English Labour leaders tend to find Scottish party conferences difficult. The Scots tend to be more old-fashioned, unreconstructed and left-wing than their English colleagues which can make it difficult for English party leaders to gauge the mood when they come north.
But Ed Miliband actually managed to get through his address to the Scottish Labour Party conference without any major problems this afternoon, primarily because he managed to adapt his One Nation slogan to fit the independence debate. Miliband has been banging on about One Nation for two years now with few people having any idea what he means. But when he refers to the independence debate, the concept suddenly has meaning – and this is what he concentrated on today.
‘You cannot be a narrow nationalist and stand for social justice,’ he said.
The idea, both of the UK and of One Nation Labour, was about ‘sharing resources and sharing risks’, the Labour leader said, and ‘on that basis we redistribute’.
He equated One Nation with the campaign to keep the Union intact but then went further to insist that staying together would mean fighting for ‘social justice’ for all, across the whole of the UK.
Miliband was careful to press all the appropriate left-wing buttons for his Scottish audience, praising the legacy of John Smith, reaffirming his commitment to restoring the 50p tax rate and attacking SNP plans to reduce corporation tax in an independent Scotland. In a clear nod to the Left in the party in Scotland, he then urged the activists to ‘campaign for fairness and redistribution’. And he added: ‘We have to take on the vested interests to achieve this’.
The Labour Leader was strongest when attacking George Osborne’s Budget – or rather attacking the controversial Conservative advertising which followed the Budget which had described hard-working people as ‘they’. To