We are witnessing a squabble between people who don’t really disagree, about a narrow range of policies, on the assumption Scotland is doing just fine.
So far we have heard two TV debates, the SNP’s two positions on top rate tax and lots of posturing. What we haven’t heard is a programme of change.
The manifestos are yet to come but my advice is do not hold your breath. This will be the election of thin pickings.
We vote on gut, habit and impressions formed over a long time. But elections are also all about the manifesto the platform on which the party is standing.
The document is never read that much don’t believe those people who turn up in TV audiences saying “I’ll read all the manifestos and then decide”.
Yet it should represent the essence of the kind of society the party wants.
It’s the manifesto which the civil service scrutinise when planning how the government will deliver. Politicians may see manifestos as disposable, but they’re the only evidence anyone has of what is meant to happen.
The SNP manifesto will boil down to around £1 billion of redirected spending. In reality it will be less existing budgets will be spent the same way, but renamed for presentation.
The big thing will be spending more on getting working class kids to achieve better school grades. A thoroughly worthy and necessary policy. The rest will be small fry.
Enjoy the SNP manifesto while you can though, because that’ll be it for detail. The opposition parties will take a shameful but entirely rational decision not to give much away at all.
The reasoning of Labour and the Conservatives is that if they are going to lose big time, why bother risking any fresh thinking for the Nats to pick apart?
The Greens may break this pattern, with a long list of lovely wheezes, hampered by none of them being remotely likely to happen.
Their courage in floating the ideas should not be discounted.
Labour and the Tories have simply abandoned the field they are campaigning for position, not because they have a critique of what this nation needs.
Of course, the other interpretation is that this nation is pretty satisfied with its lot. The SNP’s manifesto will not be a critique either, or if it is, then one which concludes that everything is going just fine.
Even the attainment fund for children from poorer neighbourhoods is a middle class version of what is needed, namely a thorough-going early years programme which lifts our poorest quartile into the 21st Century.
The SNP position is shameful it will come wrapped in the language of social justice and ‘radical’-ism. What it won’t do is fundamentally tackle Scotland’s social imbalance.
The Nat manifesto will have the indisputable merit of being what the people want.
The party is taking a rational position Scots like middle-of-the-road caring coupled to low taxes. That’s what the SNP gives them.
And what of us, the voters are we rational? We look set to give our support in historically unprecedented numbers to one party.
We know it effectively breaks the Holyrood model of democracy the checks and balances of PR voting and parliamentary committees is useless in the face of 70 MSPs from one party.
We also know the SNP’s claims to be lefty are in tatters given the feeble approach to council tax reform and the new income tax levels. They are not anti-austerity, just anti the language of cuts.
As for independence well that lies bleeding on the floor, the fatal wound coming from Nicola Sturgeon’s bizarre argument that minor differences in tax might see our wealth creators flee. If that’s truly what she thinks, then she has no faith in self-government.
However, the party will win by a landslide because voters are rational too.
They can see no party (with the exception of the Greens) actually has anything other than a managerial approach to Government. So, choose the best managers.
The fiery voices of the campaign mislead. The parties have little to say and are little different. The voters will collude in this performance, opting for competence over change.
Should Kezia Dugdale by some freak actually become First Minister, would the government programme be much different than Nicola Sturgeon’s one?
For that matter, if Ruth Davidson got the keys to Bute House, can we really say Scotland would change?
There’s a minor variation in their tax policies but all within a narrow band, representing a few percentage points of the total spend.
We appear to be a nation divided on a very fundamental issue about sovereignty and where power lies, but we tolerate an election of dull ideas.
What’s the point in demanding power if we have no idea what to do with it?
The 2016 election is actually when Scotland’s middle class realised it had got everything just fine. The unstated priority is to preserve the new status quo.
The question that leaves is are we, the people, shameless too?