The turnout for Thursday’s election in Scotland was only 55.6%, as stated by the BBC, which was a far cry from the vision of an awakened electorate following on from the referendum in 2014. What we saw on Thursday was the apparent recovery of the Liberal Democrats, the collapse of Labour, the gains of the Conservatives and the unsurprising victory of the SNP. The Greens also had an underwhelming night – increasing their vote share by 0.6%. We now have more of the rainbow parliament that was expected of it when it was first formed in 1999 but it is not quite that simple.
Labour’s pitch this election was to try and place itself to the left of the SNP to deal with issues such as poverty and equality but their main issue is, and probably the main reason for their collapse, that the SNP have convinced voters that they now occupy the old left wing space which the Labour Party once held. How true is this?
Without going into it in great depth there are a few points on which this claim of being left wing cannot be built. Teacher numbers have fallen in Scotland even with the promise of commitment to education; the SNP promised to scrap council tax in 2007 but have not done so yet, but the council tax freeze actually puts pressure on council services at a time when they are needed the most; and, lastly, the SNP promised to do away with Student Loans and put means-tested grants in their place, to benefit lower income household students, but a University of Edinburgh report shows that poorer students, even in the absence of Tuition Fees, could expect to graduate with just as much debt as students from the rest of the UK. This is said even at a time when going to university has the least impact and getting a job would be far more rewarding. The biggest issue there is to be had with the SNP is the fact that the Scottish Government currently runs on a deficit “40% higher than the rest of the UK” and the SNP claims to be anti-austerity – a claim which has been thoroughly rubbished.
Even though I, personally, am anti-austerity, believing instead in economic stimulus, and believe in Scottish independence it must be said that the SNP have Westminster as a convenient point of blame without which they would have to face up to their political shortcomings. In short, the SNP are a centralist centrist party which seeks to retain poor control of the economy but uses leftist rhetoric to appeal to a base of disaffected Labour voters.
Maybe this explains their slight drop in support this election – maybe people are beginning to see that the rhetoric and results no longer add up. This is why Labour was destroyed – the SNP now have the monopoly on the ‘left wing’ and Labour cannot crowbar their way back in. The Scottish Conservatives, however, placed themselves significantly to the right of the SNP and managed to win both disaffected Labour voters and the wide base of Conservative support in Scotland. The Lib Dems and Greens just hoovered up anything else which remained – they tried the alternative line.
The most disappointing thing in our current political climate is that the answer to, what is perceived to be, an ‘non-liberal’ climate is to further push either a pro-austerity, effectively, pro-wealth agenda or a more Modern Liberal agenda which seeks to satisfy voters’ apparent want to deal with issues such as ‘climate change’ and ‘wage inequality’ – issues which are promoted as genuinely threatening concerns. Currently the only major focus that this Government should have is to protect the NHS, redevelop the Scottish primary and secondary industry base, and widen the job market. Not one party, of all the parties in Scotland, has decided to face up to these prospects – they are all driven by independent ideologies.
Thus, we have walked into a period of utter banality where all we hear are the ideological arguments of each separate party and not enough being done to further the needs of the country. Whatever is required for this country to progress must be done without question instead of us adhering to an ideology of political correctness and refusal to face the truth. It has been said that an imperfect Democracy would be preferable to an Enlightened Dictatorship but this is simply untrue. The people of this country know that they have effectively given a mandate, repeatedly, for a thoroughly impotent party and yet they continue to question why the issues that existed before, and were promised to be corrected, still exist.
People, in reality, do not want much more for an education, a job, a means of life for their family, and for the law of the land to be adhered to. Outside of this they do not care about any political ideology or –ism and that is why the SNP, and independence, will eventually fail unless they readdress these issues.
Image credit: flickr.com/jriddell