The Unionist party litmus test

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By Hazel Lewry

It’s been an entertaining wee while in Scottish Politics.  Scottish Labour are to re-invent themselves as … Scotland’s Labour.  The party MPs until now led from London will now be … led from London and MSPs, hitherto concentrating only on devolved matters will now concentrate on … devolved matters.

Jim fixed it, good and proper, then promptly disappeared and left Sarah Boyack to sell the pig in a poke.

The Tories, not to be outdone, have an identity crisis of their own with Murdo ‘Name Eraser’ Fraser urging they drop the ‘Tory’ brand.  If Murdo ever gets around to dropping the policies as well then it will be job done.

What can you say about the Scottish Lib Dems?  Their MPs seem eager to embrace the Tory brand deemed toxic by Murdo.  Meanwhile their five MSPs are off to the party’s UK conference in a car driven by ‘Poor Wullie’ Rennie.

Wullie, dropped from the main event in Birmingham, clearly isn’t as big a draw in England as he is in Scotland where the BBC still insists on pretending he leads a major party.  The state broadcaster hasn’t yet got its head around the fact that where the Lib Dems were once ‘sweet sixteen’ they are now a less than ‘famous five’; “less eleven” is the call in bingo houses nowadays.

Anyway, given this comedy of errors I decided to put together some thoughts about a wee litmus test for the parties political of a union persuasion.

The test isn’t designed to be taken seriously.  Unionist parties tend only to listen to Westminster diktats anyway, common sense isn’t important.  Common sense in Westminster, as Cameron so ably demonstrated with his “stupid” response recently is demonstrably in very short supply.

We’ll limit it to six tests to see if the Unionist Parties actually have any apparent or potential hope of resurrecting themselves in the eyes of the Scots voter.  Six seems a reasonable number as that’s what Michael Moore threw at John Swinney in his recent publicity stunt.

In my limited political expertise it would seem that if the Unionist parties manage to successfully “re-invent themselves” it would take at least a majority of the following to prove it’s not just a Westminster whitewash to the Scots voter.

  • 1. Cut all ties with Westminster, use only Scottish funds and assets raised in Scotland by Scots to finance their operations, limit out of country donations (including R-UK).
  • 2. Sign a pledge to put Scotland first, always. (Liberal Democrats are exempt from this, until they can prove they’ll keep a signed promise).
  • 3. Promise removal of WMD from Scottish soils and waters, or at least a binding referendum on this.
  • 4. Promise removal or phase out of nuclear power from Scotland, judging on polling they could easily succeed with either option. A binding referendum at least.
  • 5. Guarantee that any Westminster MP elected under their banner would act in Scotland’s best interest as long as representation in that parliament continues.   As an example pledge Scotland’s oil revenues for Scotland’s use.
  • 6. An undertaking to provide full honest disclosure of all Scotland’s accounting from Whitehall so that Scots can best decide between FFA, Status Quo or full Sovereignty.

In fact, any “new” party, or party refocused around these principles, rising from the political turmoil of present day Scotland’s jumbled landscape could reasonably be expected to strip mine votes at will from the existing Unionist parties.

Every present indication has it these three parties of obsolete ideals have now passed the tipping point, where votes will continue to accelerate away from them to an organisation the people have trust and faith in.  Almost any organisation the people have trust and faith in.

What the Unionist parties, Labour in particular would do well to consider is that a “core vote” is simply that minimal nominal average level one obtains over sometimes several electoral cycles.  Core votes do change over time.  All Union core votes are now in decline in Scots General Elections.

I’d argue that if a “core vote” for a “mainstream party” drops much below 10% that party is no longer mainstream, but fringe.  A little like the Monster Raving Looney Party, worthy of a chuckle but not a serious use of a vote except as the ultimate protest.

I’d also argue that when a party loses around 50% of its deposits, they’re marginalised. The Lib Dems in Scotland are deservedly treading that border.  If a party is going to lie to the electorate, they should at least use some subtlety.  Signing a pledge – student fees – then binning it isn’t precisely subtle.

So there you have it.  Scotland’s Labour, the party formerly known as Tories and the incredible shrinking LibDems – it’s over to you.