Election Dawn and Crystal Balls

I spent most of last night in an impressively improvised TV Studio for Broadcasting Scotland in the same kind of incoherent shock as has been displayed by Theresa May ever since her tight wee circle of acolytes launched her manifesto, and the damn thing sank like a boat in a Buster Keaton movie. But come the dawn, and the Tories having lost their majority, and Jeremy Corbyn talking about forming a minority Labour government with a mischievous plausibility that will have most of his own parliamentary colleagues reaching for a fresh pot of paint to daub a frozen smile across their masks of despair…with the EU now in a position to absolutely dictate whatever form of Brexit they feel like, even with Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories and the DUP combining forces to put whoever is leading the Tories next week over the line…I have got a smile on my face that I don’t have to paint on.

This election, on both sides of the border, has worked out really well. In fact, even with the loss of some real talent from the SNP Parliamentary group, in terms of what comes next, I’m not sure how it could realistically be any better.

Think of it this way. 35 SNP MPs matter FAR more in THIS context, than 45 or so MPs would have mattered had the Tories achieved the thumping majority they were after, or than 56 mattered until yesterday. I don’t believe any more than Jeremy Corbyn really does that Labour can REALLY form the next government…His main cause for celebration today is that the Blairite hegemony in his own party is now decisively over. But even if they did try to form a government, they would absolutely now need the SNP to pass a budget, and to renew Trident…to name but two.

As it is, yes, of course, the Tories will form the next UK government, and this is not a good thing, but did anyone really expect them NOT to? The real news this morning is that the UKIP/Tory fusion Party which Theresa May had decided was the way to keep her safe from having to make deals with ANYONE, her own party very much included, is as dead as a door nail, even if TM tries to hang on as a deeply damaged PM.

But what about Scotland? Symbolically, if in no other way, this is a surely a huge comedown from the heady symbolism of the Tsunami two years ago?

Firstly, I’d argue that this is no bad thing in and of itself. Symbolism, after all, is only symbolism. If this election has taught us anything it is surely that real life continues anyway, and that the vast majority of the electorate, God Bless ‘Em, don’t give much of a toss for it. The Yes/No divide in Scottish politics is what produced that tsunami – the 45% for yes had somewhere obvious to go, and the Unionist vote, under the illusion in 2015 that Scottish politics could back to a status quo ante referendum led to them coming unstuck. What has happened, paradoxically, in the highly successful reorganization of the Unionist tactical vote that has STILL left the SNP with a healthy “majority” of Scottish seats is first of all, a predictable and salutary catching up…better reflecting our divisions and no longer allowing the 2015 result to allow some in the Yes movement to imagine that we’d sort of won in 2014 after all…and secondly, it’s a confirmation of the re-focusing of Scottish politics as an entirely distinct entity from politics South of the border, as having changed forever. Scottish politics now is ALL about the constitution, and in the long run, that’s exactly where the nationalists want it to be.

But what about the second referendum? So that Scotland gets to decide on what kind of Brexit deal we want? Well, first of all, the EU are in the driving seat on that one, and not the UKIP/Tory merger, and second, can we now admit that it was never a very good idea in the first place? Calling a referendum when you don’t know the result in advance may make for exciting television, but it’s no way to run a government. It may be that democratically there was no option but for Nicola Sturgeon to announce that there should be some specifically Scottish say on the shape of the Brexit to come, but still, we’re better off without it being any kind of immediate promise let alone prospect, in terms of running Scotland properly, if nothing else.

Calling a second referendum when you can’t predict the outcome was always a very dangerous strategy, and one doomed to a second defeat, on this timing, in my view. Now that, first of all, the Brexit process is itself completely up in the air, and we have even LESS idea what we might be voting on in that referendum in 2019, in terms of narrow politics, iit makes even less sense. So when Ruth Davidson triumphantly demands that Indyref 2 get off the table NOW, I think we should let the baby have her bottle and think that we’ve just dodged a very nasty bullet.

