Labour lost me before Blair took office (I was a CLP member), and confirmed me in my decision through its embrace of Thatcherism, its turnabout on nuclear weapons, its conduct over Iraq, and its abandonment of a commitment to social values I hold dear, among a number of other things.
The SNP moved leftward under Salmond over the years (he held the leadership twice), and Sturgeon's politics are to the left of his. She's been in leadership now approaching just 200 days. She has a wider and more enthusiastic following in Scotland than Salmond ever did (his appeal among women in the electorate was never that strong), though he's rightly regarded as a political phenomenon of his generation. The transition in power between the two couldn't have been smoother, or in retrospect, better timed.
Old loyalties die hard, and few harder than the old tribal loyalty to the Labour Party in its Scottish heartlands. But since the referendum last year, many Labour members and voters have deserted the party, not just for the SNP, but primarily so. They just took longer to jump ship than I did. Labour's membership in Scotland is now reputedly in the low thousands (I say reputedly because they refuse to make the number public), while the SNP's has swollen to 105,000 and counting. The effects of that influx have yet to be fully felt, but it's likely to see a cementing of the leftward trend. It may also see healthy intra-party conflict, and it'll be a test of the SNP leadership how well it harnesses that energy.
I've no idea what you mean by "identity politics." The whole thrust of the SNP's modern incarnation is civic nationalism, not ethnic nationalism. If you're settled in Scotland, you're as much a part of the polity as anyone else, no matter your background.
Labour took its voters for granted. For too many years, especially after the advent of New Labour, issues that Scottish constituency parties wanted prioritized in the party platform had to be sidelined because "the South East of England won't wear it." It's gotten worse as Labour's tacked right with the Tories to appease UKIP on certain issues such as immigration, and it's hard to see how they can cede any more ground on "austerity" and privatization. I'd obviously prefer to see Labour in power than the Tories, but it's not a particularly stark choice nowadays, despite Miliband being, on paper at least, more leftish than recent Labour leaders.
Scotland provided Labour with a reliable supply of lobby fodder for the best part of a century, and often got little to show for it in return. The setting up of the Scottish Assembly was intended to bring about the demise of the SNP, and its PR voting system was structured specifically to prevent one party (particularly the SNP) gaining an outright majority. This was confounded when the SNP did just that in the last Holyrood elections.
The old joke about a dog with a Labour rosette being able to win a seat in many constituencies wasn't too far from the truth when I was active in the party. This has come to bite them in the ass.
In the 2010 general election, the SNP suffered from being squeezed by a massive tactical vote by people desperate to stop the Tories taking power (I tactically voted Lib Dem for my sins, as the second-placed candidate in our constituency was a Tory - never with an inkling that would fuel an alliance with the Conservatives, of course). For too long, Labour barely had to work for votes in its heartlands, and now, with the massive swing to the SNP in the polls, it doesn't have reliable data from the previous campaign to base its canvassing on, and has so few activists left that in places it's reduced to shipping them up from England to chap on doors.
And now today we see Jim Murphy, the (Henry Jackson Society member, Blairite) leader of the Scottish Labour Party, having spent the months since his election as the "safe" right-wing candidate for that post declaring how independent Scottish Labour was from Labour in the rest of the UK, and just the other day in a leaders' debate boldly declaring that there would be no funding cuts in Scotland if Labour took power, being publicly contradicted and humiliated by Labour's Chuka Umunna in an interview with Andrew Neil, pointing out that Murphy can promise whatever he wants, but he won't be drawing up any Labour goverment's budget.
It's taken me a long time. I've voted SNP in the past - over the years since I abandoned Labour, I've voted Green, SNP, Scottish Socialist Party, and Lib Dem in various elections (one of the benefits of our Holyrood electoral system is you get two bites of the cherry - a direct candidate vote and a regional list vote, so you can mix and match depending on the appeal of an individual candidate and what representation you'd like to see in the Scottish Parliament). But this election, we've a very good SNP candidate in my constituency whom I'll have no qualms in voting for.
How it all pans out if a sizable bloc of SNP MPs hits Westminster, I've no idea. None of the other parties in contention have left me any alternative (the Greens have a way to go in our area before they're contenders, but I hope they'll do as well as can be expected under first past the post).
I've said it before, but I think it's almost impossible to gauge what's been going on politically in Scotland recently without living here. The media's portrayal is so warped that it's unbelievable (at least a few of the Guardian's columnists have recently stopped being so damn stupid about events up here, but their editorial line still stinks), and in Scotland that largely translates to being Labour mouthpieces.
In the referendum, no broadcast media and only one newspaper, The Sunday Herald, supported the Yes campaign (we've since had a new independence-supporting newspaper, The National, emerge, which has a way to go, but is a healthy antidote to the tired older media). Those allegiances have been transferred to the current election, the split being focused on Labour/SNP, with some of the right-leaning papers offering lukewarm support for the Tories up here, but generally being skewed that way in their coverage anyhow.
It's remarkable that such a political transformation has taken place with so little backing, or even honest reporting in a lot of cases, from the MSM.
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