If anything showed up Scotland’s insignificant role in the family of nations it was this election result…a near clean-sweep for Nationalists and yet a Tory majority in the UK.
The old theme that they rule over us resounds as never before, a bitter reminder that only 20 years ago the SNP policy was to take a majority of Scottish MPs in an election as a mandate for independence. Sturgeon would be heading to New York and the UN this morning instead of London and a BBC studio sofa.
Mind you, go back nearly 30 years and SNP policy was to stay out of Europe, yet staying in could be the breaker that leads to a second referendum in two years. So things change and, boy, how things have changed. I was wrong. Totally and embarrassingly wrong when I said I expected 30 plus seats to fall and that 40 would be an earthquake. I was categoric – 50 seats was a pipe dream with fairy wings. I foresaw Willie Bain with a 2000 majority, Charlie Kennedy with just enough personal support to inch over the line and a right wing Unionist alliance heaving Murphy back in. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I still look over the 10,000 majorities and wonder if they’re real. Did the sitting MPs know what was coming? They saw a serious challenge, sure, but how many forecast a tsunami or, as some are saying, an extinction level event? To those who did their constituency job well but still lost – like Ann McKechin in my seat – I say thanks and farewell. It is always the occupational hazard of the elected politician that one day it’s all over and that’s how it should be. If Labour suffered from anything in the long years of dominance it was complacency – now the fledgling enemy of the SNP.
Will Cameron and his crew play the enemy too? They still have no reason to play to Scotland for votes (and didn’t he ditch Ruth Davidson when he went anti-Scottish in the campaign?) and could let it fester as a way of frustrating and infuriating the SNP, turning them into the Feeble 56.
Yet his majority is small enough to be fragile and his party less than loyal, with a solid rump of anti Europeans still terrified of UKIP. There may well be times when he’ll be glad of support when the going gets tricky and antagonising needlessly the third biggest party will look petulant and self-harming.
The SNP bloc won’t have much room for more than rhetorical opposition – indeed may have to play the key spokesman role defending social solidarity depending on Labour’s strategic response to defeat. But that will bring benefits in itself if Scots see them taking the case for social justice into the heart of the Commons and standing up for Scottish sensibilities. They won’t have Scottish Labour voices to do that and I suspect the sole survivor – Castaway Ian Murray – will begin to sound more like a semi detached Nat in the circumstances, when he gets a word in.
The big prize of course is more powers and if Cameron believes he has to keep stoking up English chauvinism by blocking the SNP, he can proceed to deliver only on Smith and still lose the argument. I don’t think the Tories have a stomach either for appeasing the Scots or for antagonising them but it can’t have escaped even the most dense and backward Jock bashers that there is a solution to this perennial problem and the chances to deal with it are running out. Sturgeon is right – you can’t look at this rebellion against Westminster without realising that Smith is dead. It was only ever a make-do and mend to get the Unionists out of a bind and no one who follows constitutional issues ever says they can be dealt with simply and quickly to an artificial timetable set by the tabloid press, never mind a demented Gordon Brown. (Can we now leave him in Jurassic Park and can the BBC stop bowing and scraping in front of the old panto dame?)
Inside Number 10, assuming there are smarter minds than Cameron’s, someone has to see the advantage of sealing the Union deal by filling in the Smith gaps with the full panoply of economic and welfare powers which any real Conservative would acknowledge as essential to a country being self-reliant. If the current funding is subsidised by England, why not change it and set Scotland free? What possible right- wing case is there for trying to nurse maid those who want autonomy when it is within the Union and when the real and present danger is a final cleavage.
As I’ve written before, Full Fiscal Autonomy is whatever Cameron and Sturgeon decide it is – with the public’s ultimate approval. What doesn’t suit London will have to be finessed until it does. What damages Scotland will need adjustment to fit. It’s called negotiation and it’s what the Civil Service is for.
