Local elections aren’t what they once were. They used to be fairly low-key events, if for no other reason than that the focus on local issues was not conducive the kind of national media coverage that, somewhat sadly, has become the measure of political significance. But this year’s Council elections in Scotland look like breaking the mould. And it’s not necessarily the improvement that we would have hoped for.
Usually, local elections are pretty much divorced from what we might, without prejudice, refer to as larger issues. But the current political context makes that impossible. Already, we’ve had Theresa May explicitly seeking to hijack our local elections to serve the British nationalist cause. She has effectively declared that Thursday 4 May will be a vote of confidence in our First Minister and a poll on whether there should be a new independence referendum. It would be dangerously naive to suppose that this is not exactly how the vote will be treated by the mainstream media should support for the SNP show the slightest sign of faltering.
There are other ways in which these local elections are coming to more resemble a national campaign. The tactics being deployed by anti-independence activists are painfully reminiscent of kind of despicable behaviour that will forever be associated with Better Together/Project Fear.
Here is a leaflet (left) produced by one of the fringe groups that has emerged as an angry response to popular demands that the democratic will of Scotland’s people and Parliament should be respected and our right of self-determination accepted. It amply illustrates the bitter and borderline violent rhetoric which has long been characteristic of the campaign to deny the sovereignty of the Scottish people and preserve the Union at any cost.
British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) are, once again, standing shoulder-to shoulder with their Tory allies in the effort to thwart Scotland’s democratic aspirations. They too are fanatically determined to have the Council elections turned into a campaign against the SNP and, in contempt of the Scottish Parliament, against a new referendum. They too are deploying the familiar tools of the anti-independence effort – lies and scaremongering.
The image on the left shows just one example, from the Stirling Labour Facebook page. The statement is totally dishonest and a blatant attempt to play on concerns about fracking in the same way that BLiS operatives – many of them bussed in from England – sought to frighten pensioners in the closing weeks of the first independence referendum campaign.
The truth is that there is no fracking – or onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction – in Scotland precisely because of the approach to the issue taken by the Scottish Government. The facts are not hard to find. This page on the SNP’s website offers a clear and concise summary of the policy of maintaining a moratorium. The closing line says it all.
Unless it can be proven beyond any doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment, there will be no fracking or UCG extraction in Scotland.
We must resign ourselves to the fact that, however determined the SNP and Scottish Greens are to campaign on local issues, there is no realistic possibility that the might of the British state’s propaganda machine can be resisted. Like it or not – and most won’t – these Council elections will not be normal. However reluctantly, we have to accept that on Thursday 4 May voter will be facing a choice between Theresa may and Nicola Sturgeon. Between an unelected Prime Minister and a First Minister with an unquestionable mandate.
We will be asked to choose between two visions of Scotland – the open, inclusive, caring Scotland that the SNP and Scottish Greens are committed to. Or the harsh, isolationist ‘One Nation’ British nationalism that the Tories would impose on us.
And we are fortunate in that we can send a message to Theresa May and affirm our right to determine the form of government which best suits our needs without compromising local government. The SNP and Scottish Greens are perfectly capable of managing our local affairs. Their candidates are genuinely concerned about the same issues that matter to you. Nothing is sacrificed by giving your first preference votes to the SNP and your second preferences to the Greens. In one fell swoop you can vote to rid our local government of the British parties and their obsession with undermining the SNP and elect Councils that are dedicated to the community and prepared to work in partnership with the Scottish Government for the benefit of all.
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