Scottish politics may have undergone a paradigm shift over the past few months, but it is far from obvious, on the train from Edinburgh to Carlisle, at what point Scotland finishes and England begins. East coast trains helpfully stop at Berwick, famous as England’s most northern town, so you get a reasonably good idea of when you’ve crossed the border. But along the west coast hills just roll anonymously into hills; no scenic rupture corresponds to the political one.
When we arrived in Carlisle, Adam, Claire, and I spent the afternoon asking voters for their opinions on a party that the people of Carlisle cannot, in fact, vote for, but one that looks set to be the third largest party in the next Parliament: namely, the Scottish National Party.
Of the people we spoke to, several expressed reasonably positive opinions about the SNP and their leader, Nicola Sturgeon – many had enjoyed Sturgeon’s performance on the seven-way leaders’ debate the week before. One voter who did not wish to be named said, “Nicola Sturgeon is very impressive. I think the women were the best in the leaders’ debate.”
But it was hard to find anyone who was ecstatic about the SNP, and easy to find people who had very strongly negative views of the Scottish Nationalists. “I don’t like Nicola Sturgeon and I don’t like how the SNP are trying to break up the country,” said one voter emphatically.
“Nothing will be achieved as we want individually because we have got so far together as Great Britain,” said another
Although many were willing to express opinions on the SNP, few seemed to have changed their opinions on Labour and the Conservatives, despite the fact that both will be affected by the SNP’s likely near-monopolisation of Scottish seats in May.
But of all the responses we got on the streets of Carlisle, the majority were variations on apathy – something there was far less of in Scotland. “Politics – don’t talk to me about that,” said one. Said another, a little more poetically, “The only honest person to go into Parliament was Guy Fawkes.”
Photo via Milo Bostock