Stronger for Scotland – or a chance to rejoin political reality?

Stronger for Scotland – or a chance to rejoin political reality?

by Grant Simpson
article from Thursday 11, May, 2017

NICOLA STURGEON’S many straplines in the coming four weeks will be all about Scotland’s voice being heard at Westminster. She’ll tell us that only with an SNP vote and the largest number of SNP MPs being elected can the voices of Scots be heard. Being “Stronger for Scotland” means electing only Scots who are SNP members.

The logic of Ms Sturgeon’s contention is that, in order to get the very best outcomes for Scots, it is essential that we don’t have any representation actually within the UK government. The SNP’s message is that the way we’ll influence policy is by not having any of our people being part of the government. It is apparently more productive for us Scots to be totally represented by people not in any positions of power. According to Ms Sturgeon, with all of our representatives not being in the government, we’ll get much more done; we’ll get our ideas put into action by simply opposing everything the government says and does.

Furthermore, it will benefit all of us in Scotland if that opposition is made regardless of whether the UK government policy is good or bad. You see, being “Stronger for Scotland” is about objecting, spoiling, and opposing any policy; it’s about opposing for opposing’s sake. Scots citizens will be best served by having every single one of our representatives at Westminster in opposition.

Sound ridiculous? That’ll be because it is ridiculous. The SNP’s slogans and position are almost childlike when stripped down and the logic considered.

I rather like the idea of having an MP who is “inside the big tent”, making the decisions on my behalf. I like the idea of being able to contact someone in the government who has the ear of senior ministers. The idea that an experience or thought I might have on business, for example, could find its way directly to the policy makers via my MP seems a very attractive one.

The alternative is to be a constituent of an MP standing outside the tent, perpetually yelling and grumbling away about whatever grievance Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon have decided upon for them that day. That’s how it has been for a majority of Scots since the 2015 General Election. No doubt some of “the 56” have done some decent work for constituents – but it’s hard to see how they had time in between grievance manoeuvres.

My own MP since 2015 has been Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. I tried on a number of occasions to correspond with Ms Ahmed-Sheikh. After my first enquiry appeared to fall on deaf ears, I reminded her with two, gentle, follow-up emails. These too, however, were to prove futile. In the end I, and a similarly frustrated constituent, wrote about our experiences in the Kinross Community Newsletter. Lo and behold, the tactic of engendering embarrassment worked and a response was finally received. I was pleased to receive this, even if it was a blandly drafted effort by some staffer. We didn’t want to have to go to this length to encourage a response. But having had to, it did reinforce my sense that having an SNP MP was not in the best interests of the constituency.

Whether my emails were ignored as a result of my preference for keeping the UK together, I cannot say. I hope not, though; that would be even worse than simply having an MP with tardy correspondence habits……….

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh has been a noisy MP. An ever present, faithful attendant at the equally noisy Alex Salmond’s side, with some form of Foreign Affairs brief. She has often starred on the BBC’s “Question Time”, and proffered her opinions on whichever other current affairs vehicle she could squeeze into. But what has she achieved? What has she done for her constituents? Which elements of government policy has she crafted or even contributed the perspective of her constituents to? Answers on a very small postcard.

But there is a much broader point here than having an MP of limited efficacy. It’s a matter of what that MP’s key political drivers are. A person joining the SNP doesn’t do so because of their position on the political left/right spectrum. That simply cannot be the case when one considers the relative stances on a range of matters of, say, Brian Souter and Mhairi Black. No, a person joining the SNP does so because they do not wish Scotland (in its 300-year-old constitutional arrangement) and the UK to be a success. They want to break that arrangement, regardless of whether the result is good or bad for the people of Britain. That breaking up of Britain is their raison-d’être and it’s what drives their position on every single political matter.

In that context, it is difficult to understand how any SNP MP can properly represent Scottish constituents at Westminster. How could anyone trust an SNP MP with a serious issue when we know that they will first, last and always look at your issue through the prism of the constitutional debate? How they will act on your issue will invariably depend on how that action impacts on that constitutional debate. You may think that sounds incredible, but the reality is that this is the driver of their political existence.

It is clear to me that having a Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem MP offers a better opportunity to have constituents’ interests acted upon. They don’t exist for the single, sole purpose of promoting the break-up of the UK. They exist for the good of their constituents. I may not agree with all (or even any) of their economic or social policies across the left/right spectrum, but I do feel, strongly, that they want Scotland and the UK to be a success.

The coming General Election is offering us a second chance. It’s an opportunity to re-join political reality. We have a chance to elect MP’s whom we could trust to consider our issues at face value.

Even better, we have a chance to elect some of our own people as members of the governing party. We can put our own people back into that “big tent”. Our own people taking our thoughts, ideas and views into account whilst policies that will define our way of life are developed, debated and defined. Doesn’t that sound better than the alternative?

In my area, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is a failed experiment; one that has gone horribly wrong. We are though, getting an early chance to re-set the experimental parameters and have another go. I’ll be taking that chance to give my vote to Luke Graham, the excellent Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party candidate. Looking at last week’s Council election results, particularly the first preference votes, the Scots Tories would seem to be in with the best chance of beating the SNP here. Allied to that, having met Luke, he appears a very decent man who I think would be great as our representative in the House of Commons.

Our own MP, actually in the party of Government? Taking Scots constituents’ interests directly into the policy making process? I like it - that’s what I’d call Stronger for Scotland.

To read more from Grant Simpson visit his blog An Edinburgh Engineer


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