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When will the penny drop that No-one is entitled to our votes, that we need politicians with an ear to the ground, not the right wing.

When I think of the years 2013/14 I think of one of those Penny Pusher machines from amusement arcades, representative of voters and members tumbling like freed coins from the Labour Party to the SNP.  Tropes like weighing rather than counting votes, the proverbial chimp with a red rosette all pointed to one thing; labour’s expectation and entitlement to votes.

Despite 17 years of the SNP as dominant party in Scotland, nothing much has changed there. The hatred and bitterness of Jackie Baillie’s ilk under Starmer’s umbrella, despite shrewd attempts by Sarwar to distance himself from the Westminster party still point to one thing. ‘You are still essentially ours. You owe us.’

The cynical slogan The Change Scotland Needs’ simply screams out ‘we are not the Tories nor the SNP.’ Polling trends show an intriguing mismatch between a Labour rise in Scotland v a stable investment in independence for around half the population. Stunning, despite the constant erosion of balanced reporting by our media.

So what the hell is going on there? You’ll rarely find an independence supporter on social media who would admit to a penchant for Labour now, on the basis of that amorphous ‘change’ blobby thing. But we’ve been repeatedly told by UK and Scottish Labour that they need our votes to oust the Tories. In real life, some busy folk with no real time for/interest in politics are buying it, and many are buying the rhetoric of corruption that surrounds the SNP courtesy of media.

As I write, on this sunny morning in a Glasgow Park the place is buzzing with passing snippets of conversation. Not the exciting discovery of your voice as an added dimension to public discourse and debate, as per the independence referendum lead-up, but the sound of fed up, media-fed people; ‘…and the corruption in the SNP’ ‘no idea how I’ll vote’ etc and who can blame them. Yes, we certainly need to get the Tories out, but the circumstances around which Scottish votes are needed are quite specialised. General elections of 1951, 64, 74, 2010, 2017 had some interesting and noteworthy input from Scotland, but still shaped mainly by English votes.

Even with Starmer’s commitment to English politics and, internationally, Israel over Gaza and his increasing capitulation to conservative policies/values, the predicted seats would have to fall to an astonishing level before marginals were required in Scotland. Even with Johnson’s victory in 2019, Scottish votes could not save Labour. Yet the SNP choose to focus on a ‘Tory free’ Scotland. ‘Delivering Progress in Scotland…only an SNP govt can rid Scotland of the Conservatives’ Yes that would be nice, but it’s not the priority, they’re toast anyway. We need to repel a unionist majority. A Labour government fed by tactical tory votes, a government with a commitment to Brexit, nuclear weapons on our soil, Westminster austerity and unionism ad infinitum. Grim, but necessary reading.

For those of us constantly pushing the mantra that Labour do not need our votes in Scotland, it feels as if the SNP have taken their eye off the ball. This week’s disastrous decision by the FM to pre-empt any decision by the Greens to abandoned the Bute House Agreement has sealed that feeling for those of us on the left of Scottish politics who represent the progressive wing. For the FM to unilaterally (no doubt poorly advised) end this agreement, then release a letter to members advising that his minority government would be free to work with other parties as well as the Greens is presumptuous to the core. Schrodinger’s govt, the most progressive in the UK, ditches the only chance of progressive alliance to work with the Tories.

Despite this, the circus continues with the immediate martyring of Humza against the backdrop of the Green’s decision to vote with the Tory Vote of no Confidence against the FM, who has just u-turned against them. Of course they have no confidence in him. Ironically, the narrative, even from  high profile SNP members who should know better, focuses on the distraction of the Greens voting with the Tories.
As if to complete the parallel with Labour’s entitlement, social media bursts with tropes about the tail wagging the dog, Green seats dependent on our list votes. An impossible number of people state that they’ll never vote green again (ignoring the numbers of green supporters who habitually lend their votes to the SNP).

In short, it’s as if the SNP wee team dared to pre-empt change, and we’ve been deprived of the result, despite the majority vote by SNP and Green members for the BHA initially. We’re told that, with the Green vote planned for a month or so down the line, the speculation over the outcome would be a distraction. You’d presume that there would be other issues to occupy parliament and political life in the interim.

You’d have to measure this by Nicola Sturgeon’s ordeal/trial by populism and remember that she has retained her dignity throughout, and you’d have to start making comparisons. That’s not to say that Humza is not a decent guy. There’s every indication that he is, and, as journalist Owen Jones has written, he has elevated Scotland’s place in the planet as a principled government, when it comes to Gaza. He continues to suffer intolerable racism and abuse and bears up optimistically. None of this will be remembered if he’s the FM who crashed the SNP into a wall because…well in a nutshell because culture wars; Green/climate/gender issues. He perceived a need to capitulate to the centre/right.

Meanwhile back in the real world, I suspect that people worry less about culture wars, and the perceptions are still with Nicola, presented as a fallen idol. Why would you bother voting when politicians are ‘all the same’? When will the penny drop that No-one is entitled to our votes, that we need politicians with an ear to the ground, not the right wing.

Val Waldron





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