The pitiful Tory attempt at satire (above) has it wrong: the road to independence will likely come from the SNP distancing itself from Westminster politics, not conforming to its nebulous culture.
We’re in a vacuum of logic, where the fervent campaigning for the General Election has yet to truly begin, but there’s plentiful talk of all the hypothetical coalitions that could occur after it – or perhaps this rubbish is the campaigning?
All our lives we’ve seen the Tories or Labour win outright majorities, or better yet we’ve expected them to. As of now neither party is projected to win a majority, and that’s a problem, as some people just aren’t sure how to react to that.
The recent days and weeks have seen a relentless cascade of illogical and dystopian scaremongering and handwringing, by both the media and politicians who are threatened by the prospect of change they cannot control. The best of the rancid bunch has been Labourites and Tories encouraging tactical voting for one another in a futile attempt to prevent the SNP from winning seats in Scotland. This is amusing, because, as it stands, neither party has a UK wide lead in the polls, and yes, those Scottish seats do actually count in the final Westminster tally, which is kind of important.
It leads to all kinds of questions, most important of which is this: is saving the Union more important to the Tories and Labour than being in power?
Which brings us to the cause of all this; the SNP, its ever increasing number of supporters and that the question of Scottish independence hasn’t been settled and won’t be any time soon.
All three factors now loom over everything, nearly every policy pledge, every debate, every hypothetical outcome, even every ministerial sound-bite that emanates from Westminster contemplates the ‘Scottish problem’.
In the euphoria of victory nobody belonging to the Better Together conglomerate predicted this pyrrhic legacy of a No vote, nor did the Yes voters for that matter. The expectation was that the result would be final, and the focus of both Yes and No voters would align and settle seamlessly back to normalcy: with the impending general election the silly sectarian-esque fractions the referendum created would be replaced by the auld fashioned political loyalties.
Six months later and Unionist hysteria remains. This panic exists as the arguments for the retaining the UK and its deeply flawed political arrangements have become exhausted, and the continued success of the SNP has become symbolic of that fact.
Once you remove the sentimental inclination towards tradition, the practicalities of keeping a union of four separate countries together, with their own economic requirements, political and cultural flavours, is deeply illogical. It requires us to have Barrett formulas which few people seem to comprehend, we have no Northern Irish MPs at Westminster, and the six SNP MPs at Westminster, at this time, choose not to vote on legislation not related to Scotland. We also have devolved parliaments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and an assembly in Wales, though strangely it’s logical that some of these satellites have more devolved powers than others.
But it’s the SNP, or the ‘Nats’, that are now not only blamed for being a fractious entity whose sole purpose is to secure Scottish independence and destroy Blighty, but for not going away. The thing is, the UK is a democracy, or claims to be, and I always assumed that in a democracy the outcomes of elections are subject to contention, otherwise we’d be living in a single party state, a dictatorship, theocracy, or a caliphate. The political awakening and resolve shown post referendum has made democracy seem like an inconvenience.
Freedom to choose and the existing unfavourable view of Westminster, not the SNP, is what Unionists are truly fighting against, but exacerbating this climate of disenchantment is entirely of Unionist doing. In victory the Westminster hegemony wanted to have its cake and eat it, they utterly failed to realise that while the vote itself was foolishly black and white, a grey area existed where many No voters wanted more powers devolved to Holyrood. Instead of devolving meaningful powers, they offered the ‘findings’ of the Smith commission.
The referendum on independence was an emotive issue, and it was largely fought on those terms, but the politics of Westminster tends not to be and its elections certainly aren’t. People vote for the party whose policies align with their views on taxation, education, the NHS, whether public services should be state owned or privately run, Europe, the environment, foreign policy, and so forth.
This makes Labour’s desperation logical. The SNP are retaining voters in reaction to the referendum defeat, but also attaining them through the implementation of their successful policies. With the SNP able to appeal to voters in both ways, for Labour to win Scottish seats, they have to win back voters who have defected to the SNP or Yes voters, and therefore to do that, Labour also have to make a case for the union, or more specifically the effectiveness and fairness of the current political system of Westminster.
But they aren’t doing that, because there is no cogent argument for it, so Labour have chosen to turn their ire towards the SNP, first by using the trite and patently untrue assertion that an increase in SNP seats makes a Tory government more likely, and by painting the SNP as dogmatic nationalists instead of the pragmatists they are. Not only is this two pronged approach proving completely ineffective, but it elides a nuanced positon many voters currently inhabit.
That being why are so many No voters and Labour voters now set to vote for the SNP? The answer is quite straightforward. While they may not have believed in independence they realise the SNP are more likely to protect their interests as part of the UK. Added to that, in the main, ideologically the SNP are a genuine left of centre party, as Labour used to be and most Scottish voters are.
