writing style!

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
9 months ago

“There were no big ideas here. No grand visions.”

The grand vision is that the slaves should sell their vote to the highest bidder. And they did.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago

Scotland deserves better than this circus

Why?

Travis Cooper
Travis Cooper
9 months ago

Well, welcome to the shit show (from across the pond). What took you so damn long? We’ve been waiting decades.

James Kirk
James Kirk
9 months ago

‘unglamorous, grey-washed urban purgatories rendered nondescript by post-industrial malaise’. Stealing that if only to hug it. I suppose hiphop can be witty with words but closer analysis renders it contradictory. Was it ‘descript’ before and during industry?
Change progressive to regressive. Litmus? going from yellow to red on a gauge is cause for an engineer’s alarm, even post industrials watch the movies. Flaps, makes a change from cheeks but vuukle, disqus? The prim and pious won’t read further.
I like his writing style but is he speaking to Mrs Obese-Alcoholic-Foodbank? Where Unherd is truly unheard, in such a herd.

odd taff
odd taff
9 months ago

I’ve just returned from the north. Not quite as far as Scotland but far enough to be colder and wetter than we’ve used to here in the sunny South East. As I drove home yesterday into sunshine and noticed the roadside difference in the colour of the fields which here are turning to straw my mood lifted. No wonder the Scots are a miserable lot. They don’t get enough sunshine.

John Scott
John Scott
9 months ago

Great commentary: This paragraph sums up politics everywhere:
“The only people actually buying what the politicians are selling are devout party activists, students yet to be disabused of their naivety, partisan hacks who study politics the way your Auntie Betty studies Emmerdale, and middle-class moderates who’ll swallow any old, reheated pish for stable house prices and a quiet two-driveway life. Nobody else gives a shit. If we can be bothered, we turn up on polling day, we hold our noses, and we vote for whichever party we believe is the least terrible option that year.”

David McKee
David McKee
9 months ago

The basic problem here, is that Labour and the SNP define themselves principally by what they’re against, not what they’re for – the Tories and the English, respectively. Hence the weird political vacuum of the by-election campaign.

Poor old Rutherglen voters. Poor old us, this time next year, when Labour and the Tories, heavy on gimmicks (eg banning smoking, or regurgitating trans activists’ lunacies), but light on considered analysis of the country’s problems and plausible plans for addressing them, battle for our votes.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
9 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

You should write articles.

Maximus Decimus Merridius II
Maximus Decimus Merridius II
9 months ago

Flaps?!

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
9 months ago

History suggests that Scottish independence is almost inevitable in the long run. I do not say this with any enthusiasm. It is just if you look at Canada, Australia, New Zealand or even South Africa, there is a pattern. If London grants a degree of autonomy to a regional group of English speaking politicians then over time it concedes more and more until the region acquires de facto independence. The regional politicians are absorbed by the process; Westminster barely notices it is going on. The only time the London government focuses on the issue is during a crisis; in between policy just drifts. I doubt Scotland will be any different. The moment Donald Dewar persuaded his colleagues that devolution was the antidote to independence, I fear he made the latter inevitable … in the long run.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Nonsense. Scotland is not a colony and it is not 5k or 10k miles away. The comparisons provided are not applicable.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
9 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

History suggests, nay, history records, that Scotland went broke last time it was independent and as a result pleaded for union with England.

Given that both SNP and Labour are hooked on spending for votes, it’s now simply a competition to see who can provide more free stuff.

Scotland used to be a great and innovative engineering country but now the remaining engineering and innovation, concentrated in northeast Scotland, is under near constant attack from both Westminster and Holyrood

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
9 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

It’s a category error to examples of something and ignore examples because they aren’t that something. Bavaria, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Piedmont, Texas, Burgundy, Aragon, even Quebec, where separatist sentiment is lessening.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
9 months ago

If you look at where the SNP are strongest, it’s clear that their supporters prefer dependence – on welfare, drugs, government cash – to independence. During this period of SNP instability, Labour’s taking the chance to regain that constituency.
That’s what we are stuck with in Scotland. Squabbling over handouts.

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
9 months ago

2 weeks for a GP appointment sounds pretty good to me

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

TL; DR.
Irvine Welsh with fewer f**ks.

