Why Unionism and Nationalism are Feckless

The SNP is on the crest of a wave. But it really has nowhere to go and, ultimately, will wane.

Here’s why. The SNP is essentially a single issue pressure group pretending to be a real political party. In this respect it’s like Sinn Fein, the DUP/UUP, Plaid Cymru.

Now, I hear you say, the SNP has policies on stuff. Real stuff, like Trident. Indeed, but there’s a test we can apply. Here it is. Ask yourself, is it possible to be a Scottish Nationalist but be in favour of a small state and minimal government spending i.e. to be Nationalist and fiscally Conservative?  Of course it is. But, if you hold such views, it should be impossible to vote Scottish Nationalist.  The SNP is a tad Trotskyite after all.  It’s more lefty than the defeated lefty Labour Party under Miliband.

But all sorts voted for the SNP in droves.  Many of them, I’d suggest, would not agree with the SNP’s actual policies. Many, no doubt, will have no idea why they voted for the SNP apart from a desire to see what might happen.

I think it is something to do with a love of political irony by the people of Scotland. There’s a cultural tendency towards intellectual dabbling. The Scots have a fascination for novel political contrivances. It’s no coincidence that the enlightenment had its origins in the tea-rooms of Edinburgh. Adam Smith was a Scot. David Hume was a Scot. Francis Hutcheson was an Ulster Scot.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that the people of Scotland should elect the SNP in such numbers when, for many decades, the SNP failed to achieve much electoral success. This general election has produced a fascinating political story – and the Scots, themselves, want to know the outcome.

The outcome may be DevoMax. It’s unlikely to be Scottish independence. That horse has bolted, at least temporarily. The Scots themselves, know that the SNP isn’t really a political party – it’s simply a rabble rouser.  But that’s OK for the minute.

The problem is that the novelty will wane. The entire project will start to appear to be a bit silly. The gains of DevoMax will be gained and the net result will be a dull and uninteresting polity dominated by people who, ultimately, don’t have much to say beyond Scottish lion analogies. There will be a return to the reality of left-right politics that is, ultimately, a bit dull.

But that’s a good thing, because a political system that’s based entirely on single issue pressure groups is, ultimately, feckless.  Look at Northern Ireland. Turnout is waning. Engagement in politics is listless. Divisions, ultimately, are about sectarian head-counts that make Northern Ireland politics pointless and ignored by the rest of the Kingdom. But, practically, Northern Ireland government gets nothing done because the basis of the political system is polarisation – sides incapable of agreeing or reaching consensus because they are aligned purely on single issues of supposed national identity and religion.

Because all of Northern Ireland’s political parties are nationalist. The Unionist parties define themselves on the basis of maintenance of Union they don’t participate in. The Irish Nationalist parties define themselves on a vision of a United Ireland that most people – even the Catholics they think they represent – don’t want.

In fact the politics of nationalism is ultimately a vision of hell where the politicians consume themselves in pointless discussions that ultimately lead nowhere.

The only type of politics that results in any political progress is the politics of left and right.

Free market libertarian. Businessman. Small government advocate. Former Vice-Chair, Conservative Party in NI. Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs. Former Regional Chair, Business for Britain (the business voice of VoteLeave).