Politics Next - After the Storm
Last year I wrote three posts (here, here and here) about Scottish Independence and they were my "Why Yes?" posts, and a fourth Politics Next post as a wash-up. I am still for Scottish independence and I am certain that I'll see it in my life time. Actually, I think I'll see it in the next ten years, but we will come back to that. In the past few weeks as the General Election Campaign has kicked into high gear people are starting to really consider what they want and how they will vote. The first major test of the post-IndyRef UK is almost upon us and as a Indy-leaning Scot - actually, just as a Scot of any political persuasion - the bullshit has come rolling back towards us.
See, back in August and September 2014 I was at home a lot. I was dipping in and out of my phone every few hours becuase when I got a free moment when Joni was asleep, Connie was asleep, and I wasn't asleep, I had time to read a lot about the different tactics being used by the UK parties, the pro-Union parties. They were very much "stick with us, it's better". If you can boil the entire argument down to two different views: 1) We are better off going it alone and 2) You're better off as part of the UK. The contray point to my own views, the second one, had to be argued from the idea that Scottish MPs were worth a vote in Westminster, that the engine that had been powering our country wasn't broken and useless, not ruined by decades of the right and the left parties moving into the centre, creating a beige of bullshit. In the vaccuum two parties on the left filled the void - the Lib Dems and the nationalist parties (SNP/Plaid Cymru) and two-ish parties filled the void on the right - the BNP and UKIP.
In 2010 there was a choice but little to show for it - you could chose the smaller parties but they wouldn't have any impact, that's what we were told. But in 2010 the two members of the old guard found it impossible to form a government without one of the smaller parties, and the UK had a coalition government for the first time in generations. Since the IndyRef voters in Scotland have realised that they have a very powerful vote for two reasons - the first being that the balance of power sits with our votes as Labour needs them to win a majority. The second is that we have been energised and now a whole generation of people who wouldn't have even considered voting in this year's GE are very interested.
The tactics that were employed during the latter days of the IndyRef by the pro-Union teams was that the Scottish were an integral part of the UK and that our voice would be heard in a future Westminster government, and that we were all more powerful together. That is why the recent attacks by Labour and Tory strategists and spokespeople are shameful: telling us that a vote for the SNP is like Putin or against the democratic will of the British people. The idea that a democratically elected MP from Scotland is illegitimate because they are Scottish is pretty astounding in it's lack of respect...
There is an argument being made that the SNP winning 30 to 50 seats in Scotland (which is mad, but entirely possible) isn't good for the UK - voting in to Westminster a party that wants to break it up, which on the surface is a valid concern. Sturgeon has an uphill struggle to prove that not to be true, but she has some powerful evidence on her side. The thing is that we voted against Independence last year, rightly or wrongly, and you have to accept that. I have to accept that. The SNP had to accept that, and so does the rest of the UK. The SNP want independence, but they are not a single-issue party. They're a left-leaning party aiming for progressive policy and that is something that a lot of the UK won't have heard before - it's what has been changing my own mind over the past five or so years, and it's one of the best things about last night's debate. It'll be the first time in a long time anyone who is "on the left" in England has heard mainstream media show politicians like that without a snark of bias or a sliver of impartiality. It was refreshing not only to see one, but three left-leaning party leaders on the stage, but also that they were all female showing that there are powerful voices in the UK system not heard on a regular basis.
It also went some way to dissuading the idea being pitched by the English parties that the SNP are there to sneak in a break-up of the UK. Sturgeon rightly has noted that if that is going to happen it will only happen through the will of the Scottish parliament, not in Westminster. There will have been people in the rUK that were listening to her and what she was saying noting that we do have it better up here. We don't pay for prescriptions, for hospital parking, we don't pay for tuition, we don't have the bedroom tax. Those things are things that I am proud that Scotland has and pays for. The funniest thing on Twitter last night was the English voters wishing they could vote SNP. Imagine SNP candidates standing in English constituencies!
The next four weeks are going to be fascinating to see how it all shakes out. I am voting to empower Scotland, and in doing so I expect to empower the Westminster system. If last night's debate showed anything it was that the new system of many parties fighting a battle designed for two parties isn't going to last much longer. The rUK will see what Scotland have been annoyed about in the first place - a system rigged against the people who have the voices we want to here. You could hear the old system creaking under the weight of the reality that we live in, and for once I can relax. Political reform isn't just possible, isn't just required, it's inevitable.