danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
[personal profile] danieldwilliam
The election in Scotland is shaping up to be a peculiar one. It seems more like an election to decide on the opposition. The widespread assumption is that the SNP will win, will win a second absolute majority, and are likely to increase their vote share and majority over the 2011 result.

The Green Party seems to be campaigning specifically on their abilty to provide an effective, positive and more interesting opposition than any one else. Neither the Labour Party or the Conservative Party are making a strong bid for govenment but rather presenting themselves as an opposition party that would like to be considered for government after spending the years 2016 to 2021 beating up the SNP. The Liberal Democrats still have such a long way to go to recover from the set back linked to their part in the UK government of 2010-15 that I think their electoral pitch is pretty much "You'll miss us if we go."

So most of the parties are making noises about effective opposition but only one party is talking about being in government - and that's the government. I'm not sure I've ever seen an election where most of the focus was on who was going to be the opposition. The twhole #bothvotes controvesy just goes to show that we're really talking about who ought to be the opposition and how effective that opposition ought to be.

I expect things will look different in 2021. By then the gloss will have come off the SNP, or rather the teflon. There is a strange mindset in Scotland at the moment that the SNP are not really responsible for their policy or administrative failings but that these are caused by They Westminster and that the SNP are really a left of centre party that would like to govern as a left of centre party were it not for They Westminister. Policy consequences and administrative cock-ups seem not to be sticking to the SNP. There is a more fanciful mindset amongst fervant nationalists, the sort of person who thinks that Yes didn't lose #Indyref, that there are in fact no failings and that any negative news about the government in Scotland is being made up by some cabal of Unionists in London. After 14 years of government, 10 as a majority government, with increased powers for Holyrood and the memories of the excitement of the 2014 referendum faded I doubt the SNP can maintain the delicate position that everything good that they do is due entirely to them, everything bad that happens is to the result fo Westminister and that any thing they fail to do is because of the constitutional constraints.

Or the SNP will largely avoid this, by luck or judgement, and the 2021 election will be about which of the four opposition parties the people of Scotland feel they could do without.

In either case, having been the effective opposition may well turn out to be important.

Date: 2016-04-18 12:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alitheapipkin.livejournal.com
I'm more frustrated than baffled. So many people seem to be buying into the narrative that the SNP must not be challenged until *after* we get independence and I'm really struggling to understand any sort of rationality behind that, I'm beginning to wonder if they do actually believe the SNP will just declare independence without another ref if they win enough of Holyrood. But hopefully that's just the social media bubble, and in the rest of the country there are rational people prepared to make decisions based on policy and past actions... I am hoping the recent furore over tax policy and land reform will convince a few more folks out of the 'SNP not responsible, Westminster is' mindset but again, I fear my leftwing bubble misleads me on how popular these things are with the wider public.

Date: 2016-04-18 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
Indeed, many people are loathe to critisise the SNP until after independence which makes a number of assumptions which I disagree with.

Firstly, the SNP and indepedence and a Scandinavian style social democracy are one and the same thing.

Secondly, that it is okay to fool people in to voting for independence on the grounds the SNP as a government are faultless now and so will be faultless in the future.

Thirdly, that independence in the future is better than good government today (or that the discount rate on independence orientated solutions is lower than the discount rate on other solutions.)

Fourthly, that independence is the only way to solve all of our problems and will certainly do so.

Fifthly, that independence is definately happening and all that we are doing is taking actions that will either hasten or slow down the eventual day.

Sixthly, that politics and organisations are not path dependent or contingent and that you can magic an effective and radical government or opposition post independence out of whole cloth and some slick rhetoric.


And I take issue with all of them.

In particular, I don't think this election ought to be about indepedence. Certainly, I don't want every election from now on to be about the constitutional question of Scotland's status as a state. It's important, but it's not the only important thing. I don't even think it is the most important thing.

I think there are quite a few people who think that if the SNP keep winning elections somehow indepedence will just happen - that eventually SNP First Ministers will wear a whole in the carpet under the cabinet table in Bute House and the new carpet will be made of thistledown and tartan and ancient saltires and that will be that the UK and the majority of people in Scotland who didn't want independence will just hand over the keys. What exactly they think the mechanics are of that I don't know.

