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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Election Fever

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

THE General Election campaign has so inspired the Scottish electorate that the list of the 10 “most read” stories on the website of a major Scottish newspaper on Tuesday was topped by the news that the Chair of Glasgow Rangers Football Club was resigning and included the tale of someone being robbed of their Christmas shopping. Not a single election story was included.

Earlier, the first substantial poll focusing exclusively on Scotland came out. It put the Scottish National Party (SNP) on 40 per cent, the Tories on 28 and Labour on 20, with just 11 for the Liberal Democrats. In 2017 the nationalists won 37 per cent, Tories 29, Labour 27 and LibDems seven. This poll, taken before the manifestos came out, would imply that Labour would lose all but one of its seven seats. It demonstrates both a strong anti-Tory majority and a smaller overall anti-nationalist one that has failed to halt the SNP advance.

Tuesday saw Boris Johnson pay a visit north of the border to launch the Tory Scottish Manifesto, which significantly was titled No to IndyRef2. He claimed Scotland had been “paralysed by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP over the past decade” and added that any nationalist request to hold indyref2 would be rejected with “no negotiation”, even if he was struggling for a majority.

The latest stand by Labour on this issue is that it would not seek to block a second referendum if there is a pro-independence majority after the 2021 Holyrood election; but that might have changed by the time that this paper hits the doormats.

Johnson also insisted that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was prepared to do a “shady backroom deal with Nicola Sturgeon to get into government” if there was a hung parliament after the election and that “the price of that deal will be an independence referendum in 2020”. The SNP have made a virtue of this and say it is safe for left-wingers to vote for them, although obviously they will tone down that particular message in leafier streets.

Johnson is obviously not angling for nationalist votes — even if they liked his pledge to review alcohol duty to back Scottish whisky and gin producers. He promised to quadruple the number of seasonal agricultural workers to 10,000 but was vague on the details. Perhaps he hopes that cutting social security benefits will drive people into these jobs.

He made a “clear commitment” to leave the Common fisheries Policy in December 2020 and to “take back control of our fishing waters as an independent coastal state”, which will make things awkward for the SNP in the fishing constituencies.

Labour’s policies of giving all primary and secondary pupils in Scotland free school meals, 120,000 new council and social houses, £6 billion on renovating existing homes to make them more environmentally friendly and free broadband are not likely to sway many minds that are presently diverted by other issues.

Readers who are not of a squeamish disposition are recommended to search out on the internet the forensic BBC interview of Nicola Sturgeon conducted by Andrew Neil on Monday 25th November. In particular, the passages in which the former heath minister demonstrated a total ignorance of the present state of the NHS in Scotland are well worth watching. These matters have regularly been in the headlines and debated at Holyrood, so one would have thought that she would have done her homework beforehand. Perhaps she is so used to the forelock tugging media luvvies in Scotland that she forgot what a real interviewer can do.