On the 5 May Scotland has a general election, and if you read yesterday's posting then you will know that I plan to vote for the SNP in the Edinburgh Northern and Leith constituency, and Labour for the Lothian list. There are several reasons why I think that a split vote is important this time around, so let me go through them with you one by one.
Firstly, I have a thing about pluralism. Sorry, but I just do, and not only that but I have a serious aversion to strong governments of whatever hue.
I wasn't always that way inclined. As a youngster I was thoroughly enamoured of a strong government, heading a strong state, because to many people of my generation that meant strong Labour governments that nationalised industries, and kept the wages up and the management down. Then came 1979 and the long years of agony that followed, and I realised that a strong government need not necessarily be a leftist one. As a result, I prefer to have governments that need to cut deals with other parties to get their legislation passed. I just feel more protected that way, if you want to know the truth.
Secondly, although I am by and large happy to see the SNP stay in power, I am far from happy about some of their policies which have a nasty streak of authoritarianism about them. We could start with the Named Person Scheme, but let's not stop there - let's consider the banning of alcohol at football matches and the odious bit of legislation that makes thuggish policemen the arbiters of musical taste at those same football grounds.
The ban on drinking at football stadia dates back to 1980, so we cannot blame the SNP for that. What we can do is blame them for allowing booze to be sold at rugby grounds whilst keeping the ban at those where football is played.
We can also blame the SNP for an odious bit legislation which bans the singing of some songs at all football stadia. There is even a list of songs that can be sung and those which can't which is an entertainment in itself to read, by the way. What this legislation ignores is that very many people in Scotland identify themselves via the old Catholic or Protestant ideologies that were still common across Britain when I was a child. It may have died out in England, outside Liverpool at any rate, but Scotland is a separate country, as the SNP never tire of reminding us. Again, none of this legislation applies to rugby grounds, because those are where middle class chaps go to enjoy themselves: only the plebeian game of football is targeted.
It is unlikely if either the Named Person wheeze or the banning of football chants would have passed Holyrood had the SNP not had an overall majority. If you want an end to legislation like this which only aims at making the middle class feel even more self-righteous than they do already, then the need to ensure that the SNP does not have an even bigger majority in the next parliament strikes me as pretty damned important.
Thirdly, and looking specifically at Holyrood, the parliament was set up without a revising chamber, but with strong committees that would do the job of legislative revision. That was fine in a chamber that was never supposed to have a government with an overall majority, and it is important that we get back to the Holyrood that functions in the way that the founding fathers intended.
Finally, although I voted Yes for independence in 2014, my vote was strictly utilitarian. I have little or no interest in scotch mist, and had the level of devolution that was created by the Scotland Act 2016 been on offer back then I would probably have voted for that, instead of full independence. We did not have that choice, so many of us were bounced into throwing in our lot with independence.
However, on the 5 May we will be voting for a set of parties that will govern Scotland within the United Kingdom. We will not be voting for an independence movement because that matter was decided, for at least another generation, in September 2014. It is time to start holding the SNP to account for the policies that we do not like, whilst accepting that actually we do like most of their policies. For that reason we want the SNP to stay in power, but not to give them too much power.
Labour is slowly but surely beginning to climb out of the hole that it dug for itself over the past few years of Blairism. The party wants to increase taxes on the middle class, and the SNP jibe that what Labour actually wants to do is raise working class taxes rings hollow in Leith where anyone earning over £20,000 a year is, almost by definition, a member of the bourgeoisie. Or a drug dealer, you can take your pick.
The party is not yet ready for government, but it needs to be given time to prepare to challenge for it in the future. Dumping Labour now makes no sense, especially when the Tories are coming up with policies that are aimed squarely at the middle class. Those policies could cut into the SNP's middle class underbelly, and might lead to the SNP moving to the right to get those votes back. The SNP needs to be threatened from the left as well as the right, otherwise we could be left as high and dry in Scotland as we are in England.
For all those reasons, I reckon that a vote for both the SNP and Labour makes sense on the 5 May 2016.