Can you hear that sound? It’s the sound of ferrets reversing. It’s the sound that Andrew Bowie makes when he hails the mandate won by Boris Johnson for Brexit while he tries to deny that the SNP won a mandate for another independence referendum in Scotland. It’s the sound made by thousands of anti-independence zoomers on social media as they share graphs of vote share showing that the combined votes won by the Tories, Labour, and the Lib Dems were greater than those won by the SNP and the Greens. It’s the sound made by a certain Labour activist on social media who described Scotland as a sub-set of UK constituencies. It’s the sound of panic. It’s the sound of desperation. It’s the sound of hypocrisy. It’s the sound of authoritarianism and the death of democracy. It’s the sound of a Westminster General Election except for voters in Scotland.
The rules of a Westminster General Election are unfair. The first past the post system so beloved of the Conservative and Labour parties is designed to produce large majorities. That’s the very purpose of the system, and that’s why the two largest UK parties prefer it. It gives them the opportunity to command crushing majorities in the Commons and to govern without having to bother making the sort of coalition deals or political accommodations with other parties which are the norm in countries where there is a more proportional voting system. It’s the first past the post system which has delivered a Commons majority of 80 to Boris Johnson despite the fact that his party won only 43.5% of the popular vote.
Andrew Bowies says that the SNP don’t have a mandate because they said that this election was not a vote for independence. He’s wilfully conflating support for independence with support for an independence referendum. The two things are not the same Andrew. The SNP stood asking for a mandate for another independence referendum not for independence itself. And they won that mandate, no matter how much you try to obfuscate. You don’t get to claim that the SNP doesn’t have a mandate based upon its 45% vote share when you yourself are only able to stand up in the House of Commons and make an arse of yourself as an MP because you won 42.7% of the vote in your own constituency. More people voted against you than voted for you Andrew, so by your own standards you have no mandate, and should resign forthwith. You’d be doing us all a favour, and you’d stop embarrassing yourself. Win win.
At a UK level as well as at the level of constituencies where they won, the UK parties have no problem with the first past the post system. It’s only in Scotland that they seek to apply a different set of rules. Last week’s vote was a Westminster General Election, conducted under the first past the post rules which Westminster has imposed. Supporters of Westminster can’t then turn round and pretend that the vote in Scotland was really a proportional one. It wasn’t. It was a Westminster General Election, and by the very same standards that allow Boris Johnson to claim a mandate for his version of Brexit and to command a majority in the Commons, the SNP won a mandate and a majority in Scotland. Them’s the rules. They’re your rules, British nationalists. You don’t get to suspend them just because your own rules have produced a result that you’re uncomfortable with.
In 2015, the Conservatives under David Cameron campaigned in that year’s General Election asking for a mandate to hold a referendum on EU membership. The Conservatives won that election in the UK, with a majority of 12. There was no question that they didn’t really have a mandate, despite the fact that the Conservatives won that majority with a mere 36.9% of the popular vote. The very same people who are now sharing graphs of vote share on social media to “prove” that the SNP doesn’t have a mandate were quite happy to concede, or indeed to revel in, the fact that the Conservatives had a majority and a mandate for a referendum. Yes, we’re looking at you, Tory boys and girls. You don’t get to apply a different set of rules in Scotland now.
What British nationalists can’t legitimately do is to pretend that the General Election in Scotland was really a referendum and to apply referendum rules to it. Neither can they tot up all the votes for the Labour, Lib Dems, and Conservatives and use them as a proxy for the views of individual voters on whether or not there should be another independence referendum. It’s well known that a significant chunk of Labour’s voters in Scotland not only support another referendum, they’d also vote yes for independence. Some Lib Dem voters might decide in a few weeks time that their own party’s promise that it’s only a Lib Dem vote that can ensure Scotland remains in both the EU and the UK has clearly been overtaken by the circumstances of this Conservative government taking us out of the EU, and they may well feel very differently about another Scottish independence referendum. But then this is Scotland, and normal rules of democracy don’t apply here. UK General elections come with the caveat, except for voters in Scotland.
Meanwhile, arguing that you can’t take a mere subset of UK constituencies and claim that you have a mandate based upon the election result in those constituencies is quite possibly the cringiest description of Scotland since that BBC journalist made his wee “joke” about the new SNP MP who wore a kilt for the official swearing in ceremony in the Commons. We’re not even a region anymore, just a subset.
Scotland is not a mere random subset of UK constituencies. It’s not like you get to cherry pick after the event and choose those constituencies where you got a result that you wanted. Scotland is one of the constituent nations in this so-called union, and moreover it’s a nation where all the UK parties, the Labour party included, presented a distinctively Scottish manifesto to the voters. It’s the height of hypocrisy to claim that it’s legitimate for Labour or the Conservatives to present a Scottish manifesto to the electorate in Scotland, and then to dismiss the result as being that of a mere subset of UK constituencies just because the result was not one to your pleasing. There’s that “except for voters in Scotland” again.
What these British apologists don’t seem to appreciate is that by making the arguments that they do, in their desperate attempts to fend off another independence referendum, they are making the case for independence. They are strengthening the arguments for independence. That’s because by their own actions they are demonstrating to the people of Scotland the utter futility of voting within the UK. They are proving that Scotland cannot have its needs met or its demands listened to within a UK context. They are telling voters in Scotland that there’s no point in voting because democracy doesn’t exist for Scotland as a constituent part of the UK. They are telling us all that the only way that Scotland can gets what it votes for is through independence. The UK is being strangled by those who claim to love it. Keep doing what you’re doing, guys, because you’re making independence nailed on.
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