Earlier today I was in a Twitter conversation with a No voter, and something they said gave me the idea for this article. I was asked about what happens to the 420,000 Tory voters in Scotland if we go independent. I’d never given that any thought before. I recently discovered that Scotland’s voting population is around 4.1m. The Tories make up around 1/10th of that total. There’s symmetry with that figure. Scotland is around 1/10th of the population size of the UK.
My argument around democracy is summed up by the statement that England always gets the government that England votes for, while Scotland also always gets the government that England votes for. The counterpoint to that, is that it’s a UK election, and the UK gets the government it votes for. Scotland could vote Labour in every single constituency, if England wants a Tory government, we’re vastly outnumbered, and we get a Tory government.
As things stand, the Tories have pockets of support in Scotland. They have a larger share of the vote that I knew, but even then, they’re still a minority party in Scotland. Small ‘c’ conservatives have the fact that Westminster controls many of the powers concerning Scotland, and the budget for the devolved powers. They also have the fact that Labour are campaigning to their small ‘c’ conservative counterparts in English marginals. Either way, the upstream pipe is very conservative friendly. An SNP government in Holyrood is limited in how much it can differentiate Scotland. Independence changes all of that.
Imagine you’re someone who believes in small government, that taxes should be as low as possible, and that the markets are best suited to inject value for money into public services. Right now, your ideology is coming from Westminster, regardless of what Holyrood do. You’re a minority in Scotland, but your views are represented in places Holyrood can’t damage. If Scotland goes independent that upstream is disconnected. You’re on your own as a minority trying to swim against the tide to get your views represented.
There are of course many little areas where you could get some traction in legislation, but plenty of big ones where you have no hope. Not only are the vast majority of Scots passionate about keeping the NHS as a public service, owned by the public and ran for those who need it, the Yes Scotland plans are to enshrine that into the constitution. You have zero chance of building any campaign to privatise it, and even if you can win people round, it’s protected so you can’t do anything. The sentiment around keeping the NHS publicly owned, paid by the taxpayer and run for the benefit of the people is also extended to the whole social safety net.
Trident is another area of almost universal agreement among the people of Scotland. This is represented by many of our MSPs. A firm part of the Yes Scotland plans are that Trident is removed from Scotland’s waters and budgets, and the base refitted as a regular base. This is a one shot deal. After it’s gone and the base refitted, that submarine has literally sailed. You don’t have a chance of reversing it, or building a new replacement for Trident. Arguably, these are the only two areas where the people from all political hues are almost unanimous, both of which will go in a very left of centre way, and both are irreversible.
In some very key areas, Scotland will move very distinctly a few steps to the left. The majority of the politicians and voting public are behind that. As a minority group with no upstream, where do right of centre people go? Is Scotland going to be a place they can live in? I suspect some of them will see a Yes win as the end of an era, and prefer to move to rUK, while others will tough it out and try to win the minor battles.
I’ve never voted SNP, but I think that’s because I never actually looked at them. I came to political awareness at the end of the Thatcher era, where anything other than a Labour or Tory vote was a wasted vote; at least to my naive mind, in hoping to pick a winning party. After devolution I should have looked at them. I didn’t. That was my mistake. I keep hearing that the SNP are a right wing party. Their policies towards the poor and vulnerable are very left wing. Perhaps they’re more right wing in other areas, like big business friendly, I don’t know. Maybe right of centre people have something to stay for, with the SNP or Labour as winners of little battles.