Brian Monteith: Idea of SNP Tory support stands up

DENY it or not, the idea that Sturgeon would prefer to see Cameron to Miliband in No 10 next month stands up, writes Brian Monteith

Sturgeon has long claimed Scotland never gets the government it votes for, but the unspoken truth is that a Tory victory could suit the SNPs long-term aims. Picture: Getty

For years it has been a Nationalist mantra that Scotland has had to suffer governments it never voted for. Repeated so often by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon it is beyond doubt that they must have believed it was a winning line.

Of course that was the shorthand, the full unexpurgated version is that (after the Fifties) Scotland got Tory prime ministers it never voted for. It was a deviously clever line devised to emphasise two components of the SNP narrative; firstly that there is somehow a democratic failure in the UK that means we don’t get the governments Scotland votes for and secondly that we Scots are different from the rest of the UK.

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That Glasgow has traditionally voted differently from Edinburgh (the latter until recent times being more Tory), or the Borders have voted differently from those in Ayrshire, was simply glossed over. The fact that there might be in, say 1983, some 800,000 Scots voting Tory, or even in 2010 some 400,000 Scots doing the same, belies the SNP conceit that we are a homogenous nation all voting Labour or SNP.

BBC reporter James Cook came under attack for simply asking a question. Picture: Contributed

The reality is that in our great union of nations, different parts of the UK do not get the government they vote for. In Shropshire, Cornwall or Sussex they too, from time to time, may curse this statistically meaningless fact, but they rarely voice any grievance about it. They simply accept that because so many Scots have voted Labour, they will have to endure a socialist government, shrug their shoulders and get on with life.

To paraphrase Mick Jagger, you don’t always get what you want.

And are we that different? When researchers strip out the party political nature of Scottish opinions (such as in respected social attitude surveys) they find repeatedly that the difference is near to or within the margin of error. Whether Scotland might become independent of the UK or not, Nationalists told us we would remain British, so surely we should expect to share some common values? Intentionally seeking out differences reveals a mendacious divisiveness that takes us back to the scapegoating of the thirties.

So when a news story breaks that our Nationalist First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has allegedly said in a private discussion with the French Ambassador that she thinks that the Labour leader Ed Miliband is not up to the job of prime minister and that she would prefer a Tory government to result from the coming general election it is bound to cause a firestorm of media interest.

Was it an April Fool’s jape that missed its deadline, has someone laid a cunning plan to floor the SNP leader just when she was basking in the adulation of a successful media debate – or could it actually be true?

Like all good April Fools – or damaging hearsay – there has to be a kernel of truth for it to have any credibility. The reason the leaked Scotland Office memo suggesting our First Minister should be known as Janus Sturgeon is believable is that for years the SNP, to a man and woman, has been telling us that we should have independence because we do not get the governments that we vote for.

Given that the SNP cannot form an administration at Westminster and has itself ruled out forming a formal coalition, the logic of its historical argument and current position means that it must privately believe it would most benefit from a Tory victory at the general election.

For all that it stretches credulity that a public servant in the Scotland Office has gone so far as to fabricate the whole matter (rather than it being a conversation lost in translation) and then leak it (and that these two processes are connected) I am prepared to believe that Nicola Sturgeon did not actually say this. Let us give her the benefit of the doubt. Even so, all of us and the dog in the street know not just a Tory victory, but a Tory government (rather than a mere coalition) must be the SNP’s secret desire.

To try and ascertain if there is indeed a huge elephant in Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet room, the respected BBC reporter James Cook had the temerity to ask if she could confirm or deny the accuracy of the leaked memo. For this public service he became the subject of social media attacks that reminded us of the dark days of the referendum, when to question the SNP was treated as treason. He Tweeted: “What an extraordinary level of vicious abuse I have received today for simply reporting the news. Is this the country we want folks? Is it?”

Cook went on to reveal that for all that he reported the denials by Sturgeon and French diplomats, Dumbo might indeed be padding around blowing his trumpet for Cameron to retain his premiership by Tweeting, “Of course there are some SNP strategists – I know, I’ve spoken to them – who say in private a Tory victory would hasten independence” and that “I won’t identify the SNP folk who said to me in private conversations that they could see the attraction/would prefer Tory govt.”

The issue of the leak is a deflection – all governments leak and all governments lie. Let us not forget how Salmond and Sturgeon were complicit in telling us there was legal advice on why an independent Scotland would remain an automatic member of the European Union – only for that bold claim to be shown to be a lie.

Cook’s reporting was as it should be for it was in the public interest. Does anyone doubt honestly doubt James Cook’s sincerity in revealing the back-story? Is Nicola Sturgeon saying these behind the scene comments by her staff are not said within her circle – and to journalists off the record so long as the sources are not reported? Given her love of the mantra that Scotland does not get the government it votes for, does she not say it herself when she looks in the mirror?

And if Nicola Sturgeon denies she thinks Ed Miliband is not up to the premiership will she tell us what she actually did say? It’s not as if Miliband is her leader. Even giving the First Minister the benefit of the doubt, all the questions remain with her so that she can show us she is not Janus-faced.