Opinion & Features

SNP: The only credible opposition

The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon debates with her Labour and Conservative rivals (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

This is one of a series of articles in which representatives of the main parties make their pitch for the Catholic vote.

My life, like that of working parents the world over, is defined by constant juggling. It was my middle child’s 10th birthday last weekend, and on finding general election campaign dates on a calendar but no mention of her birthday, she declared that politics was more important to me than she was.

Of course this is not true. But her reaction did cause me to reconsider why I gave up teaching, a career I loved, to shift to politics, when it has such a great impact on those I love. I suppose that, when asked, many politicians would say similar things: to make a difference, serve constituents, improve lives, etc. In fact, throw in “world peace” and our answers could be those of a Miss World contestant.

My own political journey began with the referendum on Scottish independence. It’s hard to describe the run-up to the 2014 referendum to those who did not live through it. Decriers will say it was divisive. This was not my experience, nor indeed that of anyone I know on either side of the Scottish constitutional question.

At the time, I was a physics teacher in a Glasgow comprehensive school. The pupils would come in, some with their “Yes” badges, others sporting “No Thanks” stickers. And they debated: in the corridors, in the dining hall, and even (if they were feeling brave) in my classroom. Although many of these students were not old enough to vote in the 2014 referendum, they felt enfranchised because it was their own future that was at stake. There was an air of anticipation, and for many people, especially those from the most deprived areas of our communities, there was hope.

The breakthrough for the SNP on the UK political map came about partly as a result of the referendum, during which people in Scotland had seen Labour politicians standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories. But this was on the back of years of Scottish Labour MPs going to Westminster only to forget the views of their constituents and vote for austerity, illegal wars and the renewal of Trident.

Therefore the general election in 2015 was a chance to change the status quo. The hope and anticipation of the referendum spilled over and voters, who had voted both Yes and No, turned out for the SNP.

The forthcoming election has none of the buzz of 2015. The depressing reality is that the UK looks likely to return a large Tory majority. Britain is facing a hard Brexit, austerity is hurting the vulnerable, pensions are under threat, EU nationals are facing an uncertain future and the rhetoric being used to describe refugees would not be out of place in 1930s Germany.

Ukip is fading into insignificance because its disgraceful views are reflected in many of Theresa May’s policies. Possibly the most abhorrent of these is the family cap and the associated “rape clause” (which requires women to prove that they were raped in order to claim child benefit for a third child). We have now moved into a China-like era where if a family dares to have more than two children, it will not receive tax credits for subsequent babies. The UK has a two-child policy, for poor people; I still have to pinch myself sometimes.

A similar policy which operated in America was recently scrapped because it had little effect on reducing birth rates but caused a massive increase in child poverty. As Christians, this is something that should cause us instant alarm. Are we to have a government that could force families to consider aborting a child because the state will no longer support them to raise more than two children?

In the post-Brexit, Trumpish world that many of us are stunned to find ourselves in, a vote for the SNP is no longer one of hope. It is one of necessity. With Labour Party members fighting among themselves, the SNP has become the only credible opposition.

We have consistently challenged austerity, including cuts to disability allowance. We have called for a realistic defence of Britain with proper support for our Armed Forces, rather than all our eggs being thrown into the highly expensive and utterly immoral basket that is Trident. We have called on the Government to stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, when we see these bombs being used on civilian targets in Yemen. We have called for the scrapping of university tuition fees in the rest of the UK. Despite what some commentators say, a vote for the SNP is not just about Scotland. We have and will continue to be outspoken on issues that affect the whole of Britain.

Scotland is a vibrant, multicultural society that celebrates its diversity, a society that welcomes refugees, a society where families and children are celebrated. Is politics more important than my daughter? No, but progressive politics as practised by the SNP is building a more positive future for her.

Carol Monaghan is running for re-election as the SNP candidate for Glasgow North West