I may have misled you: I’ll have one more post on this tomorrow. It won’t be as analytical, you may be pleased to know!
State Of Many Parties
Funny kind of one-party state that has five parties represented by multiple MSPs…
Can we please now put the “one party state” nonsense to rest?
The SNP are presented as some sort of monstrous juggernaut – a horde, if you will – trampling all who oppose them in their reckless stampede over the Cliff of Separatism. Yet here we are: the SNP experienced a net loss of 6 seats since 2011, even when they gained more constituencies and more votes than any other party since the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament.
But there’s a bigger issue here: it confirms what most SNP activists and electors know despite the presentation. The SNP are not all-powerful. It can seem like that to people used to being able to destroy and suppress popular expressions of the people’s will – but the SNP are smart enough to make compromises for the sake of the cause. Even a majority SNP government had to answer to Westminster in the end. Even Nicola Sturgeon had to swear her allegiance to a feudal anachronism, and every single piece of legislation had to go through “royal assent.” Now that the SNP are a minority government, they have an even tougher job.
But now the main opposition in Holyrood is the same as the UK government. The Other Party’s status as the second largest party gave the pretence of a socialist case for the Union: folk who’ve built their political careers on socialist rhetoric like Johann Lamont, Neil Findlay, and Sarah Boyack being the voices of opposition gave the impression that a vote for the Union was a vote for socialism, internationalism, trade unions, pooling and sharing, helping our friends across the UK, all those lovely things that sound nice but were not going to happen as long as the UK Government Party was in power. Likewise with their Westminster ambassadors Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, Douglas Alexander, and all the others who wove a lovely yarn about how their party would definitely return and ensure Scotland would be rewarded – a narrative that was ripped to pieces by 2015.
I don’t know why we have this “special relationship” with America. We’re like the nerdy kid hanging roun with the big bully. America’s like the bully of the world going up to countries and going, ‘Give us your sweets or I’ll smash your face in.” And Britain leans round the back and goes, “YEAH!”
– Bill Bailey
It was easy to pretend that the Other Party were the opposition, & the UK Government Party just happened to be siding with them, like the big bully and the nerdy kid. With the seat count reversed, now it’s the UK Government Party being the big bully, threatening to take away our sweets – and the Other Party would have to make the conscious choice to be the nerdy kid leaning round the back. At least the SNP tend to do a pretty good job putting bullies in their place.
But the Unionist cause can’t use socialism as a mask any more, not now that the Other Party are in third place: now the wretched, malevolent power behind Unionism is laid bare. No longer will the Defenders of the Union spend First Minister’s Questions speaking of uniting workers across Britain; of pooling and sharing resources with areas that need more; of bringing socialism and democracy to people throughout the UK; of leading Britain instead of leaving Britain. Now the Unionist’s great defenders will talk of work setting you free; of why Scots should no longer enjoy their English subsidies; of the benefits of privatisation and dismemberment of the NHS and welfare state; of remembering that we must not dare presume to usurp the wishes of the English people.
The reality of this United Kingdom is about to kick the Never voters square in the face.
A Question of Sovereignty
Marconatrix made an excellent point on the previous post: that if we had a purely representative Parliament, then the SNP would have fewer seats, the Greens more, and the Unionist parties would be about the same as they have now. The result of this is stark – there would not be a pro-independence majority in Holyrood.
Part of Ruth Davidson’s argument against indyref2 is that Nicola Sturgeon has no mandate to call one. This is because Ms Davidson – indeed, most of her party’s commentators and sympathisers – believes that Parliamentary sovereignty is paramount over party sovereignty. This was the basis of her charge against an SNP majority government – that with no second chamber like the House of Lords, there was no review process. As such, the lack of a majority Scottish Government is interpreted as the lack of the mandate necessary for indyref2.
Nicola Sturgeon’s riposte is simple: that the people, not Parliament, are sovereign in Scotland. While the SNP lost 6 seats in the constituencies, this was despite a rise in both the SNP vote share and sheer numbers. If both a larger percentage and larger number of the population voted for the SNP than the electorate which returned a majority government, then it seems somewhat ridiculous to argue that the lack of seats arising from the d’Hont calculations overrule the popular sovereignty of the people in this way – especially once the Greens are included.
