If you were to see me out campaigning, decked out in Yes badges and clad in a bright yellow SNP-branded anorak, you probably wouldn’t believe that I voted Labour in the 2017 General Election.
But I did, in the genuine belief that a Corbyn-led UK Government was what Scotland needed the most. Corbyn’s social democratic values and policies resonated with me, and his message inspired me enough to set aside my previous belief in independence and the SNP to vote Labour.
But in this general election, two and a half years later, I’m not only voting SNP, but am tirelessly campaigning every day for my local SNP candidate. That may seem like a big leap, but to me it’s been a very natural journey, and one that I would invite everybody considering voting Labour to embark upon too.
So this blog post is aimed at you: the person who, like myself two and a half years ago, is considering voting Labour. I want you to know that, having been there myself, I understand where you’re coming from, and I understand the appeal of Corbyn and his manifesto – but I’d urge you to reconsider.
This is a First-Past-the-Post election, meaning that in many seats voting against a candidate or party is often far more important than voting for your preferred first choice. This is far from ideal, and we in the SNP would much rather see the First-Past-the-Post voting system replaced with something more proportional. However, we’re currently stuck with it, so tactical voting is a necessity whether we like it or not.
If you’re thinking about voting Labour, kicking the Tories out is probably pretty highly ranked on your Christmas list. But in every Tory-held seat in Scotland, it’s not Labour that are the main competitors, but the SNP. This means that voting for Labour risks splitting the anti-Tory vote and allowing the Tories to hold onto their seats – or even gain a few.
You can probably see where this argument is going – I’m asking you to tactically vote SNP to keep the Tories out. But trust me, I’m not trying to pull a Lib Dem “only we can win here” trick to steal your vote. I am coming from a place of genuine concern that folk voting Labour will split the anti-Tory vote and let the Tories in through the backdoor. I wouldn’t be spending my time writing this article instead of campaigning or, you know, being a normal person, if I didn’t genuinely consider this a very real threat.
Now I know that asking you to vote SNP will probably seem like a pretty big ask. If you’re anything like I was in 2017, it might feel like you’d be betraying your longstanding Labour values.
But Labour values are the very foundations of the SNP. A huge number of its members and elected politicians started their political journeys in the Labour movement. My own SNP candidate, Tommy Sheppard, was a Labour councillor in London and served as the Assistant General Secretary of Scottish Labour under John Smith.
Take, for instance, Labour’s 2019 manifesto. Radical though it may seem to most folk south of the border, most of its juiciest social democratic goodies have actually already been delivered by the SNP in Scotland, be it free prescriptions, free personal care, or free university tuition.
In fact, the SNP swings further left than Corbyn’s Labour on a number of issues. While the Labour manifesto commits the party to renewing the immoral nuclear weapons on the Clyde, the SNP are committed to scrapping trident altogether – and using the £200 billion pound saved from this on public services instead. Corbyn has also acted conspicuously at odds with his longstanding commitment to the democratic principle of self-determination by arguing that it should be up to the UK Government to decide the details of a Scottish independence referendum, rather than the Scottish people themselves through the parliament they elect. You don’t have to support independence to support the idea that decisions about Scotland’s future should be decided by Scotland’s residents.
Furthermore, Scottish independence is an inherently leftist project. A Labour UK Government might pass legislation to enact social democratic policies, but those policies can always be repealed under a future Conservative Government. We’re seeing this happen to the NHS under the Tories right now, so who’s to say it can’t happen in the future to whatever reforms Corbyn introduces? But in an independent Scotland, social democratic values will be constitutionalised and raised above the level of regular law-making. By using a written Scottish Constitution to guarantee our citizens’ rights to housing, benefits, and secure and well-paid work, we can ensure that social democratic policies are treated not as political footballs, but as the unamendable foundations of the state.
And no, the SNP is not in favour of austerity, and never will be. This is a bare-faced lie pushed by the Scottish Labour leadership. As someone who voted Labour in 2017 because of Corbyn, I definitely wouldn’t be in the SNP if it were in any way a pro-austerity party. Scottish public services are feeling the squeeze, but this is due to the total Scottish budget being cut by the UK Government. Meanwhile the SNP Scottish Government have pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into mitigating the worst effects of Tory austerity. The SNP will never support cuts to public services – not now, not when Scotland is independent, not ever.
So, in summary, the SNP is a social democratic party working to lay the foundations of a Nordic-style welfarist state in the face of crippling Tory austerity. It supports unilateral nuclear disarmament and defends the basic democratic principle of self-determination. And it is the only party capable of locking Boris out of Downing Street in Scotland.
Solidarity, socialism, and social justice – these principles are just as present in the SNP as in Labour. So if you are serious about locking the Tories out of power on Thursday, vote SNP.
A vote for Labour in Scotland risks putting Boris back in Downing Street – is that really a price you want to pay just to avoid voting for a broadly similar social democratic party?
You and I, we’re really not that different. So let’s do the smart thing and work together to lock the Tories out.