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“FIFE VOTED REMAIN,” exclaimed one placard at a demonstration outside Dundee’s Caird Hall.
As is becoming the custom at political conferences, an ragtag of flag-waving diehards had gathered to pester delegates in flight and on fag breaks — and harrumph at anyone who refused to take a leaflet demanding a second referendum on EU membership.
Scotland, of course, also voted to stay in the European Union — by 62 per cent to 38 per cent.
It’s an argument we hear not just from Scottish nationalists, but from the so-called Labour centrists who have been pushing for the party to adopt the cause of the so-called People’s Vote.
Fife, of course — like Scotland — is welcome to vote how it likes.
The trouble is that the referendum was not limited to Scotland, but was held across Britain.
The nationalist case for staying in is, thus, at least consistent. Scotland could leave Britain — if that’s what the SNP wants, despite how increasingly unlikely it seems from the power-content defenders of the status quo at Holyrood — and rejoin the EU.
But the muddle in which it leaves anti-independence Blairites is telling of the lack of both principle and workability in their own position.
Some, of course, have argued for a third way. When she was Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale argued for Labour to explore a federal solution under which Scotland could remain an EU member while other parts of Britain could leave.
As Brexit day moves closer, this demand appears to have fallen by the wayside. But it is unlikely it could ever have been pulled off without weakening the meaning of breaking away from the EU for the rest of Britain.
And if a second referendum were to go ahead, what would the Labour Europhiles demand if it went the same way as the first?
They could hardly demand a clause in the referendum legislation whereby Britain would only leave if Scottish voters endorsed Brexit.
Here in Dundee, Richard Leonard has faced grumblings for focusing on the economy and workplace power rather than the Brexit cliff-edge.
But the same grumblers complain that Scottish Labour is irrelevant. And what could be more irrelevant than turning the political voice of Scottish workers into an EU tribute act at a time when Brexit is clearly, botched or otherwise, going ahead?
As CWU Scotland secretary Craig Anderson argued in the Star yesterday, there is indeed a “managerialism that haunts the Scottish Parliament.”
And he is right too that Leonard offers the chance of a break with this — as was demonstrated last week, when he used a series of interventions protesting the closure of the St Rollox railway works to advocate a genuine alternative strategy for rebuilding Scotland’s industrial base.
It’s this track that Scottish Labour should stay on — and demands to indulge fantasy-land renditions of Ode to Joy should be treated with every bit of the scepticism they deserve.
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