The dog that didn't bark - what Starmer didn't say to Scotland

At Labour’s Scottish conference Keir Starmer made a plea to independence supporters to lend their vote to Labour at the next General Election. Standing on a stage carefully clear of Union Jacks - in contrast to the UK conference - Starmer claimed to personify “the change Scotland needs”. 

But what does the Labour offer really amount to? What Starmer DIDN’T say in the speech is as important as what he did.

Here are six of the things that Starmer decided not to mention:

1. Starmer did NOT mention Labour’s U turn on green energy investment.

Scotland - and the UK as a whole - is now sleep-walking into an energy disaster thanks to Labour dropping its promise to put £28 billion a year into the transition to renewables. 

Labour’s initial pledge was the minimum required for the UK to meet its needs and compete globally. The US has sent a wall of money crashing into green energy infrastructure, much of it targeted at supporting US jobs. That is having an impact on the US economy which is growing. The EU is doing the same. 

Starmer didn't mention the U turn. Instead, he talked about Great British Energy - a plan to give seed money to a Scotland-based company that will be expected to go into partnership with the private sector. That is a minor investment that is unlikely to make much difference.

The UK’s privatised energy grid has been starved of investment and it is very far from being able to provide the connectivity required to support an electricity-hungry future, with electric cars, green industry, heating and cooling of homes. Without that investment, prices will stay high, growth will be anaemic and Scotland will miss its chance to be a world leader in renewables. 

2. Starmer did NOT mention the angry response from 800 businesses in North East Scotland to new tax plans that will suck resources from Scotland

Starmer said he had been to Aberdeen - but he doesn’t seem to have registered the fury over Labour’s new plans to tax the oil and gas sector heavily - without putting anything back.

Labour was in power when the oil boom began in the 1970s - they dismissed advice to start a sovereign wealth fund like Norway’s.

Now they have unveiled plans to introduce a new windfall tax on oil and gas (an additional 3% on the previous tax). This would not be such a problem if the proceeds from the tax went to fund a just transition in the communities who rely on oil and gas extraction such as Aberdeen and the North East - but it is not. Instead it will go to subsidising England’s nuclear reactors at Hinkley point and Sizewell C. 

Many in the industry are also angry because the same thing is happening with renewables. A new Electricity Generator Levy is predicted to raise £2 billion in Scotland this year alone - but none of that will be returned to Scotland for investment in the green transition.

For decades, Scotland and Scotland’s people have had no say over how oil and gas are regulated and taxed. Any visitor to Aberdeen will ask themselves - why does the area have so little to show for the massive profits that were made from the exploitation of its natural resources? It is because of Westminster’s choices. 

3. Starmer did NOT mention a democratic route to independence

Polls show that support for independence remains solid and has been as high as 53% recently. Starmer spoke directly to independence supporters, begging for their votes - but without offering anything in return. He did not even pledge not to read each vote for Labour as a vote against independence.  

He certainly did not mention that English Labour MPs recently voted down a Bill to give the Scottish Parliament the right to call a referendum. 

Starner did NOT mention that the UK Labour Party takes a very different position on Northern Ireland - supporting the right to a referendum when polls show a consistent majority for Irish unification. Yet the party does not support the right of Scots to have the same choice. Why the difference? 

4. Starmer did NOT mention the House of Lords

At the moment, Scotland is represented in Westminster’s second chamber by people like George Foulkes, famous only for knocking down an old lady when drunk. He and other Labour peers are in the process of trying to undermine the Scottish government's autonomy.

Scotland’s other “peers” include Malcolm Offord, a Unionist propagandist who failed to win a seat when he stood for election but then made a donation to the Conservative party; Michelle Mone, the yacht-owning business woman described as a “proud Scot” by David Cameron. 

These are not feudal times - why is Scotland being represented by these oddballs, selected for life through patronage without any democratic control? 

Labour was committed to abolishing the House of Lords in its first term and replacing it with a Senate of the Nations and Regions - but that is another promise that seems to have been ditched.

5. Starmer did NOT mention Brexit 

Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. The UK economy has shrunk as a result of this by 5%. Its balance of payments has been skewed by the difficulty of exporting to the EU. Many of the small companies that exported goods there have stopped. It is only very big exporters like whisky, salmon and oil that are able to continue. That damages the diversity and strength of Scotland’s economy.

Scotland has also lost out massively on EU investment. The UK government has never replaced anything like the funding Scotland got from EU funds which were aimed at rural areas. Scotland has also lost out on the access to a strong pool of seasonal workers.

Brexit has been a disaster for Scotland - but Labour is not promising to do anything about that. Starmer did not even mention Brexit in his speech. Anas Sarwar has made promises on that front - but everyone knows there is nothing meaningful that the UK can do to lift trade barriers WITHOUT rejoining the EU or EFTA. 

Scots want to rejoin the EU - but Labour has nothing to offer on that front. 

6. Starmer did NOT mention immigration - or that Labour abstained on the Rwanda Bill

Many Scots have watched in disgust as the UK government passes the Safety of Rwanda Bill. It is not up to the Houses of Parliament to determine whether or not Rwanda is safe - or if it will be more or less so in two or ten years time. The Bill currently passing through Westminster says it is the law that British courts MUST say Rwanda is a safe place to deport asylum seekers - whatever the reality on the ground. That is regardless of the truth according to the evidence. The Labour group in the House of Lords refused to vote against this Bill last month and abstained. 

There were no promises in Starmer’s speech to allow Scotland to manage its own immigration policy. The Labour leader Keir Starmer has promised a Labour government will bring down immigration significantly. To do that, they will have to tighten restrictions on worker salaries, students and family reunions. Those are very similar to the Conservatives’ policies. 


There are many more things that Starmer did not mention - for example the growing gap in child poverty between England and Scotland and the fact that Labour will not abolish the two child benefit cap. 

Labour is hoping to capitalise on the fact that many Scots are angry at the behaviour of the Conservative Government at Westminster and are desperate to get rid of them. 

But Scots considering casting a vote for Labour should think about what Stamer DIDN'T say or promise too.