Undecided Scot decides

Alex Salmond: Better Together, that's what I sayI still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.

What made me so sure?

It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)

On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.

For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.

I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.

This is not to say that the SNP wouldn’t like to win an independence referendum or that the grassroots supporters aren’t working for a win. But what they’d like to happen and what they expect to happen are two different things: and getting a good high Yes vote but losing won’t hurt them politically as a party – a substantial proportion of the people who vote SNP don’t support independence, they support the party’s other policies and like the candidate.

Electoral Calculus reckons they could gain as many as nine seats, mostly from the LibDems, which if they retain their current six, could potentially give the SNP as much clout with the UK Labour party as the Democratic Unionist Party traditionally has with the Conservatives. With a Labour majority in double-figures, fifteen votes makes a useful ally – especially with a party discipline so lock-step that even on officially free votes, all SNP MPs vote or not-vote as their party requires them.

For the second reading of the equal marriage bill at Westminister, the SNP announced just as the debate was beginning:

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012-13 is not a matter “exclusive to England and Wales”.

Closely linked legislation, the Gender Recognition Act, is reserved legislation, applying across the UK: if the Westminster bill had failed, the Scottish Parliament would have had no direct power to remedy the discrimination against trans people by its own equal marriage legislation. For this reason alone, on principle the SNP MPs should have voted for the bill at the second reading (and there are other issues that will affect Scotland / Scottish law).


For all LGBT Scots, cisgender and transgender, the vote on 5th February matters, as a basic equality issue as James Mackenzie writes at Better Nation:

The UK is, unless and until the referendum is won, a single nation-state. Until that point it’s extremely hard to identify what does not affect Scotland, and the question of whether England and Wales deliver marriage equality certainly does matter to Scots.

People live, work and love across the border largely without thinking about it. If two Coldstream residents want to marry in Berwick-upon-Tweed, should SNP MPs not speak up for their right to do so irrespective of gender? What if one partner is from Gretna and the other from Carlisle? If the vote had been narrowly lost last night, the effect of the SNP group’s decision would have been to tell that couple they could only tie the knot in Gretna, an idea which admittedly has some historic resonance.

So what if English MPs can’t vote on the equivalent Scottish proposals? It’s not the SNP’s fault that we have this halfway house which institutionalises the West Lothian Question. Equality isn’t a dull managerial England-and-Wales-only issue of the sort Scots MPs might well be justified in avoiding. It’s a question entirely of principle.

Kate Higgins, writing at Burdzeyeview, noted that the six SNP MPs probably didn’t vote because they could not all have been persuaded to vote for.

Alex Salmond Equal MarriageOf the six, Pete Wishart and Eilidh Whiteford have been openly supportive: they, like Mike Weir and Angus Robertson, have signed the pledge to vote for Equal Marriage – though they didn’t! – (and so has Alex Salmond, by the way) – but Stewart Hosie’s attitude is unknown: and Angus MacNeil is the MP for the Western Isles, where the local authority were resistant to civil partnerships, let alone equal marriage.

As a commenter noted:

Angus McNeil and Alasdair Allan [the SNP MSP for the Western Isles] would lose their seats if they supported equal marriage.If people are certain that they would be prepared to lose their job and, for a politician almost as importantly, hand their constituency on a plate to the opposition, then they have every right to condemn them.

The Coalition for Marriage bolstered their incoherent campaign message with a very well-planned letter-writing scheme intended to hit MPs in vulnerable constituencies just where they lived.

But it’s fair to say that Angus McNeil probably didn’t need a C4M letter-writing campaign to let him know he had vocal constituents who would strongly object to same-sex couples being able to get married (Q.V.).

As it happens, I am squarely in the demographic of voters whom SNP/Yes Scotland has to convince to vote for independence if they really want it. If the SNP leadership expected to win the referendum in 2014, or even thought it possible they might, gaining votes from people like me – women in my age cohort who have traditionally voted Labour – it would have mattered a lot more to them to get Yes votes for 2014 than if Angus McNeil lost his seat at Westminster or if the SNP MPs lost their reputation for party discipline.

