Scotland: A polarised polity

As much as I hate to see it, Scotland is a polarised country now.

No matter where you look whether it’s Twitter spats between Cybernats and authors or news stories about job losses, Scotland is split into two camps.

The image above is a snapshot from YouGov’s latest Scottish poll about independence versus party support.

You don’t need to be a professional psephologist to figure out that there is a chasm between the parties here and when you look at the party’s support figures it’s clear that independence question is still the driving force behind politics in this country 13 months on from the referendum.

Did anyone honestly think it wouldn’t be?  It was a revolutionary mass engagement in politics the likes the western world has scarcely ever seen.  But the thing is that it could have been different if the post-referendum narrative hadn’t been entirely dominated by an SNP not keen on licking its wounds and an opposition that had no real plan for what to do if it won.

The 45 may have been pacified by a Scotland Bill that was delivered in line with “The Vow” in terms of timeline and in terms of content, but without that there’s been little to persuade them that independence isn’t the best route forward for Scotland.  It’s not No voters the vow was for, after all.

And while the SNP has got on with the job of governing Scotland, even if it is open to interpretation how effective they have been, the opposition parties have failed to put together a platform that provides a credible alternative.  That’s the simple fact that the opposition need to understand – rather than blaming their problems on the SNP.  It’s not the electorate that’s wrong, it’s you.  If you fail to understand that then you fail to understand politics.

The Tories in Scotland are blessed with a likeable leader in Ruth Davidson but one who is saddled by Westminster policies that are anathema to the Scottish public and a party reputation that still makes them seem like pantomime villains any time they are mentioned.

The “Lib Dem fightback” has barely registered a pulse in the polls and despite their diligent efforts to bring the SNP to heel over justice they’ve not been able to register on the minds of Scottish voters with their points at all.

And although Labour has new leadership in Scotland and the UK it’s almost completely indecipherable where they are headed in terms of policy and in terms of vision.  Labour needs to pick itself off the canvas after battling with itself for the best part of five years and show the people why it deserves another chance to lead the country.  While their parliamentary party in Westminster is in complete disarray in working with their new leader, it seems like that won’t happen any time soon.

We need a strong opposition to the SNP to make sure that Scotland is served best, and at the moment there is none.  While Holyrood’s 2016 elections are almost a nailed-on certain SNP victory, there is still time for the other parties to put their best foot forward and show that they have plans for Scotland that would make it a better place; plans that would make use of the Scottish Parliament’s new powers and make a real difference to people’s lives.  If they can show that the Unionist side of politics can offer just as much positive change to Scotland as independence promised to many, then that could be the key to bringing Scottish politics together again and breaking the polarised system we’ve developed now.

While we are split into two camps, there’s only one that’s in the ascendancy right now.  The message to the opposition and Unionist parties is clear:

Scotland’s changed.  Either change with it or embrace the electoral abyss.

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