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Towards An Enduring Settlement

03/05/2017 12:28

Excitement abounds in the right wing media that, after a seeming eternity, the Conservatives are on course to make respectable gains in Scotland. Anywhere between five and ten seats are likely to be represented by Conservatives come 9 June. This observation has led to an enormous pile of guff being spouted.

Last Thursday, the Spectator published a dunderheaded leader on the need for voters in Scotland to vote tactically to keep the SNP out. They note "the revival of Tory support north of the border has gone relatively unnoticed." It then goes on to say that the paramount thing is not to seek to bolster this revival but rather to concentrate on keeping the Nationalists out - whether that means voting for the party you actually support or not.

It will be news to the Spectator then, but not to readers of this humble blog, that this is a stupid idea. As I noted back in June 2014 and May 2015, Unionism has been undergoing a sustained comeback since its decline in the 1970s. I went on to explain in my May 2015 blog that Scottish Labour is the Darth Vader of Scottish politics. Whilst for many years it has looked particularly fearsome, in reality a complicated array of machines has been keeping it alive.

So, in Scotland, do not vote tactically during the General Election. The reality of Scottish politics needs to be crystallised - that the divide is between Nationalism and Unionism. It is for the politicians north of the Tweed to respond to the electorate with parties that reflect this. If voters think tactically then many seats will remain SNP with a small crop each for Labour and the Conservatives. This will stunt the maturation of Scottish politics. Labour is simply not strong enough, not offering enough, nor is it driven enough to succeed as the Unionist alternative.

Scotland needs an enduring settlement, not tactical voting. Party politics is table stakes. The real game in town is the fracture between those still pro-independence and those pro-union. The rot of Scottish Labour, and the rise of the SNP this facilitated, have left Unionism desperate for a voice. Perhaps Ruth Davidson's Conservatives are that voice - so do not offer any more life support through tactical votes for Labour and instead back Unionism if you oppose the SNP. Then finally we can start on the road to resolving the independence question once and for all.

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