Every voter in Scotland, whatever their political persuasion, knows that the May 2105 General Election is about one thing only – the future of the Union.
Every voter knows that this, not last September’s referendum, is the Union’s real last stand.
Only the traditional political parties are pretending it’s business as usual, that this is a General Election like any other. They convince themselves – no one else – of this, because, out of narrow party interest, not one of them is willing to address the constitutional change the voters want to talk about – because they know this is the only route to a sustainable union.
So, blinkers superglued in place, the main parties are treating the Union’s last stand like a local council election, with an agenda of domestic issues to the fore – and cannot understand why no one’s interested and none of their ‘campaigns’ have taken off?
The voters know that positive constitutional change that will re-form the Union as a sustainable – probably federal – state must come from the Union itself – or be negatively forced upon it [and to a very different conclusion] by a departing Scotland.
In Scotland this is not an election about issues in the normal sense. It is a crude binary division between those who want to see the SNP take Scotland by the scruff and shake it out of the UK – and those who do not, who believe in the broad shoulders, the shelter, the cultural texture, the collegiality and the mutuality of the Union that might be.
With no trace of constitutional reform on the formal agenda, the people – as with the independence referendum, are again left to save the Union by their own efforts. Let down again by the self-obsessed parties, the people have only one way to do this: slow the flood tide of the SNP and protect the Union until they can get it fixed.
Scotland’s Big Voice
Riding shotgun in defence of the Union has come Scotland’s Big Voice, [SBV] a large – around 500 – group of volunteers with a cross party membership they admit is largely Labour and Conservative, marginally favouring the former, with some Liberal Democrats and some from UKIP.
In the current situation, with the people’s one option to save the Union being to stop the SNP, this group has put its mind to how best to do this – and the answer is the absolute imperative of tactical voting.
SBV has created a predictive model, which factors-in past overall and constituency election results, continuing data from the polls, the bookies’ odds , with the final judgment call also taking advantage of local intelligence. This has produced the Tactical Voting Wheel [top and below].
The Wheel identifies 17 specific seats where voting Liberal Democrat in some and Conservative in others looks like the safest place to put an effective pro-union vote. In all other seats, the red centre of the Wheel advises a Labour vote.
Tactical voting in this case means ALL pro-union voters voting for the same pro-union party candidate in their constituency, regardless of their own normal party preferences.
At this stage, pro-union voters in Scotland are in the position of the human body faced with hypothermia: to protect the vital organs the body will sacrifice the limbs.
This is not a situation for putting party before country. It is a situation where putting the party first will see no United Kingdom left as an optional preference.
Scotland’s Big Voice [SBV] sees this as no time for sucking teeth but for swallowing old habits and doing the necessary: voting – and voting tactically – in every seat.
This is crisis action – to counter what SBV sees – plausibly – as the decisive crisis for the Union. Only this tactic can demonstrate that, in the unmentioned core issue of the coming election – retention and reform of the union or its dissolution – there are only two positions to stake out.
Tactical voting will not always defeat the separatists, although in the majority of seats, it can do so; but, where it does not, it will measure unequivocally the strength of the contrary view.
The ‘One Vote’ route
For the many who believe in the fundamental value of unity, saving the last opportunity to make unity work means that party preferences must come a distant second. Huddling in small bat-caves obsessing about how your particular party will do is not lifting your eyes to the flood tide which is sweeping in.
The question is whether the people in Scotland will prove more ruthlessly objective than the major political parties in prioritising the protection of the Union before their everyday party affiliations.
What happens to parties is of no account in Scotland in this election. It could be our last UK General Election.
With a massive new membership to keep occupied, the SNP has mobilised it to win almost every seat in Scotland. With the unionist parties divided and clueless, it has every chance of doing virtually that.
Where is the sense in answering a single question of enormous import with a flutter of different voices saying different things – and none of them an answer to the question put?
