One of the more bizarre features of a UK politics which is defined by its bizarreness is that parties whose entire raison d’etre is attaining an absolute majority in the Westminster parliament claim that a party attaining an absolute majority in the Holyrood parliament is an unhealthy thing. Or more exactly, it’s a bad thing when it’s a purely Scottish party which gets an absolute majority the Scottish parliament, if they were to get it themselves that would be just jolly and British. But then the collective term for Unionist politicians is a hypocritical whine. Duplicity is their stock in trade. You know Wullie Rennie is two faced, but you can’t help wondering why he’s always wearing that one.
Getting an absolute majority in the vastly more powerful Westminster parliament, where under the pauchle known as first past the post it’s possible to get a majority with less than a third of the vote, doesn’t offend the supposedly democratic sensibilities of the UK parties as much a party getting a majority in Holyrood under a broadly proportional system. In Scotland, a party can only get a majority when it does actually receive almost half or more of the votes cast, yet this is what is supposedly the affront to democracy. They’re not too bothered by the fact that we’ve currently got a majority Tory government which is savaging public services and attacking the poor and the vulnerable on a mandate consisting of a mere 36.8% of votes cast.
Scotland has a single Conservative MP who has more power than all the other 58 MPs combined. Fluffy Mundell decided to block all the amendments put forward by the SNP to the Scotland Bill by standing up in Westminster and telling the Parliament everything he knew about everything, which took up all of fifteen seconds. Thankfully for him he had a privatised train load of Tories from the English shires to block the democratic will of Scotland’s own representatives. It’s English votes for Scottish laws.
This doesn’t bother our Unionist parties, but the fact that voters distrust them so much that all the Unionist parties together will still end up as a minority bothers them exceedingly. But it still doesn’t bother them enough for them to accept that it’s their own fault. It’s the fault of the SNP. It’s the fault of the electoral system that they designed. It’s the fault of the media for not holding the SNP to account, no don’t laugh, some of them really do say that. It’s everyone’s fault but their own. If the Unionist party leaders were about to give a hefty boot in the arse to the person most responsible for their parties’ problems, none of them would be able to sit down for the duration of the next Scottish parliament. But Scotland’s Unionist politicians will find an excuse to get out of anything except office.
Sadly for Ruth and Kezia, being leader of a Unionist party in Scotland is like being in charge of a cemetery. None of the people you’re in charge of are listening to you, your support is decomposing, and all you’ve got are memories of former glories and a future digging holes for yourself.
You can put an old dog turd in a new tin and call it progressive politics, but it’s still an old dog turd in a tin. The Unionist parties in Scotland will continue to be in the doldrums until they change what they put in their tins. They could start by becoming Scottish parties instead of adjuncts to parties based in London. They could put the interests of Scotland first and foremost instead of serving up Westminster dog turds. But that’s not going to happen. Instead they’ll continue with the comfortable nostrum that it’s all the fault of the nasty SNP, and it’s all the fault of voters for supporting them. The truth is, and it’s a truth so obvious that it really shouldn’t need to be stated, that when a once dominant political party is reduced to such an extent that the best it can hope for is a fight for a distant second place, that’s the fault of the political party. It’s the party that needs to change, not the voters.
This week a new poll shows that Labour and the Tories are tying for a very poorly placed second position. It’s sparked off a new round of speculation about whether the Tories can overtake Labour to become the official opposition. That’s the best that either of them can hope for, that’s how low their stock has sunk. Labour has utterly lost its way. Once upon a time it was the socialist hope of Scotland, now the only socialist thing about it is that its representatives have no class. The Tories were once the establishment, the only party ever to gain more than 50% of the vote in a Westminster election. Now they scrape along the bottom of Scottish politics with more predictions of a second coming than a tired auld lecher who buys viagra online.
These are the people who tell us that the SNP dominance of Scotland is such a terrible thing for Scottish democracy, yet both of them have had their own turns at dominating Scottish politics, both have screwed it up utterly, and both have learned nothing from the experience. Both still hope to dominate again, a prospect which is receding into the distance even faster than a red-shifted galaxy 13 billion light years distant.
There’s only one thing that warps and deforms Scottish politics, and that’s the fact that Scotland is a nation that isn’t allowed to be a proper nation, a country that can’t act like a normal country. The Unionist parties want that state of affairs to continue indefinitely, and that’s far more unhealthy for Scottish politics than the temporary dominance of one political party. I’d far rather have a majority government which was dedicated to the proposition of ending the sickness that warps Scottish politics and Scottish society, that promises a way out of the cage, that offers a realignment of political parties with independence. We need a Scottish majority to get there, and we’re only going to achieve it with a majority party.
The dominance of the SNP is a sign that Scotland is getting better, it’s a sign that we’re seeking a cure. It’s a healthy majority. It’s the old ways of Labour and the Tories that are an illness that leads only to the graveyard.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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