In another wonderful paradox of democracy, by making this election campaign in Scotland about NOTHING but the “threat” of Indyref Two…the Tories have won some seats, but in the longer term, even in the medium turn, have done the SNP an enormous favour. It may be that Nicola Sturgeon, after due consideration of the changed UK posture on the Brexit talks, can concede that “while the Brexit deal is so uncertain, there will be no referendum in the course of this parliament “…and breathe a sigh of well deserved relief. This is a chance to remove am electoral millstone from around the neck of the Scottish Government, who can now take part in the Brexit process with a MUCH better mix of Westminster parliamentary arithmetic and a secure Scottish government for years to come.

What’s more, with the Tories relying on MPs elected from Northern Ireland, there is absolutely no way that the “hard Tory Brexit” that justified that referendum can happen. The “fringe” nations, including Scotland are in a FAR better place to negotiate a soft, even differentiated Brexit, than they were yesterday. Time to blow the dust off that proposal that Theresa May so arrogantly dismissed a couple of months ago. If Indyref 2 is off the table, it’s because a differential Scottish Brexit is now back on.

Crystal balls probably belong in the trash, but by re-aligning Scottish politics so decisively along constitutional lines, and insisting as the “prize” of “SNP defeat” that the SNP drop a second referendum which I strongly suspect they never really wanted in the first place, and with pressure on the SNP in Holyrood coming from a Labour Party which entirely owes its revival to its own left wing, I don’t see, beyond the improbable “Coalition” that people may have considered in the wee small hours last night, that this could be any better.

Democracy, as well as being a ruthless bugger, as Theresa May and Alex Salmond have both found out, also has a fantastic sense of humour. That’s one of the reasons you’ve got to love it.

Comments (33)

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  1. Mabel says:

    There is no change on Brexit. The EU were always and will do to us what they did to Greece: impose what they want. Read the book by the former Greek Finance Minister: ‘Adults in the Room’. Nobody in Government seems to realise they will get no trade deal without freedom of movement and that is it.

    1. Brochan says:

      Yes, but Greece is still in the EU.

  2. Mike McGeachy says:

    “This election, on both sides of the border, has worked out really well. In fact, even with the loss of some real talent from the SNP Parliamentary group, in terms of what comes next, I’m not sure how it could realistically be any better.” You lose your two best politicians in Salmond and Robertson, and you are trying to spin that as being a positive??? This beggars belief! And it gets better…the Tories take a dozen seats and 100,000s of votes and that is the Tories doing the SNP an “enormous favour?”
    And I’ve saved the best till last…”35 SNP MPs matter FAR more….. than 56 mattered until yesterday.”
    In case you did not notice, the independence movement died yesterday.

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      “the independence movement died yesterday”.

      No, it didn’t. It was a minor setback. A wee bump in the road.
      The independence movement is very much alive.

      1. MBC says:

        I’ve got to laugh at your argument Mike. The independence movement will never die. It just got more determined and more strategic than ever. Events,dear chap. Events.

  3. Alban Fry says:

    I’d go further. I honestly believe this is a better result for both SNP AND CorbynLabour than atually a narrow ‘coalition’ win.

    The odds are that, regardless of what SNP might now be able to get out of it for Scotland, Brexit is going to be a fairly unmittigated shambles. Like 1992, this may be an election the Tories come to regret coming out of in power, with Brexit looming as Black Wednesday. Even if May and Foster scramble to 2022, it may only be to be on the wrong end of an utter kicking.

    Meanwhile, Corbyn, master of all he surveys in the party, the ‘slur’ of unelectability’ pretty much vanquished, his manifesto pretty much completely vindicated, and with it the more left half of the Party itself, can, amazingly genuinely contemplate his party, if not him, getting into No 10 in the relatively near future on an unashamedly leftist platform.

    and as you say, this may actually get SNP off the hook of immediate indyref2, avoid the Quebec 2nd ref disaster, and now concentrate on building up the nation over the next few years as a ‘place apart’ so that eventually indyref2 is a fait accompli. Time for Indy minded Scots, perhaps to remember Bruce and the spider again. Patience, Rab, patience.

