OVER THE YEARS I have had minimal interest in council elections. I simply want whoever runs the council to do their job as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Ideally I would like as little party politics as possible involved in how local services are run. I would much prefer it, for instance, if I put all my rubbish in one bin and that bin went out once a week. I don’t want my council to try to change the world. In fact I want them to do as little as possible, do that little well and charge me the smallest amount they can.
In Scotland, however, all of our elections are different. Every election is an expression of public opinion about the only political issue that matters to all of us. That is what gives them their importance and the reason why I intend to first write about the local election and then at a later date turn to the General Election.
So long as public support for the SNP remains high the issue of Scottish independence will always be on the agenda. The key task for Pro-UK people is to gradually whittle away at that support. The goal is first to create a strong opposition and then to take power away from the SNP.
At present Theresa May has said that there will be no indyref2 any time soon (always use indyref2, the SNP don’t like it as it reminds them that they lost). The SNP will have to wait at least until Brexit is finished and we all have had a chance to see how it works in practice. This gives us some time. The ideal situation is to make the SNP go into the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 having to campaign explicitly for indyref2. Let all pro-independence parties make a clear, unambiguous manifesto commitment to indyref2 and see how the electorate responds. For too long the SNP has been pretending that a particular vote, in a General Election, or for the Scottish Parliament, is not about independence. They then later decide that it was in fact about independence. In fact, all votes in Scotland are always only about independence.
Theresa May can only maintain her “Not yet” strategy so long as Scottish public opinion allows her. It is crucial therefore that we take every chance to demonstrate that we agree with her. This is where council elections become important. They are not about bins, they are about the future of our country.
The council elections in Scotland will take place this Thursday on 4th May. The method of voting is by the Single Transferable Vote. This means that you can put a “1” in the box next to your first choice, “2” in the box next to your second choice etc. It is possible to have only one preference and not list others. Alternatively, you can vote for as many or as few parties as you like.
I don’t believe in negative campaigning, nor do I believe anymore in voting tactically in a First Past the Post General Election. I think voters should always vote for the party they support. I think campaigns to vote tactically against the SNP perversely help the SNP. The reason for this is that such campaigns are inherently negative and they get SNP supporters’ backs up. This encourages a “we will show them” mentality. At the last General Election I supported tactical voting. I was wrong. I think it contributed to the SNP winning nearly all the seats.
I know that some people I like and respect will disagree with me about tactical voting. To an extent it depends on where you live. If a constituency is a marginal where only one of the Pro-UK parties can challenge the SNP, then voters will naturally vote tactically. But elsewhere the vast majority of voters will not vote for a party they disagree with and rightly so. There is something dismal about it. Better by far to vote for a party you believe in. At least your choice is positive.
In the context of using Single Transferable Vote, however, it is perfectly reasonable for me to express a preference. This is, after all, what this sort of voting is designed to show. Well I will be campaigning for the Conservatives, both locally and nationally. They will be my number one choice. I hope that they will gain the maximum number of council seats in Scotland. But I will use my 2nd and 3rd preference votes. The reason for this is that I want to maximise the Pro-UK vote. These two preferences will go to the Lib Dems and Labour. I would far rather see Lib Dem and Labour councillors than those who support the break-up of the UK. Obviously if you support the Lib Dems or Labour, you might consider doing something similar with your party in first place and the other Pro-UK parties in second and third.
If there are any minor Pro-UK mainstream parties left on my ballot paper I might put them as my 4th or 5th choice. This would depend on them being moderate and sensible. Also if I know for certain that an independent councillor is Pro-UK such a person might be worthy of my vote.
But above all it is vital that Pro-UK people don’t vote for independence supporting parties at all. Better by far to leave a blank rather than add the SNP, the Scottish Greens or one of the far left independence-supporting socialist parties.
The Scottish Greens, I think, gain a certain degree of support from the fact that many voters are concerned about environmental issues. Because of this they think it won’t matter if I vote for the Greens. They won’t win power, but at least I have shown that I care about the environment. We have just seen how ill-advised this sort of thinking has turned out.
