Can Scottish voters trust Westminster civil servants to work with the SNP?

I think it’s pretty clear that “Frenchgate” has been comprehensively debunked. Even though that link comes from the Scottish National Party, which would obviously want it debunked, the overall evidence presented there and in numerous other places is pretty compelling. One of the people cited in that set of slides is Jamie Maxwell, who in offering a rebuttal on Bella Caledonia of the whole sorry saga, explained the apparent source as follows:

The Telegraph claims to have a copy of a memo written – take a deep breathe [sic] – by a British government official based on a conversation he/she had with the French Consul General based on a conversation he had with the French ambassador based on a conversation she had, in February, with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Err, yes. As I write, it seems the “leak” comes from Scottish Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael’s Scotland Office (you know, the one that “…ensure[s] the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Scotland… represent[ing] Scottish interests within the UK government and… represent[ing] the UK government in Scotland”), though Nicola Sturgeon has now called for an inquiry into the leak to find out what has happened, and the civil service is now investigating itself (ah, gotta love British democracy at work! Why isn’t the police involved?)

What is, I think, already clear, is that the old Better Together tag team of Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties, the right wing press, and the civil service are functioning together as well as they ever have. I’ve seen this comment made several times on Twitter today; for example, here’s Liam McLaughlan, Scottish Socialist Party candidate:

I think it’s hard to disagree. But I want to briefly look beyond all that and instead think about the post-7. May landscape. At the moment, unless there is some huge upset, the SNP will probably win a lot of Scottish seats, and some kind of alliance/co-operation with the Labour Party seems likely. This means that they might even have some kind of role in offices of state – and would therefore have increased contact with the civil servants who run these offices. But should SNP parliamentarians trust Westminster civil servants? Could the SNP act like a “normal” Party (i.e. Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democract) and seek to create and enable legislation, relying on civil servants who time and again have shown themselves to be partisan, opposed to the party democratically chosen by the Scottish people, and willing to operate behind-the-scenes to undermine and destabilise the SNP?

On what basis can we, the Scottish voters, trust the Westminster civil service to work honestly with our elected representatives if we choose representatives who are not from one of the three British nationalist/unionist parties? I don’t really have any answers for what the SNP might do about this, but as a normal voter (and not even an SNP member), I see no reason to assume that Westminster civil servants will not seek to constantly undermine anything the SNP might seek to do at Westminster if they were in a position of any power. Democracy in Britain, insofar as it could ever call itself that whilst maining First Past The Post and the un-/anti-democratic House of Lords, is truly broken. Perhaps the radical reform the SNP is advocating at Westminster is the only hope for salvaging it?

The Westminster right-wing and democracy – written and unwritten rules

One of the most notable things about the recent diatribes against the SNP and Scots in general that we are witnessing in the mainstream UK press as a result of polls showing increased support for the SNP, is the complete absence of any respect for the democratic implications. Of course, many right-wing politicians and media representatives pretend to stand up for democracy, but their current discourse simply highlights the disdain they actually have for it. What is astonishing to me is that they don’t seem to notice or care that this is so apparent.

Alex Salmond and Anna Soubry

Alex Salmond and Anna Soubry

For example, here is Conservative MP Anna Soubry speaking of how ‘terrifying’ it would be if Scots vote for lots of SNP MPs on 7.5. and Alex Salmond ends up ‘controlling’ the country (never mind that Nicola Sturgeon would be leading any post-election negotiations as she is, you know, the leader of the SNP – Westminster is still fixated on Salmond…).

Right-wing columnist Bruce Anderson is also at it in the Telegraph of 21.3.: “whatever the outcome in the rest of the UK, the next Parliament is bound to be disrupted by around 30 Scot Nats, intent on perpetual trouble-making” – when he says ‘trouble-making’ I think he means doing things like acting for what they see as their constituent’s interests. Bizarrely for a unionist, he proposes breaking Scotland up to preserve the union (I think – read it yourself if you must, but it’s mostly incoherent and malicious bile).