This typically long and rambling essay from Stonekettle station about how much easier it is in the US to be a pessimist because it requires no actual effort on your part I think is relevant to Scotland and optimisim about independence. It's easy to say - when we have independence, which will be when people stop believing the Unionist media, everything will be perfect - because it requires no effort to make it happen, or work out how and why it will be better and for whom and it doesn't require holding any doubt, or nuance or amibiguity.

http://www.stonekettle.com/2016/04/two-wolves.html

I think you are probably right about the social media bubble but I'm also not so sure that the good folk of Scotland are really in the mood to hear sustained critisism of the SNP. They don't like what they are being offered by Labour or the Tories much and it's probably easier to not examine the details of the alternative too closely. Things like tax rates and land reform probably take a while to show up in the national conscience. Most people don't spend much time thinking or reading about or participating in politics. I think eventually those sorts of things will mount up and the SNP will be confronted with the implicatations of their strategic dichotomy - that they are seen as the vehicle for a radically left of centre future Scotland but also must deliver unfrightening government whilst not alienating their right of centre wealthy supporters. How the national mood changes when we're several years away from both IndyRef and IndyRef2 and the economy has improved a bit I don't know. There are only so many years they can say "Leftwards! HO!" whilst delivering solid, dull, centralism before folk start insisting they put our money where their mouth is.

Or maybe not. Maybe we can spend the next twenty years living in a fairytale where the only thing we need to do is to cross our fingers and hope that 400,000 people change their minds about independence.

Date: 2016-04-18 02:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] f4f3.livejournal.com
Why are you talking about Independence? There's no Independence referendum coming up, and (barring some nailing of Saltires to the mast in the SNP Manifesto) none of the parties are campaigning on providing one.

What the election is about is the competence of the parties bidding for my vote.

Labour show no signs of having learned from their previous performances when lead by Lamont and Murphy. Their only positive contribution to the present campaign is to put forward a Scottish Tax proposal which is completely at odds with their UK party policy - and who can believe that the Scottish Branch Office (as their past leader called it) would revolt against their bosses.

The Tories are... the Tories. They will poll 10-20%, but if we want to know what they would do in office, we can look at Westminster, and if we want to see what they would do to Scotland, well, LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE.

LDs? Liars and Tories.

The Greens? A serious choice for a second preference.

So the choice is between a party which has delivered competent government, as a minority and majority administration, and an opposition that has been destructive, hectoring and weak. Between a party that has kept university tuition free, made prescriptions free, abolished PFI, delivered on equal marriage and generally got on with the job of governing.

I kind of think I'm voting rationally, and not because I'm living in a fairy tale.

Date: 2016-04-18 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com

If the election isn't seen by some SNP supporters as being primarily about independence what is going on with the debate about whether Both Votes SNP maximises or minimises pro-independence representation.


I'm talking about independence because many of the SNP supporters are talking about it and doing so in a way that implies it is an implicitly foundational part of the debate.

Date: 2016-04-18 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alitheapipkin.livejournal.com
Aside from point 5 (I do actually think independence is inevitable eventually at the moment), I'm totally with you. In particular on 6. The more I see people pedalling this nonsense, the more I fear that independence were it to come any time soon, would not in fact achieve any of the things I want out of it :(

Date: 2016-04-18 04:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
I think indepedence is probably 80% inevitable.

In that I think a combination of a Tory government in the UK with continued austerity coupled with a refusal on all sides to create a statesman like constitutional settlement rather than one that creates a short-term advantage for particular parties or even particular factions in parties, a negative and wounded English nationalism, increased integration in the UK and with a relatively reduced prestige associated to the UK probably push us down a road where, at some point in the next 15-30 years enough is a enough and Scotland pops out of the UK and pops in to the EU.

The damage has probably already been done to the Union and if not already, the Conservative goverment May 2016 to May 2025 will probably do it.

But it's still possible for something to change that narrative. An EU meltdown or UKIP becoming a coalition partner and demanding an English Parliament or a massive scandal in Scotland which destroys the SNP's credibility. So 80% we continue on the current route which, I agree with you, leads to indepedence at some point and 20% something else happens (which might be awful or might be so good we don't to leave.)

