Saturday 11 May 2024

Back to the Tartan Tories


Scotland is returning to its Labour roots which gives the SNP a choice either it goes further left than Labour which means it might as well merge with the Scottish Greens, or it goes to the Centre Right. It has chosen the latter.

For historical reasons there is both a geographical and a numerical limit to the support that the Scottish Conservatives can achieve. It can’t do much better than it did in the General Election of 2017 when it won 28% of the vote and 12 seats. It is unimaginable that the Scottish Conservatives could win a majority at Holyrood, because Holyrood was built specifically to avoid Tories/Margaret Thatcher ruling in Scotland. There is nothing the Scottish Conservatives can do to change this. It may take one hundred years. It may take longer.

But while Scotland will not vote for Tories, it will vote for Tartan Tories who are in every respect to the right of the Scottish Conservatives. This is the direction in which the SNP is now going to travel.

It may initially appear absurd that a party that was in a coalition with the ultra-leftwing Scottish Greens could so rapidly tack to the right, but this is to misunderstand the nature of the SNP and Scottish nationalism in general.

Both hard (SNP) and soft (Labour, Lib Dems) Scottish nationalism built on the 1980s and the perceived horror of Margaret Cromwell’s destruction of Scotland to argue first for a Scottish Parliament and then logically enough for independence. If your Scottish nationalism is sufficient to argue that it is unfair if one part of the UK is outvoted by another part because Scotland is a country and not merely a region, then you don’t frankly have an argument when the SNP make the point that countries ought to be independent. Soft nationalism logically give rise to hard nationalism because it provides it with its premise. Once you argue that Scotland is separate country and needs a separate parliament with separate powers don’t be surprised when you get separatism.

The SNP reinvented itself as a specifically anti-Tory party after the 2010 General Election when the Conservatives formed a coalition deal with the Lib Dems. It’s no use the SNP said having only a devolved parliament we Scots are still outnumbered by wicked Tories and look one of them is Prime Minister again just like that awful Oliver Thatcher.

Being anti-Tory was the driving force of the independence movement from 2010 to 2024. The most frequent insult from independence supporters was that Pro UK people were Tories. But if Labour wins the General Election and if Labour wins the most seats in Scotland and heaven forfend if Labour becomes the majority party in Holyrood, it isn’t going to be any use to be the anti-Tory party.

Humza Yousaf did not have the wit to realise that he could not continue to present it as a battle between the SNP and the Tories. It was senseless because the Scottish Conservatives are only competitive in the seats they hold and a few others. Moreover, with Keir Starmer as Prime Minister and Anas Sarwar as First Minister the SNP was always going to have to offer something different.

I have long believed that if Scotland were ever to achieve independence and indeed in order to prepare itself for this it would require that it become a low tax, low public spending slightly larger equivalent of Singapore. If Scotland undercut the former UK and the EU by being much more competitive than either, it could perhaps overcome some of the disadvantages of leaving the UK single market.

The better together argument always struck me as foolish. It was saying Scotland is a country that can’t manage a fully sovereign parliament and needs a permanent subsidy from the UK or else we would be poorer than we are already. But if Scotland had become independent in 2014 it would have had to have managed. The likely result I believe is that the SNP would have been extremely fiscally conservative, and we would have had brutal spending cuts. It would not have been pleasant but lots of countries have gone through such unpleasantness.

This was always the folly of the anti-Tory argument as well as the argument that if only Scotland were independent, we would become like Denmark. It is much more likely that Scotland would have had to go through the sort of restructuring that Argentina is undergoing and just like with Argentina in time it would have worked.

This was always the dishonesty behind the SNP’s anti-Tory argument. Independence would have given us Margaret MacThatcher and the whole direction of the Scottish economy would have been the opposite of free tuition, free prescriptions and baby boxes. Instead, we would have been paying to visit the doctor by means of health insurance. Scotland’s high public spending at present is a feature of being a part of the UK and would not survive leaving it.

The SNP is now going to oppose Labour by tacking to the Centre Right, meanwhile the majority of SNP politicians and voters will still think of themselves as being leftwing anti-Tories. The incoherence is resolved by realising that the SNP does not care about left and right.

Some independence supporters kid themselves that they are in politics to achieve socialism, or to be in some other way progressive. But this is merely self-deception. The SNP is going to ditch all the woke crap, because it hurt the independence cause. The SNP is going to gradually try to be more fiscally conservative and less left-wing. It will do that as this now is the only route to independence.

For a while it looked as if opposition to Brexit might improve the SNP’s fortune, but it didn’t so expect in time the SNP to oppose joining the EU. It makes much more sense for an independent Scotland to be closely aligned with the former UK than the EU.

The SNP has only ever cared about independence. It doesn’t want independence to achieve some other goal. It wants it for itself. It is for this reason that the SNP can swing in a minute from the far left to the centre right and no one seems to notice and why its supporters don’t really care. If Karl Marx gets the SNP to independence that’s fine, if Margaret Thatcher gets it to independence the SNP will adopt her policies while still blaming her for everything.

The SNP is a single-issue party which is about to reinvent itself again as the Tartan Tories, because that is the only way it can oppose Labour. Doing so may be intellectually incoherent, but it also makes strategic good sense.

If you liked this article, then cross my PayPal with silver and soon there will be a new one. See below.