‘An endless drizzle of complaint’. That’s how an English historian on the BBC referred to Scotland in this general election. You might think that 1.6 million Scots voting to leave the UK would be enough but apparently Peter Hennessy thinks we can do better.
It’s a sad fact that nearly every piece of news about Scotland in this election has been negative. As a Scottish person (I voted no) living in England it has been hilarious to watch. The Conservatives have been running up and down England screaming at every TV camera they can find “The SNP are coming, isn’t it awful?!”. Meanwhile Labour has been insisting that if they have to share their toys with the SNP they’d rather not play.
The response in Scotland has been utter confusion. The parties that seemed to be so insistent on Scotland staying part of the ‘family of nations’, as David Cameron loves to call it, now seem desperate to isolate and demonise the party that the Scottish people are choosing. There should be no doubt, this is being taken personally. Let’s take a fun trip back in time to see why Scotland seems hell-bent on kicking Labour out.
Labour has had almost complete control over Scotland since Margaret Thatcher did a few things that made some people unhappy. You might expect that a region that steadily supplied Labour with at least 40% of its seats at every election since 1987 would get something in return. But no. Just like the North of England, Scotland was ignored by Labour because the vote was stable and the trusty Scots didn’t need a bribe to keep them in line. Then in 1997 Tony Blair decided it might be an idea to offer something in return for good behaviour so he announced there would be a referendum for the creation of a Scottish Parliament. Blair thought that this would guarantee Scottish votes for Labour forever. He was wrong.
A Scottish Parliament gave the SNP an opportunity to push for Scotland without the messiness of having positions on UK issues. Combining that message with the charismatic and expanding leadership of Alex Salmond it worked. The Labour vote in Scotland was suffocated almost as if Salmond was sitting on it. People started to realise that Labour had never done anything for them. Scotland was, and still is, poorer than England and poverty is rising not falling. People noticed that everyday Scotland was obediently shifting millions of barrels of oil down South and never seeing it again.
So in 2011 Scotland gave the SNP what they wanted. A majority in Parliament despite a voting system which had been designed to stop that from ever happening (because that’s not sinister at all). 3 years of campaigning later – a very tedious three years I might add – a referendum was held on Scottish independence. Much to the surprise of Scottish people the UK parties, who were shocked into action by a YouGov poll which gave the ‘Yes’ vote the lead, scrambled North to defend the union. David Cameron appeared on Scottish news almost in tears begging Scotland not to leave. He couldn’t have looked more like a cheating husband begging the wife to stay.
Maybe to get Dave to stop crying or maybe for real reasons, Scotland voted no. People were swayed by the argument that voting no didn’t mean the status quo, it meant something different and better for Scotland. Well it’s 8 months later and basically nothing has changed apart from Alex Salmond morphing into a thinner, more popular woman with bad hair. So Scotland feels betrayed and if you’ve ever seen Braveheart you know we’re all about betrayal. So just like we kicked out the Conservatives, which you were all fine with, we’re now kicking out Labour and everyone has lost their minds.
Yes the SNP are popular. No they are not a one issue party –they’re the government of Scotland. Yes we do deserve some influence for once. No it is not unfair.
Like them or not the SNP are coming and they have a right to be heard.
By Ali Gardiner
[Image Credit: Walt Jabsco]