The Scottish National Party (SNP) is seemingly becoming more centrist. Could Labour capitalize on this?
Last May, the SNP came storming into the British parliament. While many indeed predicted they would prove a challenge, and capitalize upon the frustration present in Scotland – as shown in the independence referendum the previous year, they even surpassed predictions placed on them. Securing a crushing victory over the Labour Party, which for long held hegemony over Scotland, an overwhelming 56 and 59 of the available constituencies were secured.
What was their edge? They were seen as the last bastion of hope for just values in Scotland; which had been sidelined in a squandering between New Labour and the Conservative Party for the last several decades.
Rather than being a purely nationalist insurgency, many didn’t vote on the grounds of patriotism and national pride; numerous polls showed that nationalistic sentiment among the Scottish public had barely increased up until the time of the election. Rather, people were frustrated with the lack of just values. Many were frustrated with the Conservative Party’s austerity measures that were forced on them, and the indifference that New Labour had for many people in poorer urban areas during their reign; while pandering to their more wealthy supporters.
Nicola Sturgeon has actually described herself as a radical left-winger; along with her anti-Westminster establishment stance which she held prior to the SNP’s terrific electoral success. However, she has backtracked on her views that would fit in with her self-professed left-wing ideology, arguing against the proposal to raise the top rate of income tax from 45p to 50p. According to the First Lady of Scotland, doing so would risk losing up to £30 million every year.
In her own words:
“I haven’t ruled it out for the rest of the parliament. I think there should be a 50p top rate of tax, but you don’t set tax rates if it is going to lose you money.”
Is this a sign that her left-wing credentials are being chipped away at by her position in power?
While some might say she is making a temporary compromise, it is even more plausible to say that the political establishment of Britain is beginning to tighten its grip on her. The Thatcherite legacy – left behind from the “Iron Lady’s” rule – gave increased power to corporations and big business, allowing a culture that presented the corporations with much influence in swaying political decisions.
This is shown in over actions of the SNP, betraying their pre-election mantra. A £10 billion deal which over Scotland’s railways was struck last year, despite the party’s narrative to bring it back into the hands of public ownership. Like Tony Blair, who drifted more away from Labour’s left-wing values for the sake of consolidating power – it seems Sturgeon has drifted in the same direction.
With a region that, for decades, has been squabbled over between the Conservative Party and New Labour, the SNP would be an obvious choice to vote for – something new, and bearing the appearance of radicalism (something which is often welcomed in times of frustration). If it becomes more centrist, and fails to live up to the initial demands that people expected of it, people could lose faith in the party.
This would mean very little if New Labour values were still at large. Yet with Jeremy Corybn’s drastic reformation of the Labour Party, dragging it back towards its social democratic values – and in an ongoing bid to get his MPs to comply with his agenda, they could fill a vacuum left by the centrist reign of the party.
Perhaps Labour could capitalize on this, After all, Scottish Labour leader Keziah Dudgale promised that if in power, she would raise the tax rate for earners over £150,000; with the funding being used to improve the quality of impoverished schools. Along with Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to renationalize the railways, these values could very much appease the population of Scotland. It will especially attract those in poorer cities such as Glasgow, where people were hit hard by the Thatcher government; where people’s lives were made worse by her policies on industry.
Perhaps the SNP’s greatest hope of securing power is to campaign again for independence. Yet with the value of oil plummeting – oil being a vital source of Scotland’s income – this prospect has all but diminished. As said prior to the referendum, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Scottish electorate to voice their opinion.