The Scottish results in the UK General Election of 2015 already flag a historic step change. Each of the three major opposition parties no longer earn that description in Scotland, having been left with a single seat each – out of the 59 available; and with all of the other 56 going by clear majorities to the SNP.
The only ‘success’ for the other parties was with the Scottish Conservatives, who succeeded in resisting a mightily determined effort by the SNP to take their one Westminster seat in Dumfries & Galloway. So, unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives lost nothing; and their Scotland-wide vote held up very substantially better than that of the two major losers. But this is still in the field of consolation prizes.
The result means that Scotland as an entity is represented at the United Kingdom parliament at Westminster only and fully by the SNP; and although the Secretary of State for Scotland is the sole Scottish Conservative MP [David Mundell, in a constitutional inevitability with the majority government of the UK currently a Conservative one], the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee is chaired by senior SNP MP, Pete Wishart.
With no seats outside Scotland, the SNP has nevertheless become the third most represented party in the UK, displacing the Liberal Democrats and thereby depriving them of important means of recovery in allocated funds and office space for their Westminster presence.
There is also a collegiate sense amongst the SNP MPs which is absent in any other party. While this is much more achievable in a smaller party with a specific geographical locus, it is heavily reinforced by the draconian discipline the SNP imposes on its representatives. Individual SNP MPs may not criticise, even privately and internally, either party positions or other individual party members.
This is demonstrative of the SNP’s totalitarian mindset; but while the profound negatives this brings are increasingly plain in Scotland, there are those at Westminster who envy the predictably unified clout it enables the SNP party machine to deliver on votes in the House of Commons.
Against this background, it now seems likely that the nationwide referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union will take place in 2016, later in the same year as the latest Scottish Election.
This referendum is likely to demonstrate profound contradictions within the separatist camp on the notion of ‘union’.
The older union of the United Kingdom is certain to be informally rejected in the 2016 Scottish Election by an overwhelming majority vote for the separatist convictions of the Scottish National Party.
The newer union of European states is likely to be supported by a majority of the Scottish vote in that referendum, whatever way the majorities fall of our three fellow members of the UK.
This will not, of course, represent anything like the genuine thinking support for the EU it may superficially seem; but will be yet another obedient mass expression of a given separatist strategy.
The sort of ‘independence’ put forward by the White Paper for Scotland’s Future – even in those more plausibly balmy finances of 2o14, was never envisaged as a brave standalone independent nation but always as one safely tucked into the shelter of a union.
Thu union proposed as protection had to be the European Union, by default rather than from love, since the union of the United Kingdom in which Scotland existed and exists is inevitably shaped by the detested England, as by far the largest population and economy in that union.
Some commentators persist in claiming that the SNP has rid itself of its racist anti-Englishness of not that long ago. This is mistaken. It may appear to be so if one does not look beyond the clearly enlarged number of the intelligensia who now support the SNP. Most of this cohort genuinely has no residual visceral recoil from England and the English.
However, much as the growth of the ‘chattering class’ element amongst the SNP aficionados may be indicative of its wider acceptability, that element does not account for the earth-moving bulk of the SNP vote. This remains, often openly, anti-English – and, importantly, anti-immigration.
Rationally, this ought to prove something of a stumbling block for many obedient members of the mass vote in following party wishes to register a strong Scottish vote for staying in the EU.
There is general awareness of the huge welter of refugees swirling around Europe, infiltrated by no one knows what proportion of Daesh terrorists; and of the EU’s daily and desperate struggles to contain and manage the refugee crisis against the principle of the open-borders Schengen agreement from which Britain opted out.
All of this ought to make a majority Scottish vote to stay in the EU a far less certain result in the coming referendum. It will make some difference in the usual freedom from identification the polling booth offers those with honest anxieties that are far from unreasonable in the current threat of exposure to the most barbaric terrorism imaginable.
It may not, however, in practice make much of a difference at the ballot box.
We are living in a Scotland where its SNP government is manifestly failing the country – and seriously – in every single one of the key areas of responsibility where the country requires competence and which the people hold dear for themselves and for their families’ futures – education, health, policing, transport and financial management.
Yet, despite evidenced failures at a deep level in every one of these areas, the mass vote for the SNP remains unmoved and unchanged.
This cannot, of course, last beyond the succession of hard decisions all postponed until after the May 2016 Scottish Election. Before any obvious weakening, though, this blinkered fidelity will deliver one last mighty tankful of adrenaline for the separatists in this very election.
After that – and with the weight of responsibility on the way from hugely enhanced devolved fiscal powers, things will start to change.
The postponed decisions will each offend some portion of the electorate. John Swinney will only be able to buy the continuing support of the masses in spreading contentment by following through on the extravagant spending promises he and his party have made on enhanced welfare.
The level of these commitments is not now even arguably affordable for a Scotland in an oil economy which may well stick between $30 to $40 a barrel for quite some time.
This means that the Finance Secretary can only buy the mass vote by causing genuine pain from the tax burden placed upon the middle class intelligentsia who have given a welcome new respectability and ‘edge’ to the SNP.
Mr Swinney has shown no identifiable appetite for facing up to the decisions he must take between this rock and that hard place – but he will not be able to avoid that moment for long without losing more of his already degrading credibility.