Understanding the reality can only come from seeing the picture from where the SNP stand. They have a gigantic new membership fired up by the independence well within their sights. But this is an impatient hungry horde to be fed daily to keep them motivated, otherwise they will drift away. Most are not there for a long game, are urgent for a quick result – and could make that happen.
This is the best chance the SNP may ever have of achieving their party’s raison d’etre. Why would they delay? From their perspective, it’s all about getting independence. ‘Afterwards’ is for later and tomorrow is another country.
The SNP have been able to keep their post-indyref membership surge busy in the General Election campaign. If the party does stupendously well, that triumph will drive higher the vigour of that membership and see it grow again.
Then there is the May 2016 Scottish Election on the near horizon – to which the excited and demanding membership could be instantly deployed in the wake of the General Election performance. This is the flood tide.
When Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, her predecessor was grieving for his failure in Lear-like madness, joining with firebrand Jim Sillars in advocating independence by simple UDI – Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
In an early interview, Ms Sturgeon said that she was not ‘one for short cuts to independence’ – but went on to say, however, that in a situation where the SNP manifesto for an election centred on independence, if the party won an overall majority in that election they would take that result as a mandate – a reasonable and defensible position.
The new First Minister was careful not to detail exactly what action would be regarded as mandated but why should it not be taken as a majority instruction to proceed to negotiations to establish an independent Scotland?
It is in no one’s interests for the country to be dragged through a reprise of the awful and often ugly divisiveness of indyref.
The party manifestos are not yet published. If the SNP were really bold – and they are, inspirationally, more capable of boldness than any other party – they could make this manifesto the one to bring home the bacon. And that would have the added constitutional attraction of being a mandate won in a UK General Election.
Should they hold back from this just now – and again, why should they? – it is literally unimaginable that the SNP’s 2016 manifesto will not provide the foundation for the mandate the party seeks. [The SBV Tactical Voting Wheel will be in operation on that scene as well.]
Not to take that last near-horizon chance would be to see the decline of the membership that is currently the cart pushing the horse fast down the hill; and to see the party in government go through the inevitable confidence-weakening early flounderings of making sense of ‘full fiscal autonomy’.
The out-and-out commitment to tactical voting which is essentially what SBV propose, has the immense merit of achieving three major and constructive developments in ‘one vote’:
- saving the union for constitutional reform;
- making the people the driver of positive and well-considered constitutional change to create a sustainable union;
- sending a necessary signal to the self-obsessed political parties that they recover the ability to put the big picture first and themselves second – or they’re finished, along with the Union.
Perhaps more than any of these three major achievements, the ‘one vote’ proposition can be a lively and unified popular campaign owned by the people who believe in unity, a worthy counter to the popular strength of the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign.
An alternative new start – or goodnight?
For supporters of union, ‘stopping’ the SNP is to be seen as a statement of admiration and respect for its nimble responsiveness to events and capture of opportunities that the leaden-footed pro-union parties have not even tried to match.
But admiration and respect do not imply rightness of position; nor ought they necessarily to terminate in support.
It is possible to be honest and to admit [with admiration and respect] the energy, the guile and the commitment to meticulous forward planning that has seen the SNP outpace and outthink the unionist parties – while knowing that separatist nationalism is emphatically the wrong road to take.
Separatism, to the longer sighted, is simply silly. Its a short sighted hippie Utopianism that blinds itself to the fact that if we weren’t demonising England as an excuse for unease, we’d be demonising elements of our own society. A glance at any history shows what outcome that habit brings.
Nationalism is narrow, exclusive, chauvinist, self-congratulatory, inbred. It can be – has been – racist, repressive and brutalist. All of these characteristics were evident in the deeply divisive indyref.
Nationalism is the dream of the weak not the ambition of the strong.
This is a time when the people who value unity can choose to speak and act without equivocation and, by doing so in this specific way, in ‘One Vote’, force the confrontation of constitutional reform which, alone, can save and shape a serviceable union for the future.
Otherwise it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’.