Whoa!, that’s a big title…
The most depressing thing about the night of May 6th (apart from the prospect of a Tory election win, remember they were only about 160,000 votes short of an overall majority – with many UKIP votes denying the Tories that majority) was the glacial movement in the political landscape in Scotland. This weekend, the SNP will gather for the first time since that election, perhaps to mull over May, but also to make plans for retaining their tenancy of Bute House.
The SNP went into the General Election with high hopes of a breakthrough. However as the campaign went on, they became more and more sidelined. They became pre-occupied about the Leaders debates, and the effect the increased exposure for the big three was having on the exposure of the SNP and their policies. As a result of their attempts to get Alex Salmond on to the podium (who lets not forget, wasn’t actually standing for any form of office at this election), the SNP came across as surly. Having said that the debates were a poorly structured attempt to Americanise our much more complex democracy. I would hope at the next Westminster election, that more flexible structures can be agreed.
The main problem with the SNP in May was simply that they had not worked out their narrative for this election. This is not a new problem for the SNP, there has not really been a reason to vote SNP in General Election’s since the inception of the Scottish Parliament. As the pro independence party, you would have thought that devolution would given the SNP the opportunity to push the case for independence at Westminster elections, and the opportunity to push for government/policy ideas in Holyrood elections.
Yet the SNP have not gone down this route. For this election the SNP went with an anti-cuts agenda, with the slogan “More Nat’s, Less Cuts”. As a result, Scottish Labour massacred the SNP, with their variants of the “Ripped-off-Glasgow” campaigns. That was before a bunch of parents drove a coach and horses through the SNP’s slogan by bringing up the cuts implemented by… er… the SNP led Renfrewshire Council.
Until the SNP choose the narrative for future Westminster elections, the Holyrood elections represent their best chance of electoral success. With an OK under the circumstances parliament behind them (with a lot of popular policies being postponed due to adverse “electoral arithmetic”), the SNP should be looking forward to a second term. However, the Ripped-off Glasgow campaign has hurt the SNP’s chances, while Labour has resurrected their vanity project – the GARL –pledging to build the project as was designed (regardless of affordability) in the hope that this will be as popular as they seem to think it is. The release of Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi has also hurt the SNP in the polls.
So how can the SNP win next May? They have made a good start by re-affirming their policy of the Council Tax freeze. Despite Scottish Labour claims of a 3% cap, the Municipalist wing of Scottish Labour will be looking to close the 20% gap between Council Tax rates in England & Scotland. I also think that they should have been more flexible in their attempt to get LIT off the ground, I think that this should come back on to the table.
Whatever policies the SNP formulate & announce over the course of this weekend’s conference, they must also attack Scottish Labour’s spin. The inability to combat Scottish Labour spin cost the SNP the Glasgow North by-election and also cost it momentum in the West. Scottish Labour have gone on the attack by claiming to protect front-line services, in their arguments for the scrapping of the Council Tax freeze. The SNP should not be coy about flagging up to the Scottish electorate, the general largesse which Municipalist Labour are accustomed to. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Ed Milliband needs to employ his version of Alastair Campbell. The SNP would be best advised to do likewise as this will be a nasty, spiteful,vindictive election battle, with no prisoners taken.