Or really unlikely, Corbyn wins the 2020 General Election and isn't rubbish.

But SNP supporters acting as if it were inevitable, and requires nothing more than SNP incumbancy and that the only options the Unionists have is to deploy the Scotsman and the BBC is ideological chewing gum.

Date: 2016-04-18 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alitheapipkin.livejournal.com
Yeah I wouldn't disagree with that.

Date: 2016-04-18 10:13 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Illuminati)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Yeah. Federalism and Proportional Representation would be enough to have me, at the very least, on the fence about Independence. And I doubt very much I'm the only one.

Date: 2016-04-19 09:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
It's certainly where I am. I voted Yes in a foreced binary choice but I'd certainly consider supporting continued menmbership of the UK if the UK were definately setting up Federal structures and had Proportional Representation.

I think it is probably that the second round of Indyref will happen before both Federalism and PR happen.

I shall be interested in England's reactions to the EU referendum vote is Scotland is very markedly different in sentiment - whether that makes people in England think that Scotland is becoming different to England in a way that needs a different constitutional settlement.

Date: 2016-04-18 01:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] f4f3.livejournal.com
Hey, that's MY left wing bubble you're talking about!

I think it's not so much as "We must not criticise the SNP! Death to the unbelievers!" as the complete lack of credibility of the critics.

Labour have a record of governing Scotland which people can actually remember and make rational judgements about, followed by an opposition based on disagreeing with anything the SNP proposed, even if it was Labour policy (see "The Bain Doctrine") followed by a "No" campaign that saw them joined at the hip with the Tories. The internal backbiting where Lamont was deposed by Murphy who was replaced (using his own and the chairman's votes) with his deputy, might not have meant much to the electorate, but it was enough to get me to resign from the party. Criticism from them sounds like negative campaigning in place of any positive alternative.

The Tories suffer from not being the "Ruth Davidson for an effective government party". They are Tories. 10-20% of voters in Scotland will support them, and their voice therefore needs to be held. But when Ruth criticises the SNP, she invariably invites comparison with the actual government of the UK, not the cosy Tory-lite party she thinks she leads.

The LDs are liars. They are proven liars, they've made no apology for that, and hell mend them.

The Greens and the SSP do critique the Scottish Government, and over all they are heard in their areas of competence. I expect the Greens to do well in this election.

Interior dissent in the government tends to be quiet, and it tends to get listened to - reducing Corporation Tax was an unpopular policy and it was ditched.

It's a weird thing, but it does seem to me that the Scottish Government isn't talking about Independence, that the opposition parties talk of little else. It's in their interests to try to MAKE the election be about Independence, but instead voters in Scotland seem to be making rational decisions about who they want in government based on their judgement of the competency of the parties on offer.

What strikes me most forcefully is the prevailing opinion in the Scottish opposition, and in the UK political bubble as a whole that voters in Scotland are just too damn stupid to be trusted with the vote -that they are blind, brainwashed, conned, starry eyed or anything other than what they actually are: rational people voting in their own best interests.

To hear that guff coming from right, left and those with no politics at all just baffles and angers me.


Date: 2016-04-18 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alitheapipkin.livejournal.com
Oh, I entirely agree about the lack of credible alternatives in a position to govern (I'm a Green and will be voting for us on the regional list but given we are only standing in 3 constituencies, it would be ridiculous to suggest that we are in a position to be the main alternative to the SNP) but I don't think that should stop people being willing to criticise them. And as I said, I hope it's just a minority on social media but that doesn't stop me being annoyed about the constant stream of independence supporters who keep attacking the Greens as vote splitters.

Date: 2016-04-18 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
It's the vote splitting accusation that needles me.

I'm a pro-independence Green. But independence isn't my panacea or my raison d'etre. As far as I'm concerned the SNP are splitting the economically left, socially progressive, let's not BBQ the planet vote with all their talk of local autonomy for the Greater Edinburgh Co-Prosperity Sphere.

(Actually, truth be told I'm an independence agnostic - I'm probably indifferent between an indepedent Scotland in the EU and Scotland as a part of a federal UK in the EU.)