Last edited 9 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Martin Butler
Martin Butler
9 months ago

Politicians in Scotland are always in a very difficult position. Unless you visit Scotland, look at the different newspaper headlines to south of the border, hear the pub conversations, and so on, you wouldn’t be aware of how different the political culture is. Remember every single constituency in Scotland Voted remain, and there just isn’t the anti-immigrant, ‘benefit- scroungers’ rhetoric that you get from the Sun and Mail in the South. For example, the two children benefit cap has little support in Scotland – unlike in England. So the kind of message politicians can send in Scotland is utterly at odds with what would work in England. Both Tories and Labour have to say one thing in England and something quite different in Scotland. That’s why they can seem meally mouthed. But then on the other hand an independent Scotland is not really going to work. So the SNP is trying to sell something it can never deliver. Anyway pleased Labour won. Tories lost their deposit! Wonderful! Imagine that in England.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Why wouldn’t an independent Scotland work? Independent Ireland works. Independent Iceland and Norway work.

Of course, if Scotland had to fund it’s own benefits system then the people might change their attitude to welfare scroungers. Of course one thing they won’t ever have to deal with is boatloads of illegal immigrants.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Independent Scotland would cope (although I would be sorry to see them go). They’d be fast tracked into the EU (to spite England) and get plenty of funding. It does feel like the whole issue is off the table now, though.

Last edited 9 months ago by Simon Blanchard
Peter Lucey
Peter Lucey
9 months ago

Are you sure? I would like to observe the meeting between Scottish PM and EU officials in Brussels, cheerfully requesting the same subsidies from the EU budget that the Scots get from the UK!

Richard M
Richard M
9 months ago

Scotland wouldn’t be fast-tracked into the EU because Spain will not agree to a precedent which would further encourage Basque and Catalonian separatism.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

No, you’re wrong. That would certainly have been the case before Brexit. But Britain is no longer a member of the EU, so all bets are off. I suspect the EU wold be quite amused to admit Scotland.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
9 months ago

Yes I’m in two minds about that. Like you I would be sorry to see them go. At the moment I just think we have to accept that it’s not a live issue, which is why Labour have the momentum. Selfish reasons also. If Scotland got independence, in England we would be condemned to years of Tory hell. A kind in government opposition. Endlessly telling us that they couldn’t do anything because of ‘economic orodoxy’ or the ‘blob’ or something.

David Walters
David Walters
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Independent Ireland did not work for 50 years. While the UK built a welfare state for the disadvantaged, Irish people had to endure a farewell state from which disadvantaged people with aspirations had no option but to flee for work to the the UK and US. All while the malnourished corpses of 1000 orphans were gradually being flushed into the cesspit at Tuam. Levelling up to western European standards of prosperity only came with another 50 years of handouts from the EU, which co-incidentally equated at the beginning to the amount the UK was paying in.

William Murphy
William Murphy
9 months ago
Reply to  David Walters

Yes, both my parents came over during WW2. My mother and her sister did their nursing training in London between visits from the Luftwaffe, which gives you an idea of how appealing the west of Ireland was for young people. And my father’s sister moved from County Mayo to New York in 1932…..

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago
Reply to  David Walters

A trade war with Britain didn’t help. But if you’d asked ordinary people on the ground, they were still happier than being hassled by your army on a daily basis.

Robin Westerman
Robin Westerman
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

The latter can be arranged.

Richard M
Richard M
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

I’m pretty much ambivalent on Scottish independence. I would probably have voted No if I was Scottish. But I’m not and if Yes is what a majority had chosen then fair enough.
What I don’t really understand is what is meant by statements like an independent Scotland “won’t work”? Scotland is a developed country of 5.5M people (same as Norway and Finland), with lots of natural resources. Its not a TV remote with the batteries taken out.
Like any other large constitutional change there would be transition costs and choices to be made – passports at the border with England perhaps – but it won’t just suddenly stop working.
The choice before the Scottish people should be an honest one allowing them to weigh up the perceived benefits against the perceived costs. At the referendum it was the nationalists “rainbows and unicorns” against the unionists “cliff edge plummet into hell”.

c fyfe
c fyfe
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

It wouldnt work because Scotland’s people have become punch drunk on handouts. We would plummet. Brexit went badly, partly, in my view, because the electorate and political class were so evenly devided on the issue, and few in public positions of the remain camp would help to foster cohesion and unity of purpose post brexit. Scotland’s independence would be an even damper squib than brexit and a collossal risk to the future wellbeing of our people.

glyn harries
glyn harries
9 months ago

Yup! Excellent summary!

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

Summary, anyone?

Paul T
Paul T
5 months ago

What does the “Loki” have to do with any of this? So what; he has a football terrace nick-name used when he is screaming nationalism at “another” team. That “taxing foreign billionaires” though; I cant even imagine what that was aimed at suggesting…or arousing? Well…a weird envy remixed by crisis-nationalism?

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

The project for the SNP must now be rejoining the EU if not campaigning directly for Eurozone membership. That might take some of the middle-class vote away from Labour.