Now I’m a member of the Greens and not the SNP, but I find all this confusing – and SNP members will perhaps find it even more confusing. After all, wasn’t the argument of the British nationalist/unionist campaign that Scotland was a valued part of the United Kingdom and that it would be better to exercise its democratic rights within the political spaces offered by the UK, rather than going it alone?  Now lots of Scots have joined political parties and become politically active, but Soubry, Anderson and the rest don’t seem to want us any more. Surely it would be incumbent upon those who wanted Scots to continue participating in the union to welcome the new levels of engagement that we see in Scotland?

The problem is that we troublesome Scots appear to be playing the game by the written and not the unwritten rules. The written rules say that you can vote for anyone you like to go to Westminster and represent you and that choice will be respected. The unwritten rules appear to be that you can vote for anyone you like to go to Westminster and represent you – as long as they are in An Approved Party, meaning the Conservatives, the Labour Party, and sometimes the Liberal Democrats.  Substantial numbers of other MPs are clearly not wanted.

Soubry, Anderson and many representatives of these parties and various media hangers-on – all of whom, as it happens, subscribe to a broad right-wing neo-liberal understanding of society! – are clearly appalled that we troublesome Scots appear to be ignoring the unwritten rules. But that, of course, is the problem with unwritten rules! We were told by the British nationalists/unionists that we were wanted, that the UK would be diminished without us, that our voices mattered – and so a majority of Scots voted to stay in the UK. I was one of 1.6 million who voted for independence, but nearly 384,000 more voted to stay.  That’s fine: I and most of the 1.6 million respect that vote and so we are playing by the written rules and continuing to engage in UK politics.

That, however, irks the Westminster establishment. For a long time now, the British Parliamentary system has not been a great fan of real democracy – were it to be otherwise then there would be greater participation from the left, but the left has, to all intents and purposes, been excluded from any kind of meaningful participation in the political system. The title of Ken Livingstone’s first autobiography from 1987 is emblematic of this: If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it (Paul Foot’s review in the LRB is worth reading). The evisceration of the left by Tony Blair and his right-wing followers – even a left of the fairly weak kind embodied by the late John Smith – has put paid to a meaningful left in the two/three-party system at Westminster, at least for the time being. The SNP is a broadly centre-left party, and yet even that is threatening to all the others, partly perhaps because none of them are to the left of it – but many Labour people, at least, wish they were.

What is interesting about the reactions of Soubry, Anderson et al is that as soon as the comfortably right-wing status quo of Tory/Labour/LibDems is threatened by voters who indicate they might vote in substantial numbers for a party that is not part of the perceived establishment mainstream, then they see a problem with democracy, rather than a problem with the other parties.

The only reasonable response from Scottish voters is to say loudly and clearly:

You advocated for the UK and wanted Scots to remain part of it, and we voted to do so. We’re playing by the rules and voting for the candidates we think will best represent our interests. If those candidates are not from your parties, you need to ask yourselves why.
We are democrats – are you?

Giving the “Labour” Party the space to grow up

The immaturity of much of the “Labour” Party, whether the UK party or the Scottish branch office, is disconcerting.  Rather than opposing the Tories and austerity, key elements of the shadow cabinet appear to be fostering the idea that the values underpinning the ideology of austerity are sound, even if the Tory implementation of this ideology is not.  For example, here is the terrifying Rachel Reeves (yes, the Labour shadow work and pensions minister who promised to be tougher than the Tories):

“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,” she said. “Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people.”

So she is saying that “Labour” is not interested in people who are not in work – who, then, is to represent them?!  I can only hope that this is childish posturing, designed to appeal to Tories, rather than meaningful policy (though I’m not convinced, given how far right the “Labour” party has moved in recent years).

The other key issue – the extent to which the party might enter some kind of cooperative arrangement with the SNP – is, of course, driving a lot of debate at the moment, but is connected to things like Reeves’ statements.

There are some signs that Ed Miliband is, at least, smarter than people like Reeves and Scottish branch manager Jim Murphy: for example, here’s Neal Lawson explaining why Labour must do a deal with the SNP, whilst Peter Arnott wonders if sanity might be breaking out in certain circles (on all sides, maybe, slowly…).  However, there are also reasons to be concerned about Miliband’s position, whilst Stephen Daisley, though acknowledging Miliband is probably smarter than Murphy et al, has slightly different concerns.

