Landslide victory for Jeremy Corbyn in the UK: What will election of a new Labour Party leader mean for Scotland?
Scottish Americans are hearing some interesting news from the United Kingdom today. The UK Labour Party has chosen socialist Jeremy Corbyn as its next leader by a landslide. A big one. It is a result that is sending a few shock waves through Britain. What will the election mean in Scotland? More specifically, what will a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party mean for the Scottish Diaspora’s issues of interest, independence and heritage? Let’s take a quick look.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the historically formidable and well established Labour Party is particularly troublesome to those in power at Westminster due to his strong anti-establishment outlook matched together with a distinctly farther-than-usual left agenda. Scotlan’s reaction has been cautious and mixed. Corbyn is anti Nuke, which speaks favorably to a growing consensus in Scotia against the renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine program housed in Scotland. Indeed, the Conservative UK government has suggested that the Corbyn victory has created a UK wide risk to national security, economic security and every family in the Union. Probably a bit of over reach, but it does express the degree of discomfort the established political organizations in the UK are experiencing.
Scottish Indy. On the other side of the coin, Corbyn is a Unionist and has not in the past supported Scottish Indy. Indeed, there is an argument that a Corbyn led and potentially resurgent Labour Party could stifle the recent surging support for a Scottish exit from the United Kingdom by fueling some hope of an alternative to the wave of recent Tory Conservative majorities in the UK Parliament at Westminster.
The seeds of SNP and Labour cooperation were sown earlier during the Labour leadership campaign when Corbyn signaled that, unlike his predecessor at the Labour helm Ed Miliband, Corbyn would be willing to work with the SNP at Westminster if it meant the opportunity to defeat the Tories and create a coalition UK government. Although that position raised criticism from Corbyn’s own party in Scotland, the SNP’s Alex Salmond, now an MP at Westminster representing a Scottish constituency, welcomed the sea change saying that he could work with Corbyn on a range of issues such as welfare reform and abolishing Trident.
Scottish Culture and Heritage. Regarding preservation and enhancement of Scottish heritage, there are a few things to remember about Labour. The Labour Party in Scotland is a “branch office” of the UK Labour Party, ultimately taking direction across the board from Party leadership in London. The influence of “Corbynism” will be strongly felt in Scotland. The Labour Party has never proven itself to be a very interested partner in the Scottish Diaspora’s expressions of Scottish heritage, preferring a more completely forward looking agenda.
The most current Labour Party Manifesto (2015) does not focus on heritage issues at all and fails to mention Scottish native language revival. Labour’s 2015 Charter for Culture and the Creative Industries includes the basic statement, ”[T]he beauty of our cities, towns and villages, including exceptional monuments, churches, cathedrals and historic houses should be protected and enhanced.” Not a resounding and deeply thought commitment but a place holder at least. There is little reason to expect the election of Jeremy Corbyn to alter that outlook.