You Either Die a Hero, or Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become the Villain

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Chris Napier

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you”. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, Labour were guaranteed to win elections in Scotland. In 2005, Labour had won the Scottish portion of every election since 1959, usually by more than 10% of the popular vote and a clear majority in seats. It was said that Labour could put up a monkey with a red rosette in Dundee & Glasgow and it would be elected on a landslide. Time and again, this proved to be true.

Of course, that changed with the SNP’s victory in the 2007 Scottish election and while Labour’s usual dominance was retained for the 2010 UK elections, the swing to the SNP in 2011 and in the new post-indyref landscape of 2015 broke their hegemony for the foreseeable future.

I heartily applauded this turn of events, because Labour’s dominance, the corruption and complacency that it bred had long disgusted me, being a huge part of my reasons for not being politically active in the noughts.  I cheered the SNP’s underdog victory in 2007, gloried in Labour’s decimations in 2011 and 2015.  I considered this to be A Good Thing.

However, as Labour now face a genuine fight to remain the second biggest party in Holyrood – never mind fighting for the win – I can see that the SNP, who have long fought a bitter, tribal war with Labour in Scotland are adopting the manner of their defeated foe.

The King is dead, long live the King… or Queen, in this instance.

The problem is, I don’t much like monarchy.

I believe in diverse representation in government, where policy is formed through debate and consensus not the fiat decree of a particular group. I believe that majority government is not a desirable thing, as a party either wins a majority through a broken electoral system (as at Westminster) or by becoming a populist party which doesn’t actually stand for much other than being less objectionable than it’s opponents.

I believe the SNP’s best time in government was as a minority and they’ve become ever more meek as their power has increased, ever less radical as their success has become more assured.

Much of the SNP’s success is down to the idea that they are the most progressive of the ‘big’ parties (which is sort of true) and that only an SNP majority can deliver independence (which isn’t true) but these arguments are effectively of the same stripe that used to propel Labour to power as the only party who could stop the Conservatives.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the SNP and I’ve voted for them a few times (which is impressive, given I’ve only been voting since 2010) but they are unquestionably starting to resemble Labour more and more, regarding the rule of Scotland as theirs by right, talking radical and acting managerial and using negative politics to maintain their power with talk of ‘splitting the vote’ etc.

That’s not good enough for me – and it’s a big part of the reason I joined the Greens rather than the SNP in 2014.

Even so, I was quite happy to give the SNP my constituency vote in this upcoming election as the best option available…until recently.

Over the last six months, their weak line on fracking and land reform (actually sabotaging the internal democracy of their own party) as well as council tax, the use of the newly won powers of the Scottish Parliament and the aggressive #BothVotesSNP, willful misrepresentation of polls and the electoral system have pushed me away from that towards a spoiled ballot.

The SNP WILL win a majority in May (and probably from the constituency vote alone) likely increasing their toll of seats from 2011 – which is undoubtedly impressive under the additional member system – and they will almost certainly gain control of most of Scotland’s local authorities next year (which raises potential pitfalls of its own…)

That dominance, that unprecedented mandate should give them the license to push for not only independence but a radical program of policies designed to make Scotland a more equal society in the short term and not just after independence, whenever it comes.

However, like Tony Blair squandered his mandate in 1997, the SNP seem committed to managerialism and using the inequality handed down from Westminster to stoke support for independence – and I have ever less faith that they would deliver radical change even after independence.

In many ways, the SNP are on the clock, as Harvey Dent says – you either die a hero (fracturing along evident internal divisions having achieved independence) or live long enough to see yourself become the villain (becoming Scottish Labour 2.0.)

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” – George Orwell, Animal Farm

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