When that moment comes – and the evidence from some of his recent statements suggests that he is fully aware of this – he will have no choice but to satisfy the mass vote on which the SNP success absolutely depends. This can only entail a tax regime which sacrifices an unknown quantity of support amongst the earning middle class and the successful entrepreneurial class on both of which the country’s ability to earn its way in a 21st century economy actually depends.
For Argyll predicts that what will cause the eventual return of the SNP to mundane vulnerability is a split in the party – and probably multiple splits. This is very much more likely than any miraculous rebirth of any of the opposition parties.
The biggest of these splits will have less to do with a more restricted dispensation from the pork barrell than previously; and a lot more to do with a sense in the mass SNP vote of their betrayal by the party leadership. This came in the Sturgeon-Swinney failure of courage to grasp the moment – now gone – when one last push for independence was achievable and would have been won.
That historic victory in the 2015 UK General Election was won by the SNP taking no more than 50% of the vote in a 71.1% turnout the rest being split between the also-rans: 24.3% for Labour; 14.9% for the Conservatives and 7.5% for the Liberal Democrats.
Had the First Minister had the political killer instinct and the necessary courage to send her party away from their October Conference in Aberdeenshire with a commitment to a 2016 Scottish Election manifesto request for a mandate for independence negotiations, the SNP infantry would have risen to that challenge in mythical storm heights and recruited even more from those still numerous ranks of the ‘don’t voters’.
The party would also have had – and will have – a predictable and very substantial majority of the new 16 and 17 year old voters who fire to the idealist notion of freedom in independence and the current radical chic of the SNP. The combined additional vote of new recruits from the ‘don’t voter’ ranks and the newly onstream 16 and 17 year olds could have seen the job done in May 2016 – with the lack of care for the consequences that, rightly and wrongly but bravely, marks every successful revolution.
This will not now happen and is unlikely ever to happen in our lifetime, with the big and widely understood wake-up calls that ‘events’ have thrown at the over-cautious SNP leadership:
- the long and enduring cliff-fall in oil prices which underpinned the economy of an independent Scotland;
- the rise of an enduring form of slippery terrorism that can only be countered to any degree by the heavy investment in intelligence of a major league economy;
- the absolute imperative now for the tightest border security for the continuing UK [which is outside and will not join the EU Schengen open border agreement], which would have to come into place against an independent Scotland in any capable homeland security strategy;
- the knowledge of the very significant debt burden from borrowing which the Finance Secretary has quietly run up – £50 billion by 2019-20 – despite his commonly assumed disposition to prudence.
As it sinks in to the consciousness of the SNP infantry that the indy dream is over, buried by a workmanlike but leaden-footed leadership that was unable to recognise or grasp the unique chance of the moment the troops had delivered it, a proportion of those ground forces will simply wither away, once bitten.
Others, though, will go it alone; and establish the sort of group through which they can commit to the dedicated and fearless pursuit – that would be within their own sure control – of independence at the first opportunity, at all costs.
Another split will be around fracking and underground coal gasification, to which the clear majority of the party membership is vocally opposed – but which the SNP government is going to have to licence if it is to make any sense of the Scottish economy. The North Sea as a source of serious oil and gas revenues will never be the same again; but the ‘unconventionals’ offer an enticingly lucrative alternative.
And another split will come on taxation. The middle classes are a cheap hit which keeps the non-workers sweet and avoids offending the rich benefactors whose largesse the SNP has sought and to which it is fast becoming accustomed.
But the middle classes are mobile. They want to work. They value work. They want to keep as much as possible of what they earn from their wok – and they will migrate to where that is most possible.
Those who have taken up with the SNP will leave both the party and Scotland. Motivated by their own independence from state support and by their work ethic, they earn their way, they pay their taxes, they make few, if any, claims on the state. They will be a hefty economic and social loss.
But for the SNP, the alternative of the breaking of the promises of plenty they have made to their own new recruited mass socialist vote, is immediate rather than, shall we say ‘progressive’ suicide.
Of the other parties, the Scottish Conservatives are the ones looking most likely to have got themselves into the right place to replace the SNP when the time comes.
Labour has neither the current capability, vision or leadership to renew and reposition themselves in Scotland. Even the start of this work is well into the future.
The Liberal Democrats have been so eviscerated – in Scotland and nationally – that they have been left without any credible means of recovery. They risk full obliteration and, if that comes about, will leave the country which has long been their honourable intellectual stronghold without what has been a political philosophy central to the perception of democracy itself.
A very interesting test of the spine of the SNP leadership may come if the outcome of the EU membership referendum is the one they s recently hoped for: the Scotland majority voting to stay in where the majority of the UK as a whole votes to come out.
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond before her have said that this scenario – described emotively as ‘Scotland being ripped out of the EU by the rest of the UK’ – would be a legitimate trigger for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
It has been obvious for some time that, whatever tribal canon they mouth, this is not where the current leadership actually want to go – but if this scenario came into being, how would they account to their membership for the setting aside of that opportunity [which, again, the infantry would hace given them] – and particularly in the wake of what will be a stonking Scottish Election victory?
We thought first 2014, then 2015 was a whale of a year. 2016 promises to raise the bar on political whaling.