The death of the Duke of Edinburgh has paused campaigning in the Scottish Parliament election, which provides an opportunity to reflect on just how bizarre the election is proving to be. Naturally, the SNP is far ahead in the polls, on 53 per cent of the constituency vote in this week’s Ipsos-MORI research. SNP dominance is now as hard-wired into Scottish politics as Labour dominance once was and the new religion is just as unmoved as the old one by heresies about policy failings or poor governance.
What is uncanny is that nationalists and Unionists have simultaneously gone into revolt against their own side weeks out from polling day. Each rebellion has discrete causes but both reflect a desire for more hardline politics, even at the expense of their respective constitutional causes. There is a rage vote out there and opportunists looking to fill it.
The SNP and Scottish Greens have to contend with Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, which is contesting on the regional lists in hopes of securing what it calls ‘a supermajority for independence’. Alba is born out of Salmond’s break with Nicola Sturgeon and follows the saga over what she knew and when she knew it in relation to sexual harassment allegations against her predecessor.
A civil court found the Scottish government’s internal investigation into Salmond unlawful while a criminal court acquitted him on all charges of sexual assault. He claims there was a plot by senior figures around Sturgeon to remove him from public life, something she denies. One inquiry cleared her of breaking the ministerial code, another concluded she had misled the investigating committee.
The scandal did not bring down Sturgeon and so revenge is being sought in the guise of a campaign to maximise pro-independence votes.