Unionism is strong but its parties are establishment stooges – we have to do better

Unionism is strong but its parties are establishment stooges – we have to do better

by Dr Sutherland MacNeill
article from Saturday 14, December, 2019

THEY RANG THEIR BELLS loud all winter but Friday 13th was the conclusion of five years of noisy unionist parties not listening. Instead of a vibrant multiparty democracy we have three establishment stooges vying for an apparently fixed vote share of Scottish unionists.

Safe in this rigged market we have seen time and again shouty angry stump speeches from any of the many special interests of the day.

For the Tories we saw Continuity Ruth, banging on about stopping referendums altogether in Scotland and worse, unforgiveably worse, arguing the Union was on the ballot paper. So said the used care salesman Jackson Carlaw in the last week of the campaign. In the end few people were willing to buy his banger.

Tens of thousands of unionists ignored this Conservative pretence, choosing instead to lend their vote to nationalists to ‘stop Brexit’, ‘stop Boris Johnson’ or ‘stop the Toaries’. They did not see nationalism as a threat, probably believing that in any referendum they could still ‘stop independence’.

Scottish Labour managed the unthinkable, self-immolating in triumphant rhetoric as we saw almost every vote they lost go to the SNP – and not to another unionist party. Their Scottish leader made paint drying look fascinating and Corbyn's shilly-shallying on Brexit and the Union saw his party pulled apart by those offering something more substantial.

Then there is Jo. Poor sanctimonious, recondite, boys-can-wear-skirts, gender-neutral, anti-democratic, dull as dishwater Jo Swinson.

The PM who never was, is no more.

Given the Lib Dems as a brand won back North East Fife from a very pro-EU Nat there was clearly a personal vote for Swinson that was highly negative.

The SNP success was not so much a landslide as a batting collapse of the Labour residual vote that couldn't stomach the Tories or Lib Dems – and was not helped by leavers and social conservatives staying at home. Almost no one has reported the most damning verdict of the election:

The Scottish Conservative vote went backwards.

The party’s vote share fell in direct contrast to the vote south of the border. Having spent years trashing Eurosceptics and traditionalists in Scotland, Team Ruth found itself rapidly without Ruth or indeed a substantial core vote. Where their candidates were very obviously pro-remain these losses were large. Hard to notice at first perhaps but in Edinburgh South West the Tory vote dropped by 25 per cent! This is something you really only see when voters stay away rather than switch. 

It has become now so obvious that even flat-earthers cannot deny the link to establishment Westminster parties has created cargo cult stooges in our unionist parties. This is the second election where the centralised Tory party in Scotland has "fast-tracked" its chosen would-be winners. The second election under Corbyn's leadership and the second election where the Lib Dems have spat in the face of the British public's 2016 vote while stretching their unionist credentials to the limits of credibility.

All this while the SNP vote is at 45 per cent and their Green supplicants are shivering from the climate crisis sidelines. The Union was NOT on the ballot and so people voted for those they thought would at least listen to the concerns of Scots... beyond constitutional wrangling which is becoming tired.

Almost two out of five Scots who voted Brexit did not have a single party in Scotland fighting for them in a way that was convincing. Our concerns over the economy, crime, migration and public services are not significantly different to England's yet every leading unionist today has made their career trying to convince us otherwise. How has that turned out for them or for the long term future of the UK?

Unionism is strong enough to withstand waves of nationalism crashing over it... for now. But its strength is innate and not championed credibly by any party that fought this last election. They are out of ideas and more importantly out of luck. Operation Pooperscooper must now be put into place; there is far too much crap on offer that simply makes Unionism extremely difficult to market against a well organised nationalist party.

We need a new offer and a new settlement with Yes voters who are hoping for better and simply not getting it from the status quo. There has to be change and it has to be fast. 

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