Make no mistake, the election campaign being fought in Scotland is very different from elsewhere in the UK
On 12 December, a general election will take place. Every voter from across our four nations will have the opportunity to have their say. But the priorities and policies being debated in the campaign in Scotland are very different. From the increased support for Scottish independence to the SNP being the leading anti-Tory party in Scotland. Although this general election could be “historical” for the broader UK, it feels like a very different campaign in Scotland from the one south of the border.
Let me be clear…
I want to see Corbyn in 10 Downing Street. I believe it will be the best route for the UK to start to heal after nearly 40 years of neo-liberal cheerleaders at the helm. And I believe the innovative and radical policies Corbyn is proposing will help those most vulnerable across these islands.
But for Scotland, that’s not the end of our journey. Most notably, in relation to both Brexit and Scotland’s constitutional arrangements. According to the latest opinion polls, support for Scottish independence has grown to 49% with ‘don’t knows’ removed.
And Scotland also voted 62% to Remain in the European Union in June 2016. This has been a bone of contention for relations between the Conservative UK government and the SNP government in Edinburgh. But according to the first minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish government has a “cast iron” mandate to hold Indyref2 because of Brexit.
And in my opinion, that ought to be respected by any incoming prime minister.
‘Those’ tweets from Corbyn
Whilst campaigning in Scotland, Corbyn reacted to a comment made in an interview when Sturgeon demanded he gives Scotland Indyref2 in exchange for support in Westminster. Sturgeon’s comments could be viewed as throwing down the gauntlet to Corbyn.
The leader of the UK Labour Party later took to Twitter making these claims:
Nicola Sturgeon has just said this about me:
“I won’t help him in power, to get into power, to stay in power.”
Just like in 1979, @theSNP are willing to usher in another heartless Conservative government.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 13, 2019
But Corbyn appeared to leave out important context when referring to the vote of no confidence in 1979 which led to Margaret Thatcher coming to power. Although the SNP did not back Callaghan’s Labour government in the vote, a general election would have taken place a few months later because the five-year term would have lapsed.
As reported by The National, Channel 4 correspondent Ciaran Jenkins responded to Corbyn’s tweet saying:
[What Nicola Sturgeon] actually said was: ‘I won’t help him in power, to get into power, to stay in power if he doesn’t accept the principle that whether there is a referendum in Scotland and what the timescale of that referendum should be should be determined by the people of Scotland.’
Jeremy Corbyn has made it appear [Nicola Sturgeon] would not support him in power when her actual position is that she would support him in a specific circumstance that he has for some reason omitted.
After seeing the tweet, Sturgeon said:
Desperate stuff from Labour – I was in primary school in 1979. I’ll never support Tories in power. But Labour would have big questions to answer if they gave up a chance at UK government in order to block Scotland’s right to choose our own future.
But the mud-slinging continued…
Counter to claims in a later tweet from Corbyn, Sturgeon has indicated she’s willing to help Corbyn into Downing Street if her concessions are met.
Most noteworthy, Sturgeon made it clear the legal powers (a section 30 order) should be given to the Scottish Parliament to hold Indyref2 in exchange for SNP support at Westminster. Moreover, the SNP are naturally aligned to UK Labour in policies such as “scrapping” Tory welfare reform and support for a green new deal for Scotland. It has also ‘demanded‘ action to alleviate child poverty from the UK government.
I mean stop me if I’m wrong, but asking for the powers to hold a legal referendum which the Scottish Parliament has already voted on seems a fair deal. By doing so, it locks Boris Johnson out of power. And if the numbers work, puts Corbyn into Downing Street with a working majority if there’s a hung parliament. Moreover, Scotland and the SNP get their referendum – win-win for everyone.
Corbyn is our only hope
Corbyn has now said that he’ll back a referendum after 2021. This meets Sturgeon’s demand that it be accepted “in principle”. Both Conservatives and Lib Dems have blocked the possibility. So like Sturgeon, I think Corbyn is the Scottish independence supporters only chance of gaining Indyref2.
I feel it’s vital for Corbyn to stick to promoting his radical policies. As a Scottish independence supporter, I can enthusiastically cheer him on. I also welcome Corbyn agreeing to Indyref2 post-2021 although a mandate does already exists to hold one prior to the next Scottish Parliament election in May 2021.
The ‘safe’ anti-Tory vote
In Scotland, we have ten marginal seats with less than 270 votes between the top two candidates.
In Stirling for example, Conservative MP Stephen Kerr has a majority of just 148 votes and the SNP are the nearest contenders. At the 2017 general election, Scottish Labour was over 7,000 votes behind the Tories.
So in Stirling, under a first past the post (FPTP) electoral system, it’s logical to vote SNP to kick the Tories out. Similarly, in Ochil and South Perthshire, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock and Angus SNP are the logical anti-Tory vote.
Unfortunately, under FPTP in many seats in Scotland, a vote for Corbyn’s Labour could result in a Tory victory. But it’s important to acknowledge that some Labour and SNP marginals exist – such as Rutherglen and Hamilton West and Glasgow North East. In these types of seats, it might be wise to vote based on recent polls. At the moment, Scottish Labour is polling poorly on 12% – down from 27% at the election in 2017. On the other hand, SNP is currently polling at 42%, up from 37% in 2017.
It’s going to be a tough one for Scottish Labour
I personally think it’s looking to be a tough one for Scottish Labour in general. And if Labour has any seats left in Scotland that can be seen as a success.
If Labour seats are lost, the SNP would look to support Labour’s radical catalogue of policies – some of which are already in place in Scotland. And with the increased risk of Lib Dems making some gains in Scotland, it’s vital for voters to try and avoid another Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
In the EU Elections in May 2019, Scottish Labour plummeted from 26% of the vote in 2014 to just 9.3% – losing all seats. With Scottish Labour having such shit electoral performances since 2014, you would think it would drop their staunch ‘no to Indyref2‘ narrative. But alas, it presses on.
So there you have it…
In Scotland, some of the priorities and issues up for debate up in Scotland during this general election are different from the wider UK. The SNP and Labour share many goals – such as radical reform to Tory inhumane welfare reforms and cuts to social support. But for Scotland, it’s also about considering the SNP as the most effective anti-Tory vote under FPTP. And it’s about the increased support for Scotland to become an independent country.
But for now, my message to Corbyn is good luck – I’m rooting for you. And keep your campaign focused on your fantastic and innovative policies. But please, less mud-slinging more constructive criticism. You’re better than that.
If the numbers on 12 December dictate, both the SNP and the Labour Party could lock the destructive Tories out of power. And that’s what we all want.
Featured image via Vipi Room/YouTube
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