All of this points to a need to give “Labour” space.  I do expect the “Labour” Party, driven by a desire for self-preservation, to move position on a number of key issues, including possibly even independence or at the very least devo-max over the coming years.  I think they need the predicted wipe-out (or at least, severe punishing) in May – for too long “Labour” has taken the Scottish electorate for granted, and doesn’t realise it needs to earn the right to represent constituents.  If it can learn from this, we might have a very different Scottish “Labour” party in five or ten years’ time (ideally one that is actually more Labour so I can dispense with the tiresome scare quotes!).

In the meantime, Nicola Sturgeon is playing a fabulous hand.  I think she realises something that many in the SNP do not: once the “Labour” Party becomes more of a party that seeks to represent everyone (Reeves, take note!), it becomes more of a natural and useful opposition to the SNP, but also a party the SNP can more readily deal with, at least on the UK level.  Getting there needs space: a very wise artist friend of mine, Carrie Gooch, recently pointed out that changing position on big issues was like turning a tanker around in the sea: a lot of space is needed.  I think Sturgeon is giving them that space at the moment, and if for no other reason than self-preservation, I do expect wiser heads in “Labour” to prevail eventually.

Certainly, one of the wiser things Miliband could now do is copy Sturgeon – and categorically rule out a cooperation deal with the Tories.  He and his party need to realise that on a UK level they have a bigger political opponent than the SNP – and Cameron, Osborne, and those Tory-lites Clegg and Alexander, are the leaders of that opponent.

Westminster coalitions: why the SNP will win at the 2015 General Election

One of the best political parody accounts on Twitter commented on Alex Salmond’s decision to stand as a candidate for the Scottish National Party at Westminster:

Most Scots, whether they voted Yes or No in the referendum, want Devo-Max.  This is not what the Smith Commission is suggesting the Westminster parties offer Scotland.  This is because it cannot: the raison d’être of the Smith Commission was to preserve the existing sovereignty of Westminster (which derives its authority from the monarch, not the people) and the principle of devolution is that the powers of Westminster are effectively ‘loaned’ to Holyrood, and can be taken back at any point without consulting Holyrood, as happened with the (energy) Renewables Obligation in 2013 (see here, and here, for example).  What the Smith Commission has essentially done is (a) look for any other titbits from the lucky-bag list (Lesley Riddoch’s term) that Westminster could give Scotland, or (b) things that will damage the standing of the Scottish parliament, and especially the SNP in the expectation that this will strengthen the unionists’ cause (as Iain Macwhirter argued eloquently in the Sunday Herald: “The Tories didn’t propose income-tax devolution by accident. It is a scorched earth policy that they believe will kill social democracy in Scotland.”).  Devo-Max, or Home Rule, is easy to understand – everything apart from defence, foreign policy and macro-economic policy – whereas almost nobody I’ve spoken to remembers anything much from Smith, except the poisoned chalice of income tax rates without the power to change thresholds.  We are certainly not getting rid of Trident as most Scots want; indeed, the Ministry of “Defence” (War Ministry is more apt given British foreign policy!) is planning on relocating further nuclear submarines to Scotland in the near future.

Some argue that the May 2015 General Election might change all this if the SNP hold the balance of power, with neither “Labour” nor the Tories able to form a simple majority at Westminster.  Nicola Sturgeon has reaffirmed that the SNP will not support the Tories, and that the price for supporting “Labour” would be to get rid of Trident (and presumably stop other nuclear submarines from being based here).  That’s a welcome move on her part, but not one that “Labour” will necessarily find easy to deal with, wedded as it is to the hypocrisy that WMD are A Good Thing (as long as it’s us that have them and not countries we don’t like).  However, even aside from such a policy issue, I’d be surprised if “Labour” will want to have any kind of alliance with the SNP.

