We MUST stop Corbyn from gifting SNP a fresh chance to break up UK
SIX long weeks of campaigning before the December 12 election lie ahead – but everything you need to know about the campaign in Scotland was set out yesterday, on day one.
Firstly, in Stirling, Nicola Sturgeon made clear her only priority is to use this election, like all the others, to push ever harder for another referendum on independence.
She wants to hold that referendum next year. She is hoping that an increased number of Nationalist MPs on the green benches will strengthen her case. With rumblings of discontent from within her party about her leadership, she is focused solely on trying to secure her legacy before it is too late.
Then, secondly, in London, we got further evidence of Labour’s complete capitulation to her demands. Speaking on TV, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet ministers Andy McDonald declared that Labour ‘won’t stand in the way of a second independence referendum’. Standing next to him, Nationalist MP Pete Wishart described the statement as ‘really positive’.
This is the real nightmare before Christmas that we face: the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party needing SNP votes at Westminster to take control of No10, and prepared to grant Miss Sturgeon the referendum she craves at the drop of a hat. It shows that if she and Mr Corbyn were ever to get their way, another referendum on independence could be on the cards before this year’s Christmas decorations have been taken down.
Here, then, is the choice in this campaign in a nutshell. On the one hand, there is Miss Sturgeon and Mr Corbyn plotting more referendums, more division and more uncertainty for Scotland and the UK. On the other – alone – is a Conservative Party that wants to put that division behind us and let the country move on. And it’s because of that choice I feel confident the Scottish Conservatives can, just like two years ago, give the SNP a bloody nose.
Of course, Nicola Sturgeon already appears to be preparing her victory lap in this campaign. We keep hearing that the Nationalists are going to sweep the board. And we keep being told – mostly by the SNP’s risible Westminster leader Ian Blackford – that Scotland is rising up and a revolution is coming.
I beg to differ. Yesterday I spent the day campaigning in Perth. Two years ago, the SNP beat us by a mere 21 votes. And members of the public out doing their shopping in the rain yesterday were reading from a very different script from Mr Blackford’s. The message I got was clear: people are irritated by the SNP’s constant refrain that it alone speaks for Scotland.
Voters want Brexit sorted, so the country can move on. And they just want Nicola Sturgeon to listen for once (fat chance – at her launch yesterday she banned print journalists from asking questions).
So I caution the First Minister. She may have calculated that this snap election will deliver her a victory before the turmoil of the Alex Salmond trial begins early next year. But just as she seems incapable of listening to voters, my reading is most Scots are now repaying the compliment, and are not so prepared to listen to Nicola Sturgeon.
This is not to diminish the challenge we face as we seek to take on the SNP. But it is to assert some quiet confidence. It is, after all, only two years since the Conservatives in Scotland defied the pundits by winning 13 seats right across Scotland. Remember the panda jokes and the claim Scotland would be a Tory-free zone? Not so easy to recall, these days.
In the two years since, Scottish Conservative MPs have been alone in opposing the SNP’s push for a second referendum on independence.
They have been alone, too, in defending the principle that referendums should be respected, and that you don’t get to pick and choose which ones you implement and which ones you don’t.
Even among Remain voters, I get the clear feeling that fairminded Scots accept that principle – and agree that we should now leave the EU in an orderly and speedy manner.
Furthermore, we have also spoken up for ‘the disappeared’ in Scottish public life – people in rural Scotland, and communities in the north-east of Scotland who now feel utterly frozen out by the SNP’s Central Belt control freakery.
So, while politics these days is an unpredictable game, I see no reason why our 13 MPs from 2017 cannot grow further in this election ahead because
I think there are plenty of Scots who – quietly perhaps – are gearing up to deliver Nicola another dose of reality.
They know they need to box clever – and vote for the party that has the strength to take on the SNP. They know that, in seat after seat, that party is the Scottish Conservatives.
We’ve all learned that, by working together, we can beat the SNP and we can make a difference.
After Miss Sturgeon lost 21 seats in the 2017 General Election, she was forced to ‘reset’ her plans for a referendum. It may only have been temporary relief for pro-Union Scots, but at least it stopped her for a while. Now, in 2019, we need to tell her again.
The benefits will be enormous. Forcing the SNP to dump its referendum does not just protect the Union. It also means we can force the SNP to focus on the things that really matter, such as turning around school standards, sorting out the NHS, fixing our broken criminal justice system.
If we use this election to make clear we don’t want that referendum, we are one step closer to getting the kind of government we deserve, that puts our priorities first, not those of the narrow-minded Nationalists.
So while I know most Scots would far rather get ready for Christmas than prepare to head to the polls, I would urge people to think of the bigger picture.
Electing a majority Conservative government opens up the prospect of ending the Brexit deadlock in 2020. Getting rid of this failed Parliament at Westminster is the only way to get our politics focused back onto the things we care about.
And here in Scotland, an election gives us a chance to show the SNP establishment in Edinburgh that they can’t take people for granted – and they need to listen, for once, to the majority who don’t want another vote on independence.
Nicola Sturgeon has calculated that this election will grant her the chance to deliver her referendum.
The word is that the SNP will demand it the morning after the election result comes in. The result, they believe, is in the bag.
Let’s imagine, instead, Nicola Sturgeon having to tear up those plans and being forced to explain why Scotland appears to have told the SNP to get lost, and to get on with the job we pay them to do at Holyrood.
Isn’t that an early present that we might all enjoy getting this Christmas?