Being used

Nicola Sturgeon is being somewhat disingenuous when she speaks of the “SNP plan”. Ian Blackford has been roped in by Jo Swinson; apparently without consulting his colleagues. The “plan” to which the First Minister refers is a Liberal Democrat plan. If it’s their plan, then we have to assume that they intend it to work to their advantage. Quite why Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford suppose that the SNP and/or Scotland stand to gain from serving as Jo Swinson’s side-kick remains to be explained.

When any politician – Nicola Sturgeon most emphatically not excluded – says ‘there’s no other way’ then we may assume two things. Firstly, that there almost certainly is another way. Secondly, that they don’t want anybody scrutinising the way they are saying is the only way. They say ‘there’s no alternative’ when they’ve made a bad choice. Or when they’ve made a choice for bad reasons and want to pretend that it was out of their hands. So, it pays us to look at how this choice is justified.

Only a few days ago, Ian Blackford was describing the idea of a December election as “barking mad”. What changed his mind? How did this go, in the space of a couple of days, from being a totally daft idea to the only sensible course of action? Mr Blackford alone can answer that question. Until he does, we can only deduce his reasoning from his actions. And it looks very much as if he was ‘got at’ by the LibDems in some way. Somehow, they have persuaded him that partnering them in this little ploy was going to give him something that he wants.

According to Nicola Sturgeon, the putative gain from forcing a general election on 9 December is twofold – stopping Johnson pushing through his ‘deal’; and preventing a no-deal Brexit at the end of whatever extension might be granted by the EU. But, as Angus MacNeil correctly points out, this is a bit of a non sequitur. The claimed outcome does not necessarily follow from the action taken or proposed.

We first of all have to wonder about that action. Jo Swinson and Ian Blackford have written to EU Council president Donald Tusk. I’m sure Mr Tusk will respond as politely as he may. But why should he have any regard for a letter from two of the opposition parties in the British parliament? Not even from the official opposition, but from the leaders of two ‘lesser’ parties. The EU deals with the elected governments of member states. They do not deal with political parties. Not even the governing party. Only with the government.

There is no reason whatever to suppose the Swinson-Blackford letter will carry any weight at all. Even if Mr Tusk was minded to be influenced by it, the decision on an Article 50 extension is made by the governments of the member nations, not the president of the EU Council.

And what does the letter ask for? Only what was all but certainly going to be granted anyway. So, what is the point of the exercise? If/when the extension is agreed, will Jo Swinson and Ian Blackford claim credit? If so, they will be roundly and deservedly mocked. That’s not much of a gain.

Whether they can deliver on the 9 December election is also highly dubious. But let’s suppose they can. What might this achieve? The likely outcome of an immediate election – to the extent that anything can be described as ‘likely’ amid the current political chaos – is a UK Parliament dominated by British Nationalist Brexiteers to an even greater extent than at present. If, as is often assumed, these forces want a no-deal Brexit, then a UK general election makes that outcome more likely, not less.

If there is no decisive win for the Mad Brexiteers, then the next most likely outcome is a less-than-decisive win for the Mad Brexiteers. If they are forced to compromise then there is only Boris Johnson’s ‘deal’ to fall back on. There is no chance of another new ‘deal’. The EU went above and beyond what was required of them when they reopened negotiations. There is no possibility that they will do so again. So, if an election means there is to be a ‘deal’ it has to be the one that the Scottish Government has said is unacceptable.

No doubt the LibDems are hoping that an election will put them in a position to demand a new EU referendum. This doesn’t look likely, the way the polls stand. But a ‘people’s vote’ would almost certainly require another extension. The patience of the EU member states is not infinite. It would not be at all surprising if one or two governments broke ranks and vetoed any further extension.

Even if there was a new EU referendum, what are the chances it would resolve anything? Practically non-existent. We’d all end up pretty much back where we are now.

There is another justification (rationalisation?) for Ian Blackford’s action offered by an SNP spokesperson – getting rid of Boris Johnson. Is that likely to be the outcome of a general election? Even if Johnson were to be removed, would whoever replaces him be any better? What does Scotland stand to gain from a change of British Prime Minister?


Because it’s not Boris Johnson that’s the problem. Nor is it Brexit – with or without a deal. The problem is the Union. The problem is the grotesque constitutional anomaly which means Scotland will invariably have imposed on it British Prime Ministers and British governments and British policies that the people of Scotland did not vote for or explicitly rejected through the ballot box.

It will doubtless be argued that, in a UK general election, the SNP are likely to enjoy a landslide victory in Scotland on a scale similar to that of 2015. But what advantage did the SNP winning 56 out of 59 seats bring to Scotland? Obviously, it is better than the alternative. At least we can assume that SNP MPs will actually represent and defend Scotland’s interests. But how effective can they ever be? Even if the SNP group held the balance of power in numerical terms, the British parties would never allow them to use that power in any meaningful way.

Ian Blackford is getting the SNP group at Westminster embroiled in the British political game in an effort to at least look effective. But no good ever comes of getting into bed with the treacherous Liberal Democrats, or partnering with someone as brazenly self-serving as Jo Swinson. Blackford may imagine he’s formed an alliance. Swinson sees it as her using the SNP.

Angus MacNeil is right. As far as Scotland is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to be gained from a UK general election. There is nothing to be gained from Scotland’s presence in the parliament of England-as-Britain. Nor will there ever be.

