Scotland goes to the polls the day after tomorrow. Since I am living here, and am over 16, and Westminster considers this to be a local election, I am entitled to vote, and I will definitely make use of that opportunity. The question is, for whom?
Actually, it’s not really a question, but let’s have a look at the choices first. There are the usual suspects – Scottish National, Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens. Then there are the outliers – Alba, Unity, Scottish Families, ReformUK. I am sure there are a few more, but the above were the ones to post their election pamphlets to me directly, so we’ll take that first-hand information.
The Scottish National Party, or the “Nationalist Party” as Boris Johnson likes to call them only to be reprimanded by the Speaker yet again, are focused on the NHS, renewable energies, education, and child welfare. And yes, the local candidate did mention “independence in Europe.” Nicola Sturgeon made it clear again and again that IndyRef2 is on the cards, yes, just not right now. Covid threw a spanner it that one, and we need to have a recovery first.
Scottish Labour has now the 10th leader in 20 years. Anas Sarwar got the job early this year after Richard Leonard resigned. I heard Leonard speak once at the Hume Institute, and I was not impressed – dismissive, incapable of answering a direct question, full of bluster, typical career politician. Come to think of it, he would have been right at home in Johnson’s Tories. He’s just as full of himself as they are – after the election debacle in 2019, UK Labour lost every seat bar one in Scotland. Ian Murray is the only Scottish Labour MP in Westminster these days. A far cry from Tony Blair’s victory in Alba in 1997. Leonard denied every responsibility and refused to resign from his job as Scottish Labour leader until last year. Sarwar on the other hand did one decent thing already – he declined an alliance with the Scottish Tories in order to stop an SNP majority. At least he has some Labour backbone. And just in time, Alistair Darling, former Chancellor under Blair and Brown, stabbed him in the back by writing to Conservative voters in Scotland asking them to cast their second vote for Labour in order to stop an SNP majority. Other than that, Labour is focusing on a “National Recovery Plan,” whatever that is.
The Conservatives are, well, the Tories. Douglas Ross took over from Ruth Davidson after she quit in 2019 and her successor threw in the towel after 6 months. For now, he’s on a joint ticket with Davidson, but the thing is, Ross is an MP, not an MSP – one letter, big difference. Since you cannot be a member of both parliaments, he currently has no standing in Holyrood, despite being the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Ross started his political career as a LibDem, switched over to the Tories and failed in four different elections, both Holyrood and Westminster, to win a seat. He finally made it into Holyrood Parliament as a regional list MSP and finally into Westminster in 2017, giving up his seat in Holyrood to go to London. He actually needs to win a seat in this election now, or he’s toast. As to their agenda or manifesto – apart from bashing the SNP, there isn’t much. It’s all about what the SNP didn’t do and less about what the Conservatives would do if they were in power in Scotland. It’s almost like they know they cannot win, they will never be in government up North, so they’re not even trying. An effective opposition is something different, but then again, thinking was never the Tories’ strong suit. Instead, they are demanding answers to questions that haven’t even arisen yet, like what currency Scotland would have, what border control would be like, etc. It’s like they are treating independence as a given. I’m OK with that, but the saying of “cart before horse” comes to mind. Besides, more than any other party, the Scottish Conservatives are synonymous with their UK counterpart, i.e. Johnson, and he does not have many fans here. In fact, he declined to visit Scotland this week – someone must have clocked that he is utter poison during a Scottish election and told him to stay far, far away.
The Greens are pretty much what you’d expect to be – promoting a green recovery, including investment in education, and the NHS. And there are of course all the achievements they were part of while in a government coalition with the SNP during this legislature, like school meals, free bus travel, a ban on evictions during the pandemic, etc. They are also in favour of an independent Scotland, but will not get bogged down on the details yet, either.
Please welcome to the stage…
And finally the Liberal Democrats. Who are officially one of the big five parties, but with a size a tenth of that of the SNP, they are well placed on the sidelines of Scottish politics. They mainly talk about putting recovery first, but are rather vague on the details, except to say that now is not the time for a constitutional debate. Instead, they want to “give Scotland a bigger say by reforming the UK.” Again with the vagueness.