Yet there’s one other telling point that Ms Davidson is not addressing: Nicola Sturgeon is not calling for a second referendum. Yet. She is calling for independence supporters to redouble their efforts, and raise support for independence. In the event such a push is successful, and independence is supported by the majority of Scots, then how do you think those Scots will respond to a party which refuses to grant them a referendum? When independence becomes the majority view, everything changes. And the Unionist parties will do anything they can to prevent that from happening.
Triumph of Hope
There’s a reason I joined the SNP over the Greens or the SSP: because they are the de facto party of independence. This does not mean they own the cause of independence – it just means that they are the political arm of the independence movement, as independence is their primary, overriding, ultimate goal. While the Greens support independence, it is is not their primary goal: a huge number of their activists, supporters and voters are undeniably pro-independence, and their elected & re-elected MSPs have openly stated their commitment to supporting a referendum in the EU Scenario.
The Greens were elected on a Yes Alliance ticket. They must always remember this, for if they do anything that could be perceived as hindering or interfering with that cause, then the Yes movement will not soon forget. Just as the SNP were forever changed after the referendum, so too were the Greens. This must be reflected in the fifth Scottish Parliament. I have reservations and fears about what the Greens could do with the independence movement in Parliament – but I would love nothing more to be proven wrong in those worries.
I’m an eternal optimist. John Finnie’s commitment to independence is rock-solid, and I trust Alison Johnstone on independence too – those two are enough for a majority. I think the Greens are smart as well as committed – they know the majority of their new membership depend on them to further the cause in any way they can. No games, no petitions, no bargaining – when it comes to independence, I think they’ll go with the SNP. Everything else – the environment, tax, land reform – I think they’ll wrangle with the SNP over, and I’m perfectly fine with that, even if I worry over the consequences of such wrangling: I would never ask you to sacrifice your core principles for the sake of political expediency. But if independence is bigger than the SNP – which the SNP themselves would no doubt point out – then it’s bigger than the Greens too. It’s bigger than all of us.
That goes for the Unionist parties, too. The Other Party and Coalition Party have clearly lost the Unionist core to the UK Government Party. They backed the Union this long: it may be too much to hope that they convert to the cause of independence. But can they really be so careless, so naive, so stupid as to openly back the UK Government party again? After their relentless, repetitive, entirely foreseeable betrayals, maybe now the Other and Coalition Parties will understand that David Cameron and Ruth Davidson are not your friends. As soon as the referendum was over, what happened? Both your parties were consumed by the UK Government Party, chewed up, spat out, discarded. You served your purpose. Now that their party is back in ascendency in Scotland, you are no longer necessary. In time, even your strongholds may fall to Nationalist or Unionist hands – all a result of the polarisation you took part in. There was no serious talk of Federalism, Devomax, or Home Rule at the start of the campaign – it was Independence or Status Quo. You ensured that, by refusing to push for a second question. Scottish politics is polarised, and you let it happen when you took a side.
There is a third way – you can choose neutrality. Acknowledge the voters left in your parties who still support independence, despite everything that’s happened. Make independence a free vote, without a whip. If you really want to get beyond the constitutional question, to “move on” from the referendum, then why stick like glue to a stance on it at all? By tying yourself to Yes or No, you are involving yourself in the conversation. You don’t have to apologise for the Camerons and Duncan Smiths and Hunts to save the union – it’s lost. You don’t have to convince Scots that another 10 years under a government they didn’t elect is the least bad option – we may well be long gone before then. You are now in the electoral wilderness. You don’t have to take the same road which brought you here. It’s not too late. It’s never too late to start to redeem yourselves.
If the lack of an SNP majority proves a barrier due to UK government wailing – fine. Let the UK government prove they don’t care for the will of the Scottish people. Let the UK government claim that a party with a greater percentage of the vote than they’ve had for decades has no mandate. Let them declare indyref2 illegal without an SNP majority even after they take Scotland out of the EU against its will; even in the event support for independence rises to a distinct majority; even in the event the reality of Tories as the main opposition in Holyrood strikes the Never voters on the pate. Nothing fuels the fire of self-determination quite like being told “no, you can’t” by a pigheaded tyrant.
We can make this work. We must make this work. We will make this work.
I’m looking forward to the next stretch on Scotland’s road to independence. I can just see it over the horizon. We can get there. It’s no longer in our wildest dreams.