The current general election is proving to be one of the most interesting and entertaining elections in a long time. Certainly the most entertaining as the assorted Unionist parties try to outdo each other in incompetence and nastiness. The target of their increasingly venomous insults is the SNP in general and Nicola Sturgeon in particular. At least they now know who the leader of the SNP is! However their hatred of the SNP is at bottom, a barely disguised antithapy to any Scottish influence at Westminster.
The seemingly unstoppable rise of the SNP is generating an equally unstoppable descent into madness on the part of most Unionists. It is not just the gratuitous insults and caricatures. The real sign of madness is that the whole line of attack from both the Tories and Labour is counter productive in terms of defending their precious Union.
It is one of the delicious ironies of the election that it is the SNP which has moved on from the referendum and is campaigning on a platform of reforming the UK and anti-austerity. While the Unionists are still stuck in the past, refighting old battles. Neither independence nor another referendum are on the agenda for the next Parliament. The SNP has repeatedly made this clear. Yet all the Unionist parties want to talk about apparently is independence or another referendum.
One can see why this suits the Tories, at least in the short term. They have only one MP in Scotland, and face little real prospect of improving on this. The Tories can afford in electoral terms to write off Scotland. Furthermore, the last thing they want is any discussion about the deliberate mess they have made of the economy in the name of austerity. Nor are they keen on discussing ways to reform the way the UK works. More democracy, an end to patronage, real decentralisation etc are pretty much anathema to the Tories, the real party of privilege. Their demonisation of Scots may, just, work in terms of increasing their vote in England, but only at the cost of enormous damage to the Union. Many non SNP supporters will rightly be appalled and insulted by the Tories vicious attacks on Nicola. Worse, the almost out of hand rejection of any Scottish influence at Westminster, calls into question just what is the role of Scottish MPs to be in the Tory view of the UK?
Labour of course are in the opposite situation. They have always relied on a large contingent of MPs from Scotland to make up the lobby fodder for the party in Westminster. Scottish Labour MPs can always be relied upon to put the interests of Labour at Westminster before the interests of their constituents in Scotland. Alas for Labour, they face the prospect of losing much, if not most, of this contingent on 7th May. Their rather pathetic attempts to stave this off, are proving just as off-putting to most Scots as the Tory party’s.
Labour has indulged in its own spot of trying to demonise Nicola and the SNP. But as can be seen from both parties’ manifestos, there is much in common between Labour and the SNP on the economy, NHS and reforming the UK. Yet Labour cannot on any account admit this. Hence their repeated lie about how it is the largest party that gets to form the government. Denigrate your opponents and tell lies, this seems to be the core of Labour’s campaign in Scotland. No wonder it is not working. Everyone knows that Ed Milliband needs the support of 323 MPs to become Prime Minister. And it matters not one whit where these 323 MPs come from.
The real difficulty for all Unionist parties is that the only way to secure the Union in a stable way is to reform the UK into a federal state with a proper Parliament for England. But how many people in England really want this?