It feels ridiculous to even stick a “here’s why” onto the end of that title. These things, you’d think, are so self-obvious they do not have to be explained, and in any election up until now, they would be. But unfortunately, I have literally no choice but to talk about this.
If you’re a Labour or Lib Dem or CPGB-ML supporter who is vehemently against independence, you, sitting squarely in the targeting computer of Ruth Davidson’s “NO TO A SECOND REFERENDUM” electoral laser cannon, will by now quite possibly have given a thought to voting Tory to Keep the SNP Out™, especially if you live in a rural area. In fact, Ruth Davidson has personally appealed to you to do so, and Ian Murray, Scottish Labour’s last remaining Westminster MP, has as well. Now I don’t expect you to listen to me much – full disclosure, I am an SNP member, and I am in favour of independence – but if you are thinking of gritting your teeth and voting Tory just to show us how much you don’t like us, please, please reconsider. You are asked to make a choice which is obviously vehemently wrong just to make a relatively shallow, meaningless statement: “no to a second independence referendum”, without considering the implications of voting Tory for yourself, your family, or your society.
Let’s look at objective reality here for a second. The Tory argument for why you – you, in this case, addresses left-wing and centre-left unionists – should vote for them is that under FPTP, they are the best-placed political force to keep the SNP out in most seats, especially in most rural seats and in Edinburgh. You should want to do this mainly because, they reason, you are a unionist, you are against independence, you want the SNP to be put back in their place. The question you should ask yourself even if you fully agree with these statements is: why does it matter?
The SNP is in power in the Scottish government, very narrowly short of a majority in the parliament, supported by another pro-independence party that fully backs indyref2. Your disdain for them, even if it is strong enough to bring you to vote Tory, even if it elects a raft of Tory MPs across Scotland, is meaningless: the split between unionist and nationalist, or more accurately anti-independence and pro-independence voters, in Scotland is very close and one way or the other we have to admit to ourselves that whichever side has the advantage right now (a difficult question to answer in its own right) the numbers are very tight. To argue that, say, 50 SNP MPs instead of 56 and an additional say, 7 Tories instead of 1 – the intricacies of FPTP aside – undermines what mandate the Scottish government does have for indyref2 is at best a very weak suggestion. To put it in simple terms, it won’t go away even if you vote Tory. That’s simply a fact. The Scottish Government will not put down its plans for indyref2 on account of your being disgruntled.
That aside, if you’re a Labour supporter, for you specifically voting for a Tory candidate is a form of not even cutting your nose off to spite your face, but of shooting yourself in the face to spite Nicola Sturgeon. Your hypothetical Tory MP, no matter how angry you feel at the SNP when you go to vote, will not back a Labour government, but a government formed of their own party (obviously). By voting Tory, you are literally handing political power to Theresa May, and a program of cuts, austerity and the hardest possible Brexit, because that’s how much you don’t want independence. If that’s really the choice you’re going to make, fine, but remember that you’re not just voting against indyref2, you’re also voting for an end to the triple lock on state pension, driving the NHS into the ground by depriving it of necessary staff born abroad, and a Brexit plan that yells arrogance in every possible direction, whose only concrete promise aside from meaningless soundbites like “no deal is better than a bad deal” was to turn the UK into a tax haven. You’re thinking of a vote for everything you detest just out of a dislike for Nicola Sturgeon. Obviously, the choice is ultimately up to you, but I feel it is absolutely necessary for you to rethink what you’re doing before you do it.
If all of that doesn’t make you change your mind, think about this: the SNP’s argument for calling a second independence referendum is that there is a Tory government in power that is pushing the hardest possible Brexit that would leave Scotland outside the EU single market and the four freedoms. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if there was a hung parliament, where the SNP would obviously vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister, where they would have the position, as kingmakers, to force the UK government into a soft, rather than hard, Brexit.
I’m not saying that a vote for the SNP is actually your best bet to stop indyref2, but all I’m saying is: such a scenario definitely throws a wrench in our argument. And in such a scenario the Scottish Government might well rethink whether they want indyref2 so soon.