Jeremy Corbyn’s devastating legacy ‘still felt’ as former leader decimated Scottish Labour
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Scottish Labour was crushed in the 2015 general election after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP swept in with a historic landslide, winning 56 out of 59 seats. Just a year later, in the Scottish Parliament election, Labour went on to suffer yet another defeat, losing 13 of its 37 seats – becoming the third-largest party in the country after being surpassed by the Scottish Conservatives. Earlier this month, Sir Keir announced his plans to open a “constitutional commission” that would spread devolution to all corners of the UK.
The move was widely interpreted as a last-ditch effort to win back the votes of those Scottish voters who left Labour for the SNP five years ago.
While there remains a slither of support for the party in Scotland, Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk that the fallout is largely a result of former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s incompetence in the region.
Labour has always been in favour of remaining a part of the union, but Prof Fielding said it was Mr Corbyn’s ambiguity that added to the difficulty the outfit now has in salvaging its popularity.
He said: “Ever since 2015 Labour’s been in a tizzy about how to respond, because the party was in favour of the no vote, and this is why some people say Labour did so badly in 2015 because it was associated with the Tories and only the SNP were seen as standing up for Scotland.
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“Ever since the virtual wipe-out in 2015, Labour has not been sure what to do.
“Under Corbyn, it seemed that Labour was in favour of independence.
“And so it’s not really ever got a handle on what it wants to say and how it wants to say it.
“Corbyn was meant to appeal to all of those voters that went to the SNP in 2015 and of course he completely failed to.”
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Mr Corbyn’s failure to win over the Scottish people has, Prof Fielding said, resulted in the SNP enjoying near-total control over the country, with almost “no opposition” in Holyrood.
Following Sir Keir’s devolution announcement, Ms Sturgeon hit back at the Labour leader, branding him a “constitutional tinkerer”.
She said Scottish Labour had no chance of challenging the SNP’s dominance.
Many have noted that in recent years, the SNP’s influence has trickled down to many aspects of life in Scotland, especially education.
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This month, Sir Tom Devine, one of Scotland’s best-known historians, condemned a resource used to teach schoolchildren as a “perversion” of history and “blatant propaganda”.
A timeline of Scottish history, stretching back to 1296, was deleted from Education Scotland’s website this week following the criticism, something teachers were urged to use in their lessons.
Before this, in 2015, Professor Adam Tomkins from the University of Glasgow and an MSP for Glasgow, in a piece for The Conversation, wrote about how the SNP were working to “exert unprecedented controls” on ranging aspects of Scottish life, institutions, and academic freedom.
He said: “With angry mobs descending on the BBC when the broadcaster dares to run news stories critical of the SNP administration, political freedom in Scotland can feel precarious.
“SNP ministers may say they oppose any attempt to alter the UK’s human rights laws but, at the same time, the human rights of Scots are repeatedly jeopardised by SNP policy.
“Very little of this is understood outside of Scotland.
“From elsewhere in the UK, the SNP leader, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, looks the consummate social democrat.
“Poised, elegant and polished – and passionate in her rhetoric and commitment to social justice – Sturgeon is indeed a great performer.
“But underneath the act lies an altogether different reality, of an illiberal and centralising government that would rather sit on its hands than use its powers to transform Scotland for the better.”
Others have also noted Ms Sturgeon’s ability to perform, with Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour member branding her as an “opportunist”.
He told Express.co.uk: “She’s quite an opportunist, and I think because things are seen as so binary in Scotland, the SNP versus the Tories, so tribal, I think she’s able to get away with a lot of stuff a normal leader of any other country wouldn’t be able to do.
“She does that by simply blaming Westminster the whole time.
“It’s an astute way to do it but quite a disingenuous thing to do as well.”
Ms Sturgeon has said that while her “focus and effort” remains on controlling the coronavirus pandemic, she hopes to hold a Scottish independence referendum “in the earlier part” of 2021’s Scottish Parliament term.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, has repeatedly refused to entertain the idea of an indyref2.
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