Who won the Holyrood election last year? The result said the SNP but the media presented Ruth Davidson as the winner by dint of the Scottish Conservatives having replaced Scottish Labour as the main challenger to the SNP.
Davidson turned the 2016 Scottish election into a mini-referendum. She didn’t have much by way of policies, but you don’t need them when you’re standing on the single issue of the constitution.
Scottish Labour’s hard-core Unionist bloc of voters deserted the once dominant party. They always voted for the Union but just hid it behind the social democratic values of Labour.
In 2016, with Kezia Dugdale sending out confused messages, they abandoned Labour’s foggy Unionism in favour of Ruth’s clear red, white and blue water.
Scotland is now facing a re-run of the 2014 independence referendum at every election – Holyrood, Westminster, Europe [If we’re still there in 2019] and Council. Ruth Davidson has ensured independence will define every ballot … until we vote Yes in the next authentic one.
When will the second referendum be held? Nobody knows. The Scottish Government has a mandate to hold one but the UK Government is denying it the right.
“Now is not the time” according to Theresa May. The Section 30 request will now not be answered until after the UK general election.
This is where we need to be watchful. So phenomenal was the 2015 general election for the SNP that the party will find it all but impossible to replicate its 56 seat haul. Unionists and their media allies are already promoting Ruth Davidson’s line that a handful of Scottish gains for the Conservatives will somehow weaken the indyref2 mandate the SNP won in the 2016 Holyrood election.
Expectation defines success or failure if you live in media land, and the Scottish public is already being conditioned for a Tory ‘success’. The message being drummed into the minds of voters is that more seats for the Tories means a weakened mandate for the SNP.
As you would imagine, the state broadcaster is playing its part. There’s nary a bulletin or interview that doesn’t mention it.
It’s a false narrative of course. Ruth’s case can be taken apart with ease if reporters wished.
How so? Well first off, elections are won by the party that wins the most seats, not the party that makes the most gains. You don’t win a football match by clawing back two late goals after going seven behind. If, as expected, the SNP win most Westminster seats then it will consolidate Nicola Sturgeon’s existing mandate.
Secondly, any seats the SNP lose won’t constitute a weakening of Nicola Sturgeon’s indyref2 mandate because they weren’t won on an indyref2 ticket in the firt place. The SNP did not fight the 2015 UK general election on a platform of a second independence referendum. Indeed the First Minister, during the campaign, made it explicitly clear that voting SNP would not be seen as a vote for a second indyref.
Thus, the 56 MPs are not representative of backing for a second independence referendum. If anything they represented the SNP’s decision to park the constitution. The EU referendum changed all that.
June’s general election will the first genuine contest between Ruth’s British Nationalism and Nicola’s Scottish Nationalism. It’s a straight Union versus Indy match-up.
Having built her campaign on opposing a second referendum, Ruth Davidson has ensured the SNP’s mandate will be strengthened not weakened. Any and all seats won by the SNP will be seen as an endorsement of the party’s plans for a second independence referendum.
That’s why the day after Theresa May announced her plan to hold a snap general election, Nicola Sturgeon proclaimed a defeat in Scotland for the Tories would see the PM’s indyref2 opposition crumble to dust.
Ruth will of course continue to punt the nonsense that the Scottish Conservatives, having gained a handful seats, have won the right to block a second referendum. This though will have no more credibility than a defeated Tim Farron claiming the Lib Dems have won the right to hold a second EU referendum on the back of a few seat gains south of the border.
Democracy should define election mandates, not the media. The party with the most seats gets to call the shots. That’s how it will work in England. The media should apply the same rules in Scotland.
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