The SNP is more than a political party, it is a national movement.
Even during the ‘wilderness years’ of the 1980s, when Labour had 50 Westminster MPs against just 2 for the SNP, party activists resolutely continued the fight for national self-determination. SNP members knew exactly what that fight entailed and the ultimate goal.
Labour members wanted their party to replace the Tories as the UK government and to implement some different policies. Ultimately, though, the goal for Labour activists meant power was retained in London. Even with devolution, introduced by a Labour Government, the Scottish Parliament was legally enshrined as subservient to the UK Parliament in London.
The British Labour Party – there is no such thing as the Scottish Labour Party – has always viewed Scots as voting-fodder. While SNP members fought to deliver to Scotland the power to radically transform Scottish society, Labour Party activists fought to deliver the ‘Scottish vote’ for British Labour.
Today, with Labour facing a near wipe-out in Scotland at the UK Election, sources within the party tell me their English colleagues are exhorting them to get their fingers out and to not let (British) Labour down. The motivation is not what is best for Scotland, but what the London-run Labour Party requires of Scots.
The SNP, as a national movement, is driven to deliver the best for Scotland. Not all members agree with every policy, but the ultimate goal is shared – the creation of a sovereign Scottish parliament, which meets the interests of Scots through the implementation of progressive policies that deliver a better, fairer, more successful and caring country.
Last week the leader of the British Labour Party, Ed Miliband, explicitly stated he would prefer to see a Tory Government at Westminster than have his party even just co-operate with the centre-left, social democratic SNP. For many Scots this was the final betrayal from a party they had supported at election after election.
Part of the reason Labour faces electoral oblivion in Scotland is because the party stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories during last year’s Independence Referendum. The Tories are toxic in Scotland for very good reason: that Labour was prepared to campaign alongside the party of Thatcher, and was seen to advocate the same position - denying Scots the right to govern themselves in an independent parliament - will never be forgotten or forgiven by many. Miliband’s confirmation that he would prefer a Tory Government to a Labour one supported by the SNP has made clear to Scots that last year’s partnership with the toxic Tories was not a one-off for Labour.
Over the past week I have seen, first-hand, both SNP and Labour campaigns on the street. I’ve looked at both sides as objectively as I can. The ‘national movement’ and ‘fighting for the good of Scotland’ attitude adopted by the SNP continues to produce committed and energetic activists. Labour, however, appears to have lost its confidence.
Clearly, month after month of opinion polls showing your party is going to lose will inevitably have impacted on Labour activists, but SNP members faced that for years and still got out campaigning and fighting to win. The Labour activists I’ve recently seen seem to be going through the motions, waiting to be put out of their misery on polling day.
Perhaps Scottish Labour activists have realised their party no longer represents what the people of Scotland want? Campaigning on the side of the Tories and listening to your party leader say he’d prefer to see a Tory Government than a Labour one with SNP support, must surely, at the very least, have raised doubts in the minds of many Labour members.
One incident I witnessed last week saw an elderly man – I would have characterised him as a traditional Labour voter – tell a party campaigner, “Labour cannae win”.
Now, that statement will undoubtedly have been formed, in part, by newspapers reporting opinion polls showing the SNP streaming ahead. However, once the perception that Labour “cannae win” becomes a person’s reality, then there is no way back for Labour, certainly in the foreseeable future.
I can remember campaigning for the SNP in the 1980s and hearing very similar comments – “I’d like to vote for you, son, but ye cannae win.” I told the person we would win if they voted for us. However, it took longer than I would have liked for us to persuade people of that reality.
Back then, Labour had the trust of people in Scotland and the SNP had a tough task to earn that same trust. Such work was done by party activists in campaign after campaign and by elected SNP councillors, MPs and MSPs. Today, the SNP forms the government of Scotland, elected with an overall majority in 2011 because the minority administration of 2007 proved itself a success and earned the trust of the people.
The SNP has worked tirelessly to build a national movement that will deliver for Scotland. Labour, meanwhile, has taken Scots for granted. The Labour Party in Scotland has worked at delivering the ‘Scottish vote’ for British Labour, instead of putting first the interests of Scots. For that reason – and the party’s closeness with the Tories – Labour in Scotland faces its worst-ever election result this Thursday (May 7th).
To be frank, Labour has lost the respect and trust of the Scottish people. The party does not deserve our support. For campaigning shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories and choosing another Tory Government over a Labour one with SNP support, the Labour Party deserves to be wiped-out north of the border.
At the UK Election the only way Scots can ensure our voice is heard in Westminster’s corridors of power is to send to London as many SNP MPs as possible.
This Thursday, for Scotland’s sake, vote SNP.