Watching the news and analysis of Thursday’s election coming it would be easy to think that Ruth Davidson of the Ruth Davidson Novelty Photo-shoots and Fun (No, we aren’t Tories, honest!) Party had won a resounding victory over the SNP, and that that Scotland was back in the unionist fold. There’s only so much I can take from the BBC, luckily Russia Today reassured me that Ms Davidson’s party hadn’t actually won, and that the world was still spinning on it’s axis as before. What did happen was that the Unionist vote shifted within itself, with one faction merely taking votes from another faction. Hardly sensational stuff, and to be honest everyone but Kezia Dugdale saw it coming. Labour have now been punished by both sides of the electorate for their treachery; by Yes voters for siding with the Tories, and by unionists angry that she wobbled in her unionism by appearing to allow a free vote in a future referendum. On close analysis the unionist FPTP vote is pitiful. Of 73 FPTP constituencies the Tories won only 7, the Lib-Dems 4 and the Labour Party an embarrassing 3. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the union, is it?
Ruth Davidson is the new poster girl of the Unionist media, be it in print, television or indeed on BBC Radio Scotland, where Kaye Adams accidentally stated that “we’re up 8 point…” before remembering where she was and correcting herself by saying that the Conservatives were up 8.1%. Tank Girl, with the aid of her chums in the media, will call on Nicola Sturgeon to forever rule out another referendum, a call she will repeat every week, day and hour for the next five years. Davidson realised that there are people who value the union flag more than social justice, more than equality, more than the NHS, more than the welfare state, and who will endorse the Tories wholeheartedly to protect the union. Never mind the policies, look at the pretty flag. For many voters Thatcher is someone from the history books, and they do not share most right thinking Scots contempt of the woman and her policies. When Margaret Curran was asked if she would prefer a Tory run Scotland to an independent one she squirmed and twisted and struggled to answer. With the death of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party she may one day have the chance to see that scenario in action.
But to spend so much time talking about the unionist situation means that we ignore the failings or successes of the Yes side, if we can still refer to them in such a manner. While most of the Yes support has gone to the SNP, those supporters must remember where they came from. Tribalism within Yes will keep us down and divided, and we must get smarter if we are to have a Yes parliament, not simply an SNP dominated one. Reaffirmation of the Yes movement is needed and agreements should be made for the mutual benefit of the independence movement. Clearly the decision by the Greens to stand against Ruth Davidson cost the SNP that seat and allowed Davidson to claim victory as an endorsed constituency candidate. In some areas such as Glasgow or Central Scotland where polling showed it very likely that the SNP would sweep the board an official SNP 1, Green 2 campaign would have had a significant effect on reducing the unionist bloc. This would mean the Greens would have to agree not to stand in the constituencies and the SNP agreeing not standing on the list. Of course where this falls down is that this would mean some people putting the good of the cause of independence before their personal ambitions.
As for the minority parties such as Solidarity and Rise, I think that we need to accept that for now they are a diversion and despite some of their fine ideals are not a realistic proposal for the pro Indy voter on the national stage. Over exposure in the National and to some extent The Herald skewed the perception of RISE, and if the don’t completely fall then perhaps the council elections next year may be a more realistic platform for them, where they can help deliver real benefits at a local level.
Letter to The National, 02/05/16
Am I the only person who thinks that the Leaders Debates have become tired, repetitive and uninformative? The same lines, delivered in the same fashion to the same response are beyond dull. Monday’s debate was a case in point. If we look beyond the BBC using the daughter of a former Labour Party leader as a presenter and an audience which clearly didn’t reflect recent voting or polling we are left with an otherwise predictable event. Kezia Dugdale pleads that we should put the referendum behind us, as that’s the only way that people will stop bringing up her toxic Bitter Together alliance with the Tories. Ruth Davidson won’t let us forget about the referendum, while Willie Rennie just wishes people would remember who he is. Nicola Sturgeon repeats the “will of the Scottish people” line without expanding on it and rolls her eyes when another leader tells a porky, and Patrick Harvie was memorable when given a chance to speak at length, but left on the sidelines by the presenter on more than one occasion when he tried to counter an argument.
While Kezia is almost crying when she says her party isn’t toxic, she shows that she has failed to recognise that, like it or not, Scotland is broadly still in two camps and that so long as she maintains her opposition to any further referendum at any time, then a very large portion of the electorate will not vote for her under any circumstances. Ruth Davidson on the other hand has grasped the situation far better, whipping up talk of further referendums and waving the union flag at every turn. She knows full well that she can’t convert people from the Yes side but can take votes from traditional Labour voters who now value the union above all else. In the Blair years Labour espoused Tory policies, Tory values, so it’s not a great jump for these people to throw the rest of their values out the window and unite behind the flag. Dugdales Labour have not realised this and until they adopt full on Neil Oliver unionist mode shall not recover. Even then they are drinking from the same trough as the Tories and the Fib-Dems, and 3 into 55% is always going to be second prize at best.
For me Patrick Harvie made the best point of the night. Yes, we lost the referendum but our values hold true. Because we lost doesn’t mean we abandon our principles and crawl away. For the unionists to continually cry out for us to do so is utterly wrong. Our arguments were not nullified by a No vote, all those problems remain, in some cases more so. So why would any sane person abandon those principles? That may be the unionist way, but not ours. It’s about time the Three Amigos faced up to that fact and stopped their whining.
