A country for the left and of the left
This week one thing has been exposed: the Nationalists are in panic mode. Previously the Yes campaign has attempted to convince the people of Scotland that everything will be the same after independence- we’ll keep the Queen and the pound and we’ll be still be able to watch the X Factor on Saturday nights (although whether or not this is a good thing is another matter). However, in the past week we’ve been told in the event of independence the Royal Mail will be renationalised, the minimum wage will go up, energy bills will be cut by 5% and even pensions will be higher. This is designed to appeal to those stubborn Labour voters who still find the thought of independence horrifying.
The logic of this shift in focus is simple. Using philosophical arguments about deciding Scotland’s future wasn’t working. Basically, Scotland likes being part of Britain. We like the Queen, using the pound instead of the euro, being part of a country which gave the world their language, fought fascism and ended slavery. We even like watching England at the World Cup (especially the moment you hear Clive Tyldesley’s voice quiver as he realises England are going out). The Olympics reminded people of how great a nation Britain is and the SNP hadn’t factored this into their strategy. When Alex Salmond congratulated the ‘Scolympians’ during the Olympics, he was roundly condemned and when he muscled in on Andy Murray’s Wimbledon celebrations by waving a saltire he had concealed within his wife’s bag, he was merely mocked. The only thing which has been established in the past year is that the people of Scotland are comfortable being both Scottish and British and far more comfortable with this than they are with the idea of independence.
Now they are painting a vision of independence which most Nationalists (wet) dream of; higher taxes, more spending, fewer corporations and no Tories! In short, the SNP are proposing an independent republic of Scotland. A land where Rupert Murdoch not Tommy Sheridan is imprisoned, where Tories not Pandas are on display at Edinburgh Zoo and where Alex Salmond is the supreme leader. This might work. Scotland is viewed as more left wing than the rest of the UK and in the West of Scotland the word Thatcher remains among the most toxic in the English language. However, the SNP’s key tax policy has been to freeze the council tax and when they fought the 1999 proposing an income tax rise, they were roundly beaten. The new strategy is designed to appeal to the Labour voters who will decide the result of the referendum. These voters have remained staunch unionists this year and the SNP have now resorted to shameless bribes in an attempt to win them over.
People can see through these promises though. There’s no way independence would make such a positive difference- if it did it wouldn’t have been so unpopular for the past three hundred years. When Alex Salmond refuses to debate with anyone other than the Prime Minister, he looks weak not strong. He has built his reputation on being appeal to both the right (lower corporation tax, council tax freeze) and the left (no tuition fees and no private providers in the NHS) simultaneously. Now he’s given up, he’s on the run and he knows it. He’s banking on the fact that Scotland hates the Tories slightly more than we hate independence.
By turning the debate into a battle between left and right the SNP are turning the debate into do you want to be governed by socialists or sons of Thatcher. The problem is they might not like the answer.