The key difficulty for “Labour” is that they pretend the Scottish branch is left of centre, whilst the rest-of-the-UK party is actually right of centre, as they seek to outdo UKIP and the Tories.  The obvious problem with trying to outdo such racists rather than addressing their racism is that it makes “Labour” racists too.  We can also point to “Labour’s” broad acceptance of the Tory/LibDem budget and austerity plans (minor tinkering aside) and we can see that “Labour” have clearly positioned themselves to the right.  That is their choice.

However, that the SNP, even under Salmond, has in recent decades become more left-wing than “Scottish Labour” could ever even pretend to be given the policies the Scottish branch is told to support from the London head office, is a profound difficulty for them in Scotland and in the wider UK.  It now gets worse for “Labour” because Sturgeon is genuinely more left-wing than Salmond, and “Labour” simply cannot convincingly argue a left-wing case against the SNP (as this desperate internal message from one of the “Scottish Labour” deputy leadership candidates, Katy Clark, shows; see also here).  And for the 2015 General Election, the old “Scottish Labour” message that voters need to vote “Labour” to keep the Tories out no longer holds: Scotland voted “Labour” in 2010 (40 out of 59 MPs) and the Tories still got in.

There are many people in the “Labour” party in Scotland and rUK who are genuinely left-wing.  How they cope with the right-wing leadership is difficult to comprehend… except, of course, that they chose these leaders because their primary purpose is achieving power.  There is little sense of how that power might then better be used to benefit the wider population, and that, perhaps, is one of the consequences of Westminster’s sovereignty issue: if your power comes from a useless hereditary institution such as the monarchy rather than the people, it will eventually make the people irrelevant and result in a political cartel, as John S Warren puts it.

So never mind “wee things” like Trident (as former “Scottish Labour” leader Johann Lamont memorably described our WMDs, illegal wars, the Bedroom Tax, childcare and more): the real issue is that the SNP, especially under Sturgeon, is far more of a left-wing party than the Scottish branch or UK “Labour” as a whole can hope to even pretend it is.  This, I think, substantially drives the irrational visceral hatred of the SNP on the part of “Scottish Labour” and to a somewhat lesser degree the wider UK “Labour” party: there is a recognition that the SNP are where “Labour” once were, but deep down they realise they are no longer of the left, despite their public protestations.  And with Sturgeon in charge of the SNP, this is likely to get worse, not better.

So will there be a coalition at Westminster in 2015?  I’m sure that if there were a coalition between the SNP and “Labour” we would see Trident being got rid of, and a substantially improved powers arrangement coming into play, probably moving towards Devo-Max, with Salmond heading that up for the SNP at Westminster under Sturgeon’s direction from Edinburgh.  However, I think a coalition between “Labour” and the SNP is unlikely.  Whilst I think the SNP could enter a coalition with the “Labour” party based on policy agreements on issues such as Trident and Devo-Max, I don’t see how “Labour” could overcome the resentment they have for the SNP being where they think they should be on the political spectrum, even though they themselves refuse to make the necessary changes to be put themselves on the left: Salmond as Deputy Prime Minister would be too much for “Labour” to cope with.  As I wrote a few weeks ago, I think the cartel may well come into play and we’ll see a Grand Coalition of “Labour” and Tories sharing power between them: not only are their policies very similar, they are both far more comfortable with each other than they are with the provincial upstarts from North Britain.  Whilst Britain has not had such coalitions in the past (other than in war time), other countries have had such coalitions, and Britain is changing: up until 2010 there hadn’t really been a coalition such as we have now between the Tories and Liberal Democrats.  All things are in flux, and they could easily argue the economic crisis is so severe that a Grand Coalition is needed to fix it (never mind that the Tories have made it worse, and “Labour” would do the same).

