#GE2015: The tempting apathy and the rise of the SNP
I’m going to be entirely honest with you: I typically sit with the (Scottish) Greens on policy, but as we all know, First Past The Post voting doesn’t make it easy for parties like them.
As someone who voted Yes last September, I already had cut most of my deep interest in Westminster politics; in many ways my Yes vote was a vote of exasperation with the UK system as it stands and I’m confident I’m not alone in that.
After the leaders debates this month, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Sturgeon. She seemed alarmingly confident for someone who was fundamentally not compatible with the British government. The SNP have many flaws, really they do, but Sturgeon is hardly their weak point, yet I have seen endless attacks on her through much of the British media. Let’s have a look:
Don’t get me wrong, I think in many ways the media’s attacks on Sturgeon are deeply rooted in sexism and I have no doubt if say, Jo Swinson was the leader of the Liberal Democrats or Harriet Harman for Labour, we would be seeing similarly low-brow criticisms irrespective of policy.
Thus we have the problem itself: this election should in many ways be entirely dependent on policy. The UK faced an economic downturn like many others around the globe, but we have, for the most part, recovered to a degree. What to do next should be cause for great debate and yet we have both Labour and the Conservatives echoing anti-immigration sentiments to appease the supposed rise of UKIP. A particular highlight of mine from this ridiculous development has been Labour’s mug:
You could be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t real; I was honestly a bit unsure when I first saw it but sure enough it was still available on Labour’s website as of writing.
What has irritated me is the total lack of willingness to challenge Farage’s logic: his logic is entirely false when examined. According to UCL economists, the UK gains roughly £20bn alone from EU migrants. Yes, even the dreaded Eastern European migrants contributed roughly 12% more than the average British citizen.
I could ramble about how ironic it is that the UK despises immigration and yet colonised a large proportion of the globe, once at about a fifth of the globe’s population, but I shall save that for another day. Instead I want to focus on Scotland. (I already await the Daily Mail headline splash of me draped in a British flag on fire).
Last year, Scotland was told it was valued in this odd union we’ve managed to keep going. We’re “Better Together”, the UK wouldn’t be the same without Scotland, and so on. We even had Labour pulling out some nationalism, although admittedly it was British nationalism which means it’s the right kind of nationalism.
Prior to this election, it seemed Scotland had done rather well in restraining its SNP fetish to Holyrood. It meant England could forget the ‘bit more North than the North’ without worrying about actual punishment.
Yet now the Scots are reblling. The SNP are polling to achieve more than 50 seats (a figure I still find incredible considering it would be a gain of over 40 seats) and the traditional parties are in uproar. They’re union-breakers, nationalists and even like immigrants! It’s gotten to the stage where incumbent MPs in Scotland are actually asking voters from the other traditional three to vote preventatively against the SNP. Look below.
It’s hard not to want vote SNP when everyone is telling you not to. It’s like when your mum told you not to draw on the walls with crayons or when she said don’t tape over my episode of Coronation Street with Question Time. (Perhaps that one was just me.)
The Westminster parties would be wise to embrace the SNP and fight them on policy, because there are glaringly obvious holes. Their sacrifice of Scottish college education funding to support free university for Scots and EU students would be one, and yet I rarely hear it being spoken about.
Instead, we have most of the UK parties hellbent on defending the sacred union. Let me put it this way: Scotland doesn’t care that deeply if it’s in a union when foodbank use has risen by two-thirds. The union doesn’t feed working families and it certainly doesn’t care about young people on benefits. When you live in a country with that popularly perceives the government to be actively working against the people’s interests, you can’t help but feel lost.
Now Scotland has an inevitable hegemony to replace Labour’s and it’s going to be a garish yellow. We all know the solution and yet nobody seems to want to talk about it. Labour’s old stranglehold over Scotland and the SNP’s newfound grip is down to FPTP. It wouldn’t be possible without it and yet it is always the people that get the blame for it.
The union is dying and Westminster will be writing its own obituary if it doesn’t think creatively about political reform. Federalism or not, power needs to be broken down and handed to the United Kingdom’s constituent nations: anything less only allows the rot to continue.
The United Kingdom desperately needs a champion to redefine this union or else we may find there is no union left to defend.
Note: I remain a Yes voter but for the sake of pragmatism and accepting the result of the September referendum, I recognise the need to creative positive change in the UK. Best of luck to whoever tries it.