Ruth Davidson appearing on Reporting Scotland declared “Peak Nat has been reached”. She was correct of course – in terms of a Westminster election.
It’s all but certain that the SNP will not repeat their momentus result of 2015 when the party won all but three of Scotland’s allocation of Westminster seats.
Davidson was setting out the terms of June’s General Election. Why? Because any reduction in the number of SNP MPs will be deemed an erosion of Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate to hold a second independence referendum.
If the SNP fail to replicate the 2015 result, the Scottish media will present the party as having failed. A Ruth Davidson who has succeeded in taking even a single extra seat from Nicola Sturgeon will be declared the winner.
Just as in 2016, when her party finished a distant second, Davidson’s image will adorn newspapers.
The media is already pushing the line that the SNP will be weakened if the party does not retain all 56 MPs.
They are already preparing the ground for their ‘Blow for Sturgeon … Jubilant Ruth’ headlines.
That’s what awaits the SNP if they present this contest as a rerun of the 2015 general election. It’s what awaits if they allow Ruth Davidson to define the contest.
It’s why they cannot allow this to happen.
There’s been much talk on social media of turning this snap election into an indyref proxy. I myself have posted messages to that effect. My logic is simple. If, as expected, the SNP return a majority of MPs then it has to mean something in terms of the constitutional debate. The question is what will it mean?
In 2015 Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that a vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence. The party’s strategy was to persuade voters that they, and not Labour, would speak up for Scotland. The 2014 indyref had only months previous returned a No vote and the nationalists did not want to face charges of not accepting Scotland’s decision. The strategy was perfect and a return of fifty six MPs was beyond everyone’s wildest expectations.
This time the backdrop is different. This time it is the EU referendum result that hangs in the air. This time it is Brexit being forced on Scotland. This time it is the Tories who are charged with not respecting Scotland’s decision. This time independence is not an electoral albatross.
The First Minister needs to make it clear this is not a rerun of 2015. She needs to define what this election means in terms of Scotland. She needs to make it about independence.
Having done so then it will allow Nicola Sturgeon to reset the parameters of what will be deemed failure and what will be deemed success. Losing twenty seats to Unionist parties in a rerun of 2015 will be disastrous. Winning thirty six seats in an election you stated categorically was about endorsing your party’s stance on independence will be sensational.
Can the General Election be an absolute proxy for independence? I don’t see why not. The election is legally endorsed.
Theresa May is already on record as saying she will be campaigning for the future of the United Kingdom. The First Minister needs only announce she will accept the challenge.
Ruth Davidson will of course squeal. The Queen of the Union may remind the First Minister that she, Nicola Sturgeon, once stated the only route to independence would be via a referendum. Nicola Sturgeon need only point out that she requested one but it was blocked. Thus, Theresa May has forced her hand.
This is a straight fight between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon. It is a fight of May’s choosing. The Prime Minister who only weeks ago said “now is not the time” has suddenly decided now is indeed the time.
May called this general election to, she claimed, end uncertainty. Well let’s take her at her word. Let’s make sure voters in Scotland understand exactly what they are voting for.
“Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger” Theresa May told the waiting media as she announced this snap election. Nicola Sturgeon needs to ensure Scottish voters know every vote for the SNP is for independence. She needs to ensure an SNP majority is seen as a win.
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