Saturday 3 June 2017

A vote for which party helps the Pro UK cause?

There is only one thing in politics I really care about. I have lived under Labour Government’s, Conservative Governments and Coalition Governments. These things matter in the short term. But in the long term they don’t really matter. What matters is our country.

Compared to the threat of our country breaking up it matters little to me who is elected. If somehow we could go back to the time when Labour won nearly all the seats in Scotland but the UK was safe, I would take that result in a second. If I thought that voting Labour or the Lib Dems was the best way to protect the UK, I would likewise do so without hesitation. If, on the other hand, I thought a Conservative Government would put the UK at risk I would urge Pro UK people to vote for anyone else.

My politics is derived from my Pro UK position not the other way round. I have in the past voted Labour and for the Lib Dems. This is not about party politics. This is about protecting our country.

None of us know what is going to happen next Thursday. I doubt that I will stay up as I have to go to work on Friday. But when I get up I will not know for sure what the result will be. I could be in for a surprise.

It’s vital that we look at the possible outcomes from a Pro UK perspective. Which one of these will help the Pro UK cause? Which will hinder it?

If the Conservatives win a reasonable majority it will give them the mandate to do two things that will greatly aid the Pro UK position in Scotland.

It is crucial that the UK Government goes into negotiations with the EU with the ability to walk away without a deal. This perversely gives us the best chance of achieving the “Holy Grail” of free trade with the EU without having to pay massively for the privilege and without being ruled and controlled by Brussels. This prize is within our grasp if the Government is given a free hand, if it doesn't have to give a running commentary to Parliament and most importantly if we threaten to walk away and mean it.

There are two possible outcomes then. Either we gain a bilateral trade deal with the EU or we trade with them using World Trade Organization rules. Both of these scenarios massively help the Pro UK cause in Scotland.

If the UK gains a bilateral trade deal, then it is hard to see what Sturgeon can complain about. The difference between membership of the EU single market and bilateral free trade is minimal. But more importantly such a trade deal locks Scotland into the UK because Scotland’s trade with the EU would depend on membership of the UK. To become independent Scotland would then have to leave both the UK’s single market and the bilateral trade agreement with the EU. This doesn’t look like a very attractive option.

Alternatively if the UK walked away from the EU without a deal, then if Scotland became independent and joined either the EU or even if we joined only the EU’s single market, there would be trade barriers between the Former UK and Scotland. This too looks unattractive.

It is for this reason above all that I argued that Brexit would make the task of achieving Scottish independence much harder. This too is the reason that I supported us leaving the EU. It is not accidental that support for independence and the SNP is falling. It is not despite Brexit, but because of it. When I predicted this sometime before the EU referendum hardly anyone believed me. Most experts thought leaving the EU would increase SNP support. But really it is simple logic. Leaving the EU makes Scottish independence harder to achieve and much less attractive. This is why Pro UK Scots need a Government that wants to make Brexit a success. It is crucial that we do not end up with a Government that wants to water down Brexit or turn it into a failure. 

We need then a UK Government that is going to get us either a bilateral trade agreement or which is willing to walk away. The only Government that can do either of these things is the Conservatives.

The other mandate that Theresa May will gain if she wins power is the mandate to block indyref2 pretty much indefinitely. The key task is to get the UK out of the EU prior to any second independence referendum. Once the UK is out a massive leap in the dark would be required for Scotland to join the EU.  The long term fundamentals from then on go against the SNP. Putting yourself in a different trade bloc (the EU) from your greatest trade partner (the former UK) is never going to make economic sense. Once we are outside the EU voting for "independence" will involve giving up control over Scottish affairs and losing newly won powers over issues such as agriculture and fisheries. Scotland's position within the UK frankly looks a heck of a lot more independent than it would as a region of an EU that is on its way to ever closer political union. 

Voting for Brexit has massively helped the Pro UK cause, but both Labour and the Lib Dems would like to make leaving the EU resemble staying. They want us to retain as much as possible of EU membership. The Lib Dems especially would like a second EU referendum which would overturn Brexit. This would have the effect of taking away the main Pro UK benefit that Brexit gives us. It would make the SNP’s task easier. 

It is perfectly possible to imagine that next week Theresa May will have won a good majority. The Scottish Conservatives may have won 30% of the vote in Scotland or more and gained 10-12 seats. With luck this could even go higher. The SNP might have won as little as 40% of the vote, perhaps even less than that. This result would effectively kill off independence. If the SNP is seen to be going backwards and if large chunks of Scotland have been turned blue, it will be very hard indeed for Sturgeon to argue that there is popular support for indyref2. Those blue areas of Scotland stretching from the Borders to the North East will be declaring we want to stay in the UK and that we don’t want to be dragged out against our will by the SNP. This is just the sort of support Theresa May needs to continue her firm “not yet” strategy with regard to indyref2. For the first time in years we will be able to breathe easily. Our country will no longer be under threat.

The alternative is the following. Labour could win 300 seats at Westminster. They would then have to make some sort of deal with the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and finally the SNP.

It doesn’t matter how often Jeremy Corbyn avoids the question we know for certain that he would have two choices. Either he could try to form a minority Government that might only last weeks or he would have to make a deal. It is virtually impossible for Labour to rule without SNP votes. They would have to win a landslide in England in order to rule on their own. This simply isn’t going to happen. If Labour win the election therefore we can expect Nicola Sturgeon in affect to be in Government. She might not be called Deputy Prime Minister, but that would in reality be her position. What would she demand? She would demand that that Scotland had a special EU status, she would demand ever more powers for the Scottish Parliament and she would demand indyref2. All of the Pro UK advantages I have outlined would immediately have been lost. 

Every Labour or Lib Dem MP who is elected anywhere and also anywhere in Scotland makes it more likely that we will end up with Nicola Sturgeon holding the rest of the country to ransom. It is this which makes so called "tactical" voting so obtuse. It is a very poor Pro UK tactic indeed if your vote puts the SNP in Government. 

I want to get Scotland back to normal politics. I want to be debating with Labour and the Lib Dems about how to run our country not break it up. But we can only get there if we can make SNP supporters realise that independence isn’t happening. At this point they will go back to thinking about day to day issues rather than the constitution.

Pro UK people have a chance to kill of independence as an issue. We can take away SNP hope or we can give them power. Even if you don’t generally support the Conservatives I urge you to lend us your vote just once. We can squabble about party politics later, but first vote just one time for the only party that is going to actually stop indyref2 and protect the UK from SNP threats. Vote Conservative.