I don’t even know where to start! I have watched the news and the papers over the last couple of weeks as they go completely crazy over the role that the SNP may or may not play in the UK after the election. I am utterly astounded. I thought that the referendum campaign had educated me in the ways of politics and I often think I am quite a worldly woman. Years working on the front line in Unemployment Benefit Offices, Job Centres, volunteering, being a single mum and lately a gobby English woman campaigning for independence had, I thought, made me unshockable but I find myself gaping open mouthed at the antics of supposedly intelligent public servants and their hangers on, the supposedly world class broadcasters, the mainstream media both tabloid and the broadsheets.
Today’s Mail on Sunday has headlines which report that the idea that Scotland might send a majority of SNP MPs to Westminster is “the worst crisis since the abdication”. This means that WW2 was less of a crisis than people exercising their democratic right to vote. It is of course, being parodied on Twitter in a highly amusing way with #worstcrisissincetheabdication turning up little gems just like #dollgate did the day before and #tinhat did a few weeks ago. . Whilst this is an effective way of dealing with all this nonsense it doesn’t remove the headlines screaming across the UK using words like “coup”, “dangerous” “threat” and working to undermine the democratic right of voters in Scotland and therefore, anywhere in the UK because this isn’t about Scotland alone, it is about democracy in a wider sense.
So for the benefit of my friends South of the border particularly and wider readers generally, here are a few points about the SNP, about the Scottish electorate and about what is happening in Scotland that I hope will be a bit of a balance to the tantrums we are seeing played out in the full view of everybody and help my friends in England and elsewhere to understand what is happening here.
We are told over and over again that the SNP is dangerous because they want to destroy or break up Britain and therefore EVERYTHING they do and say must be seen in the context of their pathological desire to smash all that we hold dear. In fact I have been asked about this many, many times both on Facebook and in person. This usually goes along with the complaint that the SNP – the yes voters – haven’t “moved on” from the referendum of last year. That we had our arses kicked on 18th September and that we should just get over it.
Let me reassure you – we have indeed moved on. Many of us did that very quickly after the referendum, some of us took a bit longer and a few may never get over it. Me? Well, this year, on 18th September, the referendum will be a distant memory, not even given a passing thought as we celebrate my eldest son’s wedding and you know, that’s what happens in life. You get over things, you move on.
The massive surge in membership of the SNP is actually a huge demonstration of how much we are moving on. The commentators seem baffled this, they seem to think that there is some sort of mind altering substance in our Irn Bru which is turning us all into rabid nationalists. The truth is that many of us have joined political parties as part of the moving on we are doing. For its not just the SNP, its all the independence supporting parties. The SNP is the most visible but the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Green Party and one or two others are all seeing a significant increase in membership. Organisations like Women for Independence and the Common Weal have also seen growth in numbers of members and participants. Political rallies on anything from TTiP, Fracking, Anti nuclear, anti austerity, are well attended in numbers that they wouldn’t have even dreamed of at the time of the last general election. Local hustings lead to packed halls, even workshops on Economics or land reform and local book groups focusing on political books are getting plenty of support and interest.
All this activity is Scotland “moving on”. We lost the referendum, we got over it. Independence does however, remain the key policy of the SNP and there is no reason to apologise or shy away from that. Despite this we recognise that we will remain part of this United Kingdom, of Great Britain and that, in order to try to change things, to work for a better fairer society, we have to be an active part of the Westminster Political process. And that is not by staging a coup, or holding governments to ransom, but by the democratic process. This election is not about sneaking in through the back door to plant some gunpowder and blow up Britain, severing the landmass at Hadrian’s wall, it’s about working within our political system to get the best we can for Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The SNP will always do what is best for Scotland because all of the MPs we send will represent Scottish Constituencies. Just like any constituency MP their first concern must be about the needs of the people in their constituencies and about delivering for them. If …. when they win their seats they have made promises to do the best they can for their constituents, first and foremost. So every single one of them knows we have to grow the economy in Scotland AND the UK. Every single one of them wants an end to austerity in Scotland AND the UK. Because we, those of us who joined the SNP, those of us who will vote for the SNP know fine well that now independence is not happening, what we do needs to work within the wider context of Scotland as part of the UK. Indeed for many of us YES voters part of what we wanted for an independent Scotland was to be a sort of leading light, to have the sort of success that would show our neighbours, our families and friends in the rest of the UK that you can have a different sort of politics. We hoped to give voters elsewhere the confidence that there is a alternative way to achieve fairer better society, encouraging political change elsewhere in the UK. Idealistic? Of course. But a far cry from the separatist, fascist, selfish personality of the rabid cybernat that the mainstream media would have you believe makes up the majority of SNP Members and activists.
