Of hare brained schemes and the SmithComm


Commentary by Derek Bateman

Ruth Davidson will be deputy first minister alongside Nicola Sturgeon in less than two year’s time. And, yes, that does mean there will be an SNP-Conservative coalition government running Scotland.

Where will that leave all you left-wing, social-solidarity Yes voters, eh?

This type of hare-brained scenario is exciting the commentators because it appears, ghost-like, from the decline in support for Labour which has as an inadvertent consequence – a relatively high Tory vote. As Labour declines and the Tories remain unchanged, so the right wing seems stronger (and in one poll was actually registering higher).

And if Labour ‘moves to the Left’ to recapture its core, it surely leaves a vacuum into which the Tories will swiftly move to claim the centre ground. Thus, in a few short months, the cadavers of Conservatism will be dancing disjointedly again and Ruth Davidson will loom large as their cherubic puppet-master.


This type of straight replacement logic omits the key part of every election – voter instinct. Before the referendum the straight logic was simple…the SNP gets trounced and their support evaporates, leaving the way free for Labour to reclaim its rightful position. Duh…

Equally when Ian Lang as Secretary of State declared local government reorganisation in the wake of declining Tory support, he was gerrymandering the boundaries to create Conservative heartlands…didn’t happen.

Michael Forsyth tried appealing to our nationalism by returning the Stone of Destiny in the hope of making Tories more Scottish…didn’t happen.

We have learned to vote tactically and that means to deliver a broadly social democratic government regime – Lab/Lib or what should have been SNP/Lib but was rejected by Lib ‘democrats’ – and there is little reason in the current climate to think that will change.

What is true is that Yessers hell-bent on wiping out Labour have to accept that they are changing the rules of the game and creating instability in seats where the electorate may not want to accommodate their ambitions. For example, by taking a percentage of votes from Labour, they leave open the possibility of unexpected Tory gains. (Expect this to be a key part of Labour’s pitch).

In the 2010 General Election the national voting percentages in Scotland were Labour of 42 (a fantastic result) but the other three parties all within a few points of each other – SNP on 20, Lib Dems on 19 and Tories on 16.5. If there is to be a Liberal melt down with those votes circulating unpredictably and we have Greens against Socialists against Nationalists in many seats, it could be the party whose vote remains constant who benefits.

What happens to the Labour votes that happily transfer to SNP for Holyrood but return for British elections – as in 2010? If there is a Yes alliance in some seats will the electors allow themselves to be restricted in their choice in order to satisfy a grievance against the referendum result which is now history (the way Labour will present it).

So there could be inadvertent consequences from a confused picture but the idea that Scots will casually transfer their vote to the Tories as just another acceptable option defies history. In theory a Labour collapse would make Alistair Darling’s seat Edinburgh South West vulnerable to the Tories who lie second.

But Labour voters sick of Darling’s behaviour in the referendum and of his lining his pockets will hardly transfer to Conservative. Liberals gutted at the Coalition can hardly find a home among them either. And a majority of 8500 needs all forces moving in one direction to make a difference. Indeed there is every chance that, if he is beseiged, Tory voters, believing their vote is wasted in terms of electing a government, may back Darling as a reward for leading Better Together (and being a perfectly Tory type of chap).

Nor do I buy the idea that Labour will lurch to the Left to counter the Nats. Labour couldn’t find the Left with a compass. They have no idea what that means any more and look foolish even saying it out loud. No question that some Labour people would love it to happen but they know you can’t just recreate the same people and the same party model into a radical, mould-breaking movement and retain credibility – such as it is.

They are a subsidiary of a UK organisation chasing right wing votes in the south-east without which victory is impossible.

Scottish MPs voted for the benefits cap.They worked hand-in-glove with the Tories. They send themselves to the House of Lords. They never back legitimate strikes.

The list of exclusions goes on. Nor do I think Nicola Sturgeon will head off westward and risk undermining the enormous strength of the SNP – that it gathers support from every corner. Former Tories are now SNP, as are former Labour and Liberals as well as the non-aligned. Public sector workers in Glasgow are openly Nat, the same with shopkeepers in Angus.

And here’s the odd thing about the Tories. There are far more conservatives in Scotland than ever vote for them which is why polling shows attitudes here to key issues like immigration aren’t violently different from England. They just can’t find a sense of belonging in a party peopled by a dwindling band of stuck-up misfits, old fashioned militarists and self-centred anglophiles.

The referendum result confirmed what many have suspected, that there is an unblinking refusenik mentality in middle Scotland that cares little for the country, community or any of the values that mark out progressive societies. It values instead the bank balance, the pension, the share dividend and self.

Yet only 20 per cent of that number voted Tory in 2010. So even when the key principle on which Scottish Conservatism is based – Unionism – is at stake, the overwhelming majority back that principle, but not the party. Scottish Conservatism is shrouded in a deathly gloom from which there is no escape – they are the Halloween Party.

This surely was the moment in a changed landscape when a transformed right wing party would ride centre stage, demanding extra powers and championing Scottish business. But the death-wish Tories said No to that as well.

Maybe best prepare for Patrick Harvie as deputy first minister…