Ian Swanson: Scotland’s voice deserves to be heard

Sir John Major warns of the 'dangers' posed by a partnership between Labour and the SNP. Picture: AFP
Sir John Major warns of the 'dangers' posed by a partnership between Labour and the SNP. Picture: AFP
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SCOTLAND has never been the focus of so much attention at a general election. Politicians and commentators seem obsessed with the army of Scottish Nationalists expected to be elected to Westminster and whether Labour would do a deal with them.

But voters here and across the UK could be forgiven for feeling they had now heard enough about a minority Labour government being “held to ransom” by the SNP and Ed Miliband being in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket.

Ms Sturgeon is surely right to say Scotland’s voice deserves to be heard at Westminster in whatever way the Scottish people choose. It’s called democracy.”

We know the arguments – the SNP says it could use a large block of Nationalist MPs to stand up for Scotland at Westminster and put pressure on a minority Labour government; Labour says it’s still fighting for a majority and has ruled out coalition with the SNP, but won’t say anything about looser co-operation.

It has pretty much reached stalemate. But rather than moving on to talk about other issues, the Tories seem determined to talk about it even more.

David Cameron responded to the SNP’s manifesto launch on Monday by warning a Labour-SNP deal would be “a marriage made in hell”.

And former prime minister Sir John Major chose to intervene with claims that any arrangement between the two parties would be “a recipe for mayhem” and allow the SNP to administer “a daily dose of political blackmail”.

The Conservatives clearly believe this line of argument resonates with voters.

But the attacks sound increasingly hysterical and are close to suggesting SNP MPs would somehow lack legitimacy at Westminster.

On Sunday morning TV, Mr Cameron claimed: “This would be the first time in our history that a group of nationalists from one part of our country would be involved in altering the direction of our country, and I think that is a frightening prospect.”

The SNP, he continued, “do not even want our country to succeed, that is why it is so calamitous”.

SNP MPs would “not care” what happened in the rest of the country; Wales, Northern Ireland and England “would not get a look-in”, he added.

Less than 24 hours later, at the SNP manifesto launch at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Ms Sturgeon was offering “a hand of friendship” to the rest of the UK, pledging to make “common cause” with those south of the Border who wanted progressive change and insisting the Nationalists would exercise their influence “responsibly and constructively” in the interests of people not just in Scotland but across the UK.

The reasonable tone and positive message were in stark contrast to the scary picture painted by Messrs Cameron and Major.

Mr Miliband branded the Tory attacks a sign of desperation. And former Tory Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth has criticised the party’s tactic, warning that talking up the SNP threat is a “short-term and dangerous view” which threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom.

As Ms Sturgeon has pointed out, it is only a few short months ago that anti-independence campaigners were talking during the referendum about Scotland being part of the UK family and saying it should “lead the UK, not leave it”. But it seems at least some people’s attitude has now changed.

The extravagant language of the Tories may strike a chord with some voters. But whatever the results turn out to be on May 7, Ms Sturgeon is surely right to say Scotland’s voice deserves to be heard at Westminster in whatever way the Scottish people choose.

It’s called democracy.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com