Let me say at the outset, as I've said many, many times over the years, that "you need to vote Labour in Scotland to kick out the Tories" is not a logical or rational statement. Generally speaking if you vote Labour in Scotland you will be helping to remove an SNP MP, and thus making no difference to whether the Tory government remains in power or not, because SNP MPs would be committed to removing the Tories from power just as Labour MPs would be. But the problem is that voters do not understand that it works that way, and there's no point pretending we live in a world in which they do. "Vote Labour on Thursday, get the Tories out by teatime on Friday" is an incredibly powerful pitch, whether we like it or not.
In a general election that the SNP have tacitly decreed will NOT be a de facto referendum on independence, the main question voters feel they will be facing is whether or not there is a Labour government or a Tory government. How do you persuade them to even give the SNP a thought in those circumstances, let alone to actually vote SNP? It's bloody hard, but it's safe to say you don't do it in the manner suggested by Alyn Smith in The National -
"Next year’s General Election is our chance to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster and maximise our influence over what will remain a failing and turbulent UK"
I mean, is that it? The product of months of strategic thought? Seriously? Smith references the Rutherglen by-election result as evidence that the electorate can't be taken for granted, and yet his pitch is evidence that he is doing precisely that. He imagines Scottish voters now have a default setting of voting SNP and that any old vague tat will meet the very low threshold for keeping them on board. If that was really the case, Rutherglen would not have happened, because there was plenty of vague tat on offer from the SNP then. Essentially the SNP are responding to the imminent prospect of apocalypse with an antidote to a minor hiccup.
"Make our voice heard! Maximise our influence!" What voter even thinks like that, especially when - baffling though it may seem - both Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer generally have better net approval ratings than Humza Yousaf? It may well be that SNP voices are not the voices Scots currently wish to be heard or maximised on their behalf, so what do the SNP have left in the closet? In truth, they needed to give voters a dramatic offer on independence that was at least as inspiring as a new government at Westminster. The careerists thought ultra-caution was needed to save them, but paradoxically it's exactly what will cost them their careers.
I know sometimes SNP supporters regard any strategic advice I give their party with suspicion because of my involvement with the Alba party, but equally some Alba people also regard me with suspicion because I believe the independence cause requires the SNP to somehow win the general election, on the basis that they are the only pro-indy party that can do so under a first-past-the-post system. That belief is absolutely sincere, so I speak here as a critical friend to the SNP, and at the moment as a despairing one.
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