MORE proof that Labour's promise of "change" is meaningless came just a few hours before Keir Starmer took to the podium to share his platitudes with us on the final day of the Labour conference.

Taking the stage, national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden confirmed that a future Labour government will not implement a resolution put forward by the Unite union and passed by delegates to nationalise the energy companies.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), told a fringe meeting at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool that taking the railways back under public control remains party policy and urged the party not to "backslide" on this commitment, but judging from Starmer's willingness to ditch every other policy that seems vaguely left-wing, it's more likely than not that it will go the same way as the one to renationalise the energy companies.

‘Scottish’ Labour and denial of democracy

Yesterday Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Labour party's Scottish Optional Identity Mark, had his turn at addressing the conference. In between the predictable crowing and triumphalism on the back of Labour's win in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, he spared a few moments to assure us that he would not close his arms to Yes supporters in Scotland.

He might not close his arms to them, but he's already closed his ears and his mind.

Moreover, along with his boss, Sarwar is still opposed to another independence referendum, and is still refusing to specify exactly how the people of Scotland can express their desire for another vote through the ballot box.

Labour refuse to accept that desire was expressed when parties standing on an explicit and unarguable commitment to another referendum won a majority of the seats in Holyrood – during an election which was dominated by the issue.

Sarwar has spent the two years since May 2021 denying that the Scottish Government has a mandate for a referendum.

The National: Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves makes her keynote speech during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool (PA)

Shortly before the Labour party conference began, during a campaign visit to Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (above) categorically denied that it would constitute a mandate for another independence referendum if the SNP were to win the next Westminster General Election in Scotland.

So if it's not winning a Holyrood election, and it's not winning a Westminster General Election in Scotland, then what is it exactly?

Sarwar can't say, because the answer to that question is way above his pay grade. But he certainly does not appear to have any great interest in pressuring his boss to answer it either.

This renders democracy in Scotland effectively meaningless on the crucial question of the constitution, as meaningless as Sarwar telling us that his arms are open to independence supporters.

By that he means that he's happy for Yes voters to support him, but he has absolutely no intention of reciprocating.

He's telling independence supporters: "Just set aside your aspirations and support me."

Sarwar does this before every election, but as soon as the votes are counted, even when Labour has lost as it did in May 2021, he insists that it “proves” that people in Scotland have rejected independence.

The substance of Anas Sarwar's speech

In his speech, Sarwar claimed that the voters of Rutherglen and Hamilton West – or at least the 37.2% of them who could be bothered to vote – "spoke for Scotland”, by returning a single MP, bringing Labour's total to two.

However, all those voters who returned the great majority of Scotland's MPs – specifically the 44 SNP MPs and the two Alba MPs who support independence and the right of the people of Scotland to another referendum – apparently do not speak for Scotland.

I'm not entirely sure how that works, but I am sure that BBC Scotland will not be pressing him to explain the Labour party special arithmetic that makes two a bigger number than 46.

In return for votes, Labour offers independence supporters a brief respite from Conservative rule, but not from Conservative policies.

There will be no independence referendum, no return to the single market and customs union, far less the EU, no meaningful reform of the House of Lords, no measures to protect the devolution settlement.

The National:

Sarwar (above) said he wanted more powers devolved to Scotland but conspicuously omitted to specify any. He did however suggest a possible extension of English-style elected mayors to Scotland, a clear indication that a Labour government will continue the Conservative assault on the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Local government in Scotland is devolved. Labour and the Tories are both keen to bypass Holyrood, where they cannot form a government, in favour of local authorities where they can establish a power base.

This is not and has never been about what the Labour party can do for Scotland, it's about what Scotland can do for the Labour party. Labour's years in the electoral wilderness in Scotland have taught it nothing.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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