SHALLOW. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I listen to Richard Leonard. And anybody who can share a platform with Jeremy Corbyn and still sound shallow has to have taken shallowness to the molecular level. To appear more shallow, more banal, more devoid of substance than Corbyn takes a very particular talent. But Leonard seems up to the challenge.

We are told repeatedly that British Labour have a bright, shining vision. But it remains a mystery what they actually see. We are told that theirs is a message of hope. But what they hope for, other than power, isn’t at all clear. We are assured that British Labour are promising change. But neither Leonard nor his boss appear to have a clue as to what the situation is in Scotland, so they end up promising us stuff that we already have and/or stuff that the SNP administration is already in the process of delivering.

Leonard’s promise to take publicly owned Scottish Water back into public ownership clearly demonstrates the shallowness referred to. Not only did he not know about it, he didn’t bother to find out. It wasn’t important that he be properly briefed. It’s only Scotland. And besides, it’s not as if the media are going to give him a hard time. He’s a British politician. Moreover, he’s a British politician in Scotland. He gets a free pass from the BBC and the British press.

But there may be more to this than a sense of casual indifference born of contempt and the confidence of privilege. It could be just sloppy preparation such as will happen when a politician has no respect for voters. Or it could be an error born of an overarching imperative to deny a particular Scottish perspective or a distinctive Scottish political culture. It could be yet another manifestation of “One Nation” British Nationalism.

If the dogma of your core ideology holds that Scotland is just part of some “Greater England” then you will tend towards the default assumption that it is just like the bits that you’re most familiar with. If you are accustomed to water services that are privatised, and ideologically predisposed to think of Scotland as part of a homogeneous entity called “Britain”, you’re going to assume that Scottish Water is a private company. And you’re not going to bother to check. Because that would require a mindset that admits the possibility of difference.

It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but this shallowness can be profound. There is a curious sense in which a certain breed of career politician can plumb new depths of shallowness. A case in point is the notion that British Labour can simply latch on to the ethos and spirit of Scotland’s Yes movement. Clearly, Leonard knows no more about the Yes movement than he does Scottish Water.

Leonard doesn’t understand that the “hope and optimism” of the Yes movement arose from the grassroots. It came from the people. The Yes movement wasn’t created. It happened.

Hope! Optimism! Aspiration! These are more than mere items on a campaign director’s checklist. They are not things that can be ordered from some propaganda supply company. They are the feed-stock, the fuel and the product of a truly democratic movement with a great common cause at its heart.

British Labour in Scotland cannot possibly emulate the Yes movement because it has nothing at its heart but bitter resentment of the SNP, a very British sense of entitlement, and a desperate craving for the status withdrawn by an electorate hardly less detested than the party chosen to replace them. There is no plan. There is no purpose. There is no principle. No essence. No core. No depth. Only shallow.
Peter A Bell