Whichever way the 2015 election goes, presuming the SNP maintains something close to its current level of support, Sturgeon’s party wins:

  • if “Labour” or the Tories win a majority even though the SNP take most of Scotland’s Westminster seats, the “democratic deficit” argument is immeasurably strengthened, and any decision on the Smith Commission proposals will probably be watered down still further.  Both of these things make the case for independence ever stronger, especially since the cuts the Tories and “Labour” plan to continue making are going to be devastating (as is evident from local council budgets: 1, 2) – if you think they’re bad now, in a few years’ time they will have transformed the country, and not in a good way!).
  • if there is a coalition, the SNP can justly claim they got rid of Trident and achieved something better than the Smith Commission proposed, approaching the Devo-Max that the unionist parties promised before the referendum and that many Scots want; this would be a positive move for Scotland (and indeed the rest of the UK, even if rUK media seek to portray otherwise!) and a real achievement for the SNP.  Of course, Salmond would be a responsible Deputy PM in coalition, as evidenced by the competent way he behaved as First Minister of Scotland – he takes such responsibilities seriously.
  • if “Labour” need a coalition partner but opt for the Tories in order to exclude the SNP, they have no hope of recovery in Scotland and possibly elsewhere for a generation or more (how would “vote Labour to keep the Tories out” sound then?).  Meanwhile, the SNP can make left-wing mischief for the government at Westminster from the sidelines, perhaps with Plaid Cymru and the Greens.  I’m sure Salmond would make a very good leader of the opposition to a “Labour”/Tory government, in a way that would probably come as quite a shock to their comfortable rhetorical routines.
    More importantly, the arguments for Scottish independence would become ever stronger and the case for another referendum would become more difficult to resist.  A “Labour”/Tory government would, of course, resist that, perhaps even along the lines suggested by the “Labour” party’s Jack Straw, but would they really want an irredentist Scottish resistance movement on their hands, rather than a peaceful campaign for independence?  They’re surely not that stupid?

Katy Clark is right: “Scottish Labour” are in deep trouble.  More than that: “Labour” as a whole are in deep trouble.  She’s right that “Labour” don’t have the “right values and policies” – the problem for her and the rest of “Scottish Labour” is that Ed Miliband’s “Labour” shows no intention of moving towards the “right values and policies” before the 2015 election.  All of which benefits the SNP – perhaps the Angry Salmond Twitter account really is onto something in suggesting Salmond ‘takes’ Westminster: the SNP will win regardless of the outcome.

PS No, I still am no further with thinking how, as a Green party member, I should approach the 2015 election.  I’ll be waiting to see what happens with candidate selection and perhaps discuss the issue there…

Alliances and Not-Alliances: Westminster 2015 – postscript

I don’t want to harp on about this much more, but I do want to add two short points to my last post on the Scottish National Party’s failure to pursue an alliance with the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party in the 2015 Westminster elections (and warm thanks, by the way, for the lively discussion in the comments section of that posting – they are well worth reading if you haven’t already done so).

Firstly, whilst I welcome the news that Nicola Sturgeon is entertaining the possibility of an alliance at Westminster between the SNP with Plaid Cymru and the English and Welsh Green Party, her failure to engage in a similar alliance with the SNP’s erstwhile YesScotland allies in Scotland, the Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party, emphasises the narrow party political advantage that she and her party leadership are pursuing now that the referendum campaign is over. The idea that the SNP might continue to co-operate willingly with other parties after the referendum needs to be treated with great scepticism: the massive growth in party membership that all the pro-Scottish anti-austerity parties have experienced, with the SNP benefiting the most as they were the largest of the three parties to begin with, seems to have blinded the SNP’s leadership to the advantages that strategic alliances – and that word strategic is key here – might bring. That is rather disappointing, but will need to feature in the ways in which decisions by the SGP and SSP are made in future.

Secondly, related to that: I made a mistake in my last posting: having been away for my branch party’s AGM I missed the fact that the Stirling Greens decided to field a candidate for the 2015 election; the candidate is to be nominated in December. Obviously, since I was not present for the debate on this I don’t know how the arguments went. However, despite the fact that all canvassing is good in raising our party’s profile amongst the electorate, I am yet to be convinced that this is a positive move. What I think will really count at the 2015 Westminster election is giving a pro-Scottish anti-austerity party a chance at winning this seat, rather than the Scottish branch of “Labour” perhaps retaining it, or, just as bad, the Tories winning it. Whether my fellow Greens like it or not, this area is not like Edinburgh East and the only pro-Scottish anti-austerity party that has any hope of defeating the pro-austerity unionists here is the SNP.  This means that SGP (and perhaps SSP) members who supported independence face a dilemma: canvass and vote for a Green candidate in the knowledge that this might enable one of the pro-austerity unionist parties to win because votes for the Greens take away from the pro-Scottish anti-austerity SNP, or – gulp! – not canvass for our nominated candidate and perhaps even vote SNP, despite the SNP’s narrow-mindedness on the question of co-operation.  I don’t yet know where I stand on this question myself.

