The Long Hunt

One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
– Martin Luther King

It’s clear to me that the Tories are treating the SNP like the foxes they so desperately want to see torn to shreds, and have formulated a dangerous trap: abandon the principle of voting only on legislation that impacts Scotland in the interests of cross-border left solidarity, or abstain from a vote in the knowledge that 56 votes could prevent a grave injustice?

It’s an insidious snare the Tories have placed in front of the SNP. The First Minister is on record as citing fox-hunting as one of the issues the SNP would not normally vote on, and the arguments in favour of SNP voting on the issue are sadly tenuous at best: from zoological (fox populations in Scotland will be affected by migratory patterns) to political (what if a Northumberland hunt happens to stray over the border?) And even if all 56 SNP MPs vote to keep the ban, it is no guarantee that it will be enough – if, say, the DUP, UKIP and a few others choose to back the Tories, and a few rebel New Labour, then even Team 56 might not be enough.

But the way I see it, not only would the SNP voting in a successful motion fail to save English & Welsh foxes in the long term, there is a possibility which seems frighteningly likely to me – that it could serve as an excuse and precedent to erode Holyrood’s powers on a wider scale.

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Mr Cowan Goes to Westminster

Ronnie At The Thames

“Nice parliament. I’ll take it!”

Fantastic week at Westminster. Too many briefings to count and my mind if full to bursting but it will all take shape as the weeks progress. The parliamentary estate is very grand and I hesitate to post pictures because it may look like I am being seduced by my surroundings. I am not. Every room is on a grand scale, every hall is ornate, the corridors are long and elaborate but it’s an office block, a place to work and there is a job to be done :)

Ronnie Cowan, the new MP for Inverclyde, posted this to the Ronnie Cowan for Inverclyde Facebook page. Like his fellow MPs Mhairi Black, Natalie McGarry and the other members of The 56, Ronnie has been keeping in touch with his team and electorate while settling into his new job.

Yet Ronnie is anxious to reassure us that the genius loci of Westminster is not drawing him in with its siren song. He really didn’t need to.

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The Devo Files: Re-Opening

Obviously I’m still scraping the clouds with my head after the 8th of May revelations. In particular, I feel tremendous vindication that Ronnie Cowan, Mhairi Black, Anne McLaughlin, Richard Arkless, Patricia Gibson, Natalie McGarry, Chris Stephens, Philippa Whitford, and Gavin Newlands, toppled the Big Beasts of New Labour with comfortable majorities in their thousands. I’m also thrilled that Roger Mullin, Alex Salmond, Stephen Gethins, Joanna Cherry, Kirsty Blackman, Owen Thompson, John McNally, Steven Paterson, and Peter Grant succeeded in filling the vacuum left by the New Labour and Neoliberal MPs who chose not to contest the election. I suppose it should’ve been completely unsurprising that Stewart Hosie, Mike Weir, Pete Wishart, Angus Robertson, Eilidh Whiteford and Angus MacNeil retained their seats with even larger majorities – all but one with overall majorities of the vote in their constituencies, and Angus Robertson only .5% away from 50%. I’m so happy for them and their teams, who I do not doubt worked their absolute hearts out, and if the Devo Files even helped just one person in their constituencies change their mind, then I consider it one of the proudest achievements I’ve ever made.

It is impossible for the Unionist parties to spin the Scottish results as anything other than catastrophic. New Labour lost 40 of their 41 seats; the Neoliberals 10 of their 11; the Conservative vote share is the lowest it’s ever been. They cannot even take solace in the “more voted Unionist than Separatist” angle, for even if you exclude the Greens’ 1.5%, the SNP had 50% of all Scottish votes. Hilariously, I’ve seen some claim the “separatist” vote has fallen, as “only” 1.4 million voted SNP compared to 1.6 million Yes – though that would, logically, mean the “unionist” vote has collapsed, since 1.4 million voted unionist compared to 2 million No. What’s a bigger loss: 200,000, or 600,000? Perhaps the most mindblowing spin is that the Conservative majority keeping the SNP out of government is claimed as a victory by the SNPout gang… even though they lost 56 of the 59 battles:

Yet for all the doom and gloom the Unionist parties are undoubtedly experiencing, they are not finished. The Tories weren’t finished in 1997, and even clawed themselves back from the abyss the following year. The Neoliberal vote has disintegrated to 1970 levels, but they’ve experienced worse in the past half-century. New Labour are still, at present, the second party of Scotland at Holyrood, and governing many councils throughout the land.

