If you repeat a lie often enough, people start to believe it. Well, that seems to have happened with Tory scaremongering over the SNP. The Scottish nationalists are depicted, variously, as a threat to the union, a threat to England, a threat to your grandmother, a threat to just about anything that can plausibly be linked to them.
The logic behind it is this: in order to get votes through the Commons, Ed Miliband is going to have to rely on the SNP, who will demand that he be more left-wing than he otherwise would. “Holding him to ransom”, as has been the curiously consistent message from a curiously large portion of the press. The exact difference between holding someone to ransom and simply negotiating while Scottish isn’t clear to me, but I’m sure there is one.
Now, this needn’t happen, if the Tories don’t want it to. If they are that legitimately worried about Labour being dragged to the left, they could simply talk to Ed Miliband and negotiate with him. Their 200+ seats will dwarf the SNP’s 50 or so, so if they wanted to do a deal, that’s eminently possible. Even if it only keeps Labour where they would be, surely that’s better than the inferno that will be unleashed should Nicola Sturgeon venture anywhere near the government.
Now, their increasingly frantic warnings about Nicola Sturgeon, Ed Miliband and the holding of the purse strings are entirely ridiculous, but they might actually tell us some important information. In the event of a Labour minority government, it very much looks like the Conservative party are determined to put partisan political games ahead of actually getting bills through parliament. Not to say that Labour wouldn’t do the equivalent, but that certainly seems to be the message from the Tories.
Even if the SNP do bring Labour to the left, so what? The Lib Dems took the Tories left, the Tories took the Lib Dems right. That’s how coalitions work. Why should the SNP not represent the people who voted for them? It’s quite hard to find a coherent reason why the SNP, uniquely, cannot represent their constituents, beyond an implication that a Scottish party somehow shouldn’t have that influence on England.
Why not? The Conservative party, though it technically exists in Scotland and Wales, is to all intents and purposes an English party, yet I have yet to hear David Cameron say that he shouldn’t have authority over Scotland. It’s a weird argument that treats the people of Scotland as already independent in spirit, and so undeserving of a voice in the UK’s democratic system. This, more than the SNP, is the real danger to the Union at this election.
Scottish voters have been treated with utter contempt. Cameron and Clegg have attacked their legitimacy to hold a voice in government by trying to box Miliband into ruling out a Labour-SNP coalition, and Miliband has been cowardly in letting them get away with it. Scottish voices matter, even if those voices might believe in independence. Given the SNP’s likely near-complete sweep of Scottish seats, the Westminster parties are essentially colluding to exclude an entire region from government.
If this were happening in another country, we would be rightly concerned. Three parties from the capital excluding a party from a region that is culturally distinct enough to be considered at least partly a separate ethnicity – it doesn’t sound great. Add in the fact that it is at least in part a punishment for having the temerity to hold a referendum on independence, and it begins to look even worse.