I wrote this in response to a Herald letter from a regular correspondent to Letters who echoed with uncanny accuracy the line being pursued by the UK unionist parties on YES Scotland’s (I refer to those who voted YES) temerity in not giving up after the referendum, but forging ahead with the SNP in exercising their legal and democratic rights to participate in the Parliamentary union the September 18th 2014 ballot result had compelled them to remain a part of. A great silence has followed my letter – so far …
Herald Letters March 11th 2015
"SNP is a regional party ..." Peter A. Russell
I hardly know where to start with Peter A. Russell's letter on the SNP role in the 2015 general election. It reflects the deeply confused constitutional - not to say democratically questionable - assumptions that lie at the root of so many unionist arguments.
1. The "democratic principle" is that a government, once elected, is accountable to all the voters, not to the "majority of the voters" who may or may not have voted for the party or parties that form the government. In the 18 general elections since 1945, no single party forming a government has ever had 50% or more of the vote. The present combined Tory/LibDem Coalition had 58.08%. (As an aside, I have delivered leaflets and campaigned, at some level of involvement, in every one of them from the age of 10.)
2. The SNP has not "chosen to be" a de facto regional party in the UK". It stands candidates for the UK Parliament in Scottish constituencies determined legally and constitutionally under UK-wide law. No political party has a duty to stand candidates across the UK. It is committed to an over-arching objective of Scotland's independence, but it currently operates with a UK framework of law, offering itself to an electorate that contains voters in favour of and opposed to independence. Once elected, SNP MPs represents all shades of political opinion within their constituency, in exactly the same manner as any MP anywhere in UK. It is clear beyond doubt that Scottish voters opposed to independence voted - and will vote - for the SNP.
3. The SNP forms the devolved government of Scotland. It can never be the main party in government of the UK, nor does it seek to be. While Scotland remains a part of UK, its objective is to represent Scotland's interests within the democratic structure and arithmetic of Westminster voting. It cannot pursue independence at Westminster, only further devolution within a UK framework. It has no intention of "dictating to 90% of the UK electorate" but will pursue an agenda for the electorate and the people of Scotland - all of them.
4. Independence can only be secured democratically by a referendum - the UK Parliament will never vote for the independence of any of its four component countries. The Scottish people rejected independence in the last referendum. If the SNP wins a large block of seats on May 7th, and subsequently wins a decisive third term majority in the 2016 Holyrood election, it will undoubtedly be a powerful democratic indicator that a majority of the Scottish people want a second referendum.
5. The UK electorate may vote for a party label, but they in fact vote for individual constituency MPs who, without exception, represent a "regional' constituency" under a first-past-the-post system. Most MPs run under a party label and accept a party whip, but in Westminster they vote as individuals MPs, whipped or independently. That is UK democracy, however distorted on occasion by the party system.