Those folk of all ages and backgrounds, are telling me over and over again: “Westminster isn’t working for Scotland. The coalition government doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about what happens here."
What a year! Talk about world events, talk about Scotland. Never before has this small nation been at the centre of so much world media attention.
It all had its highs and its lows for us in the SNP and in Government.
We had the Commonwealth Games, the European elections, the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the Ryder Cup, and perhaps more important than any of these, we had Hamilton Accies joining the SPFL Premiership. As Bill Shankley famously said: “Football is not a matter of life or death. It’s much more important than that.
But, seriously, I’ve never lived through a year that was so packed full of intensity, action, commitment and above all a real engagement in the politics of our nation. Never before have people become so directly and collectively involved in the potential for constitutional change in Scotland. In our own Hamilton SNP branch, the membership leaped from around 200 to close on 1000 after the vote, drawing in the many hundreds who had joined in the Yes campaign and who feel the frustration of losing.
Those folk of all ages and backgrounds, are telling me over and over again: “Westminster isn’t working for Scotland. The coalition government doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about what happens here.
Why would they? We didn’t vote them into power. We currently have one Conservative MP from the Borders at Westminster. Scotland rarely gets the Westminster government it votes for. Which is why it is now so important to convert the polls on how people intend to vote in the general election into results. Most of these show the SNP leading Labour by 17 points with 43 per cent of the vote. One in the Daily Record shows the SNP with twice, yes twice, the vote of Labour at 48 per cent against 24 per cent.
If you were to calculate that out into results, you’d find that the SNP would win 54 Westminster seats, leaving Labour just four and one for the Lib Dems.
That kind of calculation takes no account of campaigning between now and May and I take it with a very large pinch of salt. Jim Murphy will be working hard to lure back the many former Labour voters who have switched to the SNP. We, ourselves, have a big job to do. Just because our membership as a party has reached around 93,000 from its pre-referendum 27,000 is no excuse for complacency and well we know it.
Our new members are demanding action, movement, change, and they are going to expect a great deal from the MPs they elect to Westminster. We, as a party, have a responsibility to ensure that only the best quality candidates, who understand how to work the Westminster system get there.
We also need to make sure that each of our MPs will represent everyone in the constituency, not just those who share their politics. In the same way, I have a responsibility for everyone in this Scottish Parliament constituency, regardless of how they choose to vote in May. Everyone who consults me gets the same care and attention when it comes to their issues and problems.
It isn’t enough to appreciate the local issues. Westminster doesn’t give MPs much opportunity to talk about the need for a new university campus in Hamilton. What we need there now is a large enough block of MPs to be able to negotiate a better deal for Scotland, working as a team.
This all makes very uncomfortable reading for Scottish Labour, accustomed as it is to securing a safe and comfortable vote across the west of Scotland. Their pitch to the Smith Commission offered even fewer devolved powers than either the Scottish Tories or Lib Dems did.
The general election gives us all the chance to prove that we have moved on to a better place and we demand more than unfulfilled promises.