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Just say No to the Nats

I rarely if ever watch Reporting Scotland. Sometimes by chance I catch a clip of the Scottish Parliament debating. I immediately switch off. I dislike even the look of the place. The colour. The shape. The Nicola.

For the same reason I don’t read the Press and Journal as I’m far more interested in UK or worldwide events than those which can only interest people from Aberdeenshire. I couldn’t care less about the price of bulls at the Turriff mart or who won the cake making prize at the Strichen Women’s Rural. I want to read whatever everyone else is reading across the UK. I want that shared experience. If I don’t have it I always feel as if I’m missing out. Frequently I am.

Recently in the Times there was an article by Tim Montgomerie announcing that he was leaving the Conservative party because of David Cameron’s stance on Europe. People on Twitter and in various blogs were discussing it. I got hold of a copy of the Times, but instead of this, I found someone worrying about peat and discussing some dead Scottish nationalist I’d never heard of. I might as well have been reading the Press and Journal.

Apparently there’s a Scottish Parliament election sometime in May. I’m finding it rather hard to work up any enthusiasm about it. Insofar as I write about Scottish politics, I only really focus on the constitutional issues. The goings on in that oddly shaped, rather expensive building in Edinburgh interest me just about the same as the elections to the European Parliament or the regional council. I don’t follow what goes on in Brussels. I can’t name more than a handful of MEPs. I likewise don’t follow the intricacies of the regional council in Aberdeen. Perhaps I should. But there are many things I should do. I should exercise more and eat more vegetables. I should read À la recherche du temps perdu, but I find sentences that go on for three pages dull and can never get beyond page fifty.

The trouble though is that the Scottish Parliament has really rather a lot of power now. If it had been up to me it wouldn’t exist at all. I can never quite forgive the Scottish establishment of the Liberals and the Labour party together with all the self-appointed worthies for creating the thing in the first place. As time goes on Tony Blair’s reputation just keeps getting worse. It was his government that did more to endanger Britain than any other I can think of. The SNP didn’t even want a Scottish Parliament. They weren’t demanding it back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed they opposed it. The Liberals and Labour thought the Scottish Parliament would guarantee them perpetual power in Scotland. The best laid plans etc.

Now look where we are. The odds for the Scottish election are positively frightening.

The bookies think it so likely that the SNP will win a majority of seats that they offer odds of 1/50. The odds of the SNP winning an overall majority are 1/20. If I bet a pound on this result I would only get £1.05 back.  This overall majority was supposed to be impossible. The Liberals and Labour promised us that no single party would ever dominate us. They set up the voting system so that what is probably about to happen could never happen, let alone happen twice running. We’re going to rule Scotland forever cried the Liberals and Labour. How’s it working out for you folks?

The problem with the forthcoming campaign is that it is barely worth even being interested. Until and unless the mood of people in Scotland changes, the SNP will win the vast majority of seats at Holyrood. They may indeed win all of them. What fun. This is about as interesting as an election to the Supreme Soviet. There’s really something odd about our nature. Do we like to be dominated by one party? First it was Labour winning nearly all the seats, now it’s the SNP. Is this something to do with the repression of the Scottish psyche? All those years of frugality and puritanism. We don’t so much need an election as a psychiatrist. Cults is not so much a suburb of Aberdeen as it is the various places which trap the Scottish mind-set and from which we need rescuing.

The key to being rescued is to recognise the dark place that we are in now. Don’t vote for those who put us here. Why trust the Liberals and Labour, when it was they most of all who were responsible for the rise of Scottish nationalism? The SNP might even now be trundling along on 5% if Labour and the Liberals hadn’t decided to muck around with the UK constitutional settlement.

The Scottish establishment is universally left-wing. There’s nothing wrong with the Left in moderation. But it so dominates Scottish life that nearly every MP, MEP or MSP we have elected for the past 30 years is from the left.  There are more left-wing MSPs in the Scottish Parliament than any other parliament in the western world. Where else in the world are 90% of the politicians saying more or less the same thing and from a similar perspective? To reach Scottish levels of uniformity, you’d have to go back to the Great Leap Forward, but at least the Chinese had the excuse that their uniformity was imposed by dictatorship. We choose ours.

