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This election is more than a vote for a party

THE past few years of turmoil, tension, and trudging to the polling station have left us scunnered, politicians and voters alike. When you open the morning paper or tap the Twitter icon on your phone, it’s difficult to keep cheery when bombarded with a great tsunami of downbeat analysis and horrified commentary from people who find themselves staring at an oncoming Brexit juggernaut, one that has squatted over our domestic and international politics since 2015.

First published in The National, 11 December 2019

By the time you read this, I’ll be in Stirling with the SNP’s fantastic team of activists, who’ve been out with me in all weathers, chapping doors and delivering leaflets come sun, rain, hail and wind. There have been biscuits, there have been jokes, and throughout it all there’s been a determination to have one fewer Brexiteer Conservative in Westminster, and a strong SNP voice in his place.

I know politicians and pundits like to say that every election is the most important one ever, just like the sofa sales on Boxing Day are the biggest sales ever. But what happens in this election, the December General Election of 2019, will set the ground for what happens next with Brexit, and what happens next for Scottish independence.

There are plenty of Unionists voting SNP this election because of tactical reasons, because we all want to get the Conservatives out and rid the Commons of their damaging, myopic No-Deal collective delusion, and I’m not taking a single one of those votes for granted.

Brexit – and the reasonable, compromise-seeking stance of the Scottish Government – has brought a lot of former No voters over to independence, which is fantastic. Welcome! But others who voted No in 2014, and would vote No again, are wary of voting tactically, because they’re still not convinced about an independent Scotland. We’re all having to pick our battles, and the first one is getting the Tories out of Number 10.

Brexit is out of control, and it’s difficult to tell who exactly is in charge – either because too many cooks, too many egos, or because the string-pullers are intentionally keeping out of the limelight. It’s time to pull on the reins before it’s too late to undo the damage. Brexit is taking up a lot of political bandwidth but the alternative is terrifying.

A September study from the Policy Institute over at King’s College London showed that the number of folk who identify strongly with a political party – as so many of our parents and grandparents did – has declined significantly, and been replaced with identifying yourself based on how you voted in the 2016 EU referendum. There’s a lot of ugly rhetoric out there, including the most recent – at the time of filing, anyway – scapegoating comment from Boris Johnson. “You’ve seen quite a large number of people coming in from the whole of the EU — 580 million population — able to treat the UK as though it’s basically part of their own country”.

Let’s get this straight. If you’ve chosen to come here – to fall in love, to raise your family, and to pay your taxes here – then this is your country. We want you here.

Boris Johnson using such shabby, venomous, hurtful rhetoric to cover up the myriad failings (both domestic and political) of his moth-eaten party should be enough to consign him to the midden of political ignominy. Ten years ago, it would have been.

I’ve written extensively before about why we need to defend our EU neighbours and nip this kind of isolationist rhetoric in the bud before it becomes acceptable in the mainstream, but it feels like an uphill struggle when it’s coming from the incumbent Prime Minister. Immigrants aren’t to blame for the UK’s strained NHS, housing issues, or employment insecurity, the Tories are. And once they’ve finished blaming non-UK nationals for the country’s woes, who will they spin around and blame next?

So, let’s all get out there and do the work to beat him. Don’t believe the polls. The polls said we’d get a Remain victory in 2016, and we know how that turned out. Some of you may need to hold your noses and vote tactically, some of you may find yourselves standing in the polling booth for longer than usual, staring at a ballot paper, weighing up heart v head.

I can’t speak for the other parties but I know that by voting SNP, you’re voting to escape this Brexit mess and keep the country on the path of building a better Scotland. The manifestos are all online and the polling stations open at 7am. You have until 10pm to get out there and show the Tories what taking back control really means.

See you on the other side.