Surely there must be a change in electoral rules to prevent behaviour such as that displayed this week by the Labour Party (Scotland Branch), in that they waited until postal voting had opened before they published their manifesto. How can voters make an informed choice about who to vote for when they either can’t or won’t provide a manifesto? That is what they are asking to be elected on for goodness sake! Not endless clips of Kezia Dugdale posing in the few schools which remain open in Edinburgh, not the massaged soundbites on BBC Radio Scotland, not on the puff piece spreads in the Daily Record, but the manifesto. I would suggest that all parties are given a deadline which is well in advance of the date on which postal voting opens, and their manifesto’s must be published no later than that date. No manifesto, no place on the ballot.
One thing that was finally clarified by the manifesto was Labour’s commitment to stand against a future referendum, no matter what the EU referendum brings. While Airdrie Labour candidate Richard Leonard was touting a resolute No on his electoral mail, Kez (as she likes to be known in the manifesto) floundered in interviews, hovering between mibbes aye, mibbes naw, och well it’s up to the individual, ah’ll no stand in their way. Now that the manifesto has confirmed it’s a firm No this should kill off any future Labour recovery as it leaves her party scrabbling around for a third of a share of those 55% who voted No. No matter what way you cut it, a third of 55% is never going to beat that almost combined 45% So no matter how many policies they adopt which are similar to those of the SNP they aren’t going to persuade many people to switch from a Yes stance to an anti-independence version with similar policies. Which leaves her in the unenviable position of having to trawl around for the hard line unionist vote. Unfortunately for her Ruth “clank, clank, ah’m a tank” Davidson has cornered this market with her penchant for armoured vehicles and union flags. So much so she doesn’t even NEED a manifesto. Never mind the policies, look at the pretty colours. Maybe the next Labour Party (Scotland Branch) leader will have better luck…
My recent letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser about Conservative and Unionist candidate Eric Holford generated a response from the great man himself, and I have reproduced this below. He states that I’m possibly confused about his stance on the NHS, this may be down to the fact my letter was heavily edited (see HERE for submitted and printed version):
Mr Holfords views on the NHS can clearly be seen on his Facebook posts; he believes that the NHS should NOT be protected from the effects of austerity. If that’s no longer his view I’d be interested to hear why not.
Mr Holford seems to be for assisted suicide, but has concerns that prescribing medicines which “prolong life” mean that people are living longer.
It would also appear that Mr Holford would like to see a return to means testing for prescriptions because “the richest one in seven” are eligible for them. Mr Holford appears to want to bring back a prescription charge which largely pays for the administration of the system and which will hit the working poor hardest because one in seven people are judged rich enough to pay a charge. The fact they are already probably paying 20%, 40% or more of their income in tax must be lost him. It’s estimated that after administration costs this would take around £50 million. With 5 million Scots, that equates to around £10 a head. I’d rather that was spread across the nation so than everyone, regardless of income, has access to good quality medication, unlike in England where the working poor who are deemed to rich to qualify for free prescriptions are often resorted to buying cheap, knocked off and often fake medicines. It is not unusual for people in England to ask their GP “Which of the items I have just been prescribed do I least need?” Should this be the system we aspire to just because the likes of JK Rowling are able to get the odd dose of medicine without passing over some actual ready cash?
Mr Holford also says that he would prefer to use this money to employ 1000 nurses. It costs around £70,000 to train a nurse for 3 years. Is the plan to train new nurses or attract qualified staff from abroad? You can’t increase nursing staff without also increasing support staff at the same time. Given that Jim Murphy claimed it would cost £250 million for 1000 nurses, and scrapping free prescriptions would free up only £50 million, where’s the rest of the money coming from? Increased tax or cuts elsewhere?
Mr Holford says that Scottish NHS spending has been protected by the Tories and has been cut by the SNP. He then cites two interviews by Tory stalwart and formerly respected journalist Andrew Neil, where Neil claimed that Scottish budgets have been protected by the Tories. Anyone who has followed the online debate between Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland and an increasingly irate and abusive Mr Neil would know that Mr Neil’s figures were slightly off, to put it charitably. Audit Scotland, Fiscal Affairs Scotland and economists Jim & Margaret Cuthbert are all of the opinion that Mr Neils reading of the figures he supplied were correct, but they are all agreed that in relation to this debate Mr Neil is using the WRONG figures, and there has been an actual cut of some 6-10% in real terms.
To put it simply, in terms even Kezia Dugdale could understand, if I have a salary of £10,000 and I receive no raise for 3 years, while my employer could reasonably say that they have maintained my wages with no cuts, if in the interim the rate of inflation has risen, tax has gone up, etc, then my real terms cash available to be spent goes down. Were Mr Neil not a paid BBC employee and journalist his online and often on screen output would be dismissed as trolling. Instead he becomes a point of reference for unionists everywhere.
Mr Holford has pointed out in both of his letters that he is disabled, and that point now needs no repetition. Every disabled person has a story to tell, some are not as fortunate in some regards as Mr Holford. He was, if I understand correctly, made redundant, and used that cash to start a successful business. If only everyone had that opportunity! Sadly they don’t, and as I said previously many disabled people would never be able to enter mainstream work and have seen employers such as Remploy who focused purely on those people closed down. Many years ago Norman Tebbit was criticised for telling workers to “get on their bikes” and go and find work. Mr Holford seems to be exhorting the disabled to get in their wheelchairs and do likewise. For some that is not, and never will be, an option. I’m positive about that.