In the Westminster elections on June 8th the SNP lost 21 seats. That doesn’t sound like much if you say it quickly, and it could have been worse. Much worse. Stephen Gethins in Fife was elected with a majority of just TWO. Neil Gray in Airdrie went from a 9596 majority to a mere 195. Overall the SNP lost 476,867 votes. almost half a million people who previously voted SNP in 2015 either switched to other parties or failed to turn out. Examination of the figures shows that Labour gained almost 10,000 votes on their 2015 showing, yet the Tories gained a whopping 323,852 votes more than their last time out.
Last week RISE co-founder Cat Boyd revealed that she had voted for Labour in the 2017 Westminster elections to show her support for Jeremy Corbyn. The revelation that a well kent face of the Indy movement had gone back on her word and voted Labour (she previously stated she would “never” vote Labour again) was siezed upon by many, with some claiming it showed that Labour were winning back voters from the SNP. In all likelihood they were in a roundabout way. Many people wanted to show solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn in England and voted for “him”. In reality they were voting to endorse an anti independence manifesto and in some cases (like Ian Murray) anti-Corbyn candidates. Someone as well versed in politics as Cat Boyd, who has a weekly column in The National should have known this. Voting for a party is an endorsement of their manifesto. If you want to change that manifesto then you join the party and change it.
Putting that detail aside though, Cat, like many others looked at Labours UK manifesto and swung on behind, no doubt hoping to sweep the Tories out in the process. Even though they supported independence and as Cat herself said, she still does, they voted for a party which was offering something they felt was immediately achievable, even though it contradicted their long term goal. Why? That is simple; their long term goal wasn’t on offer. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP were intent on playing down talk of a second referendum to such an extent that not only did some of their core vote slip away to Labour, but many, many more just didn’t turn out at all. They weren’t fired up. They weren’t inspired. The message they received was clear: This election isn’t about independence. Their response? We’ll come back when it is.
Overall Labour gained only 9860 more votes than 2017. That’s a fraction more than the total votes lost by Neil Gray alone! So while the SNP were failing to motivate their supporters they were also losing votes to Labour. Labour’s problem was of course that they were losing voters in even bigger numbers to the Tories. The Tories had set themselves out as defenders of the union and employed the same tactic they had employed in the council elections: treat every election as a mini-referendum, motivate the voters and get them out. Which they did, pulling in an extra 323,852 votes on 2015, in an election where the turnout was down overall by over a quarter of a million votes.
That was never more evident than in the SNP’s vote, and if there’s a lesson they need to learn it’s that they too have to treat every election as a referendum, because every defeat will be used to hammer away at not only the SNP but at the cause of independence. Because although supporting independence doesn’t mean you automatically support the SNP, we need to recognise that every defeat for the SNP, any deficiency in their policy as a party is, by unionist logic, reason against independence. If the SNP are poor on education then an independent Scotland by default would also be poor. Repeat ad nauseum.
In the last 12 months Cat Boyd has revealed that despite her strong opinions on the subject she didn’t vote in the EU referendum and then followed this with her revealing she voted Labour has left many to ask why she is given a political column at all and if there’s anything they can learn (or indeed want to learn) from her, and there is. It’s this: If you give people something to vote for or against, and make your case, then they will turn out and vote. If you don’t motivate them, then forget about it. Because they won’t show.