The SNP and Equal Marriage

The SNP must be wishing that they had never opened the can of worms that is labelled Marriage Law Reform. However, the truth is, it isn’t really they who have opened it. Equal Marriage is simply an idea whose time has come. It just so happens that the SNP find themselves needing to address the question at a time which is perhaps not particularly fortuitous to them.

One way or another, Equal Marriage is coming. The choice the SNP must feel as though they are in the middle of making will appear to many however as not being a simple choice between allowing same-sex couples to marry or not. What they appear to be vacillating over is the kind of Scotland they want to project as the great vision for the future. Are we going to be seen as a progressive nation with a modern, can-do parliament enacting social legislation which has majority support behind it. Or alternatively are we going to appear to be run by a governing party which can’t seem to make its mind up and which will bow in submission to the loudest and most angry voices – in this case, that of Cardinal O’Brien.

It is worth noting in passing the complete contrast between Cardinal O’Brien and Prof John Haldane who appeared on Newsnight a couple of days ago as someone speaking from a Roman Catholic perspective. Prof Haldane seemed reasonable, intelligent and sane. (He is). He also appeared to be saying that so long as no-one was forced to marry couples whom they didn’t want to marry, he personally didn’t care what happened to gay folk and was more than happy that they had partnership law to regulate their relationships. Towards the end of the piece, he made a plea for civility in the debate which the cynic might have thought was directed less at the supporters of Equal Marriage so much as towards his own Cardinal.

Yesterday the SNP Cabinet rather foolishly seemed to be letting it be known that they would come to a mind on the Equal Marriage question yesterday and great expectations were raised. In the end they didn’t come to a mind and were left looking at best as though they’d never heard of a competent communications policy and at worst as putting themselves on the wrong side of history.

I don’t happen to think that the SNP Cabinet is necessarily going to do something which I would disagree with. We need to wait and see. They say we will have more answers by the end of the month and I’m prepared to wait for them and make my mind up on the basis of what they decide. I still think that Equal Marriage is very much the topic on the table and I think that the SNP would probably rather deal with it all sooner rather than later to better ensure that it does not get caught up in their independence referendum.

Yesterday was a not a victory for clear government communications nor the end of the culture wars surrounding marriage law in the 21st century world. However, the Scottish Cabinet could not have slapped down Cardinal O’Brien’s request for a referendum on the issue more clearly. It was a foolish idea to start with and has been shown to be so by those elected to take decisions on our behalf.

I long for the day when we have marriage law that allows same-sex couples to marry just like anyone else. And I’m going to rejoice in yesterday’s rejection of a referendum on that question as simply another step on the way.

And along with many people of goodwill, I look for more progress in this area.

And quickly please, Ms Sturgeon. Much more quickly now, please.

New Political Landscape

Well, we’ve woken to a new political landscape and no mistake. The SNP are to be congratulated on their victory which is decisive and very clear.

There have been shocks and surprises all over the place and I think that even the SNP activists that I know, who were expecting a good night are themselves surprised by the extent of it.  All kinds of good people who have been in the parliament will no longer be there and I’d guess some who were not really expecting to be elected have been. It’s a brutal process, not least for those who work alongside politicians – some of whom who will have been hoping for a job to continue only to wake up this morning to find that they are out on their ear too.

There will be changes too. Labour has had a bad night in Scotland. Red Clydeside ain’t red nae mair, nae mair and there will be much weeping over some of those losses. It was clear in recent weeks that it was not going Labour’s way. They’ve lost a lot and lost it quickly. At the start of the year, I was predicting that Labour would be back into power. Now it seems astonishing that anyone could have thought they would do well.

It was a terrible result for the Liberal Democrats. As bad as I thought it might be. (And I did correctly predict that in January).

Nick Clegg’s line is that the voters have judged the Lib Dems because they have seen them delivering Tory cuts. It’s not true though. Voters have judged the Lib Dems because they feel betrayed by them and by him in particular.

It’s not cuts, Nick. It’s tuition fees.

There will be no climbing back, no comeback, no return to anything without that being recognised. And to recognise it is to recognise that there needs to be some changes. The problem is not the Tories and it isn’t Labour’s legacy.

It has all gone wrong because of two images – the first the picture that people have in their minds of all those candidates signing pledges on tuition fees which came to nothing. The second is the sight of a Westminster-educated lad so thrilled that he was allowed to play with the Bullingdon boys that he did his best to blend in and started to look like them.

The Lib Dems need a new leader and need one soon. (And I’m not talking about Tim Farron either). The coalition needs to be run on completely different lines. Business, not pleasure. No more joint press conferences in the Rose Garden. No more attacking Labour as though doing so is the very business of government – it isn’t.

And a swift and clear statement that on tuition fees, the party and particularly its leader, got it wrong.