Various commentators suggest that the SNP will pull Labour to the Left…the “hard left” in fact, said with the sort of sneer that used to be reserved for Labour’s militant tendency back in the 1980s. Is that because keeping the NHS in public ownership is “hard left”? Or does believing that we should pay carers who spend at least 35 hours a week caring the same level of benefits that people looking for work get make us “hard left”? When did it become “hard left” to think that education should be free and that all our children should have the same opportunity to get a degree whatever their parents earn? Surely it’s not “hard left” to think that society is important and looking after the poor and vulnerable is the right thing to do? These policies are not policies of revolution, of a party hurtling towards communism or North Korea. In fact, for many, they are not socialist enough. These are actually policies of decency, and policies which we need as a society to enable us to start to move towards being fairer better place to belong to.
The SNP have economic plans to reduce the deficit and to grow the economy through targeted spending and a measured amount of borrowing. No one is suggesting we forget about the dreaded deficit. It’s a bit like the decision you might make to do repairs or update your house and to therefore, increase your mortgage. If your roof is failing and some of your family are getting wet when it rains, even though you are snug, you wouldn’t just leave them, you would need to get it fixed. You might not want to but you may take a loan or extend your mortgage to pay for the work. It might take you longer to pay it off but your house will be better in the long term and everyone was dry. That’s where we are now. The Society we have now is not working for us. It’s failing many of us and we need to invest a bit more to enable us to grow the economy, we need to cut a bit less and we need to take a bit longer to pay back the deficit in order to have a fairer better place for us all to live.
So is Nicola Sturgeon the most dangerous woman in politics? Not for you and me she isn’t. Not for the ordinary working person or for the person on benefits or someone having to rely on foodbanks. She isn’t dangerous to the self employed, the disabled or pensioners. She isn’t dangerous for those of us struggling to work in our NHS or struggling to afford childcare, nor for those of us scared of nuclear weapons and what they could do to our world; or those of us on waiting lists for social housing who nearly cried when they heard that David Cameron plans to sell off properties that we were hoping we would get the chance to rent one day. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are not dangerous for any of us.
She is, however, dangerous for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. There are Labour MPs in Scotland who felt they were entitled to expect the support of the people in their constituencies for as long as they wanted it and Nicola Sturgeon with her high approval ratings is a danger to them. The SNP is dangerous to those politicians who have forgotten that they are the voice of the people they represent and therefore think it’s ok to suggest that Scotland’s voters should just shut up and have no say in the politics of the UK.
A significant number of SNP MPs alone, or supported by Plaid Cymru and the Green Party will be able to form an effective opposition to any government, whether it is a Labour Government or Tory propped up by UKIP, or even the Libdems. We desperately need an effective opposition to hold the government to account, to challenge decisions, to make sure that policies are properly scrutinised. With a large group of MPs in parliament the SNP will be able to be that effective opposition. They will be able to ask questions challenge policies and demand to be heard in a way that they have been unable to do so with only six MPs. They will bring an alternative view to those of us watching on tv, reading about politics in social media. They are unencumbered by second jobs, a sense of entitlement, an “old boys network” – many of them have never been politicians before. Whether you agree with the policies of the SNP or not, it will be good to see these things challenged and properly argued. Of course the main parties feel alarmed at that possibility, they will have to show they are worth our votes in a way that they haven’t had to do for ages. The two party system is being shaken up and they know that they will ALL need to up their game. The Libdems particularly are in danger of disappearing into insignificance and that’s why Nick Clegg has been so strident in his views on the SNP when actually Nick Clegg and the Libdems have struggled to be strident about anything in the last five years. Remarkable how the chance of losing your job concentrates the mind.
This growth of a significant alternative political voice in Scotland, the galvanising of the voters into a politically educated and crucially, politically active population has the potential to be copied in England, in fact that is already starting to happen. Increases in Green Party membership, in UKIP, and the emergence of new smaller parties suggest that the potential is there for more political engagement from ordinary voters, and THAT is what they are scared of. Scared that you guys, my friends, my family in the rest of the UK will see what has happened in Scotland and think that political activism, political intelligence, economic understanding and actually engaging with politics is a good thing and take it for yourselves. Then what will they do?
The batshit crazy papers, the pasty faced, exhausted politicians, the titled privileged elite are not really scared for the future of the UK, they aren’t scared of the “hard left” SNP that doesn’t actually exist, they aren’t scared of 105 000 rabid, foaming at the mouth bravehearts because they don’t exist either, they aren’t scared of the SNP’s policies on the economy; or Nicola Sturgeon, they are my friends, scared of you, of us. They are scared of a politically aware and engaged electorate. And you know what? That’s a good thing.