Brian Monteith: Yousaf’s ‘Tory free Scotland’ is a threat to democracy and freedom

Comments are ‘the haverings of someone who would rather see views cancelled rather than debated and defeated’, note-0writes Brian Monteith

The First Minister, Humza Yousaf, is getting something of a reputation for shooting from the lip first and not taking questions later. His latest throw-away jibe about aiming for the prize of a Tory-free Scotland shows a hollow willingness to represent all Scots and an even shallower commitment to democracy and freedom.

When a First Minister states in a television interview that a chief political prize would be “making Scotland Tory-free” it may seem like a throw-away line, all part of the cut and thrust of politics, but it is in fact a very low moment in our political discourse. Such an approach is intended to normalise the isolation and separation of a democratic strand of people whose thinking is placed so beyond the pale that they should have no democratic representation irrespective of their number.

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People can choose to vote Tory or not, so Yousaf’s partisan jibe is not as heinous an exclusion were it towards those whose racial, religious or sexual nature came with birth – but it’s not far off. It has all the look and feel of intimidation to discourage support for a legitimate democratic expression in favour of age-old Scottish opinions.

Humza Yousaf is turning into a political parody of Norman Wisdom, only without the humourHumza Yousaf is turning into a political parody of Norman Wisdom, only without the humour
Humza Yousaf is turning into a political parody of Norman Wisdom, only without the humour

It was, after all, the Tories in the original Scottish Parliament that opposed the Union with England in 1707, not some modern-day incarnation that started out in the 1930s with many talking openly of their wish for Nazi Germany to win the war.

It would be a shocking enough to cheer on the denial of representation to people simply because of them being a minority, but to advocate it for ordinary Scots whose number is substantial is the talk of a totalitarian. It is the haverings of someone who would rather see views cancelled rather than debated and defeated through reasoning and evidence.

Yet that is the consequence of what Humza Yousaf said. He himself defined the context; talking about the coming election offering “a great prize to get Scotland’s voice heard, a great prize in making sure we make Scotland Tory free”.

Humza Yousaf is not the first to talk of a Tory free Scotland. It was often said by some Labour Party supporters in the nineties in their enthusiasm to overcome eighteen years of Conservative government from 1979 to 1997, and was born no doubt of the earlier campaigns for “nuclear free” councils and a nuclear free Scotland. In that context it seemed just like another campaign slogan, but when the 1997 general election delivered just that – a Tory free Scotland even though almost half a million people voted Tory – it did not square with being a good moment for democracy.

The Liberal Democrats polled just 13% with 365,362 votes and won ten constituencies, while the Conservatives polled 17.5% with 493,059 and won none. It was always known and understood such outcomes could happen under the first past the post voting system but it was nevertheless a failing of democracy that left half a million Scots without a solitary voice in Westminster.

Is the First Minister really saying that were such an outcome to pertain again in the coming general election such an undemocratic outcome would be something to proclaim as a “prize”? Clearly he does.

What is it about some politicians that they wish their opponents to not just be beaten but denied any existence? Why does Humza Yousaf not say he wishes a Scotland that is free of Liberal Democrat or Labour MPs?

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When in 2015, like the Scottish Conservatives, the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties came perilously close to having no MPs in Scotland despite significant vote shares of 24.3% and 7.5% respectively, did they seriously think that was a high point of Scottish democracy?

What actually constitutes a Tory for Humza Yousaf? It cannot be solely someone who supports Scotland’s historic place in the United Kingdom – otherwise most Labour and Liberal democrat voters could be bracketed as Tories too – something that has never occurred to them and many would recoil from.

And what if Scotland were to become independent – is Yousaf honestly suggesting there would be no new Tories, albeit ones working to make a right-of-centre Scotland an economic success? Considering the historic strength of Conservatives in Scandinavia or other small successful countries it is impossible to conceive there would be no new low tax small government party, whatever its name.

So if it’s not supporters of the freedom of the individual, personal and family responsibility with small government is Yousaf racially categorising Scottish Tories as being English?

There is a more calculating, self-interested reason. It is possible Yousaf has calculated that when it comes to the Scottish Parliament elections in 2026 he – or more likely the SNP sans-Yousaf – will need to find an ally to have any hope of remaining in power, and the most likely partner will be Labour. The Greens and Liberal Democrats are unlikely to have enough numbers to make it work and, possibly as a junior partner the SNPs only hope is to find an arrangement with Labour – who could be the largest party but without enough MSPs to form an administration.

What better approach then in the run up to the coming General Election and towards the 2026 Holyrood election, but to demonise the Tories so that votes might not be lost to Labour this year, but even if they are the groundwork for a future deal is laid?

In truth, Scottish Conservatives should not be worried for Yousaf does them a great favour. For them he is fast becoming a recruiting sergeant for voters who thought the SNP could not be any worse after Nicola Sturgeon threw in the towel – but now realise they were wrong..

His repeated over-reach, gaffe’s, slapstick failures and faux sentimentality is turning him into a political parody of Norman Wisdom, only without the humour.