Then we have the “other” parties on the fringes. The Alba Party is brand new – and the new political vehicle of Alex Salmond. The very same who almost brought down Nicola Sturgeon, his once protege, a few weeks ago. Starting with a “Declaration for Scotland” reminiscent of the Declaration of Arbroath, they are asking to vote tactically and give the second vote for the regional list to them. This way, they could theoretically get a few seats to form a “super-majority” with the SNP and Greens to press on with independence. Independence by hook or by crook, not just IndyRef2, is their only talking point.
The All For Unity is the polar opposite to that. Playing the same tactic – voting strategically – they want the second vote to “superlock” the Union. And nothing else. They make a point out of the fact that 77% of voters have heard the name of the party leader, George Galloway. Which doesn’t mean a thing and has more to do with that infamous “cat” incident on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006. Even I had heard of him because of that scene, and not because of his politics. He used to be Labour, but without googling him, I couldn’t tell you what he stands for today.
Scottish Family Party is someone I had never heard of before, and they are the most openly conservative bunch: against abortion & sex education & assisted suicide & transgender “ideology,” pro tax relief for parents & families, but not same-sex couples. And a general, back to the 1950s, feel-good “family is everything” nonsense. I try to be somewhat objective here, but these people apparently have never lived in the real world.
ReformUK, previously Brexit Party, is somewhat flapping about without much inspiration. Now that Brexit is “done,” the party apparently needed another big topic to justify its existence but couldn’t find any. Which results in them being non-committal on everything except for buzzwords: an NHS Reserve Force similar to the Army Reserve, devolution of powers to local government, i.e. councils, creating a private sector to deliver public services, as if outsourcing hadn’t been invented yet. And for the current strain of Covidiots, the demand of no masks in class.
And speaking of which, the Freedom Alliance. Whose only talking point is to stop the current restrictions, without alternative or solution to the ongoing issue. Oh, and UKIP is floating about still, but I cannot take that/them seriously. They are campaigning for the abolition of the assemblies, i.e. Parliaments, in both Scotland and Wales. Which is why they want to be elected to said parliament.
What’s interesting to note is the fact that at the hustings, all the main parties talk about IndyRef2 – except the SNP. And for all, except the Greens, their main raison d’etre is to prevent an SNP majority because that would mean an immediate IndyRef2, basically by the end of the week, or so they seem to think. WTF. They are not totally wrong in claiming that the SNP will hold another independence referendum during the next parliament, so sometime within the next five years. But definitely not this weekend; we really have bigger fish to fry. And all of the oppositions parties make comments on why independence would be bad for Scotland, but none of them, and I mean no one, can give a good reason for the Union. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any good arguments pro Union? Just guessing.
Westminster v Holyrood – Act 1, Scene 2
But as one commentator said recently, this is about more than just a “local” election in Scotland. It is an election of two governments – the one in Holyrood you cast your vote for, and the one in Westminster you send a message to. And the real question is: Regardless of whether or not you are for independence or for the union as such, do you want to be ultimately governed by someone like Boris Johnson? When campaigning for IndyRef1 was in full swing in 2014, the main argument of the unionists was: “If you want to stay in the EU, you need to stay in the UK.” Devolution Max was also thrown around as a sweetener, basically transferring more rights and responsibilities to Holyrood to satisfy the need and notion of independence without actually breaking up the Union. It took less than two years after that for the Brexit referendum, and Scotland was not even an afterthought. Johnson “got Brexit done” by shafting Northern Ireland, lying through his teeth and welching on every agreement & treaty the moment the ink was dry. Do you really want to be ultimately governed by someone like that?
If it needed any more convincing, take the “United Nations convention on the rights of the child (incorporation) (Scotland)” bill, passed by Holyrood in April. It does nothing but include, i.e. incorporate, the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child into Scots law. Westminster is now taking the Scottish government to court, because that law apparently oversteps the boundaries of what is devolved to Holyrood. Hypocrisy in action, since the UK signed the convention already, and Westminster has similar laws already enacted. All what this posturing from Westminster does in the end is starting the constitutional debate and thereby almost forcing IndyRef2 earlier than later. It’s typical Tory incompetence – picking a fight when none is needed, just “because sovereignty.” Whose sovereignty, exactly? And what do they have against the UN?