An English friend was at a party in Edinburgh at the weekend and was surprised when a Scottish woman she hadn’t met before said she wanted to explain that voting for the Scottish National Party in the recent UK general election wasn’t a vote for independence.
The Scottish woman explained that voting for the SNP had been a vote against the policies of the Conservative party, but the vote should be seen in a UK-wide context, not in a purely Scottish context. It should be framed, she said, as a vote to keep David Cameron and the Conservative party in check – to keep them honest – not as a pro-independence vote.
She added that 55% of the Scottish electorate had voted to stay within the United Kingdom. It was wrong to see the SNP’s landslide victory in Scotland at the general election as being a landslide independence vote; the Scottish independence referendum and the UK general election were, she said, very different.
What prompted her to raise the subject with an identifiably English woman was a desire to correct and recalibrate messages in the UK (for which, I suspect, read London-based) media. Her perception was that the wrong conclusion is being drawn from the election results and she felt that the Scottish people are being misrepresented and, in some quarters, demonised.
I haven’t read enough – or widely enough – to know whether her perception is correct, but it hadn’t fully registered that someone who voted for remaining in the UK – and would still do so – would vote for the SNP at a general election, prompted by a desire to check the Conservative party and the Prime Minister and to keep them “honest” (as the saying goes). After the Conservative party was returned with a majority that allows it to govern without a coalition, it’s a useful reminder that UK politics still isn’t black or white (or blue and red) and that there are various shades of grey bubbling beneath the surface.