Humza Yousaf’s call for Tories to be “wiped off the electoral map of Scotland” is not as bad as it sounds. It’s worse and needs to be called out by democrats of all persuasions.

Wiping out elected representatives is semantically different from disenfranchising the people who vote for them, but the message is much the same. It is about the extremely unpleasant art of “othering”.

That is defined as “a process whereby individuals and groups are treated and marked as different and inferior from the dominant social group”. A group, in fact, so different and inferior that they are undeserving of elected representation.

I know plenty Scottish Tories and can disagree civilly with them on many things, if we bother to discuss them. However it would never occur to me that they are not entitled to representation at any level of government. I just prefer them not to be running it.

Mr Yousaf’s proclamation is a sleekit invitation to the unwary to embrace the “othering” assumption. The Scottish Tories are so different as to be beyond the pale so let us all find common cause in erasing them from the electoral map.

That is a dangerous message for any politician to send to 700,000 (at the last count) voters and one which richly deserves to backfire on him, as well it may. Where it suited, the SNP has never been shy about trying to “borrow” Tory tactical votes.

There are many good reasons for not liking the Conservative and Unionist Party, its leaders or its policies. That is everyone’s democratic entitlement; one which I regularly assert and which their own adherents reciprocate. There is nothing at all wrong with that; it’s called democracy.

It is quite different however to want them “wiped off the electoral map” by a implying shared superiority with other parties whom Mr Yousaf would be equally anxious to wipe off the revised electoral map of Scotland. And then there would be one left. Authoritarianism or stupidity? He can take his pick.

The dynamic of politics requires conflicting ideologies, however inexact. Most of my tribe would define that dichotomy as revolving around the haves versus have-nots; the privileged versus the marginalised; the powerful versus the weak. Class politics in the old language. Which side are you on?

Of course, a Tory would define the choices differently and therein lies the battle of ideas between left and right which is essential to any democracy. While core ideologies will always be in conflict, only a fool maintains that there is no room for common ground, any more than there is a monopoly of one party wisdom.

Apart from a clumsy appeal for tactical voting to save some SNP skins, why would Mr Yousaf be so concerned about Tory representation that he made it the centrepiece of his big speech? There were only six Scottish Tory MPs out of 59 elected in 2019 despite getting 25 per cent of the vote.

Mr Yousaf can scarcely complain about them being over-represented, so instead he moves to the next step of not wanting them represented at all. Most observers might conclude that the greatest deficiency for Scotland at Westminster lies in the heavy over-representation of Nationalist MPs, to no obvious benefit or effect.

I very much hope the Tories will lose the coming General Election and thoroughly deserve to do so. It will be overwhelmingly in Scotland’s interests to have strong representation within a Labour government. Many Scottish voters who were carried along on the referendum tide are likely to work that out for themselves while Mr Yousaf’s childish rhetoric about holding feet to fires has no ring of credibility.

Sending the same bloated squad back to Westminster to say bad things about a Labour government instead of a Tory one would be the ultimate exercise in political futility. The dawning truth is that the SNP will have nothing to offer Scottish voters other than faux, over-the-top “othering” that is more likely to cost them seats than to save them.

Anyway, where does Mr Yousaf get his revulsion of the Tories from? He doesn’t exactly reek of under-privilege and I can’t recall anything in his political career which has marked him out as a thinker or innovator in the interests of social redress. On the other hand, I have known quite a few Scottish Tories who were.

I’m glad Alick Buchanan-Smith was around in the 1970s to promote the most courageous, liberal reforms in UK penal history. Has the SNP done anything comparable in 17 years? I’m glad Hamish Gray was around to sponsor legislation which made Scotland the first part of the UK where children with special needs had a statutory right to education. What have you done on special needs, Humza?


In some of my own areas of interest, I saw Tories being bold and innovative. They did far more to advance Gaelic education and broadcasting than anything under the SNP (one reason why it’s daft from either perspective to put the language into a political box). They set up the University of the Highlands and Islands on a federal basis that attracted world-wide admiration. Now it is being centralised along with everything else.

These are random examples and none of them, in a hundred years, would persuade me to vote Tory without the risk of my hand falling off. However, they confirm my human instinct that wishing for the extinction of a political force by “othering” it and pretending it has no place in “our” society is not a sign of strength or radicalism but of shallow opportunism with a slightly sinister hint.

The electorate will decide how many Tory MPs are left in Scotland after the General Election, not Mr Yousaf. They will also decide how many SNP MPs are left in Scotland and there have been some very decent ones among them too over the years.

I hope there are a few of both since Scotland’s democratic map really does need diversity, not false conformity.