Saturday, 7 May 2016

Blue thoughts after the Holyrood election...

                                                               Laozi heads West...

There is really no pleasing some people (ie me). I know (big C) Conservatives are jumping up and down at boosting their numbers of MSPs in the Scottish parliament, but I'm afraid it hasn't managed to pierce my Eeyore-ish take on Scottish politics. Here's why.

1) I have absolutely no idea why Unionists are proclaiming the death of the SNP and the death of a second Indy referendum. The SNP plus the Greens form a majority in the new parliament and both are pro-independence and 'progressive'. Indeed, the Greens are so progressive that it seems an inadequate term for them. The SNP vote didn't drop. There is still a pro-independence majority in Holyrood. The SNP is liable to find itself propelled in even more progressive directions. None of this sounds obviously good to me.

2) The Conservatives increased their seats markedly and Labour fell. But the Conservatives won pretty much on the sole issue of the Union. Ruth Davidson is a self declared progressive and ran a campaign that was noticeably light on policy (other than being pro-Union). Labour seems at least to be considering a drift to the Corbynista Left in Scotland as a solution to its ills. (Won't work, but that's for another day.) Scottish politics, by dint of the Conservatives' tactics, is now frozen in a binary opposition: pro and anti independence.

3) Nobody in Scotland seems to be talking in terms of that area of Blue Labour/Red Tory/(Purple Nats?) which seems the natural (small c) social conservative heartland. Indeed, Scottish political punditry seems to have been reduced to a permanent shifting of sauce bottles around the dining table in order to map out precisely how the Boche ('whoever we're agin') can be outwitted in the next campaign rather than reflection on how to put the permanent things of life on a better footing. (I except from this certain public intellectuals on the Left who do discuss such matters but are obviously bawheids.)

Political life in Scotland is becoming paralysed by the Independence question and frankly the Conservative 'success' is part of that paralysis. Unless some Scottish conservative commentators start putting the exciting but pointless exchange of insults aside and start thinking about convincing future generations of the merit of genuinely conservative principles (start here), then it won't matter very much whether we're governed badly from Westminster or badly from Holyrood.


  1. This all reminds me of something you alluded to in an earlier post (correct me if I'm wrong) about social conservatism in Scotland not being represented in Holyrood or Westminster by a 'Scottish Social Conservative Party', but rather by individuals embedded in a different parties with a personal commitment to the 'permanent things'.

    Scotland does seem to lack that 'Blue Labour/Red Tory' discourse which would open up some space for a more self-aware political social conservatism. Our unsettled constitutional status and the subsequent domination of our politics by this issue makes such a development difficult. This is especially true if the fault line in Scottish politics is now becoming 'Progressive' Nationalism contra 'Conservative' Unionism.

    1. Was it this post? Yes,I do see things very much as you say. I know some trenchant opponents of the SNP such as Tom Gallagher think that the Conservative MSPS will be able to provide a critical check on their pretensions. I'm not so sure. Even if they can prod on specific issues, I don't see much of a development of an alternative coherent vision to the dominant progressive strain in Scottish politics and certainly nothing approaching that landscape of socially conservative thought that I think we need. (Lazarus)

  2. It's funny: when Scottish Labour are referred to as 'Red Tories' (even if this is utterly inaccurate from a social conservative perspective) it is generally not meant as a compliment!