Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Quietly...

I haven't had time to blog much over the last week - work and life keeps getting in the way. But I read elsewhere in blogland (Scottish Tory Boy and SNP Tactical Voting) about the possibility of some "subtle collusion" between the SNP & the Tories in the event that the Conservatives beat Labour in the next Westminster election, but fail to win a majority.

Ummm... run that past me again?

Granted, I'm too young (honest!) to remember the dark Thatcher years, Maggie stealing our milk, the poll tax, 1979 referendum etc. But I know that if you made a suggestion to someone in Scotland that they vote Tory, they'd either laugh at you or hit you.

I do remember, in the infancy of the Scottish Parliament debating at university what the best route forward for the SNP's quest for independence was - and, inevitably, the idea of the "hated" Tories leading the UK at Westminster was mooted as the most favourable condition. The argument went that it didn't matter that it was a Lab-led Executive at the time, the mere idea that the arch-unionist (and, still seen to be, anti-Scottish) Tories were in power would mean endless conflict. People would see Westminster as holding Scotland back, Labour would start to believe that they could run Scotland better without the Tories at Westminster telling them what to do and before you knew it... an independent Scotland.

But now? We have the SNP in Government in Scotland, the Tories supporting their budget, all three Unionist parties (claiming they are) supporting more powers for the Scottish Parliament, Labour paralysed by dodgy donation scandals and well down in polls... and the Tories primed to win back power after more than 10 years in opposition.

So... where does that leave relations vis-a-vis the Scottish Government & Westminster and, perhaps more importantly (if the Lib Dems continues to advance backwards) relations between the SNP & the Tories?

Well, given the "constructive engagement" that Annabel Goldie & the Scottish Tories have stuck to since the election, I can see the Tories improving their strength in Scotland as a party that provides meaningful opposition in the Scottish Parliament. However, Scotland still remembers the poll tax and Thatcher, and is still unwilling to forgive the Tories for that. And while they remain unpopular on those lines, it would not be in the interests of Scottish nationalism to join forces with what many in Scottish society still see as the forces of darkness.

However, the prospect of a Conservative UK Government is a real possibility, thus the prospect of "subtle collusion" is too. I think it would depend on what Scotland would get out of it - if it were based on the model that the CiU (Catalan separatists) have with the main parties in Spain.

Of course, as Jeff at Tactical Voting points out, there is the small matter of the clause in the SNP constitution which prohibits their working directly with the Tories in national government (they removed the local government clause last year after the STV council elections). I'd suggest looking closely at that to see if it actually precludes action of this sort, or merely indicates a feeling on the matter in the party.

I have to say at this time, I'm open to any idea that benefits Scotland. I don't think Scotland has had any particular benefit from having Scots (Brown/ Darling/ Browne/ Liddell/ Reid) in the Cabinet under Labour. And given that the Tories are rather thin on Scottish MPs it might make no difference. Thus, if the Tories could show a willingness to give something to Scotland, I could see the SNP backing them. Independence would suffice...

Ah, we live indeed in interesting times...

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