One of the biggest results in the SNP dominance of politics in Scotland has been the decline in members and participation in the other older established parties in Scotland.
Now I completely understand that in many ways the utter incompetence of the other parties, namely the Conservatives, Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has added to that situation. Their failure to engage with voters, their old boys networks, their policies and perceived betrayal of Scotland’s needs over their own have helped bring about this situation. Add in the bias nature of our media and you have the perfect storm.
But is it good for our democracy and our politics.
While the membership of the SNP has soared since the referendum the other parties would have appeared to suffer, although they are all secretive about their membership numbers the estimates below show the state that the parties are in.
Labour in Scotland 14,000 approx members.
SNP 100,000 members.
The Conservatives 11,000 approx members.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats 3,000 approx members.
The Green Party 9,000 approx members.
None of this of course is the SNP’s fault in any shape or form, the other parties have failed to grasp that Scotland has changed and in many ways Scottish people are no longer willing to be the after thought of the London HQ’s of the other parties. But is the SNP dominance in Scotland good for our democracy?
Overall the SNP Government has been as good, if not better, than the previous Governments at Holyrood. While I have concerns around Police Scotland, the super data base, the centralisation of power and the dictating to local councils around the Council Tax freeze their record does stand up against all of the others.
However, the lack of debate, the lack of quality opposition in Holyrood, the failure of the other parties to change and engage with voters is resulting in a bit of a vacuum in Scotland. Without proper and effective opposition the Scottish Government and Holyrood in general will become stale and bad decisions will become the result of that.
Now I am a member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and since I have been a member of the Dundee Party I have been pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of differing opinions within the Party, the standard of debate, the welcome I received as a YES voting Liberal and the general desire to make Dundee and Scotland a better place. I have however been disappointed with the party at the national level. They have failed to learn any lessons at all from the referendum and the result last May.
However those aspirations for proper opposition cannot and will not be met if the opposition parties don’t change or attract members who are not nationalists but who want to see change in how our politics are done. While the referendum engaged and informed many in the debate, brought about a surge in SNP membership, the failure of the other parties to learn from their mistakes has resulted in this dangerous vacuum.
Better Together may have won the referendum but they lost the overall argument by being found to be Westminster’s parties in Scotland.
I have no love for Labour or the Conservatives and have mixed feelings in many ways about the Scottish Liberal Democrats but I understand that the continued failure of those parties to engage with voters and to welcome differing opinions is resulting in a democratic deficit in Scotland that is not good in long-term.
We need debate in our politics and in our political parties, we need to welcome differing voices but we also need to get involved. This post is a plea in many ways, no matter how you voted in the Referendum or the recent General Election, no matter if you are a YES or a NO in the constitutional debate I would urge you to get involved, to express your opinion. Right now in Scotland we have two polar extremes, there is the SNP and there is Westminster, that is not good for debate, it is not good for policy development, and it is not good for political engagement. Even if you don’t feel you want to join a party then blog if you can, express your opinion, write to your local councilor, MSP, MP or MEP. If we want change we have to engage, and if the politicians won’t engage with us then we need to change the parties from within.
Just a thought.