An anti-Johnson ticket and a chance to escape domestic troubles makes this election a gift for Nicola Sturgeon's party—regardless of what happens across the rest of the UKby Dominic Hinde / October 31, 2019 / Leave a comment
When the SNP threw their weight behind a December election, and effectively press-ganged Labour into doing so too, it was not immediately obvious what they hoped to achieve. Labour accused them of wanting to hand Boris Johnson Brexit on a plate. There was also dissent in their own ranks. But the SNP’s move makes much more sense when seen outside of the usual frames of Westminster politics.
Scottish politics is like three-dimensional chess: at any one time, the left-right and unionist-independence dimensions are simultaneously in play, and the SNP’s hegemony is based on mastering this never-ending game. For the SNP, Westminster elections are about leverage and legitimacy as much as they are about potentially taking the keys to Downing Street.
If the Tories win a majority, it will strengthen the SNP narrative of diverging political cultures and London’s disregard for Scotland’s interests. If the SNP end up as kingmakers in a Labour administration, on the other hand, Nicola Sturgeon has a shopping list of concessions ranging from control of energy policy and revenues to another independence referendum.
The election is also welcome news for a party lacking energy and dynamism in domestic government. There is an internal split in the SNP between gradualists who want another legal referendum and those eager for a unilateral declaration of independence, as well as between Nordic social democrats and the Celtic tiger crowd of small-time businessmen and friends of international capital who think Scotland should position itself as a low-tax haven for overseas investors and wealth creators.
At the same time, the SNP is dealing with a raft of minor and major scandals. The Scottish Government is currently paying £1.4m a month to an offshore firm represented by the PR company of economic advisor Andrew Wilson for a privately financed children’s hospital that is so poorly built it cannot be used. Despite the climate emergency it is still very much in bed with the oil industry, too—this summer, it missed its own emissions targets once again.
Meanwhile, its former leader will shortly face trial for allegations of rape and sexual assault. Along with shambolic rail services and clandestine deals with the US military to use a government-owned airport, it is little wonder the party are happy to fight an election almost entirely…