We want to be taken care of. We want to be included. See all that “cradle to the grave” stuff that Tories so despise that we got from the the Labour Government in 1945-51? Can’t get enough of it. That government was (at least in popular memory) the high water mark of Britishness in its short lived meaning of “everybody” – and a good part of the appeal of the SNP is as re-creators of that sense of “social security” that the British State has been abandoning by painful increments ever since their introduction.
(45 seems to be our magic number – just a thought.)
The SNP’s baby boxes are a precise, welcome (and let me say quite brilliant) symbol of the emotional underpinning of Scottish political life as well as a bloody good borrowing from Scandinavia of which, I hope, there many more to come. They have sewn up this latest election to Holyrood even if it wasn’t sewn up already. The SNP manifesto is much more ambitious than expected in terms especially of policy towards the young through education as well as childcare. (With the interesting and provocative proviso that the extra spending on tackling the social divide in education is to be entirely in the gift direct to schools of the Executive and bypassing district councils). Its headlines on a reform of the social security system, on land ownership and social ownership of climate change technology are all well votable for by the “coalition” of progressives who came together for the referendum campaign.
So who needs to even consider doing anything other than giving whole hearted electoral support to anyone else on the left? The Green Manifesto doesn’t pretend to a programme for government…it’s a direction of travel document. Rise seem to be failing to make any cultural mark that translates into electoral success. The rump of the Labour Party in Scotland will have to wait until this busy series of elections is over before they can even catch a breath. They may even decide to wake up and smell the coffee.
Meanwhile the centre, where all political power resides, of Scottish politics as well as everywhere else’s politics, is well and truly captured. And the centre, the consensus points and principles, of that politics, reflects in a more secure and believable way than it has in years, what remain the expressed priorities of the electorate. The Labour Party, who dominated our electoral decisions so very recently, have been replaced by an altogether shinier, more hopeful and as complete a hegemony.
Perhaps the same thing in us that demands “security” of our politicians also pre-disposes us, culturally, to the dominance of a protector. A protector in Westminster, to shield us from the Tories. And a protector in Holyrood to…well…protect us from the Tories. Our politicians are our home and away shield bearers…and we’ve decided, in both cases, that the SNP are a better bet. And I think we’re right about that. That was certainly why I voted for them in 2015, and why I’ll be voting for them in my constituency in Glasgow. (Not that I think my MSP, Nicola Sturgeon, is sitting on a knife edge or anything.)
So why, if everything in the garden is lovely, (and I hesitate a little to go over this again) am I voting Green in the List vote?
Because for the first time, I think, it feels to me like a third area of interest has been added to the defensive mindset of Scottish politics. I’m talking about the future. About the direction of travel. I’m talking about aspiration.
If all Scottish politics has been dominated up until last year by a territorial dispute between the Labour and SNP about who best to save us from the Tories in the two areas of Holyrood and Westminster (and the less conspicuous but equally bitter heartland of local government) then “the future” is the new territory that has been under dispute online.
The future? Jings! How un-Scottish is that? How un-British is that?
Nonetheless, the direction of travel is now a legitimate sphere of dispute. (I think, by the way, that the online pages of Bella Caledonia are the ideal forum for that dispute.) I believe that the Greens having a significant presence in the parliament will sustain that optimistic exploration of possibility. I think you need only take a glance at the SNP manifesto to see that it already has.
We are no longer in referendum mode, no matter how nostalgic we all are from our different pools of experience. The referendum is off the cards (and out of the SNP manifesto) unless the British vote for Brexit, and the demand for Indyref2 is so palpable and general (which it isn’t, sorry) that it is both unavoidable and a slam dunk 60% Yes. Nicola and Co. are far too canny and competent (and, it seems, ambitious for getting on with the job in the here and now) to deliver that particular hostage to fortune just because their core vote want it from them so much. They know that competent, progressive management is the core of their support outwith the constant 25-30% of the electorate who prioritise Independence above everything else.
For everyone who was involved in that binary politics of the Yes/No campaign, we are now back in the analog world. Baby boxes and all. This is the new normal. And it could be a hell of a lot worse.