Did someone mention an election?

Which vote was that?

  • EU parliament May 2014?
  • Scottish independence referendum September 2014?
  • UK parliament May 2015?
  • Scottish parliament May 2016?
  • EU referendum June 2016?
  • Councils May 2017?
  • UK parliament June 2017?

I confess to some considerable sympathy with Brenda in Bristol on the TV news yesterday who said:

General election? Not another one! For God’s sake …

You should worry Brenda. In Scotland we’ve had two more major votes than you since 2014 with a third an ever-present threat.

The third one is of course another Scottish separation referendum. No date yet and the prime minister’s clear it’s not going to happen until Brexit is done and dusted, whatever toys the SNP throw out of the pram meantime.

Sadly, however, that ‘betrayal referendum’ (remember ‘One Opportunity’ and ‘Once in a generation/lifetime’?) will continue to loom until the SNP lose significant electoral ground.

Because that’s the Ground Hog Day we’re all locked into in Scotland, isn’t it? Theresa May can say the June election is about Brexit. Labour (Diane Abbott this morning on BBC Radio 4) can say it’s about presenting alternative policies to the British people. The Lib Dems can claim with some truth that they’re the only UK-wide home for Remainers. And the commentariat can assign any number of motives to Mrs May’s decision, from wiping out Labour to strengthening her hand for a soft Brexit.

The truth for Scotland just now is that every damned political act of any significance is about one thing only – separation. It’s one reason the Scottish parliament hasn’t passed any legislation in a year but can devote two days of government time to debating a referendum that’s not going to happen for a long time if ever. It’s why education is at best mediocre after ten years of SNP government and their wrestling with reform can only produce a trickle of feeble announcements about councils of advisers, ensuring teachers are ‘key decision takers’ (what a surprise) and lowering pass rates for National 5 assessments. And it’s why the SNP are putting so much effort into the level of government – local councils – that their over-riding ambition has least to do with.

How you should use your preference vote in those local elections is quite complex under the single transferable vote system if you want to keep the SNP and other nationalists out. The choice in the parliamentary first-past-the-post system is much clearer. Your one vote can only count for one candidate. My personal view is that anyone who wants Scotland to remain as part of Britain should under no circumstances vote for a separatist candidate but should cast their vote for the pro-GB candidate most likely to win.

If the SNP try to spin the line that a vote for them is the only way Scottish pro-EU voters can express a preference to still ‘Remain’, forget it. The Liberal Democrats are your party of choice. If voting tactically for any other party than the one you’re thirled to sticks in your craw, go for that. Since the SNP make every election a test of people’s will for separation, every vote against them diminishes their case. Even in 2015, when they got 56 out of 59 Scottish seats they knew fine well that they still only got a minority (49%) of votes. In the Holyrood election last year, they only got 46.5% of the constituency vote and of course had to form a minority government. And despite a decade of agitation, they still can’t get a majority for separation in the opinion polls. If we’re past ‘peak-SNP,’ help them on their way down.

Nicola Sturgeon said in London today (yes, she flew there as soon as she could after the PM’s announcement) that the SNP would, even if it were unlikely, join a coalition at Westminster to keep the Conservatives out of government. As they say on social media – ‘Pfft.’ She tried it in 2015. It didn’t work then, it couldn’t work now.

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One Response to Did someone mention an election?

  1. Sam Duncan says:

    Good post. I can’t help thinking that although Brexit is by far the main consideration in calling this election, the Scottish situation did play its part. The government, and the Conservative Party itself, must have its own internal polling. They’ll have a fair idea of the way the wind’s blowing. And Ruth Davidson has the PM’s ear more than I think any other Tory leader at Holyrood ever has, not least because of the present threat to the UK. If they thought for a second that, even with the opportunity of all-but wiping out Labour, the SNP would return in the same position or better, I think they’d have stayed their hand. Because the result of that would be renewed talk of how “Scotland is now clearly a different demos to England and Wales,” and all that nonsense, giving more impetus to the seperatists. No PM wants to go down in history as the one who broke Britain.

    My feeling is that they’ve seen what you have: the LibDems are back in play. That might actually hurt them in strong Remain areas, but it’s also a danger – arguably a bigger one – for the Nats. I’ve always said that much of their 2015 success can be attributed to the UK-wide collapse of the LibDems. Suddenly there were only three major parties (for many Scottish voters, only two worth quoting), rather than four. No longer. And, given what we know from the polls, a pro-Union/pro-Remain (or pro-“soft Brexit”) platform has the opportunity to do very well if it plays its cards right.

    It’s going to be interesting. I can’t completely discount the possibility that the SNP will do just as well, or better, than 2015 either. They’re organized; they’ll get their vote out. With this coming barely a month after the council elections, will anyone else?

    “She tried it in 2015. It didn’t work then, it couldn’t work now.”

    Indeed. Who would have them?


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