The votes may have been tallied, and a decision reached, but the aftershocks of the Scottish Referendum last week will continue for quite some time, especially within the Labour Party. By far the biggest challenge facing them will be working out how to woo back the many voters in traditionally Labour heartlands.
One of the narratives being sold over the last few months was one where supporters of the Union came from across the political spectrum, but there does seem to have been a misapprehension that people would still tend to vote along party lines. With Labour traditionally having a strong core of support north of the border, the vote initially seemed far more secure than it actually turned out.
This week, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, has announced a tour of the constituencies that showed the highest ‘yes’ vote results, to try and woo back voters who actually voted according to their preferences for independence rather than following their party’s lead. A large part of that rebellion seems to have stemmed from a desire to cut the power of the Conservatives who have generally ruled Britain more often than not since the Union.
The secretary has been quoted as saying at the Labour annual conference that voters “are terrified of Tory governments, they are worried about the future of our public services and their living standards have been ground down over recent years.” So there is at least some recognition of the dangers being faced. One of the elements that was rightly highlighted in the referendum was how high the turn out was. A massive 84.6% of the electorate stood up to make their voices heard, compared to the roughly 60% that usually votes in Scotland.
What this strongly suggests is that, at a time when more and more people are feeling disconnected from politics and feeling disillusioned with the Westminster model of UK government, the opportunity to actually make real change happen was hugely attractive. Labour supporters who have wanted to opt out entirely of the UK stepped up to make their voices heard when the ‘Yes’ vote was unable to put up any greatly compelling arguments for change beyond offering stasis.
This sounds like hyperbole, but this week Glasgow city council released the poll figures for all eight of the Holyrood constituencies. They show that the ‘No’ vote, which in every constituency was championed by Scottish Labour, had lost in every single seat.
This week, all the pro-independence parties announced that their memberships have all radically increased since the vote, and some figures are now suggesting that the SNP is about to become one of the largest parties in the UK, overtaking UKIP and the Liberal Democrats to take third place in terms of registered members.
So in a week where more time has been spent on what the Labour leader hasn’t said than on the content of what is essentially his pre-election speech, and where individual cities in Britain have started asking about increasing their devolved powers, the message to Labour is perhaps that they really need to start to work out what people want, rather than what they think will play well in the Westminster echo chamber.