FFA does not mean an overnight transformation to a new funding formula and the end of all cross-border transfers. It will be designed to ensure a stable transition that doesn’t hurt either side with trigger points for subventions when income falls too low or rises too high on the principle of no disadvantage. It will take place over several years. It will be regularly reviewed. The objective is not to damage each other but to meet the aspiration of the voters who want Edinburgh to lead economic development and take care of welfare. Any failure to act on this clear agenda when the voice of Scots has resounded so clearly within a space of only eight months, would be a cruel and self-defeating act of provocation. With a Tory government hell-bent on slashing yet more from welfare in the most callous of deliberate policy acts, it isn’t just the SNP who will be demanding change. The conditions now prevail for street politics in opposition to a right wing government we didn’t vote for so that civil disobedience in Scotland could quickly spread to non-Tory England giving Cameron a headache (and possibly the SNP in Westminster). The days after an election are the time for action when there is an interregnum and the winner can do just about anything and get away with it. There can be boldness and imagination – and I don’t mean heading for the most expensive club in Mayfair to celebrate. If Cameron fails, he will be failing Britain.
By the way, the laugh of the post election party has been the dinosaur tendency in Labour to blame defeat on somebody else. Was it Friday night I caught Jackie Baillie, the Queen of Cant, describing how it was a deliberate plan of Sturgeon to keep going down to England to be seen by as many people as possible to provoke the English (try to keep up) into believing Cameron’s propaganda about SNP wreckers holding Labour to ransom so that (still with me?) English folk would change their vote to the Tories to stop a Labour government. Therefore – Labour’s defeat was the FAULT OF THE SNP.
And right there, ladies and gentlemen, is why Labour are f***ed. Jackie sums it all up – an articulate woman who finds self-analysis impossible, whose loathing for the SNP is so profound and her politics so corrupted by cronyism and careerism that even a cataclysmic defeat can be elided and finessed away. The somewhat repellent Blair McDougall whose personal star has blinked and blanked, is at the same game – the man who ran the whole calamitous train crash along with McTernan, taking the coward’s way out and blaming someone else. If there is any scrap of credibility in either of these political spivs and self-publicists, Labour is welcome to it. Their campaign was crap, a childrens’ playbook of gaffe, hyperbole and vitriol which veered from love bombing the Yes voters to branding them indy crazies hell bent on referendum two. Can they also now be consigned to the wheelie bin of failure or will they re-emerge as newspaper ‘columnists’ airbrushing their own inadequacy. Like Murphy, these tribal Neanderthals need to be flushed out of our politics.
Talking of Her Majesty’s Press, what are the media in Scotland going to do now? They have strained every sinew to gloss over Labour’s failings, bigged up on cue its personalities and its plans, excoriated the SNP and been force fed first by Paul Sinclair under Lamont (doesn’t seem to bad now, does she?) and then by McTernan. Will this force them to open their eyes to the consistent failure of the party most of them support? The MPs have gone, the Holyrood crop is a rump, the talent is gone, the old heads retired, the money spent, the resources and decision-making flitted to the Nats – it’s time to move on, guys. The old ways are finished. Just as Labour has to think differently, so do you. Maybe even BBC Scotland’s early evening love affair with Labour’s interpretation of any given event will ebb too and a balance that has been missing for too long, will assert itself. It is the ones who don’t adapt who lose in the end, eh, Labour?
And where, when you need them, are the Heroes of the Past? Where is Brown’s analysis of Labour reduced to dust? Where in the campaign was Darling? Has Brian Wilson emerged from the digital croft? These are the people whose hubris, arrogance and journey to the Right pulled out the props one by one which supported the People’s Party. Murphy is part of it along with Curran and the defeated 40 but it was Brown sucking up to the City, dictating policy to Scotland – even blocking Wendy’s referendum plea – which rotted the floor. The Stalinist regime of Brown and the party’s failure to confront it, is the single most damning internal influence that destroyed Labour. Cultural changes and historical shifts in society require to be adjusted to and weren’t but in terms of the party and its administration, it was the vainglorious blowhard Brown who downed Scottish Labour…the failed Prime Minister and failed leader who failed Scotland.by