Democracy requires a mixture of different ideas. It requires Left and Right to act as a check and a balance to each other.  It’s the dominance of the Left  in Scotland and our tendency to want to be ruled by only one party that creates instability in the UK. To satisfy our continual demand that the way Scotland votes is mirrored in the UK as a whole, they would first have had to vote Labour, now they would all have to vote SNP! It’s the dominance of the Left that underpins the SNP. It is the source of and the explanation for Scottish nationalism. On the other hand voting for the Right undermines that foundation meaning that first it will topple and one day it will fall.

There is only one party that can do something to redress the balance and bring Scotland back to the ordinary every day politics that we had until the 1980s. It’s not going to happen overnight, but every Tory that is elected to the Scottish Parliament is bringing us one step back to the UK mainstream where both the Left and the Right have a chance of ruling.

Scottish attitudes are remarkably similar to the other parts of the UK. But we are haunted by the past and cannot bear to see ourselves as Tories. Even those of us who like some Tory policies find ourselves filled with dread at the prospect of making an X next to the Tory candidate’s name.  But long-term making that X may be the best way we have of supporting the UK. The Conservatives have become the natural home for Pro UK people.

Labour and the Lib Dems have turned Scottish independence into a matter of conscience. Their MSPs will be able to vote as they please on this matter. Does anyone really think that Labour or the Lib Dems would stick up for Britain when the time comes for them to do so? They’d be far too scared of losing support. The only Scottish party that will support the UK come what may is the Scottish Conservatives.

If the SNP win more than 50% of the vote, then tactical voting in the constituencies will be utterly pointless. Of course, there may be places where it still makes sense to vote tactically against the SNP. But given that a Labour, or Lib Dem MSP may turn out to be a Nat, I’m afraid I will find myself unable to vote tactically for them.

The Scottish people we need to focus on most are those Pro UK people who, for reasons that escape me, choose to vote for the SNP. We don’t know when or if the SNP will push for another referendum. It could be as early as this summer if the UK votes to leave the EU while Scotland doesn’t.  We don’t know if the SNP would be allowed to have a referendum under those circumstances. I believe that voting to leave the EU makes it less likely that Scotland would choose independence. But there is uncertainty about that. Moreover it may depend on the rationality of the Scottish electorate. We have been swinging from everyone voting Labour to everyone voting for the SNP. This swinging irrational pendulum is inherently unstable. It could turn into a wrecking ball that breaks up the UK.

If the SNP fails to win an overall majority in the Scottish parliament, there will be no circumstance in which they can ask for another referendum. This will be for the simple reason, that they will need the consent of another party that hopefully will believe in the continued existence of the UK. The more Conservatives we have in the Scottish Parliament, the more chance we will have of Ruth Davidson holding the balance of power. If that happened, for the first time in years we wouldn’t have to worry about The Nicola.

Lib Dem and Labour MSPs might always choose to side with the SNP. After all they are allowed to. Conservatives will never do that. We have a slim chance of giving Ruth Davidson the power to say No to the Nats. But nothing is written, the battle has not yet been fought. If all Pro UK people get together and vote for the only person who will actually take the fight to the SNP, we can still get our country back. For the first time in ages I find myself getting interested again. Wouldn’t it be funny if the SNP could no longer make threats? What would they do? Can you imagine the joy of watching their impotence? Can you imagine no longer having to worry about someone trying to break up our country?

It’s the knee jerk hatred of Tories in Scotland that explains both Labour’s former dominance and the SNP’s tendency towards ruling a one party state. It’s a grievance that’s been festering since the 1980s.  The SNP are today’s anti-Tory party, but too many Scots who don’t vote for the SNP help them by sharing the self-same hatred of the Tory enemy. This grievance has been festering since the 1980s. It ceased being rational a very long time ago. If you support the UK it’s time to get over it.

This post was originally published by the author 12 March 2016: http://effiedeans.blogspot.com/2016/03/just-say-no-to-nats.html

About Effie Deans

Profile photo of Effie Deans
Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger who works at the University of Aberdeen. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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