Because if the SNP expect to win in autumn 2014, it won’t matter to them how many MPs they have at Westminster after May 2015.

But evidently it does. So they don’t.

This is what an MP who’s pretty damn sure he’s not going to be in Parliament after May 2015 sounds like:

But you have to take a view in the end. And, actually, mine is just based on love and democracy. That’s all.

We get to decide what the rules are; not Paul, Aquinas or anyone else. Most people, I think, are informed by their instinctual distaste for what gay guys get up to together when they’re together (which for most is as regularly or rarely as straight people, btw). But that really isn’t good enough. Not for Scotland and Britain, it isn’t.

This isn’t an intellectually pure argument – if you want one and you’re not a bore I’ll give you it – but my instinct, my view, gleaned in large part from many conversations with constituents, is that we’ve already decided as a society that gay folk should have full equality. A lot of people don’t want to think about ‘that sort of thing,’ and anti gay-marriage lobbyists capitalise on that, but in the end the same ‘most folk’, when you sit in their living rooms, agree it’s fair and right. Love sits at the heart of it, actually. In Falkirk, everyone should be allowed to love and to express that in the same way; fuck however they like, bring up kids well, get married. They might not like the way I say it, but I think Falkirk folk would agree if put properly to the test.

And this is what people who think equality for the likes of me isn’t that important sound like (re: Brian Souter on Questionable Time):

If you’ve read this far and you’re an SNP supporter or a rarer Yes Scotland supporter and you’re angry or frustrated our outraged because I say you’re going to lose in autumn 2014, you are of course free to leave a comment here.

But if you want Yes is to win in 2014 and you think the SNP/Yes Scotland should be promoting the idea that an independent Scotland can be nicer or more ethical or just better than Scotland-in-the-UK, don’t write to me: tell the SNP that. (Scottish National Party, Gordon Lamb House, 3 Jackson’s Entry, Edinburgh, EH8 8PJ Scotland Tel 0800 633 5432 Email info@snp.org.) Seems they haven’t got the message.

Oh, and support equal marriage, in every part of the UK.

I dreamed a dream: thoughts on equal marriage:

Well. This week, when ‘the ayes had it’, I remembered this long-forgotten episode and tears welled in my eyes. They’re welling now, actually. Because this week, that dream I had as an eight year old girl came a step, maybe even a leap, closer to coming true.

As I say, and as regular readers will know, my parents split up when I was four and I was raised by my mum and her partner, with regular access and a good relationship with my dad and his wife.

Since then, I went to school during Section 28 and learnt that it was thought by teachers that talking about a family like mine was illegal. There was never any discussion in all my school years that a family could look like mine, or even that it was ok for a family to look like mine. Section 28 was repealed in November 2003 – my final year of Sixth Form. It is difficult to explain just how damaging that law was for gay children who were made to feel completely invisible, made to feel like their lives were shameful and hidden. It is difficult to explain how, as a child in a gay family, you could be made to feel that your family simply doesn’t exist.

So when they repealed Section 28 it was too late for my schooling but a fantastic step towards ending an institutionalised homophobia that so effectively silenced and isolated young people.

Yeah. Let’s all celebrate Brian Souter’s “accomplishments”, shall we?


Filed under Elections, LGBT Equality, Scottish Politics

5 responses to “Undecided Scot decides

  1. Thanks for writing this. It’s given me a lout to think about.

  2. I for one will be voting yes to Scottish independence in the autumn of 2014.

  3. Pingback: Scotland, 18 Sept 2014: Yes Or No, We Are Not Happy. - The Backbencher

  4. Interesting but a flawed comparison with Obama campaign.
    Obama doesn’t need to make provision for continuation- at most he has 2 terms as President & then bows out.
    The SNP need to plan to continue in Government regardless of the Referendum result.
    Also our canvas results suggest YES campaign has everything to play for & if I were a betting man I would back a YES win!

    • So you agree that it’s political cowardice at Westminster that leads the SNP to refuse to vote for equal marriage.

      Which means, you know as well as I do that the SNP know they won’t win in 2014.

      I’d take your bet but it would be too depressing watching your gloomy face….

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