Well I must say I’m bowled over. What a response from so many loyal friends. I appreciate deeply your sentiments. Just have a look at them on the right hand side. Thanks for taking the trouble to write. And as there’s only a week to go…I’ll stick with it meantime.
Have you noticed a trend of addressing the impending electoral success as something abnormal? There’s a tone of that in John Harris from the Guardian – How Long Can the SNP Own Scottish Politics? And in Martin Kettle from the same paper – What Now for the Rebels Who Became the Establishment? …with the referendum behind them, they need to find a new purpose. Meantime other writers are seeking a new politics in the light of the SNP success.
To be frank, I doubt if Mr and Mrs Scotland is really on the bus to work debating if we should be doing politics differently. For so many of them they have started doing just that – they began voting SNP for the first time in their lives and they like it. For many of us this is the first time we’ve voted for the party that wins, the first time we’ve voted – and got – the government we wanted. Success feels good. It’s empowering. We got sick of Tory governments in London and Labour hegemony in Edinburgh so over the devolution years we’ve eased them out of the way and left them on the sidelines. On the way we’ve transformed politics in Britain. We’ve obliterated the UK Lib Dems and, increasingly, taken on the role of the Opposition at Westminster.
We’ve blown apart the carefully constructed voting system at Holyrood and won over the broadest coalition of voters in our country’s history, first edging out the Tories and then bulldozing Labour. With all its faults the SNP represents more comprehensively the attitudes and outlook of the nation than any party has ever done while the MSPs and MPs themselves are like an identikit of the nation – born in council homes, taught in local schools, educated at our universities, self-made businessmen, industry professionals, health workers, carers and gey few career special advisers…and lawyers!
The argument that all this needs to stop is the intuitive mindset of the unbeliever. These are the voices of those brought up and conditioned by the constraints of old politics – Labour for 10 years (if you’re lucky) then the Tories for 10. The Westminster-minded only see through the same viewfinder. To them the rise of the SNP is a freak, a spasm, that will pass when emotion dies down and sense returns. They after all are used to setting the parameters within which we are invited spectators. When Yes kicked that idea in the groin in the indyref, there was muted celebration that someone had broken the mould. But to those who make a living from the Millbank village that could only be understood in relation to their world. So it had to transfer in some way to the old binary politics. But it didn’t. It marched right on down the road to London and occupied their green benches. It is supplanting Labour in the Westminster Parliament as internal strife erodes the authority of the official Opposition.
Steadily, through their efforts in Parliament and impressive performances in the UK media, the SNP is now courying in to the mind of the British voters where instead of starey-eyed bigots they become mature contributors saying things that chime with English ideas. They are gradually detoxifying themselves in the eyes of a misled electorate whose own fears of future independence are allayed. Persuasive salesman open doors to profitable transactions. An English electorate more relaxed about a new arrangement with a sensible and friendly neighbour helps open that door.
I am bemused how winning a democratic majority has translated so quickly into becoming an establishment – at least in the minds of the doubters. It is meant to cast an aspersion of stasis, corruption and decay. Is that what you see in modern Scotland? A country open to immigration, arguing for refuge for abandoned children…a gender-balanced Cabinet…the appointment of a critical anti poverty scrutineer…engagement with an almost universally hostile media…a transformative renewables industry internationally praised.
Put it this way – did the Cabinet all attend the same exclusive schools? Or go to Oxbridge? How many are millionaires? Is their money stashed in Panama? Do they have existing links to big business? Has there been a wholesale M(S)P expenses scandal? Is there a long-running suspicion of top-level conspiracy on child abuse or football death cover up? (When there was a huge complex issue who was it who stood against so much world opinion and released the convicted killer?)
To me, electing the SNP is the new politics. They fact that so many critics are obsessed with undermining it is the proof you need. They might as well say: Stop voting SNP because we don’t understand it. Can we go back to normal now?
There is of course a case for doing politics differently – if you’re the opposition. It isn’t the winner that has to reassess but the losers. Will they merge into one anti-SNP regiment? Hardly. What appears logical on paper rarely works when emotion and tribalism are involved. Logically Edinburgh should have one football team but what happened when Wallace Mercer suggested it?
No, I think the next big move will be an STV voting system which will offer elected places to a more diverse range of views to challenge the SNP. The one idea I could envisage is Labour dropping its outdated commitment to the Union as it stands. There is a gap in the market where the Liberals used to be because if we have to wait for independence, there is a compelling case for UK federalism. A Labour group that made that case while not opposing independence longer term might get back into the game. But the issues are complex. There is evidence today that SNP voters are actually to the Left of Labour voters which, if true, leaves Labour stranded without the very people they’re appealing to.
But, with less than a week to voting, that’s their problem. Our problem is making sure the forecasts are correct by eliminating complacency and delivering the vote. With an SNP government installed, and I hope, an increased Green contingent, we can look ahead to the council elections next year (I’m assuming we’re still in the EU!). If the re-election of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister is the mark of a Scottish establishment, it’ll do for me.by