“Exactly six weeks ago I handed in nomination papers to stand as a prospective parliamentary candidate for Dundee City West.”This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph on 10/05/2021
EWAN GURR: The election votes are counted, the parties are taking sides and the rest of us are heading for political purgatory – Evening Telegraph
Exactly six weeks ago I, for the first time, handed in nomination papers and the cash required to stand as a prospective parliamentary candidate for Dundee City West. So conflicted have I felt in recent years by the poverty of political options available, I have writhed between contributing towards a trajectory I oppose and squandering a democratic opportunity my grandfather fought on foreign shores to defend. Having been a historic ballot-spoiler, I have found this position increasingly untenable.
A fortnight beforehand, I and an equally contorted cohort of like-minded sojourners set up a political party to put our prospectus to the people. Restore Scotland, alongside 24 other political parties, stood in this election in some or all parts of Scotland. Setting up parties appears to have become a favoured pastime during the pandemic, probably because actual parties have not been permitted, and although many will now dissolve or disband, we are already planning ahead.
We had a spread of policies but most who backed us did so on our unique platform of support for Scottish independence outside the European Union. Many others keen for Scotland to become a politically and economically sovereign nation cooperating globally joined us as members during the election period. Despite launching only 50 days before polling day, we secured an admirable 410 votes (1.3%) in Dundee City West and polled thirteenth out of 18 standing in the North East Scotland region.
Weathered politicians may become immune to this but I was humbled at the election count last Friday seeing hundreds of ballot papers pass by with a cross next to my name, each of which represented a person with their own concerns for the future. I was similarly moved by the number of E-Mails asking for my views on everything from abortion and poverty to climate change and women’s rights as well as many other issues important to those seeking representation.
In my last political column before publishing guidance kicked in, I predicted the SNP would fall just shy of a parliamentary majority stating: “The political noise in recent weeks reminds me of 2016 when a majority was also considered inevitable but D’Hondt is a cruel mistress.” I added that, aided and abetted by the Scottish Greens, I thought the SNP would secure support for their domestic agenda. My parting shot was: “Other than that? My overarching prediction is a return to business as usual.”
Sure enough the SNP gained a seat and the Scottish Greens picked up two. Scottish Labour lost two, the Liberal Democrats lost one and the Conservatives stayed the same. Overall, precious little has changed. The Yes side still declare a mandate for a second independence referendum and the No side still state the opposite. Both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson deepened the roots of their supremacy this week, entrenching their political commitments while enlarging the threat to the union.
Michael Gove, who holds UK responsibility for the union, was respectful in his dialogue with Andrew Marr yesterday as he offered congratulations to the SNP. He fended off claims of future legal action and stressed the need to work together on recovery as “Team UK”. He also stated there were more votes for pro-union parties which, by a margin of 43,049 votes, is true even if it does not alter the overall parliamentary metric.
Nicola Sturgeon, by contrast, said legal action would only take place if there was a refusal to accept the wishes of the Scottish people. Following Michael Gove, Ms Sturgeon said to Andrew Marr “The people of Scotland have voted for the SNP on the strength of offering, when the time is right, an independence referendum.” So, for those of us who take a voyeuristic interest in the legislative trajectory of Scotland, the next five years may well feel like political purgatory.
At a time when people seek meaning, I sympathise with author Douglas Murray who suggests in his bestselling The Madness of Crowds that those with a political interest should seek to integrate it into their lives with great care. He writes: “Politics may be an important aspect of our lives, but as a source of personal meaning it is disastrous.” He adds: “One of the ways to distance ourselves from the madnesses of our times is to retain an interest in politics but not to rely on it as a source of meaning.”