    1. Pogliaghi says:

      You’ve got the measure of it. Although I don’t think anyone in the Westminster commentariat thinks May and Foster will make it beyond a year. Events will precipitate much more quickly than that. Trying to do Brexit while sitting on parliamentary quicksand is a project only the most abject xenophobic thickos like IDS and David Davis will even contemplate.

      The real threat to ScotNatism now is (as in fact it has been for some time) — the appeal of the English left, in the shape of Corbyn. And now it’s time to really hammer out a modus vivendi between the SNP and Labour, here. A debate which can start by acknowledging the reality that Dugdale helped the Tories to a majority. ScotLabour represent the opposite of the Corbyn brand. They don’t even represent the threadbare promise of generations of Labour campaigns – “tae keep oot the tories”

  4. Paul Carline says:

    An interesting result revealing once again the unpredictability of voters’ actions – but we shouldn’t pretend that it’s democracy.

  5. Abulhaq says:

    It is certain ‘we’ will have a Tory government with DUP support. A recent poll suggested a major swing to independence were that the case. Do not write off indy2 just yet. Give the Tories some cock-up time. This independence thing needs to be positively settled. An opportunity to do that may well present itself before long. It’s what we all want isn’t it? There is only one answer to the neo-Unionist social disease.

  6. Redgauntlet says:

    As Wittgenstein once put it, “if a lion were able to talk, we would not understand it”.

    The lion just talked.

    We know even less today than we did yesterday…

  7. Fedup Macsadface says:

    Labour will vote with tories to keep trident so Snp doesn’t have any ground there.
    Loyalists will be tooting their stupid flutes loud and proud.


  8. Ann Rayner says:

    Thanks for a few hopeful thoughts at a gloomy time for Independence supporters.

    Not unrelated to the remarks about the DUP ‘coalition’, I find it pleasingly ironic that of all the politicians and pundits talking about Westminster arithmentic, none seems to have realised the effect of EVEL.

    How can the Conservatives form an effective alliance with a Northern Ireland party who are not allowed to vote on English matters such as education or health? Indeed the 13 Tory MP’s from Scotland and 8 from Wales are likewise banned.

    Of course this would apply equally to a Corbyn agreement with the SNP, and to his MPs in Scotland and Wales, and also to the Scottish LibDem MPs if there were to be a coalition with them and either Conservatives or Labour.

    This completely changes the arithmetic of any deals or coalitions. Unintended consequences!

    1. Pogliaghi says:

      Quite simply – hoisted by their own petard.

  9. bringiton says:

    The last two elections in Scotland have seen the creation of a new political entity which has run on a single ticket issue of no second independence referendum.
    This entity (the Scottish Unionist Party) has failed to garner the support it was hoping to achieve and has left the Scottish National Party still in control of matters Scottish.
    Politics north and south of the border are now completely different.
    There are no unionist politicians south of the border,only normal political parties who wish to form a government in their country (England).
    It will be interesting to see how HM press react to their government’s policies being influenced by a bunch of nutters from another country.
    Not for long I suspect!

  10. Steve Cairns says:

    I agree the political situation is now more accurately represented electorally; Probably both North and South of the border in my opinion. The UK is divided. Scotland is divided too. The one fact you overlook however is hugely significant to your argument.

    The only condition the DUP has made (in public, so far) for supporting aTory government is a guarantee of no differentiated Brexit agreement for NI.

    In other words little has changed and nothing has been resolved by this election, and if the political confusion, instability and contradiction, continues, it will leave the EU no option but to quarantine the UK like a rabid dog as it bites deludedly at itself and its imagined foes.

