As an SNP member and someone who worked in the successful campaign to get Roger Mullin elected here in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, the election was nothing short of breathtaking. I’ll be honest and say that I did not expect the result we achieved – the fact it wasn’t even close in the end is stunning. The whole night was extraordinary. When the exit poll was announced my friends and I scoffed – and when Nicola Sturgeon tweeted advising caution at its prediction, we agreed. “58 seats? Nah. We’ll take 31, but 40 would be nice!”
Of course, in the end the exit poll wasn’t far off and delivered the most remarkable of results. As the big beasts of Labour and the Lib Dems fell, the disbelief rapidly fell away into bleary-eyed contentment. The wee hours welcomed a sense of a job well done and a realisation that Scotland is now utterly changed. There is no going back to Labour hegemony now, you sense. The landscape has shifted.
I’ll admit to taking real pleasure in the decimation of the Lib Dems – not just in Scotland but across the UK. There are two main reasons for this. First is the absolute failure of their leadership to accept their duplicity and complicity in the regressive measures felt by the most vulnerable across these Isles over the past five years. We keep hearing about their ‘pride’ in ‘providing a service’ to our nation. Clegg, in his resignation speech, spoke about how history will remember their role more kindly than the electorate. What disdain for us he must have. History will remember his appalling ‘im sorry’ video – released whilst his party willingly participated in the bedroom tax, the welfare cap and the craven capitulation on tuition fees.
The second reason is their juvenile assessment of what is going on in Scotland right now. Clegg spoke of ‘fear and division’ winning the night, as he has spoken about the SNP winning on the back of ‘fear and grievance.’ In this he shows such a lack of understanding about what has been happening now and particularly over the past year or so. It is difficult to imagine that he is being anything other than wilfully ignorant. I’ve had a brief discussion on Twitter about this issue with their leader-in-waiting Tim Farron and he too seems to share Clegg’s childish assessment. This does not bode well for the Lib Dems. Along with their cynical and desperate courting of tactical voting in the election (i’m looking at Jardine and Swinson here), their demise recieived some of the loudest cheers amongst my friends on election night. They will struggle to fight back in Scotland unless they begin to understand that the rise of the SNP is about more than narrow-minded, flag-waving and tribal nationalism.
The demise of Labour still doesn’t give me much in the way of real pleasure. Scotland should have a party which represents the working class and whose primary function is to represent people in work, looking for work and those without the means to do so. Labour have abandoned that ground and the SNP have skilfully occupied it – particularly so in the short time that Sturgeon has been at the helm. It was clear from the brief amount of canvassing I did that people are far more willing to back the SNP with Sturgeon at the helm than if Salmond had still been there. Michael Connarty, who gave one of the most dismissive and bitter interviews on election night, seemed to suggest that Scotland had been suckered into some sort of personality cult around Sturgeon. Again, such a miserable analysis deserves short shrift. The people of Scotland are nothing if not canny, and particularly so since the referendum. The SNP have occupied the space Labour one held tightly. The likes of Connarty cannot countenance this and their bile runneth over. I’m glad he was bundled.
One thing that does frustrate is the oft-repeated charge from Labour that somehow the SNP let the Tories in – that the rise of the SNP allowed the Tories to frighten English voters with the prospect of Ed being in the pocket of, firstly, Salmond and post-debate, Sturgeon. As Ian Bell writes in the Sunday Herald, such a position seems to suggest that Labour are saying that Scottish voters should decline the overtures of a legitimate party and ‘declare themselves subordinate to the prejudices of English voters.’ If this is the case, of course, then what is the point of the Union? If English voters won’t tolerate our elected officials having influence then that path leads to one door – Independence.
Of course attention must be paid to the bile that came our way from both the Conservatives and the right-wing media during the election. One only has to recall the fears of Boris Johnson at the coming ‘ajockalypse.’ And it’s the SNP cybernats that are are the small-minded, divisive and abusive people allegedly! I read an article which suggested that anti-Scots feeling is running high in certain circles down south now. That the PM himself participated so wilfuly in this will surely have tainted him in the eyes of many Scots. He spoke just after the election of wanting to govern as ‘one nation.’ The level of brass neck required to state this having painted the prospect of Scots electing SNP parliamentarians as dangerous (we’d blackmail Ed!) and somehow illegitimate is nothing short of astounding. Cameron should apologise to Scots for the bilious campaign he and his party ran.
That it was ultimately successful brings a great sadness. What do we have to look forward to over the next five years? A Conservative party with a majority should frighten us all. Massive cuts to welfare are undoubtedly coming, but where? Child benefit? And what else? Another VAT rise? For sure there are measures coming which should chill the bones of any progressive; young people will be denied housing benefit and compelled to work for the most risible of social security. Trident will go ahead. The abolition of the Human Rights Act is in their sights. And, for goodness sake, the return of fox hunting. And so much more. And no mistake should be made here – nobody has been duped. The Tories have been voted in and those that voted for them did so under no illusion of what they are about. It is that which chills me the most.
The new contingent of SNP MPs are going to have a tough time ahead of them. Ultimately the Conservatives can ride roughshod over everyone else in parliament. But in no way should any SNP voter regret their decision to elect an SNP MP. I’d much rather have a noisy SNP MP resisting the coming tidal wave of regression than the at-times utterly supine Labour representation we’ve had in parliament, who voted with the Tories in their last budget, who were absent on fracking, and who agreed with the Tories on Trident. And it seems the overwhelming majority of voting Scots feel the same. As such, the SNP must step up and resist these and other measures. They must make it impossible for the goverment to simply ignore them and ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard loud and clear in parliament as a progressive voice for the whole of these Isles. If Labour lurch to the right as it looks increasingly like they might, then they might be the only sizeable bloc of progressives left in the house. Interesting times lie ahead, for sure.
Alan Mackie, Sunday 10th May