Ostensibly, Nicola Sturgeon proved to be quite the contender in the five-way ‘Hunger Games’ debate held by the BBC recently. Not only did she sound very electable with a strong and well spun ‘anti-Conservative’ message, she also valiantly proposed to Ed Miliband a possible coalition pact live on TV. This in turn forced Miliband to announce his refusal to sign up to a possible Labour/SNP agreement, which could play out to be Labour’s greatest tactical move to date, or Ed Miliband’s own political suicide.
But, in that one exchange between the SNP leader and Miliband regarding the possible coalition agreement, Sturgeon showed a side to her that was power hungry and ruthlessly pragmatic, so much so that even the great Frank Underwood would have applauded her. It showed a far reaching end-game strategy that Sturgeon believes will get her gliding through the doors of power before scrapping Trident and finally gaining Scottish Independence. As brilliant as that sounds for SNP supporters, it couldn’t be further away from reality. Her blind political hunger and pragmatism could deeply damage the party and sweep Nicola Sturgeon to the depths of political turmoil if she agrees to a coalition with Labour.
Cast your mind back to the 2010 election season, where Nick Clegg was described by The Guardian as ‘The British Obama’. A time when the Liberal Democrat leader was getting approval ratings that were ‘more popular than Winston Churchill’. Seems an age ago, doesn't it? He stood on a mandate of fairness and change, most notably in the form of voting reform and the reduction of university tuition fees. Those were his ‘red-line’ promises that he so proudly stood by. Now bring your mind forward, the shock result of a hung parliament with the Tories needing the Liberal Democrats to secure a majority in the House of Commons. Nick Clegg held the key to power in his hand, and superficially appeared to have the Tories wrapped around his little finger. But his bad decision making, the added pressure from Brown and his impeding departure fused with his blinding thirst for power made him compromise on one of his two main policies promises, tuition fees. This memorably caused one of the biggest political uproars in a generation. However, he secured a temporary victory in the shape of a referendum on voting reform, which he inevitably lost. After that, Clegg was always on the back foot, and now, suffering the worst approval ratings of any leader in this election, he will never recover. There is a profoundly strong similarity here between pre-2010 Liberal Democrats and the current SNP.
The SNP currently hold a mandate of two strong ‘red-line’ promises, Scottish Independence, and the removal of Trident. They also happen to hold the key to a majority for Labour if they do as well as they have been forecasted to do with Scottish voters. But here’s the issue for them, much like Clegg with tuition fees, Sturgeon will be forced to compromise over certain issues, most notably, a referendum on Scottish Independence. Labour are strongly opposed to another referendum on Scottish Independence, and will fight tooth and nail to oppose it in any shape or form. Whether that be by giving Scotland more devolved power, as Gordon Brown suggested during his memorably impassioned speech prior to the Scottish vote, or by creating a generally more decentralised system of government.
Labour will definitely find a way to slither out of another vote on Scotland and will try to convince Sturgeon to agree to these compromises as well. It will definitely be in Labour’s benefit to avoid being the government that oversaw the split of the UK. This will be Sturgeon’s ‘tuition fees’. It will cause turmoil within her core supporters and inevitably reduce her overall approval rating dramatically, mirroring Clegg in 2010. But the biggest blow for the SNP will come in the shape of Trident, and more specifically, the unrealistic nature of their position on it.
What the SNP seemingly don’t understand is that Trident is not just a British issue, it is an issue of geopolitical sensitivity. Defence generally, especially Trident, is not a matter solely concerning the UK domestically, it is one that concerns every single one of our international allies. It is for that reason that the removal of Trident in the UK will be seen by our allies as major threat to international stability at a terrible unstable time and so will be inevitably shut down by international pressure. The 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement provided a foundational agreement between the States and the UK surrounding the issue of defence and how better each country can learn from the other. Our respective nations also regularly use each other's bases for storage and maintenance.
Moreover, the UK government recently paid the US £250 million to ‘participate in a missile life extension programme’. So the issue is one bound by international law, by international financial deals and by international political ties. The SNP, and Nicola Sturgeon assume the United States will idly stand by and watch as one of their major allies across the pond remove vital defences from British shores in order to fulfil some political ideology. It is a naive and unthoughtful outlook that will heavily backfire on Sturgeon and her party. America will not have it and seriously pressure the Prime Minister, Ed Miliband, to change course to maintain international safety. And I’m pretty sure Miliband will not jeopardise our relationship with the most powerful country on the planet for Nicola Sturgeon.
Furthermore, the UK is a hugely important asset to NATO and its web of defence dotted around the globe. In the eyes of the members of NATO, it will not be wise to surrender integral defences during a tense and volatile political situation such as the one in Russia and neighbouring countries. The members of NATO will not see this happening without voicing their serious distaste and concern over the SNP’s political policies. It will not go unnoticed by the international community and it will be shut down immediately. These issues are not even mentioning the sheer lack of practicality in disposing vast amounts of nuclear waste in such a short span of time and the unique fact that Britain has one of the best places on the planet to service submarines because of our deep waters so close to the coast.
With increasing international pressure, Sturgeon will U-turn. That will be her killer blow that will ultimately wipe her out politically. It will show the country her lack of international awareness and portray her as incompetent and careless. This will be the exact equivalent to the Liberal Democrat voting reform loss that really hit the party hard and cast them to the sidelines of British politics.
In the end, Nicola Sturgeon will achieve nothing she set out to achieve, much like the Liberal Democrats today. She will end her career facing plummeting opinion polls, and an irrecoverable loss of party morale and support because of her lack of progress in her main pledges. She must be careful not to follow the same path as Nick Clegg did in 2010, by sacrificing her integrity and the integrity of her party to temporarily quench her thirst for power. It’s a seriously bad decision; just ask any Liberal Democrat supporter, they’ll tell you how badly it’ll backfire.