The Scottish Greens won six seats at the last Scottish Parliament Election. They have since used those seats to support the SNP demand for indyref2. I strongly suspect that many Pro-UK people voted for the Scottish Greens, perhaps not even being aware that they would support independence. The Scottish Greens themselves were vague in their manifesto about indyref2. They said that indyref2 should only happen if it was clearly the “will of the people”.
It’s time that we taught the Scottish Greens a lesson. If their Scottish Parliament seats were spread between the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems, there would be a Pro-UK majority in the Scottish Parliament. Pro-UK people must never vote for independence supporting parties. If you do, they will use your vote to push for independence.
It baffles me frankly why the Greens should support Scottish independence. What has it to do with the environment? German Greens don’t support independence for Saxony. If the Scottish Greens could be shown that supporting independence is costing them votes, then they might change this policy. Environmentally concerned Pro-UK Scots should show the Greens that supporting independence costs them votes.
Long term I think the best chance of getting rid of the SNP as the party that governs Scotland is to vote for the Conservatives. I believe the Conservatives are the strongest Pro-UK party in Scotland and the most committed to maintaining the UK. It would be better in the end if there were only one Pro-UK party in Scotland. We could all then unite behind it. That party has to be the Conservatives. They have the best leader, both in Scotland and in the UK. They have shown strength in opposing the SNP and not giving into SNP demands. They deserve our thanks rather than our opposition. It is for this reason above all that I do not favour artificially maintaining the Lib Dem or Labour vote in Scotland by means of tactical voting in a First Past the Post General Election. It prevents us from reaching the goal of a Pro UK-party eventually supplanting the SNP.
If the same party ruled Scotland as the UK there would no longer be the argument that Scotland votes one way while the other parts of the UK vote another. The SNP are above all else the Tory-hating party and use that hate to gain support. Pro-UK people must show that this hate belongs in the 1980s and with a dead prime minister who hasn’t ruled for decades. If Scottish politics could once more be about a choice between centre-left and centre-right, as it was some decades ago, then we would have defeated the SNP.
Long term I want Scotland to get back to normal party politics. My goal is that independence becomes a dead issue. But to do this we have to criticise each other. This is necessary in order to avoid being entirely negative only about the SNP. We should criticise what we disagree with across the board and be positive about the party we most support. Personally, I don’t believe that Labour can be resurrected in Scotland perhaps not in the UK either. Kezia Dugdale can't quite seem to quite make up her mind whether she really supports the UK and I've heard other Labour people claim that they would prefer independence to a "hard Brexit". Labour is too concerned with winning back its voters who defected to the SNP. Labour’s default position is to make concessions to Scottish nationalism. It is this mindset, going back 30 or 40 years, that has left us vulnerable to the SNP.
The Lib Dems have become the Remain Party. Sorry folks, but this is a bit like being the Communist Party in East Germany after the Wall came down.
In the end the little band waving red flags, longing for rule from the USSR, looked a little pathetic. It might in the short term bring some votes from disappointed Remain voters, but long term it is a blind alley. Better by far to move on. Campaigning to rejoin the EU, which would mean accepting Schengen, the Euro and national humiliation (Oh, please let us back, we can't manage on our own), is untenable. I also think that campaigning for a second EU referendum crucially undermines our position in Scotland. But then I have come across far too many Lib Dems who appear to prefer the EU to the UK and far too many who would like to weaken the UK's bonds still further and call it federalism.
I think it would be far better if all Pro-UK people voted Conservative. That is why they will be my number one choice, but I am willing to work with other Pro-UK parties while we agree to differ. We disagree on some issues, but for the most part still agree on the crucial issue of maintaining UK unity.
I support the Conservatives, but will be pleased to see Labour or Lib Dem candidates win seats from Scottish nationalists whether of the green or yellow variety. For this reason I hope all Pro-UK people use their Single Transferable vote to vote for other Pro-UK parties as 2nd, or 3rd choices. But if there is one message that we should all communicate as widely as possible, it is this. Don’t express any preference for independence-supporting parties.