Little in politics has such a potentially eternal effect than the prospect of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. The life injected into Scottish politics during the referendum campaign is testament to that, people realised that it mattered and when it came down to it No! was the cry, we are better off together. And yet, less than a year later, Scotland's party of the Union - Labour - is facing total wipeout, while the SNP are seeking the balance of power at the upcoming General Election. It must be made clear that a vote for the SNP does not give Sturgeon the mandate to call another referendum - something she has discussed recently despite suggesting the referendum to be 'once in a generation'. Instead the trend to vote SNP must be understood as part of the wider dissatisfaction with the traditional parties.
In the next twenty years we face two great constitutional crises: EU and Scotland. Both solutions - independence and independence - are touted as panaceas for all our ills, but would instead isolate us. The SNP, like UKIP, have ridden the wave of nationalism and now it's paying off. Salmond and Sturgeon are seen by some as the champions of Scotland. However, the SNP pose a very serious threat to Scotland and the United Kingdom in two ways. Firstly they seek to irrevocably damage Scotland through independence, and secondly they are stirring up nationalist fervor to such an unhealthy point that the debate is lost under a sea of people who believe that Unionists are 'anti-Scottish'.
The SNP are simply not the answer. Despite campaigning for independence since 1934 they failed to give any coherent and transparent plans during the referendum. At any chance they can the SNP will highlight free tuition fees as an example of their progressive politics and yet there are more students from disadvantaged backgrounds at university in England than there are in Scotland (20.7% in England vs 15% in Scotland as of 2014). Their economic strategy, based on North Sea oil, now looks like a joke. They failed to accept that if they kept the pound they would lose all monetary controls. When it came to the EU they simply ignored the fact that an independent Scotland would be left out in the cold and have to reapply as a separate country for membership. This lack of thought is worrying. The SNP campaigned with the heart but was economically ignorant.
The unionist case however, needs to move beyond appealing to pragmatism and win the wider patriotic case because that is the only way they can get through to those who voted Yes. The SNP have created their own reality, where they are followed by a group who believe in independence at whatever the cost. According to a recent poll, 56% of SNP supporters believe that the nose-dive in oil prices are neither good nor bad for Scotland. A worrying indication of the blind support they have created.
The Yes movement ended up being directly led by the SNP rather than a coalition of voices like the Better Together campaign; therefore if you weren't SNP you were painted as un-Scottish. But surely anyone who was engaged and took part in the debate is a true Scot for they care about the future of their country. Inherent in any nationalist cause is an ugly minority who play nastily. Look at the 'Cybernats' and the recent inexcusable treatment of journalists James Cook and Nick Robinson; Robinson especially who's recent lung cancer diagnosis was labeled as 'karma'. The nationalists are unwilling to properly confront and debate on important issues, instead anyone trying to challenge them is ridiculed and Alex Salmond is leading by example.
On the campaign trail he repeatedly publicly belittled a 27 year-old reporter by dodging his questions and instead treating him like a child, at one point Salmond even gave him a bag of Jelly Babies. Salmond's vainglorious memoir 'The Dream Shall Never Die' just proved how petulant and obdurate he really is, refusing to empathise with anyone who voted no, claiming that all media that opposed him must be cosy with the 'Westminster Establishment' and that he lost the first debate with Alistair Darling not because of himself but his advisers. In Salmond's paranoid mind you can't trust independent news outlets (he calls the BBC a 'national disgrace'), the only newspapers he trusts are the Herald and the National, which both support independence. The National was launched at an SNP political event making it sound all too much like a propaganda piece. And yet, Salmond is one of the most effective political operators in British politics, him and Sturgeon share an almost rock-star like persona across Scotland.
Each difficult question the SNP face is deftly returned with some common sense charm, Salmon and Sturgeon are masters at this - hence their prominence. Like UKIP the SNP's most media savvy make it to the public fore as opposed to someone like the SNP's leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson. Come May 7th it'll be Alex Salmond, not Robertson stealing all the limelight in the Commons. The SNP are in a fortunate position. Their record is based on the decisions they make in the Scottish Parliament, not the House of Commons. This means that they can attack Westminster all they like without repercussions, no government would dare to mess with the generous Barnett Formula for fear of giving ground to the nationalists.
When Nicola Sturgeon took the stage last Thursday in the Leaders Debate many believed that she came out on top, not so hard when you can play the outsider, even better if you are not actually standing for election. Sturgeon spoke in the debate about others behaving like a 'petulant child' and yet this is exactly what she and her party have done by not respecting the people of Scotland's decision. Perhaps the most infuriating thing was that if the referendum had resulted in one vote on the side of Yes, Scotland would well on its way to independence, yet the SNP ignore the 55%.
The SNP genuinely don't want to work with a national government, a potentially powerful force for the betterment of Scotland. Instead they seek to undermine it and foster animosity between Holyrood and Westminster. We shouldn't hand the SNP any power over the Union because they do not believe in it. Nothing good would come out of a Labour government propped up by the SNP; at every turn they will try and divide the Union. The SNP haven't done enough to earn our trust, let alone hand them the keys to the kingdom. All they have done is sell a dangerously vague dream of independence and anti-British rhetoric.
Yes voters believe that I should be ashamed for singing Flower of Scotland at Murrayfield, and yet it is they who be ashamed for attempting to gag any opposition. They feel that if they can't win the debate they have to resort to bullying and fear tactics.
The Conservatives and Labour are going through a crisis of public confidence and so it is understandable as to why voters in Scotland are turning to the SNP, but by doing this we could easily sleepwalk our way into leaving the UK.
I'm not saying vote Labour or Tory, I'm saying vote for the Union.