You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. There’s no spin you can put on it, no positive gloss. This hasn’t been a good night for the SNP. The results of the General Election have been terrible for the party. Some of its biggest names are no longer representing Scotland in Westminster, replaced by third rate Tories and no-hope Labourites.
All the Unionist parties made gains against the SNP. Scottish Labour may have cost themselves government with their myopic and destructive hatred of the SNP leading them to nod and wink at Tory voting in order to defeat the evil nats. People in this country looked upon the Tories with their clueless Brexit, their rape clause, their benefits sanctions, and their wholesale destruction of the NHS and said to themselves “Aye, I’ll have some of that.” Now it looks like it’s Scotland that’s foisting a Tory government on England. Oh the irony. Seats that really shouldn’t have fallen fell. Maybe we need this to remind ourselves just how horrific the Tories really are. In Scotland the media never discusses Tory policy, they just let Ruth Davidson attack the SNP. We’re reaping the consequences now.
The only consolations, and they are large consolations, is that the results haven’t been any better for Theresa May and they were an utter disaster for Ukip. Tory insiders were reported as saying that they’d lost every marginal constituency that Theresa May had visited. Wish she’d spent a bit more time in Scotland. She called this election in order to take advantage of the polls which predicted a massive majority for her, and she did so in order to secure her position within the Conservative party. She made this election entirely about her. And she failed. The people of Britain have told Theresa May that they’re not disposed to give her that blank cheque to implement those Brexit plans that she won’t discuss with us. The big winners of this election are the EU Commission.
Yes, the SNP had an impossible time trying to cut through a media that was overwhelmingly biased against them. Yes, they were facing unprincipled opposition which had no compunction in lying and dissembling and which cheerfully conflated devolved issues with Westminster issues. But none of that is new. The truth is that the SNP campaign was weak, lacking in focus, and didn’t resonate with the electorate. There was no vision being given, no dream, too often it seemed that they were simply going through the motions. “Stronger for Scotland” isn’t a vision, isn’t a story. People need a story, and all the SNP offered was a soundbite. It’s not enough. We need to paint a picture of a better country, we need to tell its story and sing its songs and make it live in the imagination.
And it needs to be said that in some areas the internal disputes and divisions within the party did it no favours. The SNP should never have been at risk in a Yes voting area like Coatbridge. The fact that it lost in a Yes heartland has a lot to do with a local party that has been suspended and a central leadership that didn’t crack down sooner and more heavily on cronyism, factionalism, and in-fighting. You can hardly blame people in Coatbridge for not being attracted to an SNP which was perceived as being every bit as corrupt and dysfunctional as North Lanarkshire politics have been in the past. Pro-independence parties have to be better, and have to be seen to be better. You can’t sell a vision of a better country if you practise all the ills that you’re saying independence can remedy.
But it’s not entirely bleak. The results of this election don’t mean that support for independence is any less than it was. I’m hearing of many pro-independence supporters on the left who switched to Labour this time because they were attracted by Jeremy Corbyn’s message. There are a lot of people in Scotland who are attracted to the idea of independence because it means an opportunity to implement a left wing agenda, you can hardly blame them for being attracted to a man who seemingly offers them that agenda, even if it’s in the context of the UK.
By any objective standard the SNP won. We’re judging them against the artificially high tide of the post-referendum protest vote which saw them take almost every seat in the country. You don’t win 95% of the seats in every election. The SNP are still by far the largest Scottish party in terms of seats and in terms of vote share. They won a majority of Scottish Westminster seats and that means they secured their triple lock on an independence referendum. The Tories fought their campaign in Scotland on the sole issue of opposing another referendum, and they lost. They failed in Scotland, and their failure across the rest of the UK means that paradoxically that smaller number of SNP MPs could wield greater influence in Westminster than the larger contingent elected in 2015. Despite what you’ll be hearing in a Unionist newspaper near you, the dream of independence remains very much alive. They’ll be doing their usual thing, trying to insist that by winning the largest number of seats, by putting in their second best performance ever in a Westminster General Election, by securing a majority of Scottish seats, the SNP still somehow lost and the Tories won.
But the big news is that Theresa May has lost her clawlike hold on Brexit and lost her majority in parliament. Things have got bloody difficult for her, and by the time you read this she may very well have resigned. She’s now a zombie PM and her hard Brexit has been rejected. The Brexit negotiations begin in a few days time, and Theresa May has failed to get the backing that she wanted. She’s weaker than she was, and she was in a pretty weak position to begin with. She put party before the country, and she lost. She’s damaged goods and her authority has been fatally undermined. The vulture-like Boris Johnson has already started to circle, scenting blood. Theresa May is finished, her tenure as Prime Minister will be one of the shortest in history. She won’t be missed.
This is a pig, yet independence isn’t dead, but it now depends on what happens with Brexit, a Brexit which is now even more uncertain that it was, and it was always deeply uncertain. Scotland’s future is no longer in Scotland’s hands. We can still win this, but we won’t win by putting all the blame on the Unionists. We need to look at ourselves and consider what we can do differently. We owe that to the vulnerable, the poor, and the weak within our own communities. We owe it to our children and our grandchildren and generations yet to come. We owe it to ourselves. But we can do this. And we will.
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