BY EFFIE DEANS
The likely result of the next General Election in Scotland is that the SNP will lose around 20 seats to Labour and a few to the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. If that happens the SNP might still just be the largest party in Scotland on around 25 seats, but it will no longer be the dominant force.
Alex Salmond has come back on the scene with a plan to unite the independence voters who are divided between the SNP, the Scottish Greens and Alba. But the mistake in this argument is that there is nothing to unite. Alba and the Scottish Greens only make sense in the context of Scottish Parliament elections with its combination of constituency and list seats.
There is a certain logic to independence supporters voting SNP in the constituency, but Scottish Greens or Alba in the list, but even that logic only works if the SNP maximises its constituency vote. But neither Alba nor the Scottish Greens are close to winning a Scottish constituency in a General Election. Independence supporters know that as well as everyone else, so what is the point of Alex Salmond’s pact?
If you want independence vote SNP. Lots of people on both sides of the argument vote for a party that has no chance of winning a seat. Why shouldn’t they? Some people will vote Alba or Scottish Greens, or Labour or Conservatives where they know their candidate has no chance of winning, others will vote tactically.
Alex Salmond’s pact is the same as a Pro UK pact. It would not gain that side of the argument but would instead cost it.
There is likely to be a swing to Labour in Scotland where former Labour voters who have been voting for the SNP for the past decade come back to Labour. They will do so for many reasons, but foremost will be their desire to have a UK Labour Government and their disillusionment with the SNP due to its failure to come close to achieving independence, its descent into scandal and their lack of enthusiasm for Humza Yousaf.
What is the one thing that could stop SNP voters coming back to Labour? It would be any sort of pact between Labour and the Conservatives. By all means vote tactically, but best to do it quietly lest you frighten the SNP horses.
Alba is a party of ex SNP malcontents/fundamentalists. The Alex Salmond who led the SNP was a far more impressive politician and far more sensible too. It is as if he has regressed to his youth when he is rumoured to have flirted with various forms of Scottish nationalist radicalism.
There is also the issue that he was frankly very lucky indeed to have been acquitted when ten women witnesses accused him of various forms of sexual assault. If he were an American, he’d be in prison for life with Harvey Weinstein as his cell mate.
His show on Russia Today looks even more dubious now with Russia committing war crimes in Ukraine than it did at the time. It astonishes me that Salmond is treated by the media as a respected elder statesman.
If the SNP had any sense, it would ditch its present arrangement with the Scottish Greens and have nothing to do with any electoral pacts. The worst and least popular aspects of Scottish Government rule are a direct result of the Greens. These include attempting to allow transgender people to obtain Gender Recognition Certificates almost immediately and without any medical checks. The logical outcome of this is male bodies in women’s prisons and males taking part in women’s sport. Both of these horrified ordinary Scots.
Lorna Slater’s Deposit Return scheme may cost the Scottish Government millions in compensation to retailers who bought expensive equipment that will now not be used.
Few Scots want the hassle of paying 20 pence for every bottle and can and then having to queue to get it back. Likewise, few Scottish women want a changing room, a prison or any other women’s space to be available to people with male bodies. The Scottish Greens are not vote winners, they are vote losers.
There no longer needs to be an independence supporting majority at Holyrood, because there will not be a vote on this issue. Why have a coalition that damages you when you don’t need to?
The SNP still has one main electoral advantage. Scottish independence is still popular as a policy. Indeed, it is more popular than the SNP. I think a lot of the popularity of independence in polling is due to unrealistic expectations about what independence would involve. This is partly due to the story the SNP has told about independence since it became a serious possibility in the years leading up to 2014. There’s only the upside there is never any downside as if it were merely a question of voting to get your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But the same can be said for people who vote for socialism. There is never any downside. Everyone gets a universal basic income, and no one has to work. But who delivers your Amazon parcel? Who nurses you in hospital or cleans the wards? I wouldn’t do any of these things if I was paid to do nothing.
Even so forms of socialism and Scottish nationalism remain popular and parties that put forward popular policies have a chance of winning.
But to rebuild the SNP has to ditch its past. Whatever happens during the present police investigation whether charges are ever brought, or it all ends in a whimper, the SNP must distance itself as much as possible from Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell.
Humza Yousaf ought not to be sending flowers, nor should he be making support for Nicola Sturgeon a test of loyalty. Sturgeon is finished politically for exactly the same reason Alex Salmond is finished politically. They are both toxic. Maybe that’s not fair, but that is how it is. The police question as suspects only people they have a reasonable suspicion of committing a crime. People are sent to trial only if there is thought to be sufficient evidence to convict them. Of course, you are innocent until proven guilty and innocent if acquitted, but that still leaves the toxic smell.
The SNP under Nicola Sturgeon failed to achieve its goal of independence. It never came close. Electoral decline at the next General Election and Scottish Parliament election, will push that goal further away. But so long as Scottish independence remains popular, the SNP will remain a threat because it is the only party in Scotland that can deliver on independence.
Humza Yousaf however will be unable to change the SNP sufficiently to reverse its decline. What is needed is a centre right SNP, which rejects EU membership after independence in favour of the closest and most friendly relationship possible with the former UK. If Scotland and the former UK could form a trade, economic, military and cooperation alliance then they might be able to separate amicably.
But for that to happen Scotland would have to cease depending on UK money, which first involves admitting that it does. It would then have to lower public spending and introduce the business-friendly policies that might attract people to living here.
But this is the SNP’s problem. It has to attract both nationalists and socialists and perversely it is both of these that prevent Scotland being able to realistically achieve independence because they are both unrealistic about their hopes. If the SNP ditched socialism, which is its only realistic chance of making Scotland ready for independence, central belt Scots would ditch the SNP and rediscover their tribal relationship with Labour.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.