This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

This year’s general election could signal a step-change in the dividing line of Scottish politics – erasing the Yes/No scramble for votes.

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has shocked pretty much no-one by admitting she voted for the SNP instead of her party in the European election of May 2019 because she was frustrated with Labour’s position on Brexit.

Ms Dugdale has voted for Labour ever since that election, but the unsurprising news has been jumped on by the Conservatives who say Labour cannot be trusted on the constitution.

Meanwhile, the SNP has claimed it shows that Labour cannot be trusted on Brexit.

But in more bad news for both the Tories and the SNP, this election is unlikely to place much focus on the constitution – there are bigger fish to fry.

It is fair to assume that a large chunk of SNP supporters will vote for Humza Yousaf’s party on the principle of independence in a similar way that staunch unionists will back the Tories in a bid to better protect the Union.

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But what will make the difference in the general election is who those undecided and untied voters pick to put their trust in and the issues that will sway that – and the constitution is unlikely to be a major vote-clincher.

The SNP has insisted that winning the general election will give the party yet another mandate to either open actual talks with the UK Government for Scotland to leave the Union or to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum.

But in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis that is impacting dramatically on people’s earnings, and things are very noticeably costing more, independence will likely not be at the forefront of minds – particularly given the route to separation looks pretty murky and many people are fatigued with having the same party in charge at Westminster since 2010.

The Scottish Government is pressing ahead with the renewed case for independence, focusing on what separation might look like if we get there, keeping eyes off how it might be achieved.

The bold pledge by the SNP to make this election about the constitution is unlikely to sway large numbers of those voters who likely abandoned Labour previously and are toying with the idea of supporting Anas Sarwar’s party once again.

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The Conservatives have cashed in for the last decade, at least, with being perceived as the party to best protect the Union, but if voters do not see the Union as being under threat, will that hold up?

That is not the Conservatives’ only problem. No matter how much Douglas Ross’ party attempts to distance themselves from the mess surrounding the party at Westminster, mud tends to stick.

It is quite clear that the rise of support for the SNP over the last 15 years and the demise of Labour are not mutually exclusive.

Going back to Ms Dugdale’s voting record, should we really be surprised that people change who they vote for? Maybe a former leader of Scottish Labour switching her vote should raise some eyebrows – but not particularly, when you think about the nick of Scottish Labour in 2019 under Richard Leonard’s leadership – and the party’s unconvincing position on Brexit.

Scotland has been used to very tribal politics since the independence referendum – the team and the party have come first.

That has arguably led to a worse political debate when people are not swayed by policies or stances parties take on issues – but remain loyal no matter what – just like backing an underwhelming football team that keeps losing.

The SNP is being pretty open about the increasingly likely possibility that Labour will form the next UK Government. The First Minister has made that crystal clear – and his party is essentially telling voters that the margin of victory will be so great, those north of the Border wanting to remove the Tories from power need not vote red.

Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has called for an end to the rhetoric that Labour are simply Tories with a red rosette. Senior SNP figures are now openly claiming that Labour in charge of things in Westminster will be better for Scotland than the Conservatives.

In the past, the SNP has suggested that voters should have permission to change their vote – the thinking here was to ease Labour voters’ consciences who may have felt they were holding their nose to vote for the SNP.

But this works both ways and Labour is trying to take full advantage this time around.

Mr Sarwar and his boss down south are speaking to Yes supporters, telling them now is the ideal moment to lend their votes to remove Rishi Sunak from Downing Street.

The Herald: Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer are speaking to pro-indy voters in an attempt to remove the long-running Conservative governmentAnas Sarwar and Keir Starmer are speaking to pro-indy voters in an attempt to remove the long-running Conservative government (Image: Newsquest)
Speaking last month in a direct appeal to SNP voters, the Scottish Labour leader said: “I don’t care how you voted in the past.”

He added that “we may ultimately disagree on the final destination for Scotland”, adding that “on this part of the journey, let’s unite to change our country”.

Labour has largely stayed out of the constitutional tussling over the last decade or more. That has, at times, seen the party lose a heck of a lot of voters to both the SNP and the Conservatives and criticised by both sides of the independence debate.

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But with the dividing lines seemingly reverting to traditional politics and voters largely shrugging their shoulders at the question of independence, it will only benefit Labour.

As we head into the election, few people will take seriously the SNP trope that not backing independence makes you a Tory. And with independence well and truly on the back-burner, we should not be surprised that a lot of voters will switch their allegiance.