    Without a credible commitment to independence, and an appropriate level of diplomatic communication between the Scottish executive and the EU, any bright new dawn is effectively predicated on Scotland crashing and burning with the UK in order to rise phoenix-like from the flames. A cliff-edge exit from the EU and the myriad network of treaties and trade agreements it defends would be an economic disaster that would blight an entire generation.

    If that’s the plan, then what a tangled web that spider is weaving with it’s tale of patience. The parable I remember was one of perseverance. Time is against us and a fairer, better, and perhaps independent, Scotland is not an inevitability to be waited for, but a destiny we determine for ourselves. The sad tale of Greyfriars Bobby I think is more apt a metaphor for the approach you recommend.

  11. muttley79 says:

    What’s more, with the Tories relying on MPs elected from Northern Ireland, there is absolutely no way that the “hard Tory Brexit” that justified that referendum can happen. The “fringe” nations, including Scotland are in a FAR better place to negotiate a soft, even differentiated Brexit, than they were yesterday. Time to blow the dust off that proposal that Theresa May so arrogantly dismissed a couple of months ago. If Indyref 2 is off the table, it’s because a differential Scottish Brexit is now back on.

    This makes zero sense to me Peter. It is actually the exact opposite, a hard Brexit or even no deal is even more likely now imo. The DUP campaigned to leave the EU. The EU will now move to punish the UK as a warning and deterrent to anyone else thinking of quitting the EU. They will be able to smell May’s weakness, lack of credibility and vulnerability.

  12. Mike McGeachy says:

    Guys, it is astonishing the levels of denial on here, it really is. You lost nearly half a million voters and twenty two seats last night, and you STILL talk about brexit deals and independence. The independence movement was dealt a fatal blow yesterday.

    1. muttley79 says:

      If the independence movement was dealt a fatal blow yesterday why are you here, on a pro-independence website today? Should you not be out celebrating your imaginary triumph?

      1. Michael Mcgeachy says:

        Muttley, I am here to witness at first hand the self deception of the nationalists…. look at your post post: “imaginary triumph.”
        There is nothing whatsoever imaginary about you guys losing 21 seats and nearly half a million voters in less than two years.

        1. Jozef O Luain says:

          Since when did an overall majority constitute a “fatal blow”?

    2. J Galt says:

      We’ve been dealt similar “fatal” blows in the past – in 1979 for instance.

    3. Josef O Luain says:

      Since when did an overall majority constitute a “fatal blow”?

    4. Colin Dunn says:

      Um. The SNP lost those seats and votes, not the Indy movement. Support for Yes is higher than for the SNP, deny it how you will.

  13. Sid says:

    Well, well, imagine the SNP losing 500.000 voters. I am one of the Scottish nationalist who warned last August – you can’t go into battle with so many voters and supporters against you. She ignored the estimated 400.000 SNP, YES people, who also who voted to leave Europe. She blanked us out, as if we didn’t exist. She has destroyed Scottish nationalism, she has lost so many seats, not by Tory or Lie@bour resurgence but by ex SNP voters going against the SNP and her… She is the enemy within and it’s too late now. Our dream of an independent Scotland has been destroyed by the crazy ideology of a woman who put Scotland second and would not listen.

    1. bringiton says:

      Why would SNP voters who truly want independence for Scotland decide that voting for the Unionist party is the way to go?
      As long as Westminster rules Scotland,independence is impossible.
      That is the chain to be broken first.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        “Why would SNP voters who truly want independence for Scotland decide that voting for the Unionist party is the way to go?”
        The answer to that is reasonably straightforward:
        – The idea that a voter who has voted SNP can solidly be called an “SNP voter” is false. Voting allegiances are transitory. They hinge on a whole range of issues.
        – A key feature of the 2015 SNP vote is that it was made up of many people who used to vote Labour. They see social change as just as important as independence.
        – A revitalised Labour Party, shifted to the left, put up a surface level social change programme. This attracted back in the region of 300000 people who voted SNP in 2015.
        – The SNP failed to put forward a coherent campaign.
        – Independence, we were told by Nicola, wasn’t at stake at this election. Therefore, it’s an easy leap for a voter to make to vote for Corbyn’s Labour.

