Friday, 6 May 2011
On the Road to Independence for Scotland
Today is an historic day for Scotland. The votes have now been counted from yesterday's Scottish Parliament election - and there has been a stunning result.
My interest in politics goes back more than 30 years. In all that time the Labour Party has been the dominant force in Scotland, even during the 1980s and early 1990 when they were in opposition to a Conservative government that treated the Scots with contempt and closed down industry after industry, effectively killing community after community. The Tories, initially under the detested Margaret Thatcher then John Major and others didn't care about Scotland and the majority of Scots thought the best way to get rid of the Tory party was to vote Labour. In UK terms this mattered not a jot as the affluent south-east of England, the main beneficiaries of Thatcher's anti-socialist policies would inevitably vote the Tories back into power. Until 1997 when 'New Labour', under Tony Blair came to power. Devolution was granted to Scotland but Labour initially limited the powers of the Scottish Parliament and reckoned their party would win every Scottish election in any case.
Four years ago the Scottish National Party won the Scottish election by the narrowest of margins, much to the surprise of the Labour Party. As it was a minority government, the SNP couldn't push through all the pledges in their manifesto but they still did so much good for Scotland in those four years.
Now, the latest election has produced a startling result. As I write this not all of the results have been declared but the SNP have already won an astonishing 65 seats - meaning there will now be a SNP majority government for the next four years of the Scottish Parliament. Previous Labour heartlands such as Glasgow Shettleston, Hamilton and East Kilbride are now SNP seats. I live in the constituency of Midlothian North. I've lived here for more than 21 years and it's always been a staunch Labour area - until now. The SNP's Colin Beattie won the seat, reward for years of hard work and relentless campaigning.
When I lived in Aberdeen more than two decades ago, I stood for the SNP in the local council elections. I came second but I was part of the campaign to elect Brian Adam as the SNP's first Aberdeen councillor in years. He won and is now a MSP in the Scottish Parliament - and yesterday's results saw the whole of Aberdeen come under SNP power. What an astonishing turnaround from when I used to live there.
In the last parliament, the SNP had hoped for a referendum for the people of Scotland to decide whether they wanted independence for their country. However, being a minority government, they couldn't get enough support to push this through. Now, in 2011, a majority SNP government won't have to rely on anyone else - they could proceed with a referendum now if they wanted. My heart says yes, go for it now while the country has given the SNP such huge support; my head says it would be ignorant to think that everyone who voted for the SNP yesterday wants independence and that the SNP government might be better building on their significant achievements of the last four years and further convincing the people of Scotland that independence is the next logical step.
There will be those who are sceptical and say this is a protest vote against Labour and the Liberal Democrats. I disagree and would say this:
Years ago we were told there would never be a Scottish Parliament.
Then, when devolution was granted and there was a Scottish Parliament in 1999, there would never be an SNP Government.
Then, as the SNP got stronger and stronger, there might be a slight chance of an SNP government - but never an SNP majority.
Now they will tell us that Scots will never vote for independence.
After a breathtaking election night, I would say this - the road to independence for Scotland remains a long one but we have made significant progress along it. Freedom for our nation has never been closer.