The Bain Principle, the old Royal High School building on Calton Hill, and 30% of Labour Party Members going for Yes

Labour representatives have a long history of avoiding supporting the Scottish National Party’s policies. There is the Bain Principle (named after William Bain MP of Glasgow North East, who first revealed the Parliamentary Labour Party policy), where there is agreement that no Labour MP will support a motion by the SNP, regardless of whether or not it fits with their policies, principles or otherwise. Even if a bill was put forward that was in keeping with or benefited their constituents (and voters) directly, Labour MPs would still refuse to support it – indeed, would vote against it – simply because it was an SNP proposal. This is beyond ‘tribal’ – and thankfully is not reciprocated.

The first devolution referendum in 1979 had a Labour backbencher from Islington insert an amendment that meant that 40% of the electorate had to vote yes, in order for it to win. Given electoral turnouts, that was never going to happen, and the Labour parliamentary group knew it. Even when rising common cause pressure after the 1992 general election forced them to offer devolution in order to be elected in 1997, they tried hard to make it look as though this was nothing to do with the SNP. As such, the old Royal High School option for the parliamentary building (the proposed site for the Scottish Assembly in the 1979 devolution referendum), at which a vigil for a Scottish Parliament had been maintained for years was avoided like the plague, Donald Dewar referring to it as a “nationalist shibboleth”. Instead, a complete, high-cost new-build at Holyrood was the stated preferred option, with even the temporary home of the parliament being the general assembly building for the Church of Scotland on the Mound (rather than the building on Calton Hill). There could be no suggestion that the SNP had any positive role whatsoever in the new Scotland – whether in terms of suggested economic alternatives to extravagant new-builds, or in policies to benefit constituents. (One sometimes gets the feeling that that philosophy governs news selections on BBC Scotland…but I digress.)

Fundamentally, Labour knew that they needed the support of the SNP in order to secure the vote for the Scottish Parliament (and then gracelessly crowed afterwards that ‘their’ delivery of devolution had ‘killed independence stone dead’ – how exactly is that working out, BTW, guys?). On that basis, I feel it is only appropriate that – this time around, the Yes Scotland movement needs Labour to support the SNP’s initiative to deliver independence – and the news that (according to one poll) 30% of Labour Party members (and 37% of Labour Party voters) in Scotland intend to vote ‘Yes’ is much to be welcomed.

Seems kind of fitting, don’t you think? 🙂


“It is clear that Labour hates the SNP much more than it loves Scotland. Even when it came to voting against a Tory tax cut for millionaires, Labour could not put its resentment of the SNP aside in the interests of ordinary working people.” (Stewart Hosie MP, 28/3/2012)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s