Five Questions for the Future of Scottish Politics – an update!

Back in October, I asked five questions about the future of Scottish politics.  The idea was to look at questions that would be pertinant over the next few years, but a lot of my thinking was based on the EU referendum being held in 2017 rather than in three months’ time, so this gives me a reasonable excuse to look at these issues again.

What can I say, as much as the 2015 general election took it out of me, I didn’t foresee this horror:


Once you’re done applying the mind bleach, let’s have a look at those questions again and see if any of them have been answered or otherwise made redundant…

  1. Will the SNP commit to using Smith powers to make a public bid for Scotland’s rail franchises?  No sign of it yet, but I’ll leave it up to you whether this says more about the SNP’s disinterest in public ownership of our transport network or about my need to make at least one of these questions sneakily rhetorical.
  2. Is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party capable of finding an angle on Scotland that works?  Kezia Dugdale has already conceded defeat in the upcoming Holyrood elections (probably a wise move, she needs to minimise expectations and work on fighting off a cheeky assault from Scotland’s last bastion of unionism™, Ruth Davidson and Her Party), and a recent #JC4PM rally in Edinburgh apparently featured more statements in support of the SNP than mentions of the beleaguered Scottish Labour leader.  With Corbyn waiting patiently for a Thick of It tribute act to play out in his back garden, and a trad-left tax proposal firing up Scottish activists while seemingly leaving voters un-fussed, there’s little indication that the party are in a position to tell the Scotland a story that it wants to buy into right now – enthusiasms too seldom line up within the party, let alone between campaigners and voters.
  3. Will RISE run a left wing anti-EU campaign?  It won’t be running any sort of campaign on the EU, which means that we can answer this with a wobbly “NO” or at least a “NOT REALLY”!  RISE national organiser Jonathan Shafi’s for leaving and he’s not alone, but the SSP (who make up a big part of RISE) have agreed to back a “remain” vote, so RISE don’t have an official position on this referendum.  To me this reads like a victory for pragmatic disagreement over political opportunism, but I’ve no real insight into the forces at work behind the scenes and it’s possible that I’m talking out my arse here.  Regardless, the conflicting positions on the EU within RISE show that left wing anti-EU sentiment isn’t limited to George Galloway, so I don’t feel too stupid for putting this thought out there last year.
  4. Will support of the promised interconnector between Scotland and Norway be enough to keep Greens on the pro-EU side of that campaign?  While we’re on the topic of me talking guff, this issue has proved to be fairly irrelevant to the EU debate so far.  There are anti-EU Greens, sure, but our activists generally seem to have rallied around the idea of campaigning for a reformed Europe, one that champions social justice and makes use of its size to address climate change and maybe even global capitalism (as others have argued before me, these two problems may be most usefully framed as one even bigger one).  If the mechanics of this reform are still pretty sketchy, they’re certainly no less convincing than the idea that a campaign that’s largely going to be fought on anti-immigrant, anti-human rights lines will be a first step towards socialism.  I could suggest that concrete issues like Northconnect have yet to come up due to the frankly abominable quality of the debate thus far (compare it with the last go round, where the same positions were at least put forward by adults for adults), but I don’t know that I could sell you that when I’ve not quite bought it myself.
  5. Is the SNP’s position on fracking likely to solidify in 2016?  Again, you could reasonably ask whether I was being rhetorical here, but in this case I was genuinely curious.  Fracking is an issue that fires up a lot of the people in the SNP, but here as with local taxation the party continues to tread carefully where some of its members may want it to get its stomping boots on.  Yeah, I know, they’re doing further research and  consultation on fracking, but… well, at the risk of being cynical/overestimating my skills as a meme merchant, I made this image last time around and I can’t see any compelling reason to disown it now.

sage advise in malcolm tucker

If the lack of definitive, exciting answers to all of my questions suggests that I’m not about to get offered a position as a political pundit any time soon, those questions still provide a reasonable mechanism for trying to understand what’s going on with the Scottish left’s reaction to globalisation, the SNP’s continued balancing act in Holyrood, and the sorry state of Labour in 2016.

Looking back at my original post today what’s striking is how much this leaves out.  What impact will the EU referendum have on UKIP and the Conservatives?  Will the Lib Dem fightback ever be more than a twitter hashtag?  Will Bugs Bunny be dashed to bits on the rocks below?

I’ll try to formulate some useful questions on these topics in another post, but right now, I need some coffee…


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