WHAT I NEED OUR ENGLISH FRIENDS TO KNOW (AND SOME SCOTTISH ONES TOO!)

I write this from England where the election news, unsurprisingly, has a different tinge. Here the liberal left has choices which are simultaneously more complex and more limited.  If you instinctively want to get rid of a government whose track record is littered with calculated inequity, gratuitous austerity, and a blinkered disregard for impoverished families then where you live has as much of a bearing on how you vote as the parties and the candidates involved.

There are those of a tribal nature who cannot bring themselves to vote other than Labour, even if they understand that Jeremy Corbyn lacks the leadership skills to attract the votes of the millions needed to climb the electoral mountain his party faces. His initial pitch is to say to hell with the political elites and the establishment (a pitch which propelled a no-hoper into the White House) just listen to what we actually stand for.  And, indeed, unlike the appalling Trump, Mr Corbyn's policies could have wide appeal to those deeply offended by the last 7 years of top down class warfare. But in this media dominated 21st century of rolling news and unceasing scrutiny it's not enough to have a decent script; you require to be able to deliver it. Corbyn is no orator.

And even if that didn't matter - and arguably it shouldn't - he has missed more open goals against Tory opponents than the most hapless non-league striker.  This DOES matter.  When Tory Prime Ministers lie and dissemble and enact policies which shamelessly penalise the poor, the sick, the disabled, the homeless young and the frail elderly, the left needs led by someone who can unerringly call them out, and hold them to account.  That person is not Jeremy Corbyn. However personally decent, he lacks the necessary contemporary skills, and he has, as they say, long since lost the dressing room.  Those of us of a certain age look back to those who would have effortlessly skewered someone as limited as Mrs May.

So it has been left to others, to doughty campaigners like Gina Miller, and sundry electoral tacticians, to point to ways in which this apparently one sided election can avoid a Tory landslide.  The sad truth is that in a country which set its face against proportional representation there are a pathetically small number of seats which actually matter in terms of unseating a Tory or preventing a Tory victor in a seat held by another party.  In these contituencies I would argue that for the greater good of the greater number the game must be to place your bet and your cross against the non Conservative candidate most likely to succeed.   Some Labour voters in England would rather eat their young.  Let's trust it doesn't come to that!

Meanwhile, back on my home patch, Labour and Lib Dem folks have found it difficult to ditch a different set of mantras.  One is the familiar cry of all God's liberal children that we should pool and share across the UK, and not batten down our own hatches against the common need.  This battle cry no longer carries any legitimacy when our votes in Scotland have been wholly irrelevant in terms of altering the course of UK electoral history.  At the last general election the SNP all but swept the board, and, despite the best efforts of some very talented MP's, they are numerically unable to have any real effect in the Commons - not least when UK Labour would seem to have some difficulty in locating a plan or agreeing a policy. Yet again, the English Tories are warning against the SNP tail being able to wag the Labour dog, a trick which had some purchase in 2015 but is hardly credible in the current scenario.

The Scottish Labour Party has been unable to avoid internecine warfare,  the Scottish Tories can't bring themselves to denounce the utterly disgusting "rape clause" devised by their Westminster overlords, and the Scottish Liberals, once stuanch supporters of federalism if not wholesale home rule have been persuaded to wave the Unionist flag ever more strenuously.  I doubt that tactic is much of a vote winner.  The way forward for all those opposition parties is to cut themselves free from London string pulling and emerge as Scottish parties in their own, unfettered right.

The other current mantra is that the SNP government "talks left, but acts right", which is pretty rich dropping from the lips of Ruth Davidson and Murdo Fraser, principle standard bearers of right wing politics in Scotland.  I give no party a clean bill of health and there are many areas where the SNP's report card remains "could do better."  But compared to what is on offer down south the Scottish adminstration is a positive paragon of liberal virtue - certainly on migration, mitigating welfare cuts, opposing more of the latter,  and maintaining free access to tertiary education.  I'm not sure which part of that agenda qualifies as enacting right wing politics.

So what I would say to my English friends is that I mourn with them the fact that they are in the front line of opposing the worst aspects of Conservatism.  I weep with them at the catastrophic collateral damage Brexit will surely bring.  But we  have a chance in Scotland to hold the line. We have a chance to make a deal  which keeps us in the European family. We have a chance to emulate the success of other small nations who have chosen the path of social democracy.  I think they call it taking back control.