And an awful lot of people are fed up with Westminster’s careerism, vindictiveness, largesse, lying, ineptitude, smugness, and belittling contempt for the electorate, which the SNP, currently having only six MPs, are untainted by. I’ll say this for Jim Murphy, even though he’s a Blairite, and a liar, he does try, he’s visible, but what chance does he have tied to a party whose leadership is as uninspiring as it is feckless? That compels him to hire a brain-trust of John McTernan and Blair McGougall? Those two in particular are Thatcherite scum, who have shown and continue to show complete contempt for the Yes voters Labour are trying to win back.
The causes of Labour’s demise in Scotland (and the rest of the UK) should serve as a warning to the SNP, that when you desert your pledges and your purpose for existing, your supporters will probably desert you. How does the SNP maintain its universal popularity among No voters and Labour defectors by constructive representation at Westminster, yet remain true to its Yes base by moving towards its goal of an independent Scotland? Is this balancing act possible?
The SNP will have to decide what’s important and decipher what its voters prefer; the short term goal of getting the best deal for Scotland in the UK, or the long term goal of independence? I suspect, if they could, they’d happily form a coalition with Labour, providing they can secure the guarantee of another referendum or a proper form of devo max.
Perhaps there’s a deal to be made. But I’m sceptical. Neither Labour nor the Tories want to be known as the party that facilitated the demise of Britain, and by extension their own centralised political hegemony of entitlement which they clearly treasure so much. Let’s not forget that Labour refused to cede to the Lib Dems’ very reasonable demand of axing their unelected stooge of a leader in Gordon ‘Broon’ Brown five years ago. Why on earth would they offer Scotland significantly more powers or another shot at independence in a coalition? Why on earth would the SNP embolden a Labour party who detests it, without the opportunity of Independence, or proper Devo Max?
If the SNP win forty plus seats, as is predicted, then that means a good number of people who voted No are now voting for the SNP to best protect Scottish interests. So they may only get one shot at proving they can do this.
What history tells us is that Scotland’s votes only matter if they’re lucky enough to belong to the party that the English decide to vote in.
Back in the early nineties Labour had fifty MP’s in Scottish constituencies, yet the party was incapable of stopping the Tories from closing Ravenscraig. This example reminds those who want independence for Scotland that the short term can and does matter, and that it’s bound to heavily influence how he SNP proceed.
Recently I was surprised to find out that the Ravenscraig steel works was still profitable in its last operating year. Even as someone who has come to renounce and despise Thatcherism and its associated legacies after the fact, I still held the assumption that Ravenscraig was and could be closed because it was making a loss. Not so. It was closed only because the Tories had a significant majority in Westminster, and that allowed them to continue to demolish state owned industry to clear the road for the private sector. This would increase ‘competition’, as the market always does, right? The private sector never filled that gap, and those jobs, over a thousand, were lost for good.
The only solution to avoiding a repeat scenario is Scotland acquiring full political and fiscal autonomy, and what better way to showcase that than to oppose austerity, which is a comin’. The SNP will be aware that if they aren’t part of a coalition then a centre right concoction of cuntishness, say the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems, all with few seats to protect in Scotland, would have little to lose by imposing draconian or reductive cuts to Scotland’s budget. They would be able to do so, without being perceived as driving Scotland away, as austerity will be in full effect regardless of a Labour or Tory lead government.
Austerity will be the battleground of the next parliamentary cycle, as the big cuts are yet to come, and the SNP, in opposition, could use it to its advantage. It suits the centre left otherness of the SNP for Westminster’s traditional elite to continue on their path to heartless atavism hand in hand, while the SNP work as a noble minority in Westminster, and blunting, as best they can, its causes through the devolved powers they have at Holyrood, by continuing to fund free university education, for example. This allows the SNP to continue to point out the UK’s lack of political diversity to its Labour defectors and No voters, while inoculating itself from a broken system and style of governance that Yes voters want separation from.
For the SNP using its numbers in opposition to antagonise and disrupt the UK’s flawed democratic process has another benefit, it foments the voracious Unionist persecution complex. The narrative is already firmly established anyway: the London centric Unionists are already fed up with the talk of SNP holding the balance of power before the election, just imagine the frothing at the mouth if the SNP start voting on English laws? Or essentially become the deciding votes in blocking the implementation of a UK wide policy?
Of course, we’re all getting ahead of ourselves, the SNP may not win enough seats to be relevant players, and even if they do they may not be able to secure a truly favourable deal for Scotland as part of a coalition. So the ‘Nats’ may be forced back into playing the waiting game, which might not be a bad thing given the politicians and advocates of Westminster are willingly destroying it and the Union that underpins it all.