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The prize comes from winning, not trying to be second

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EYES ON THE PRIZE should be the mantra of every individual who is concerned about the rise of nationalism in Scotland. Eyes on the prize.

Sadly, such is the state of our politics at present that the prize is not addressing our shattered economy, or putting our education system back on its feet or preparing our NHS for the tsunami of treatment demands that will follow the unravelling of lockdown. No, the focus has become preventing an outright nationalist Government in the next Scottish Parliament.

Scotland has fallen victim to the nationalist playbook, divide and conquer.

Our traditional left-right politics of arguing how best to improve opportunity and make good the lives of those who face huge challenges has been replaced by a tawdry battle of Yes and No.

The Scotland we are fighting over was ironically created by the Union, pulled together from the clans that had fought each other at the Battle of Shirts and later at Culloden along with competing lowland interests. That’s our Scotland which thrived under the Union and punched way above its  weight in the global successes and politics of the centuries.

We speak of the Union dividend as not one simply of money but of culture, of family, of shared interest.

The nationalists recognise none of this, they snarl with anger and contempt at the idea of pooled resource. They send angry missives about stolen oil as they drive down the roads and cross the bridges that it built.

They pronounce themselves kinder, more respectful and more civic as they renounce Scots Tories as scum, brand Labour as Red Tories and demand the English ‘get out’ Scotland – and nowhere are those voices of bitter contempt louder than in the First Minister’s city of Glasgow, where the SNP has delivered austerity and deprivation.

It is their model for a future Scotland.

Eyes on the prize? For the nationalists the prize is the destruction of the Union and thus far they have played that game well. They have changed the devolution settlement from a Scottish Parliament running the country’s once proud public services into an outpost of opposition to the rest of Britain, neglecting our education and welfare while taking ownership of our flag and turning us against ourselves.

They have rewritten history to pit England against Scotland and used Holyrood to deepen division with false claims of assaults on our rights and freedoms by the United Kingdom parliament.

So sophisticated has their campaign of destruction been that truth and lies are now interwoven not only in politics but in our Civil Service and Judiciary – and yes, in our classrooms.

Such is their success to date that they hold 59 out of 73 constituency seats in a total of 129 and have used this power base to manipulate their minority support into a sense of overwhelming control.

Eyes on the prize? For unionists there is a sense of growing frustration and anger. Politics is a numbers game and our side has fallen victim to the tactics of division.

We are the majority acting like a minority because we are still divided by our traditional left-right politics. Labour would rather vote with the SNP then support the Conservatives.

Whilst Anas Sarwar talks of healing, he rejects any meaningful options to work with the other parties.

Douglas Ross offers the hand of friendship with the confidence of knowing it will be rejected.

Neither man wants to face asking their candidates to stand aside, and no candidate is willingly offering.

Meanwhile, Willie Rennie urges his supporters to stick with them knowing they will not come anywhere near winning most of the seats but instead ensuring a unionist party doesn’t.

They all urge ‘use both votes for us’ whilst the nationalists titter with glee at the easy pickings. Alex Salmond has joined the fray. But this is merely a distraction because whilst everyone haggles over the list and argues about the vote split the prize is being forgotten.

Eyes on the prize – 73 first past the post constituency seats, 59 of which currently give the nationalists their power base; it’s the reason they control the parliament even as a minority Government. If the unionist parties place all their hopes on mere survival through the 56 list seats, they are playing to lose.

To beat nationalism the major pro-union parties need to take the constituency seats and their focus and worry about the list is simply a taste of their strategic defeat.

It will take more than this election to achieve but they should be making that start now. None of them alone can take on the rise of nationalism, they need each other. Instead egos and self-interest have become the order of the day.

So the voters must decide. If their eyes are on the prize, then unionists will look at which unionist party can win their local constituency and vote for them without reservation. You can then vote for whom ever you want on the list vote and maybe, just maybe Holyrood will become what was intended, a coalition of parties whose eyes are on the prize. The prize of a Scotland with local decision making in the interests of the people, working with the benefit of the union dividend.

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Before becoming a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the South of Scotland Michelle Ballantyne was a nurse and NHS manager of twenty-five years experience. In January Michelle became leader of Reform UK Scotland and is the party’s lead candidate in the South of Scotland.

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