‘Scotland has fallen victim to the nationalist playbook, divide and conquer. Our traditional left-right politics of arguing how best to improve opportunity and make good the lives of those who struggle has been replaced by a tawdry battle of Yes and No.’

Eyes on the prize. Sadly such is the state of our politics at present that the prize is not addressing our shattered economy or putting our education system back on its feet. It is simply preventing an outright nationalist Government in the next Scottish Parliament. Scotland has fallen victim to the nationalist playbook, divide and conquer. Our traditional left-right politics of arguing how best to improve opportunity and make good the lives of those who struggle has been replaced by a tawdry battle of Yes and No.

The Scotland we are fighting over was ironically created by the Union, pulled together from the clans that had fought each other at the Battle of Shirts and later at Culloden along with competing lowland interests.

Our Scotland which thrived under the Union and punched way above our weight in the global successes and politics of the centuries.

We speak of the Union dividend as not one simply of money but of culture, of family, of shared interest.

The nationalists recognise none of this, they snarl with anger and contempt at the idea of pooled resource. They send angry missives about stolen oil as they drive down the roads and cross the bridges that it built.

They pronounce themselves kinder, more respectful and more civic as they renounce Scots Tories as scum, brand Labour as Red Tories and demand the English leave Scotland – and nowhere are those voices of bitter contempt louder than in the First Minister’s city of Glasgow, where the SNP has delivered austerity and deprivation.

It is their model for a future Scotland.

Eyes on the prize, for the nationalists the prize is the destruction of the Union and thus far they have played that game well. They have changed the devolution settlement from a Scottish Parliament running the country’s once proud public services into an outpost of opposition to the rest of Britain, neglecting our education and welfare while taking ownership of our flag and turning us against ourselves.

They have rewritten history to pit England against Scotland and used Holyrood to deepen division with false claims of assaults on our rights and freedoms by the United Kingdom.

So sophisticated has their campaign of destruction been that truth and lies are now interwoven not only in politics but in our Civil Service and Judiciary.

Such is their success that they hold 59 out of 73 constituency seats in a total of 129 and have used this power base to manipulate their minority support into a sense of overwhelming control.

Eyes on the prize, for unionists there is a sense of growing frustration and anger. Politics is a numbers game and our side has fallen victim to the tactics of division.

We are the majority acting like a minority because we are still divided by our traditional left-right politics. Labour would rather vote with the SNP then support the Conservatives.

Whilst Anas Sarwar talks of healing, he rejects any meaningful options to work with the other parties.

Douglas Ross offers the hand of friendship with the confidence of knowing it will be rejected.

Neither man wants to face asking their candidates to stand aside, and no candidate is willingly offering.

Meanwhile, Willie Rennie urges his supporters to stick with them knowing they will not come anywhere near winning most of the seats but instead ensuring a unionist party doesn’t.

They all urge ‘use both votes for us’ whilst the nationalists titter with glee at the easy pickings. Alex Salmond has joined the fray. But this is merely a distraction because whilst everyone haggles over the list and argues about the vote split the prize is being forgotten.

Eyes on the prize, 73 first past the post constituency seats, 59 of which currently give the nationalists their power base; it’s the reason they control the parliament even as a minority Government. If the unionist parties place all their hopes on mere survival through the 56 list seats, they are playing to lose.

To beat nationalism the major pro-union parties need to take the constituency seats and their focus and worry about the list is simply a taste of their strategic defeat.

It will take more than this election to achieve but they should be making that start now. None of them alone can take on the rise of nationalism, they need each other. Instead egos and self interest have become the order of the day.

So the voters must decide. If their eyes are on the prize, then unionists will look at which unionist party can win their local constituency and vote for them without reservation. You can then vote for whom ever you want on the list vote and maybe, just maybe Holyrood will become what was intended, a coalition of parties whose eyes are on the prize. The prize of a Scotland with local decision making in the interests of the people, with the benefit of the union dividend.

Scottish politics is a small world. Inevitably so, in a nation of 5.5 million. The Scottish National party is also close-knit, once famous for presenting a unified front to outsiders. That is how it grew to become the dominant force, now in its 14th year in government. It also helps explain why the feud between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond has been so bitter and all-consuming as a spectacle. In terms of SNP division, it was a volcanic eruption on what had previously been a largely featureless landscape.

The lava has stopped flowing, but the ground is scorched. The origin of the dispute is allegations of sexual harassment and assault made against Mr Salmond, which he denied. A court acquitted him on all charges last year. A parallel controversy ignited around the Scottish civil service’s handling of the allegations; its own botched inquiry (revealed in a different court case to have been “tainted by apparent bias”); and questions of what Ms Sturgeon had known and when, and what action she had or hadn’t taken.

Mr Salmond alleged a malicious plot. The first minister pleaded memory lapses. Whether she had knowingly breached the ministerial code became the crux question. Earlier this week, an independent inquiry decreed that she had not. A separate report by an investigating committee of MSPs was more critical, but the force of its conclusions was blunted by leaks and conspicuous partisanship. A vote of no confidence against Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood flopped.

THE SNP has described Salmond’s Alba party as “predictable” and questions whether Salmond should return to public office.

In a statement, the party said the announcement this afternoon that Salmond would be launching a new pro-independece Alba party to run for list seats in the upcoming elections as “perhaps the most predictable development in Scottish politics”.

A BATTLE of the billboards is taking place in Greenock as pro-union activists and independence supporters vie to get their message across.

The new Inverclyde ‘YES to the United Kingdom’ and Scotland Matters poster at the junction of Campbell Street and Brougham Street in Greenock focuses on ‘Education not Separation’.

NOW that the local elections in England are going ahead, I think it would be a safe bet to say that the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May will be cancelled just to give Nicola Sturgeon another opportunity to be different from the rest of the UK. David Bone, Girvan, Ayrshire

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