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10 thoughts on “Being used

  1. Its interesting to read someone who made their name undermining Better Together arguments with a withering analysis.
    Now turning that rational on the only party who have a hope of securing Scotland’s Independence.
    Always find George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” very prescient at times like this.
    Have the pigs turned into the Farmer?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been very critical of the SNP tactics recently.

    However on the point of an election. I can’t see the SNP have anything to lose! We have a chance to remove the 12 Tory Mp’s from Scotland and return 50 plus SNP mp’s.

    The section 30 legislation is going through in December anyway. So what is the purpose in not having an election. Bearing in mind Nicola said she wanted a referendum in 2020 in any case.

    It’s not as though we are going to have an indy ref vote before the Spring. So why not use the time to strengthen your party. I might not agree with the Section 30 or the tactics , but that is the chosen path. So we need to try an make sure it happens by strengthening our hand. The less unionist MP’s in Scotland the better as far as I am concerned!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If your only purpose is to take seats from the Tories (or other British parties?) then a December election will suit you fine. But if you have more ambitious aims, then it achieves nothing. In terms of Scotland’s cause, the practical difference between the SNP having 35 seats and 59 is zero. A landslide for the SNP may prove support for a new constitutional referendum and/or for independence, but Westminster doesn’t care. If there was a 100% turnout and every single voter in Scotland voted SNP, it would make not the slightest difference to the British state’s position. And the British political elite has all the power it needs to defend that position. They get that power from the Union, augmented by the No vote in 2014.

      There is no Section 30 legislation going through anywhere in December. A Section 30 order hasn’t even been requested… sorry! DEMANDED by Nicola Sturgeon. She may have something to say about that on Saturday. But there is absolutely no reason to suppose Boris Johnson will even respond. He can simply ignore the DEMAND. It worked for Theresa May. She never did give a formal response to Nicola Sturgeon’s earlier request. And the Scottish Government was powerless to do anything about it.

      Nicola Sturgeon may want a referendum in 2020, but that’s not enough to make it happen. She has handed that decision to Boris Johnson. She has conceded to the British Prime Minister the authority to veto our right of self-determination. If a referendum does happen, it’ll only happen when Boris Johnson says it can happen and only on his terms. That’s where we are. A UK general election will not change that one iota.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The SNP has become a British Party that fields candidates and holds Westminster seats only in Scotland, and forms the Devolved Government in Scotland. It’s focus is British politics. It talks of independence but recognises the sovereignty of the English parliament of the UK over Scotland. Only using International Law can get Scotland independence, and the SNP will not use it. WHY NOT!


  4. I have been of the opinion we do need a General Election now.
    However, I am at same time, very weary of MP Jo Swinson. She is not to be trusted.
    It was her own doing, all by herself, that stopped any chance of getting some pro EU tories from getting Corbyn into Downing Street. She is was, who sowed the seeds of doubt in their minds.
    And others too, have raised the concerns Peter A. Bell does, here.

    But however much I would want an Election just now, it is on one point only, and that it must be SNP leadership use it as a push for Independence. Not to use it only to ask for “permission” for Section 30.
    But go back to the principle that a majority of SNP MPs is grounds for Independence.
    Otherwise, it is a waste of time to even bother!
    Obviously, a majority of votes cast for Independence MPs is better, but as things work in UK today, a simple majority should be sufficient, if politicians use it properly.
    SNP had that opportunity in 2015. They should have walked out of Westminster with those 56 MPs in June 2016.
    They totally wasted that opportunity, and now look we are are!

    So yes, I do want an early Election, and it is for Labour to try to make the best of it in England. The fact they seem incapable and unwilling to consider their chances is a matter for them.
    But why should Scotland keep holding back, simply to suit Labour?
    But it is also the case, SNP have to be more assertive, and unless they are, not much will change, as Peter, (and others too) outline above.
    For example,, SNP is not making any demands, for anything in return, for this support of the Lib Dem plan.
    Why not?

    I would opine… this may well be SNP’s last chance to prove themselves for Scotland, otherwise, we really do need to consider a new pro Independence Party for this country.
    The downside of that, is possible split in the Independence vote, and even if it doesn’t quite split the vote i some places anyway, there is a certain timescale, to get such a thing up and running, and to be effective the way it needs to be.
    But SNP has benefited from this concern too long now, and there just might come a time, when folks have become so disillusioned, they are left with no other alternative.
    But as it stands, SNP are ever more beginning to look like the old Labour Party with its overwhelming majority of MPs all throughout the Thatcher/Major years, and were utterly impotent, and useless!
    It is for SNP to prove us wrong with these concerns, and we would love to be proven wrong, too, in this regard.
    We wait for that moment to come at this time, however.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ”Obviously, a majority of votes cast for Independence MPs is better, but as things work in UK today, a simple majority should be sufficient, if politicians use it properly.

    SNP had that opportunity in 2015. They should have walked out of Westminster with those 56 MPs in June 2016. They totally wasted that opportunity, and now look we are are!”

    And what if a majority of sovereign Scots had still wanted to remain in the Union at that time? As I’m sure was the case. Would that, they, not count, Gordon?


    1. Petra, if those MPs walked out, there would have been a Constitutional Crisis, and the matter would have had to be dealt with.
      Instead, this play it by the London rules, play it nicely policy was the one they went with… and gotten us nowhere!
      The Sovereign Scots have to choose between London, and EU, and by the looks of it, the majority want EU.
      It is clear, they can’t have both.


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