This is all tempered with the bittersweet knowledge that we were so close to a clean sweep. For now, Alistair Carmichael, Ian Murray, and David Mundell all retain their seats – with vastly reduced majorities, none even approaching overall majorities, and having utterly disgraced themselves in the process. Danus Skene, Neil Hay, Emma Harper and their teams have nothing to be ashamed of: just 5,000 votes kept the SNP from turning all of Scotland gold, and even if they didn’t succeed this time, it is impossible to see how the Three Stooges could retain their seats in 2020. Would the Devo Files have made a difference? I doubt it: the SNP teams in the Northern Isles, Morningside, and the Borders worked just as hard as anyone, and their achievements are incredible as it is. All the Devo Files I did publish ended up with SNP majorities in the multiples of thousands: I doubt my wee blogs made that much of a difference! Yet I’ll always feel a small pang of guilt: even if it wouldn’t have ended up making any difference – I’m under no illusions that the battle was won on the doorstep, not the internet – I could at least have known “I did what I could.”

Yet if there’s anything I’ve learned from New Labour, it’s that they love little more than fighting old battles. Expect to see them try to spin the result as “proving them right” – Scotland voted SNP, the Tories were the largest party, ergo (to them) SNP let the Tories in. I had this exact conversation with a local councillor at the Inverclyde count, and I’m not too proud to say I absolutely lost my head with him.* So while the Devo Files no longer have relevance in ensuring the replacement of SNP candidates with New Labour, Neoliberal or Tory MPs for 2015, I do think it is important to consider reasons why those candidates may have been unseated above and beyond the nationwide SNP surge. And first on the list will be the Three Stooges, naturally. Likewise, we must never forget the times New Labour MPs from Scotland could have made a difference – the Bedroom Tax, the Welfare Cap, and so forth – if only they bothered to turn up.

Yet the war for Scotland’s future still rages. I hope Wings Over Scotland continues with Project Red for the Holyrood elections (Rev: you know my email!), but I think I might take a wee bit of a break. Maybe a day or two before I start leafleting for the Holyrood elections.

*I will likely do an “Agony and the Ecstasy” report relating my experiences of what I’m positive history will record as a pivotal day in the history of Scotland.

When A Little Might Save The Whole

Result2015

“So a Labour MP, a Tory and a Lib Dem walk into Scotland…”

I’ve become an avid fan of Thomas Paine in recent years, and found his writings to be an inspiration. This morning, after a night which has shaken the very foundations of the United Kingdom, I thought of him.

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
– Thomas Paine, The Crisis No. I (written 19 December 1776, published 23 December 1776)

56 SNP MPs. The greatest support from the Scottish electorate in our nation’s history, with 1,454,436 votes. That’s 50% of the vote share in Scotland, and 4.8% of the entire UK – in a proportional representation system, that would still make the SNP the largest Scottish party by far with 34 MPs. So profound, so paradigm-shifting, so cataclysmic a result has been indicated by poll after poll after poll, yet even in the light of day it seems a dream. And even with the iniquity of First-Past-The-Post, every single SNP candidate was elected on a comfortable majority of thousands – many with outright majorities of 50% or more. Even the three seats which resisted the Golden Horde were close shaves for the lone UK parties, with less than 5,000 votes altogether deciding the result – two of which were under 1,000.

And Inverclyde? 24,585 votes, 55.1% of the vote, a majority of 11,063, and a swing of 32% may be only average for the SNP in this election, but it soars through the SNP’s previous records both in the constituency, and nationally. Aye, in 2015 terms,  I think everyone in Inverclyde SNP will happily settle for an average SNP result!

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Well. Look at that.

CowanTheConqueror

Isn’t that something?

On a personal note, I’m thrilled that Ronnie Cowan has indeed been elected as MP for Inverclyde. But I am even more thrilled to be wrong: this wasn’t close. Not by a long shot. Initially I had been more cautious – I thought it might come to within a few thousand, hundred, or even dozen votes. Maybe even 86. I had daydreams: wouldn’t it be ironic if Ronnie got in on 49.9% of the vote, or even 45%? But such numbers and percentages were beyond us, surely?

55.1% – an overall majority – voted for Ronnie Cowan to represent them. 24,585 out of 44,607 of the electorate of Inverclyde chose Ronnie Cowan as their champion. Not only the largest percentage of votes, but the majority. That translated to a majority of 11,063. That’s not too far from the majority David Cairns was elected on in 2005.

On the 7th, I changed my Facebook portrait to commemorate this most exciting election, merging my great appreciation for Conan the Barbarian with my new-found appreciation and participation in my country’s democracy.

CowanTheCandidate

It ended up oddly prophetic, don’t you agree?

This was more than a rout, it was a conquest.The Scottish people have made their choice. They’ve taken their country back.