In March, the trial of Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland on multiple counts pertaining to alleged sexual assault and other similar reprehensible alleged crimes will begin. In the last few weeks Derek Mackay, the Scottish Government Finance Minister resigned after The Sun timed the release of a story the day before the release of the Scottish budget about his inappropriate messages with a 16-year-old boy. These were both big players within the Scottish National Party yet despite these controversies (and that’s me keeping to my long-held policy of not touching the GRA with a 10-foot barge pole) the SNP’s fortunes and electoral prosperity have never been better.
We are closer to independence than we have been for centuries, certainly closer than at any other point in the SNP’s history. They have been in government for 13 consecutive years – more than half the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament. A Panelbase poll taken in January – notably prior to Brexit day – predicts the SNP are on track to win an outright majority in the 2021 Holyrood elections, a feat which should be impossible under the D’hondt electoral system used by the Scottish Parliament, yet was achieved in 2011 by the SNP. So why have they managed to maintain such success when elsewhere in the UK people are becoming increasingly fed up with their electoral options?
The biggest strength that the SNP has is that the opposition is terrible in Scotland. Not to disparage their strengths but it’s a lot easier to win elections when your opponents are too busy fighting amongst themselves (Labour), telling their constituents they are ‘too wee, too stupid and too poor’ to make their own decisions (Tories) or utterly irrelevant (Lib Dems). The SNP has inherited the massive block of voters that Scottish Labour relied on for decades by doing one simple thing – replacing them. As Blair dragged his party away from the Left, it provided a vacuum for a centre-Left party which the SNP rapidly filled thanks to its social democratic policies which put social justice at the forefront of any manifesto. Much of the rest of the support the SNP has comes from people of all different political and economic opinions who work together towards the goal of independence. People want to be free of the UK for many different reasons and at the end of the day, backing the SNP is the only plausible way to reach that overarching goal.
The Scottish Conservative and Unionist party have never had much support in Scotland, finding some success in the borders and the Northeast pretty much exclusively. This is likely primarily due to wealthy landowners in the borders supporting their policies and the typically Eurosceptic views of those working in the fishing industry. The Liberal Democrats, however, just get votes from anyone who likes Tory policies but is afraid people will find out.
The SNP is going nowhere soon, and nor is Nicola Sturgeon – despite what the Daily Express may claim in my news feed. They have a job to do, a goal they have never been closer to reaching. Those of us who support independence (and we are now at a majority – all the recent polls putting support for independence just over the 50% mark) know this is our best shot. The SNP is successful in a way no other Scottish party can ever be, because it brings people together under a common goal. We are united in our dream for a Scotland that governs itself. Yes, there are differences in opinion over how to reach that goal and indeed how to govern afterwards, but until the people who choose to live and work in Scotland make the decisions which affect Scotland, the SNP will continue to go from strength to strength.
Image: Arctic Circle via Flickr