It is a supreme irony of this election campaign that the most unionist party has been the SNP.
Other parties have been keen to play up the idea of Scots as an apocalypse-ushering threat to the nation, but the SNP have consistently said that they are willing to look for some kind of consensus if no majority is returned on Thursday. Far from being the English-hating separatists portrayed by the Tories and the media, the SNP are in fact a moderate centre-left party who are willing to work in the interests of the United Kingdom and get rid of Cameron, Osborne and their chums. Independence isn’t part of their program in the present campaign.
There’s some logic in the idea that the only way to get rid of the Tories is to vote Labour. The argument goes that voting SNP will reduce the chances of Miliband forming a majority, meaning the Tories have a chance of getting back in. But not being the Tories isn’t much of a reason to vote for somebody, and the dour pragmatism of voting Labour for no other reason (except maybe some sentimental attachment to what the party once was) is a pretty depressing option.
Nicola Sturgeon has consistently made the point that if there are more anti-Tory MPs in the House of Commons than there are Tory MPs, then it will be possible to form a new, more progressive, government.
If Ed Miliband refuses to do that, then a second term for the Conservatives will be down to him.
But, as everybody knows but nobody wants to admit, things will be different after the votes are in. Promises or vows will no doubt start to shift as the iron logic of electoral arithmetic takes over. After all, if the polls are accurate and Scotland does return a large number of SNP MPs, then they will have every right expect some say in how the country is run. Won’t they?
They might expect to have some say, but the idea of that happening produces waves of rage and hatred that are hard to understand. We’ve heard plenty in the campaign about Sturgeon being the most dangerous woman in Britain, the Scottish tail wagging the English dog, and so on, and that kind of language makes you wonder what politicians actually want Scots to do.
During the referendum there was lots of talk about working together, pooling and sharing, Scotland being an equal partner in a family of nations, but the prospect of Scots actually fulfilling that role doesn’t seem very palatable to the people who said those things.
UK politicians don’t want Scots to run their own country, and they don’t want Scots to have a say in running theirs. What exactly do they want Scottish people to do?
Are Scots only part of the UK family if they choose representatives acceptable to the parties who have ruled the country for decades?
Voting should, I think (naively, some folk will say), come down to choosing the party with the best ideas. The SNP are the only party who are offering an alternative to the austerity that has done so much damage in the last few years and that, I’d say, is an idea worth voting for.
Jim Murphy might talk about opposing austerity, but nobody really believes him. In Scotland the SNP have made sure that people can access medicine and higher education even if they are poor, and they continue to campaign for getting rid of nuclear weapons we don’t need.
In Westminster they won’t be able to achieve all the things they want, but if the election results in a relatively sizeable, left-leaning anti-austerity contingent in the UK parliament, that can only be a good thing. Labour should drop their separatist position and admit they’d be better together with the SNP.