I’ve been wanting to write a new blog post for ages but the political sands are shifting so much that I’ve really struggled to know what to say. So I’m just going to start writing and see where it takes me.
The General Election. Where to begin? If I lived in England I would have voted for Corbyn in a heartbeat. As I don’t it was a lot harder to decide what to do. At the moment I’m a member of the SNP so technically I can’t advocate voting for anyone but them. Let’s park that for a second, as I’m not sure right now if membership of any political party is for me. I did vote SNP, but I have to be honest that this was not a positive vote but a weary one in the knowledge that a vote for anyone else could only result in a worse outcome. Scottish Labour is very definitely NOT Corbyn’s Labour, and having had a very mealy-mouthed reply to an email pleading my local MSPs to rethink their position on a second independence referendum, I had no wish to give my support to the local Labour candidate.
People are right, the SNP didn’t run an inspiring campaign, but unlike many others I don’t blame them for this – in the main. General Elections are very difficult for the SNP because everyone knows they have zero prospect of forming the government. For this reason I was personally disappointed by the SNP leadership’s attitude to Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t know a single SNP voter or member who didn’t believe that Corbyn as PM was an infinitely better prospect – for ordinary people, for the Brexit negotiations, and for the prospects of a second independence referendum. I think talking up the prospects of a progressive alliance could have led to the SNP hanging onto some of those votes that were lost to Labour, or (worse in my view) lost to abstention through apathy.
It’s true that a lot of Labour’s manifesto has already been enacted in Scotland, but this wasn’t something to criticise Labour for! The proposals related to England and as such they should have been welcomed with open arms and supported wholeheartedly for the sake of our neighbours. Some people have suggested the SNP were outflanked on the left but this really isn’t true. The fact is that in a General Election the SNP has a limited prospectus to offer and in the face of a co-ordinated attack from unionists there was very little that could be done to combat this. Unfortunately it’s true that the SNP has little to show for two years of incredibly hard work in Westminster. Any fair minded person can see that this shows the unequal and dysfunctional union in its full glory, but that’s a difficult argument to make over the cacophony of anti-SNP and anti-independence voices in the press and the three main opposition parties. In the face of these challenges the SNP still achieved a majority of seats, and that’s pretty spectacular. The result might not be a ringing endorsement, but it’s no rejection either, and it’s certainly no grounds for dropping the one distinctive policy on which the SNP can fight a UK election – a strong voice for Scotland.
But you know, as for a second independence referendum in the near future I feel a bit, well, meh. Watching events unfold in England, with two terror attacks being rightly or wrongly linked to English cuts in police resources, and now the appalling Grenfell Tower inferno, pursuing independence for Scotland in the short term feels like a bit of an indulgence. We are seeing, right now, the real human consequences of a decade of ideological Tory austerity. People in England have started to fight back against this. And what did Scotland do – “radical, left-leaning” Scotland? Retreated to safety, that’s what. Hoards of Scots voted Conservative out of fear of being given a choice over their own future, and in the full knowledge that their Scottish government – who they love to criticise and vilify at every opportunity – has been protecting them from the worst effects of the English Tories for ten years. This is hardly grounds to have faith in the prospects of an independent Scotland.
So forgive me for feeling rather despondent right now. Yes I want a second referendum on the table in the event that Brexit goes tits up, and make no mistake the Scottish Government has a mandate to hold one and I will never stop arguing for it. But I would far rather we were rid of this poisonous Tory government once and for all, that Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer sat down for adult talks with the EU, and achieved an outcome fit for the whole UK. This is the battle I personally want to focus on right now. Rightly or wrongly, independence feels to me like a battle for another day.