In conclusion: I remain concerned that whilst so much of what Sturgeon’s SNP is doing is really positive and good for Scotland (and indeed the rest of the UK even if all it is doing for other parts of the UK is demonstrating a viable alternative approach to the pro-austerity unionist parties), this failure by the SNP to work together might yet cause them real electoral damage.

Alliances and Not-Alliances: Westminster 2015

I’m a Green party member, and during the referendum campaign I canvassed a bit for Yes in my area. My party’s strength in the Stirlingshire area in terms of elected representatives is centred around the Dunblane/Bridge of Allan area, where the marvellous Mark Ruskell is a local councillor. However, that’s 20 miles away, and with active canvassing for Yes happening closer by, it made sense to join my local canvassers. Given that two of the local councillors, Ian Muirhead and Graham Lambie, are from the SNP, the people I mostly canvassed with were SNP activists.

I was warmly welcomed by them, and was very aware that my presence (wearing my bright Green Yes tshirt) helped us – it clearly demonstrated to voters that the Yes campaign was not about the SNP, but about a broader alliance of people from different constituencies.

All the Yes parties have grown since the independence referendum, including the Greens: the first branch meeting I went to after the referendum needed a hall and over 50 people turned up; meetings before the referendum had been in cafés and pubs with half a dozen or so folk! We are still, overall, a small party when compared to the SNP, but we’re not insignificant. Therefore, I was delighted to see that my old friend Peter McColl has been selected as a Green candidate for Westminster in my former constituency of Edinburgh East (we moved from there last year), opposing the present “Labour” incumbent, Sheila Gilmore. This won’t be easy – the seat has been held by “Labour” for a long time, with Gavin Strang preceding Gilmore.

The Green party does not have the resources to stand candidates in every constituency, so it chooses seats where it might realistically be able to make progress. The combination of Edinburgh East and McColl really does offer that – but it’s far less likely if the former Yes vote is split and an SNP candidate stands too.  In fact, it might even mean Gilmore gets back in, and the unionists will hold the seat.

I welcome Nicola Sturgeon as the new leader of the SNP, and I think she’s likely to be a very good First Minister of the Scottish Parliament. However, I do think it’s a shame that she seems to have ruled out a party political alliance, even a very loose one, for the 2015 Westminster election. The SNP has said it is prepared to support candidates from outwith the SNP who would stand under an SNP banner: whilst this is very welcome (I can’t wait to see who some of the candidates might be), it seems an alliance between parties is being ruled out.

Alliances are common in many European and other countries, and I see no reason why they wouldn’t work well in Scotland for Westminster elections, given that many of us who voted Yes are keen to have parties in Westminster that will stand up for Scotland. This is something that none of the unionist parties offer, least of all “Labour” – as the former leader of their Scotland branch, Johann Lamont, has made clear.

What I would have liked to have seen is as follows: an agreement that in constituencies such as Edinburgh East, where the Greens have a realistic possibility of unseating a unionist politician with a capable candidate such as McColl, the SNP would agree to not stand a candidate themselves but put their considerable resources into serious canvassing for the Green candidate (the ballot paper could say something like “Peter McColl – Scottish Green Party (Scotland Alliance incl. Scottish National Party)” or similar, perhaps also including the SSP, who were an important part of the Yes campaign). In turn, members of the Green party (and the SSP?) would canvass for the SNP/Scotland Alliance candidate in their various constituencies where they’re not fielding candidates, such as Stirling.  Whilst I was out canvassing for Yes with local SNP members variations of this were discussed and generally thought to be a good idea.

