Is there a future for the British parties in Scotland?

I understand that, particularly in an election campaign, politicians have to talk up their own prospects and those of their party. I understand, also, that when talking up those prospects becomes risible, politicians will generally turn to talking down the prospects of their rivals.

Unfortunately for whatever threadbare remnants of credibility that Willie Rennie might have been clinging to, he has utterly failed to recognise that talking down the prospects for the SNP, in dumb disregard for all current polling evidence, is no less ridiculous than proclaiming a LibDem revival.

Not that Willie Rennie playing the political clown is an event sufficiently uncommon to be noteworthy. Nor should we expect perceptive political analysis from those party leaders who prefer to live in a bubble of sycophantic cheerleaders whose role is to shield their boss from disturbing reality. What is interesting here is, not Rennie’s comical antics, but what his comments regarding the SNP tell us about the attitude that prevails in the British parties in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson have already conceded that the other British parties are fighting for second place. The extent of their ambition is to get to ask the first question at FMQ. Willie Rennie’s party is fighting for survival. The extent of his ambition is to keep his job. With no hope of influence, or even relevance, the LibDems are hoping only to retain a token presence at Holyrood. Try talking up those prospects!

What is notable is the fact that none of the British parties are competing with the SNP in terms of ideas. They are not out to beat the SNP. They have given up on any notion of defeating the SNP. They are making no effort to rise to the challenge posed by the SNP. At best, they are content to wait on the SNP tripping up in some significant way. At worst, the British parties are intent on bringing the SNP down to a level at which they might be able to compete.

As we have seen, they will gladly resort to whatever deceit, distortion, dishonesty and defamation serves their petty purpose. And do so with no regard whatever for the damage that might be done in the process to Scotland’s reputation or her institutions, society and economy.

In the context of British politics, it is a truism that challengers don’t win elections, incumbents lose them. But Scotland’s politics is different. It has been changed by the rise of the Yes movement. Changed in very significant ways. The British parties in Scotland proceed as if they are oblivious to this change. They continue to conduct themselves as if there was nothing distinctive about Scotland’s political culture. They behave as if they are entirely and solely geared to fighting Westminster elections, in which it is necessary to do no more than be marginally less corrupt and incompetent than your opponent.

People in Scotland have come to expect more. They are more demanding. They are not content to simply settle for the least awful. They insist on a genuine alternative. They are engaged. They are involved. They are participants in a political discourse which is as far removed for the utterances of Willie Rennie and Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson as the speeches of Jimmy Reid are from the chatter of monkeys.

Not a day passes without the British parties proving that, however bad they paint the SNP, they are not fit to replace them. They are not even fit for opposition, far less government. Increasingly, they not fit for Scottish politics. Our electoral system pretty much guarantees the British parties representation in our parliament. We are entitled to wonder how much longer they might be either worthy or relevant.

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5 thoughts on “Is there a future for the British parties in Scotland?

  1. THOMAS POTTER

    Razor sharp analysis Peter.

    This is also ,beneath the tired empty rhetoric of Westminster,their greatest fear.

    The notion that wee Scotland can and indeed are increasingly showing up the farce that is UK for what is ,an EPIC fraud.

    The fact that John Swinney has balanced Scotland’s books for the last 9 years in the most challenging circumstances is not being trumpeted by the great imposter George Osbourne,as this is the last result UK needs or wants.

    Chancellor of the Exchequer or Chancerlor of the Offshore Slush Fund?

    Stand Swinney and Osbourne’s record against each other-no contest.

    Their world is crumbling in front of their eyes and hell mend them,it can’t come soon enough.

    That scenario is what greases Project Fear’s wheels.
    .

  2. Barba Rosa

    The SNP is now the ‘Establishment’ the days when Scotland was ruled by those whose main job was to keep us in the “Union” is over… Scotland is very much a changed country. and changed for the better.

  3. schrodingers cat

    the eu referendum is a gateway peter, the result will decide the way forward for everyone, polls show a 65% remain in scotland, not including the DKs

    if the ruk votes leave it is game over, half the No voters want to stay, it will rip them in half, indyref2 will follow very quickly, probably after 2017 council elections when the snp take control of every council on a indyref2 pledge manifesto.

    if it is a remain, the the eu question will be put to bed for a generation, at least in scotland, and an issue which divides the unionist parties will be removed.

    ukip,tories and the remaining libdems(mostly to the right) may well form a unionist party in the next few years.
    I doubt labour will join, but a mutual pact of cooperation between them,, at elections, and the newly formed SUP would be the best chance of the unionists stopping the snp

  4. David Munro

    After the 2011 Scottish election, I honestly thought a majority (for any party) in the Scottish Parliament was a one-off. In 2016, it looks possible that the feat could happen once again. At this time, the sole aim of the opposition parties and their friends in the media (and, in particular, the BBC) is to try and avoid this scenario. welcome to Scotland, 2016, where any success is belittled, laughed at and smeared about and where anything good for the country is opposed simply because that is what they do.

  5. Gordon Bain

    I predict in years to come (if we don’t get independence soon) the Unioist parties will merge in Scotland. At policy level they pretty much have already so it must be obvious to them that all they achieve is to split the Unionist vote. I really hope Scots wake up & go for independence very soon because if my prediction turns out to be correct then we’ll be stuck in this nightmare forever.

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