Thursday 25 April 2024

Patrick and Lorna Doone and oot


The Bute House agreement between the SNP & the Scottish Greens always had a false premise. The SNP did not need a coalition agreement with the Greens to form a government. In 2016 Nicola Sturgeon led an SNP government which lasted until 2021. The SNP did not have an overall majority, nor did it have a coalition. This neither hindered Sturgeon making the case for independence nor did it prevent her introducing legislation.

Sturgeon introduced the Bute House agreement because she hoped somehow that it would make it easier for her to introduce legislation regarding a second independence referendum. But this too was a false premise. The Greens would have voted for a second independence referendum whether in a coalition or not.

But as it turned out the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament could not legally vote on a second referendum so the premise of the Bute House Agreement turned out with hindsight to be false if it had anything to do with achieving independence.

The overall majority that Alex Salmond won in 2011 proved enough for David Cameron to think that he had to grant the first referendum, but whether it would do so again after the Supreme Court ruling is unknown.

There is clearly no logical reason why winning an overall majority in a parliament that has no concern with constitutional matters should force Westminster to give a referendum on such a matter.

But the issue has always been primarily political. If a UK Prime Minister ever felt compelled to give a second referendum he would give it, but it is unclear what would make him feel compelled.

So having the Greens in government did not help the SNP argue the case for independence. The argument for independence is weaker now in 2024 than it has been in over a decade and is liable to become weaker still. If the SNP is reduced to less than twenty seats at Westminster, still more so if it is reduced to less than ten, then it will have gone backwards.

At its peak between around 2015 and 2020 support for independence was such that British Prime Ministers had to continually refuse a second referendum as the risk of losing was too high. Now it looks as if the danger has passed.

If the SNP wins fewer seats and a smaller percentage of the vote than Labour, it will be impossible to argue that the democratic will of Scotland is being thwarted or that independence is even close to being the majority opinion. But in that case the SNP won’t have an argument, because Scotland will have voted Labour and got a Labour government.

This returns Scotland to the long decades of Labour majorities and the SNP being a minor party. At this point it will be possible to conclude that the long battle that began in 2011 has finished with the decisive defeat of Scottish nationalism.

My goodness it didn’t look like this in January 2023.

I don’t think that the Scottish Greens are responsible for this defeat. This is because I don’t think the Greens really believe in independence. They support it for opportunistic reasons and because of their general far left hatred of Britain.

The Greens were responsible for or contributed to much of the legislation that has proved so damaging to the Scottish government.

Gender self-id reached mainstream public opinion by showing that it could lead to male rapists in women’s prisons. Ordinary people just don’t believe that a person can change sex or gender simply by saying so.

The deposit return scheme turned out to be a monumental waste of money and showed the incompetence of Lorna Slater because she was unaware that Scotland could not go it alone on this issue. It was always likewise hard to see how it would make that much of a difference to emissions.

Patrick Harvie’s threats to force us all to buy heat pumps or else be unable to sell our houses angered those of us who realise that heat pumps are expensive and unlikely to provide much heat in Scotland’s wet and windy climate.

The Greens come across as extremists and oddballs and the SNP would certainly be better off without them, but the decline in support for the SNP is not primarily because of the Greens.

Scotland might have escaped some dubious legislation if there had been no Bute House agreement, but if it had been avoided it would have made little difference otherwise and so will make little difference now.

Humza Yousaf can happily carry on as a minority government. It is very hard indeed to cause an early election if the SNP does not want one. Yousaf has frequently enjoyed the support of Labour and Lib Dem MSPs on issues such as the hate crime legislation. The Greens will mainly continue to vote for SNP laws and if they don’t Labour and the Lib Dems will make up the difference.

Yousaf has an opportunity here. He could begin to introduce more popular legislation that might make life a bit easier in Scotland. He could decide not to make alcohol more expensive. He could let people burn wood in the Highlands. He could build roads and get rid of Low Emission Zones. He could repeal the hate crime laws. But he won’t.

This Greens are like SNP extremists, but they are not so extreme that the vast majority of SNP MSPs don’t agree with them about almost everything.

This really is the cause of the SNP decline. So long as Nicola Sturgeon was at her peak it was possible for SNP voters to think it was worth enduring poor SNP government because soon there would be independence. But once it became clear that there wasn’t going to be independence then why accept being bossed around by Humza Yousaf, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater?

I think it was a combination of the Supreme Court ruling, Sturgeon’s resignation and the ongoing police investigation that has caused the support for the SNP to fall so far and so fast, but this in turn has taken away the idea that it’s worth it because over the next hill is the promised land.

It becomes a doom loop for Scottish nationalists. Support falls, so why endure the SNP’s poor rule when there will be no independence, which causes support to fall still further. Take away the carrot and all there is left is stick with Hapless Humza wielding it on your bottom. Who votes for that?

Without the promised land you are just left with the irritation of Humza Yousaf making life more expensive and inconvenient. Under those circumstances it makes sense for leftwing Scotland to pivot instead to Labour. You get rid of the Tory government. You focus on day-to-day issues rather than independence which isn’t happening anyway. Maybe life gets a bit better.

The loss of the Greens is a trivial matter of small consequence. Compared to Peter Murrell being charged it is a footnote to a footnote and Murrell may well turn out to be of no consequence too compared to what must surely follow at some point. Sometimes a partnership is so close and a rule so absolute that it is impossible to imagine anything other than joint responsibility. Imagine what happens to SNP support at that point.


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