Why is this important, when the SNP is dominating the Scottish political landscape just now? Given that in Stirling (and most other parts of Scotland) we, the Greens, are unlikely to be standing a Westminster candidate, I and other Green voters will have to vote tactically, and for many that will mean voting for the (as yet undecided) SNP candidate; I can’t see many Greens voting for the “Labour” party or any of the other unionist parties. Now voting tactically is one thing, but if I knew that the “big beast” that is the SNP was willing to openly work together with smaller parties such as the Greens in an area such as Edinburgh East where the Greens have a realistic chance of defeating “Labour”, I could actually see myself canvassing for an SNP/Alliance candidate in Stirlingshire/Strathendrick (perhaps on the ballot paper as “XXX – Scottish National Party (Scotland Alliance incl. Scottish Green Party” etc.). I simply cannot canvass for the SNP if it does not also represent the Greens.  If there is no alliance, then I might try and go back to Edinburgh a couple of times and help canvass for McColl.

Now that kind of call really is for the larger party to make, as the Green statement on the issue says – and it is a shame that it now seems it won’t be happening this time around. Instead, it seems the SNP is emphasising the more narrow party political advantage it thinks it has on the basis of current support. I very much hope that it is not underestimating the might of the forces against it, when the tired old clichés about “vote Labour to kick the Tories out” and similar nonsense will be revived, for sure (or as I like to think of it: “vote redTories to kick the blueTories out”!). Using the undemocratic FPTP system for Westminster to advantage is not something the SNP has been particularly successful at in the past, and even with polls showing overwhelming support for the SNP at the moment, I am a bit uncertain about how that will translate into Westminster seats. Better, I would have thought, to involve as many campaigners and variety of candidates as possible in standing up for Scotland in order to increase the chances of winning seats at Westminster, than to risk not doing so well alone in the skewed system that is FPTP.

This is especially the case since if there is another hung parliament in 2015, it is, I think, entirely conceivable that the red and blue Tories could form a grand (unionist) coalition, possibly with UKIP, that excludes the “separatists” in the form of the SNP and perhaps Plaid Cymru (I expect the LibDems – who? – to be an irrelevance). For the SNP to think it could play “kingmaker” could therefore well be wishful thinking:

  • it underestimates the visceral and completely irrational hatred that “Labour” have of the SNP, which, if anything, has worsened since September (and is likely to worsen further if “Labour” really are stupid enough to choose Jim Murphy as Lamont’s replacement);
  • the “Labour” party have already said they will continue the economic, military (Trident etc.), social security/welfare and other policies of the Tory party – so there isn’t very much that divides them anyway, making a grand coalition relatively straightforward;
  • the Yes campaign members were not the only ones to have collaborated closely – the No campaign also worked closely together: I, for one, will never forget the “Labour” and Tory parties at the Stirling count early on 19.9. celebrating Stirling’s No vote together – who is to say that kind of cosy arrangement doesn’t herald greater cooperation in other contexts?  (Incidentally, it amazes me that few on the former Yes side seem to think this is important.)

Of course, you might ask why I don’t join the SNP instead of the Greens and then I could campaign for them in Stirling/Strathendrick without any of these moral qualms. I actually know a Green member who after 18. September resigned his membership and joined the SNP, so it’s not as if others have not done so (in a time of crisis, he said, it was what he felt he needed to do). But I joined the Greens for more reasons than independence – the Greens are much more closely aligned to my way of thinking in most areas, and for me and others in the party, independence simply offers the best way to achieve these things (I note that not all Greens agree on this, with some opposing independence).  For me, independence is a tool to achieve greater social equality and a more responsible way of living with our resources and so on – but at the moment it’s a tool we don’t have, and therefore I want to pursue my ambitions for these things in other ways, in the first instance by increasing powers for Scotland via the Smith Commission. I’m pretty confident that independence will come before too long, and quite possibly with Nicola Sturgeon leading the way. But in the meantime, we need to make sure that we have the strongest possible pro-Scotland representation at Westminster in order to ensure that the Devo-Max promises that were made by the unionist parties are kept to. I think working together is a more likely way to achieve that.