Date: 2016-04-18 04:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alitheapipkin.livejournal.com
I used to be an independence agnostic but I think I was pretty convinced during the indy ref that a federal UK would never actually work in practice. However, independence is still a means to an end for me - a way to make the journey easier not the destination.

Date: 2016-04-18 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
What was it that turned you against the practicallity of a federal UK?

Date: 2016-04-18 06:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alitheapipkin.livejournal.com
Aside from the general feeling that we're going to have enough trouble getting our own immigration policy sharing a land border as it is, nevermind if we're still in the same nation, and that we'll always be vastly outnumbered by England, I seem to remember reading an essay that was particularly well argued but I'm afraid I don't remember where/by whom.

Date: 2016-04-19 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
I totally see the difficulties with sharing a Federation with one large entity and several smaller one.

And I don't detect much appetite for regional devolution in England at the moment, although, that may change as the various forms of devolution that Osbourne is promoting operate. But maybe not and probably not quickly.

Independence with both entities within the EU is probably simpler all round.

Date: 2016-04-19 03:42 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Illuminati)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
AV referendum for me. It showed the near-certain impossibility of reforming the UK when both of the large parties are against it.

Date: 2016-04-18 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com


Well, yeah, the Labour Party's record in government is not hugely inspiring. But then, nor is the SNP's particularly. We have a new bridge which looks nice and a new police force that is a shambles.

A lack of credibility doesn't mean they are wrong exactly.

There are definately a large number of quite loud indepedence supporters talking about independence. Bella Caledonia and Wings over Scotland both commenting on the ERS / John Curtiss / Juliet Swann view that Both Votes SNP might not actually help pro-indepedence parties - with the implicit assumption that what matters most in this election is that Holyrood has a pro-independence majority and not, say, an anti-Trump majority or an anti-fracking majority or a pro-lobbying reform majority or not-having-Glaswegian-puritans-kicking-down-the-doors-of-Edinburgh's-brothels majority

I agree with your assessment of the Conservative Party. I'd like there to be a party that was in favour of free markets, in favour of not expanding the state to solve every problem and in favour of fiscal prudence and caution before acting. I'm not sure the Ruth Davidson Party is that but it's certainly tainted by it's association with the modern Tories.

Not all Lib Dems are liars.

The interior dissent about fracking is a case in point for my position. I am led to believe that in a future independent Scotland fracking would be a high crime and misdemeanor. So there's no need for the Greens to point out that talking thinking about a moretorium isn't the same as an actual ban and that, perhaps, looking at the way the SNP handled questions about fracking at their conference we ought not to be too sanguine about the SNP's democratic instincts. And it appears not to register with folk that the SNP would like to talk a lot about restricting fracking because that is a policy popular with some supporters and swing voters, but they would also like to not actually ban fracking because a) they are financially supported by people who might prosper from fracking and b) it might be useful in the future to be able to create a bunch of jobs fracking in marginal constituencies. That their ambivalence is as much dictated by electoral calculation as any of the other parties.

The governing party might not be talking much about indendence but they do rely on constitutional difficulties fairly often - the tax issue being a case in point. I don't know if Labour or the SNP are right about the likely revenue to be raised in practise from an increase in income tax but I do not that once again the SNP's line is that they would really honestly like to X but they can't because of Westminister.

And there is definately an assumption amongst some vocal SNP supporters that this election is about independence - that one more heave is all that is required - which to me is a bit divorced from the cycle of politics. The SNP haven't gone in to this election with a manifesto committment to hold a second referendum because they know they would lose a second referendum and that would be game over. So, short of a surprise result in the EU referendum that's the independence question settled until 2021 at the earliest and actual indepedence won't be happening until 2025. So the SNP (as the governing party) and their supporters and the country generally can't just sit on our hands for a decade.

Date: 2016-04-19 11:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com
Yes. I am baffled by the SNP's ability not to be held to account by things that have been their responsibility for nine years!

Date: 2016-04-19 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com
"Not all Lib Dems are liars"...

I should think not! ;)

My phone has made it hard to follow comment threads on this one (my previous comment was in reply to another's but it seems to have got lost!), but a very good post.

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