        I argued with plenty of people who moved from SNP to Labour. It was all about Corbyn. It was all about the same HOPE that was prevalent in the YES campaign. The SNP should know that whilst independence is really important to many Scots, social change is equally important.

        I voted SNP but the SNP were very lucky. At the same time as 300000 of its former voters moving to Labour, an equivalent number moved from Labour to the Tories. They were attracted by Rapey Ruth’s harder unionism. The real challenge that the SNP have is to create a radical programme that can outplay Labour at the next election. If Labour get their unionist vote back, independence will be kicked into the long grass for decades.

  14. Frank says:

    Whichever way you look at it last night’s result was a bad result for the SNP and the independence movement. For the first time Sturgeon has been exposed as a vulnerable leader. Despite the hype Sturgeon has been largely untested and thus far she appears to have made two strategic mistakes: first, demanding indy-ref2 which was a gift to the Scottish Tories. Second, becoming personally associated with closing the attainment gap which allowed her opponents to set the narrative.

    The independence movement needs to recognise that large parts of the country are against indy-ref2 and that the yes campaign is no further forward in advancing the cause of independence than it was in September 2014. This requires serious strategic thinking. For me the managerialist and technocratic safety first politics of the SNP has led to political and intellectual decline. Let’s hope GE2017 serves as a wake up call.

  15. Anton says:

    Though I completely agree with Muttley79’s comment that “a hard Brexit or even no deal is even more likely now”, I don’t think it’s because “the EU will now move to punish the UK as a warning and deterrent to anyone else thinking of quitting”.

    Obviously the EU won’t agree any deal that provides the UK with all the benefits of EU membership but with none of the associated costs and responsibilities. Why would they do that? That’s not punishment, it’s just common sense.

    And if membership of the single market and the customs union is conditional on free movement and acceptance of the competence and rulings of the ECJ, both of which still seem to be anathema to the UK electorate, then they won’t happen. Hence the inevitability of a hard Brexit or even no deal at all.

  16. Alf Baird says:

    The SNP x 56 should have ended the union in 2015. The SNP x 35 is still a Scottish majority and can likewise end the union now the same way it began. What are they afraid of? With an Indy majority of MP’s, and indy majority at Holyrood, and a majority of Scots voting for EU remain, the UN General Assembly would be welcoming the robust and extensive democratic credentials supporting Scotland’s reinstated nationhood. Stuff Westminster and its games, or Indyref II. Worst case scenario is the UN asks for a referendum to ratify Scotland’s independence, as with the Baltic States, and on the positive side that referendum would then be organised by Holyrood, not by our ‘friends’ in Westminster.

    1. Frank says:

      This is delusional.

      The majority of people in Scotland do not support independence and Scotland can only be independent once a majority of people have been convinced.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        FPTP is the system the UK plays by. If FPTP is good enough for England’s MP’s to dominate the UK, it is good enough for Scotland. England’s Tories control Scotland despite their pathetic minority representation of 0, 1 or even 7 MP’s north of the border, leaving the majority of Scots less than convinced and excluded from governing our own affairs against our will. Moreover, in 1707 the majority of Scots were not convinced about the union of parliaments; in fact they weren’t even asked. Using a majority of Scotland’s MP’s to give notice to terminate the union of parliaments may seem “delusional” to you, however you would be hard put to find robust legal argument against the constitutional reality as to how the union was created (i.e. via a majority of Scotland’s MP’s/Commissioners), and hence that it may be undone in precisely the same way.

  17. MBC says:

    Genuinely saddened for Alex Salmond losing Gordon the same week his father died. But a man of his talents and experience is wasted in that stinking duck pond that is Westminster.

    Maybe he could be appointed to a position of international roving ambassador to secure foreign support for Scottish independence and move up a league.

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