Together we will stand
Marco was elected as the new SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central on Thursday night.
When Caroline Lucas argued that instead of big tent politics she would prefer lots of little tents sharing the same campsite, she perhaps had Tony Blair’s Labour in mind. Understandably her tone was less than flattering, and looking back at his term, with good reason.
The Scottish National Party is undeniably a big tent. The 902,915 people who re-elected us last week did so for many different reasons. But whereas Blair’s Labour existed only to perpetuate its own term in office, the SNP has been united by a genuine sense of ambition for Scotland.
Blair’s Labour could count on a vast core vote who were believed to simply have nowhere else to go. The SNP has never had streets full of lifelong, habitual voters. SNP victories are based on winning over the supporters of other parties, or those of none at all. From my own experience on the doorsteps it is the latter group who I think turned so decisively away from the Lib Dems. We may have a majority, but we know that none of our support can be taken for granted and will govern with respect. Reaching out and finding common ground is what we have learned to do. There’s a reason our campaign song was Let’s Work Together.
On the campaign trail I twice jousted at hustings with Bright Greeners – Adam Ramsay and Peter McColl – but, from my perspective at least, I thought we agreed on more than we disagreed. That’s hardly surprising, given that in a former life I was briefly a member of the Green Party of England and Wales. There is however a huge difference between disagreeing on the best way to implement a shared principle like progressive taxation, and arguing over the need for progressive taxation at all. The Greens’ local tax plan has some very severe unintended consequences, but it is an attempt to move in the right direction.
In the past the SNP had been accused of coming across as if we simply couldn’t understand why people didn’t see that we were right. Indeed, if there was anything wrong with the Green campaign in Scotland it was that they had developed a tone with scolding echoes of this approach. Gone were the quixotic ambitions, the unrepentant idealism and the borderline utopianism that often characterises Green politics and motivates their voters.
Fellow progressives need to learn from the SNP experience. And never doubt that we are progressive. Our nationalism is based on the rights of peoples, individuals and communities to govern themselves. It is rooted in liberalism – the good kind that doesn’t have a capital l.
The lesson is that there is nothing to stop a big tent party being bold, if it can also inspire. Whatever powers Holyrood has or gains, the next term will be remarkable. The SNP government will finally put to the people of Scotland the constitutional question that has divided the centre-left in Scottish politics. When Adam recently wrote that independence wasn’t the point he was half right – it’s the vehicle. Twelve years ago we wouldn’t have been able to stop the NHS reforms at the border. Now we can. But in pensions, benefits, broadcasting, the economy and in foreign policy we are still pulled along by the diktats of a remote government in Westminster that has embarrassingly little legitimacy in Scotland. Bringing decision-making to Holyrood is how we can truly deliver an egalitarian, effective government that works on a human scale and makes this country a better, fairer place.
Congratulations Marco – and the SNP, who had both a good campaign and a poor (major) opponent.
I share the hopes, and also the slight fears, expressed above – but hope that the SNP group will be able to dispel the latter.
In terms of progressiveness and moving towards a sustainable future, whether independent or devo-max, let’s hope that the economic neo-liberals in the SNP are outgunned by those with a greener, social democrat hue.
Let’s start by refusing Hunterston, by resisting too much de-regulation and bringing back the “tesco tax” refocused so that it hits out-of-town centres/business parks. And, what about a re-think on trams – instead of simply opposing a good project because someone else thought of it?
Congrats Marco, odd to think that someone who was once a volunteer of mine is now an MSP! Good sentiments expressed here, I hope we can look forward to some positive working with the SNP in the coming term and the temptation to just ignore everyone else and do whatever you want with your majority is resisted 😉
Not so sure about the legitimacy argument: 2010 Westminster turnout was 65.1% (63.8% in Scotland), while 2011 Holyrood averaged at 50%: in other words, the SNP won the majority of seats but not an absolute majority of the electorate.
I hope Mr Salmond meant it when he said “the SNP may have won Scotland’s first majority government but it did not have a monopoly on wisdom.”
Thanks for this Marco – yes, I think we mostly agreed. I’m not sure I’m much up for a government that wants to cut corporation tax still further, but I was delighted to see Scottish Labour taking the hammering they deserved after that campaign.
Indeed I do remember you. Many thanks for the congratulations. The coming years will definitely be interesting, that’s for sure.
Congrats, Marco. Don’t know if you remember me, but glad to see you have gone on to big things. Good luck for the next four years! 🙂
Matt (former Oxford City Councillor, Green Party)