In the 2015 general election, the Scottish National Party lied, lied and lied again. They helped the Tories win the election. They cannot be allowed to get away with doing the same in 2017.
“The only way to lock the Tories out of 10 Downing Street is to vote SNP on 7 May,” said the SNP. The reality: while the SNP won 56 seats, a Tory-Lib-Dem coalition was replaced by a Tory government with an absolute majority.
“The only way to force Labour back to its roots is to vote SNP,” claimed an SNP election leaflet. The reality: while Labour moved left and elected Corbyn as its leader — without any assistance from the SNP — the SNP dismissing Labour as “unelectable”.
“It’s time to put fairness and equality back on the agenda,” claimed the same leaflet. The reality: in Scotland, where the SNP had held power for ten years, child poverty, educational inequalities, and social and economic inequalities have increased.
“The SNP will never stop doing our best to make Scotland’s NHS the very best,” claimed another SNP election leaflet. The reality: health is a devolved issue, and the SNP’s record is one of shortages of GPs, shortages of nurses, longer waiting times for A&E treatment, and missed targets.
Tax: “The SNP will restore the 50p income tax rate for those earning more than £150,000,” promised the SNP manifesto. The reality: in the 2014 referendum the SNP had promised no tax rises in an independent Scotland, and in 2016 the SNP in Holyrood voted against a 50p income tax rate.
“A vote for the SNP is not a vote for another referendum. It is ultimately up to the Scottish people. I can’t impose it on the people against their will,” said Sturgeon. The reality: non-stop campaigning for a second referendum by the SNP, despite opposition from the majority of Scottish people.
The SNP would make a Labour government “bolder and better” because “if you hold the balance (in a hung Parliament), then you hold the power” claimed Sturgeon and Salmond. The reality: The Tories responded to Scottish nationalism by whipping up English nationalism and won the election.
The SNP election strategy in 2015 was to portray Labour as “Red Tories”, even though the SNP had voted with the Tories in seven out of ten votes under the last Labour government, and even though its first Holyrood government had depended on Tory votes for survival. It portrayed itself as the “true” champions of what Labour used to stand for — by, fairly literally, cutting and pasting the Labour election manifesto and adopting it as their own, even though the manifesto consisted of policies which the SNP had vigorously opposed in the 2014 referendum.
And, above all, the SNP waved a flag: “My vow is to make Scotland stronger at Westminster,” said Sturgeon, “this election is about making Scotland stronger, this is a manifesto to make Scotland stronger at Westminster, we will make the your (the Scottish people’s) voice heard more loudly and clearly than it has ever been heard before at Westminster.”
Sturgeon initially proposed another “progressive alliance”: “If the parliamentary arithmetic lends itself to the SNP being part of a progressive alliance to keep the Tories out of government, then the SNP will be part of that, as we said in 2015.” That lasted all of 24 hours. Then Sturgeon switched to a full-scale offensive against her allies of, literally, only yesterday. Labour’s vote in Westminster for a general election was a case of turkeys voting for Christmas, said Sturgeon. Corbyn “ain’t going anywhere near Number 10 Downing Street, on his own or with the help of anyone else.” It was “utterly shameful and disgraceful” that Labour had “allowed itself” to fall so far behind the Tories in opinion polls. That was “Labour’s failure and is an utter disgrace.”
Speaking at the STUC congress, Sturgeon said the election in Scotland was “a two-horse race between the SNP and hard-line Tories.” Writing off Labour and writing off the election result as a foregone conclusion is the flipside of nationalist flagwaving.
Although the SNP has singularly failed to do so for the past two years, it promises, yet again, to be the only party which will Stand Up for Scotland.“If people in Scotland want an effective, strong opposition to a Tory government, they won’t get it from unelectable Labour, they won’t get it from the Lib Dems who still say they would support a Tory government. They will only get it from the SNP.”
Scottish politics in recent years has been a textbook example of how poisonous the forces of nationalism are in general and the SNP in particular. The SNP has worked consistently to polarise politics around national identity. Opponents of Scottish independence have been labelled as “anti-Scottish”, “Quislings” and “traitors to their country” who “talk Scotland down”. It has not used its powers at Holyrood, to pay for public services, for example, or to scrap the “rape clause” that it now opposes. In fact, the SNP has not passed any new legislation in over a year.
What distinguishes SNP Scottish nationalism is not that it is “civic and joyous”. What distinguishes SNP nationalism is that whereas other nationalisms seek to unite the nation they claim to represent, SNP nationalism polarises the Scottish nation — between those with a purely Scottish identity and those with a British-Scottish identity. The SNP has sought to rally people round a flag.
Unsurprisingly, this leads to other people rallying round a different flag. The result: a surge in support for the Scottish Tories. The optimum outcome of this general election for the SNP is the crushing of the Labour Party, a Tory government with an overwhelming majority, and a big vote for the SNP in Scotland.